Iowa has changed in the last four decades, and farming has changed. The small farmer working 80 to 160 acres has been replaced by much larger operations, often more than 1,000 acres. To be cost effective on a large scale, large-scale farmers have to be efficient. Some farmers place efficiency and profit as their most important goal in farming, while other large-scale farmers have a balance between profitability and responsible agriculture.
Responsible Agriculture is a concept where farmers can make a profit, be good neighbors, produce healthy food products, and be environmentally responsible. IARA’s goal is to help thoughtful consumers support responsible agriculture.
Responsible agriculture is not limited to certified organic farming or small scale farming. Non-organic farmers who produce products using traditional methods that preserve soil, minimize erosion, treat their animals well, and use prudent judgment in their farming operations can produce healthy food with minimal impact. Traditional farming practices are often done in harmony with nature without antibiotics, synthetic hormones or pesticides. Purchasing food grown in harmony with nature is the way that consumers can create the market for healthy food produced in a responsible manner.
Small scale responsible farming is most frequently seen at local farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and in some chain grocery stores during the summer season. While small scale farmers receive positive press coverage, the collective size of their operations produces an average of about two meals per week for every Iowan.
A listing of farmer’s markets can be found here.
Large Producers may be independent farmers who join with other farmers to share in the marketing of their products. Often producers will jointly participate in production cooperatives to achieve marketing benefits and economies of scale. Learn more here.
Getting the healthy product to the marketplace is often a challenge. Listed below are some reliable market locations where healthy meat can be purchased. Buy Fresh Buy Local organizations provide local healthy options for sourcing food products from independent traditional farmers.
Food co-ops are a safe source of reliable information regarding healthy food from traditional independent farmers. Food co-ops will do the research to assure the consumer that the food being sold meets the standards of the co-op.
Oneota Community Food Coop in Decorah
There are also two national grocery chains that supply healthy meat products:
- Whole Foods in West Des Moines
Trader Joe’s in West Des Moines
In Iowa some HyVee stores are carrying Applewood pork, a non-CAFO option. Currently, Fareway does not carry any non-CAFO pork.
Additionally, Gateway Market in Des Moines is a locally owned store that has high quality meat products.
Community Supported Agriculture CSA’s are small independent farmers who provide ultra-fresh products directly to the local consumer. There are many CSA’s located in communities throughout Iowa. Unlike Farmer’s Markets, CSA’s provides a share of the week’s harvest to the member who pays for his share before the season begins. This eliminates any food waste, but does give the consumer some products that they may not be familiar with in quantities that they would not normally purchase. One of the enjoyments of CSA participation is using all the food that is provided in one week.