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Iowa's Sustainable Ag Needs Support Beyond Farmers Markets

Many Iowa farmers are willing to sell beyond farmers markets, mainly through food co-ops and online sales. (dieracherin/morguefile)
Many Iowa farmers are willing to sell beyond farmers markets, mainly through food co-ops and online sales. (dieracherin/morguefile)
August 15, 2016

ANKENY, Iowa — More and more farmers markets are operating in Iowa and for many farmers, it's become a significant portion of their income. However, it isn't the only way for Iowans to get fresh, local, organic produce and sustainably-raised meat, eggs and poultry.

After farmers markets close up in the fall, there are other avenues producers use to reach customers, said LaVon Griffieon of the Griffieon Family Farm near Ankeny.

"Sometimes they might sell through the Iowa Food Co-Op, which is an online ordering that has delivery to different cities around Iowa,” Griffieon said. "Or, they might do on-farm sales."

About a third of the Griffieon's farm business is through farmers markets, she said. The rest is through these other means. For her family's business, it would be a big help if all the fans of their farm-fresh eggs made purchases beyond the farmers markets. She said in many cases, it's just as convenient to visit the farm.

"Our farm actually borders subdivisions on three sides. So, we don't live far from people's homes at all. But they don't make the trip," Griffieon said. "You know, you get 90 chickens, you're getting four dozen eggs a day and nobody shows up for a week, you've got 28 dozen eggs that you don't know what to do with."

But according to Griffieon, the growth in popularity of farmers markets in the state has been a great way for customers to get to know farmers and develop long-term relationships as customers.

"It has just grown and grown and grown,” she said. "And 20 years ago, nobody would have thought that you could, you know, have this as a sideline for income, because it just wasn't a popular thing to do."

Farmers markets have grown nationwide by 50 percent in the last five years according to the USDA.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA