<for new markets for local foods, 2) the issues that would need to be
<addressed in order to meet this potential, 3) the conditions under which
<farmers can make money selling to these markets, and 4) the models that
<would work to create the linkages and infrastructures needed.
From: Gary Huber [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, August 20, 1999 12:42 AM
Subject: local food in IA
Below is the text of an article from the Practical Farmers of Iowa
newsletter. It describes part of the work of PFI's Field to Family project,
which grew out of our Kellogg Foundation-funded IFS project called Shared
Also - I learned today that we will be sourcing food for a meeting of the
National Govenor's Association next week - which will be another excellent
FIELD TO FAMILY PROJECT UPDATE
Much is happening with PFI's Field to Family project. These include various
hunger and nutrition efforts, but with this update I will focus on our work
to source food directly from farmers for events at various conference
The meals at these events, most of which are held at the ISU Scheman
Continuing Education Center, are turning out to have wonderful educational
value. People eating these meals during the last few weeks include about 115
ISU Extension staff who attended a value-added ag meeting at Gateway Holiday
Inn in Ames. There was also a meal for about 150 Iowa School Food Service
workers at their annual training meeting. Another meal was served to nearly
100 people who are involved with the Institute for Public Leadership, which
includes representatives from the three branches of government in Iowa.
Menus that list the producers and their home towns and products are given to
the people eating these meals. The food is are also described by someone
during the meal, which greatly increases the impact. As well, food service
staff have given their perspectives, which helps attendees understand how
the people preparing the foods experience this new way of doing business.
The response from those attending has been tremendous. The experiences are
so tangible that people immediately recognize the importance of knowing
where their food is coming from.
These meals can be very inspirational as well. An example is a dinner in
late May at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Cal Peternell, a chef from the Chez
Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, worked with four local chefs to
prepare the meal. Attendees included guests from as far away as New York and
California, as well as farmers who are raising hogs for Niman Ranch (which
sells humanely raised, high quality pork). Niman Ranch pork was served, and
Field to Family helped source the other foods from nine local farmers, some
who also attended.
Paul Willis, a PFI farmer from Thornton who is a main force behind the
growth of the Niman Ranch pork effort, was instrumental in putting together
the team that made this meal happen. Bobby Buechler, a television producer
from San Francisco, came up with the idea of doing a meal in Iowa, and he
helped with the logistics. Hotel Fort Des Moines graciously offered their
facilities along with the services of two of their chefs. Chefs from Brix
Restaurant, Bistro 43, and the Des Moines Club helped with the meal, and ISU
Extension's Value-Added Ag program provided important support.
The meal was meant to give farmers and others the opportunity to experience
the kind of meal that is possible when you start with the best products Iowa
has available. No one was disappointed. Here is how Patricia Unterman
described the meal in a story in the San Francisco Examiner:
"The tables were set with plates of bright red radishes, green tops still
attached, crusty, locally baked bread and organic Iowa butter. Centerpieces
of what looked like wild irises also came from an organic garden. We started
with bountiful plates of tender green salad, and wild Iowa asparagus, thin
and delicate, spread with a relish of morels and spring onions. (I saw
people collecting asparagus by the roadside on the drive down.) This was
flanked by a toast spread with a delicious pork confit called rillettes; and
another topped with an egg salad made with organic local eggs. Everything
tasted bright and alive; the flavors practically leapt off the plate.
The main course starred pork loin, butterflied, filled with fresh herbs,
tied back together and then roasted. The meat was full of character, juicy
and tender. It had a delicious layer of fat around the outside, and the fat
marbled in the flesh contributed to the pork's moist texture and big, sweet,
almost nutty flavor. You really couldn't hope for a better piece of meat.
Because potatoes were not in season, Peternell decided on polenta - with
Iowa cornmeal - probably very similar to what the pigs ate themselves. The
entree plate was finished off with braised greens.
A warm rhubarb galette would have done the pastry department at Chez Panisse
proud. Peternell told me he had to make the galette dough three times to get
it right, but preparing the meal, he said, had been fun. He'd gotten lots of
help from chefs from local restaurants and the hotel kitchen, and the
ingredients he had to work with turned out to be beautiful.
The meal was so universally appealing that every single hog farmer,
slaughterhouse manager, pork processor and organic grower at the event
understood. When the chef walked into the dining room at the end, everyone
spontaneously rose and applauded - for a long time. Peternell told the group
that he only cooks with the best ingredients at Chez Panisse and he got the
best ingredients here, too. He thanked everyone for growing them.
A pork farmer asked to say a few words. He said he was very grateful to the
Californians who offered the pork producers in the room a small grain of
hope for survival, and that being able to sell their pork to people who
appreciate it meant everything. It was a genuinely moving moment. If the six
or so hog farms that I saw were any indication, these producers were
struggling. They were waiting for the market to catch up to their product.
After eating this pork both here and in Iowa, I have a feeling that they
won't have to wait too long."
PFI member John Gilbert was the farmer who, on behalf of the Niman Ranch
producers, expressed his heartfelt thanks for the "small grain of hope for
survival." It was a touching moment at the end of a remarkable event.
Earlier that day we sponsored a lunch next door at the Racoon River Brewery
where almost thirty local chefs came to meet with Cal Peternell and learn
about the principles and practices of the Chez Panisse. A principle of Chez
Panisse is the belief that the best-tasting food is organically-grown and
harvested by people who are taking care of the land for future generations.
A practice is to offer one fixed-price menu of three to five courses, with
this menu changing every night given the season and what is available
locally. To achieve this practice, Chez Panisse has established a network of
over sixty nearby suppliers, whose concerns are the same as the restaurants:
"environmental harmony and optimal flavor."
The chef's lunch, like the meal that evening and those we have helped with
since, was a wonderful event that will lead to more establishments looking
for the kinds of foods many PFI members grow and raise. With this in mind,
we are always looking for farmers who have these kinds of products. Call us
at our new number (515-232-5649) if you want to talk about how you might fit
in, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. While there are details to be
worked out - transportation, quality issues, etc. - these are some of the
topics we are addressing with support from recent grants from the Leopold
Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the ISU Agricultural Foundation.
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