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Statewide Program Seeks Local Food Projects

Posted: November 6, 2012
The Local Food and Farm Program is looking for a few good ideas that will help put more Iowa-grown products on dinner plates and more money in the pockets of Iowa farmers.

The purpose of the program, established by the Iowa Legislature in 2011, is to increase the production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of local food in Iowa. The program also outlines the need to increase profitability and the number of jobs all along the local food chain.

"We would really like to see projects that help establish a new local food business, such as food hubs or collaborative marketing networks, or projects working with beginning, minority or transitioning farmers," said Craig Chase, who coordinates the statewide program for ISU Extension and oversees related projects at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. "Projects that help us better understand what leads to successful farm-to-school, farm-to-institution or school gardens also would be considered."

Chase encourages Iowa nonprofit organizations, farm groups and educational institutions to submit proposals for potential funding by the program. Projects must be for one year, beginning in January 2013, and limited funds are available.

Exactly what should be included in the proposal is outlined in Local Food and Farm Program's Request for Proposals (RFP). Deadline is November 29, 2012.

For more information about the program, and a copy of the RFP, visit the Leopold Center website .

Chase works with a team of six educators throughout Iowa on the Local Food and Farm Program. A six-member Local Food and Farm Program Council, appointed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, advises the team on program directions.

The program is following a set of recommendations from the Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan, prepared by the Leopold Center for the Iowa Legislature in January 2011.
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Grants Available to FFI 4-H Youth Teams

Posted: November 2, 2012
The Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition is pleased to offer mini-grants to FFI 4-H Youth Teams in Allamakee, Clayton, Chickasaw, Fayette, Howard or Winneshiek counties.

FFI 4-H Youth Teams interested in starting or expanding the Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team (FFEST), in northeast Iowa are eligible to apply. Only one project per FFI 4-H Youth Team will be funded.  FFI 4-H Youth Teams should visit or contact Lynette Houser at the Winneshiek Extension Office for an application.

The grant funds may be used for start-up or expansion costs related to growing an FFI 4-H Youth FEEST.  Funds must be used on projects that will build cooking skills, value of local food, youth-adult partnerships and advocacy with policy makers within the school or county through a final Youth/Adult FFI 4-H FEEST!

Each school district may apply for a $300.00 mini grant for the 2012-2013 school year.  

This grant opportunity is part of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community project.  All interested FFI 4-H Youth Teams are encouraged to apply.  Download an application here.

PSA Contest
Youth have the power to create change in their schools and communities.  To address issues about healthy food at your school, the FFI is sponsoring a Public Service Announcement Contest to create a platform for youth to facilitate change at their school.

Each team's video or audio submission must develop the theme "Healthy Food for Kids." PSAs should be 30 or 60 seconds.  The PSA should identify an issue and present a solution.  Entries will be shared with other youth teams at the FFI Regional Youth ICN meeting in January. 

All entries must be emailed, postmarked or hand delivered no later than December 14, 2012.  Download an application here.
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Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative Honored at ISUEO Annual Conference

Posted: November 1, 2012
The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) was awarded the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Team Achievement Award at the 2012 Extension and Outreach Annual Conference in Ames on Oct. 25.

The award recognizes an outstanding educational programming effort carried out with originality and creativity.   Over 30 county, regional and state ISU Extension staff were recognized with the team honor.  The award also recognized the support of the elected county Extension Councils in Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.  

ISU Extension and Outreach--Region 4 is one of the core partner organizations supporting the work of FFI along with Luther College, Upper Exploreland Regional Planning Commission and NE Iowa Community College.

ISU Extension staff coordinate the work of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition which creates opportunities for farmers to engage in the local food system.  ISU Extension also leads the youth engagement efforts in schools by embedding the work in the Iowa 4-H program.   The vision of FFI aligns closely with the mission of Iowa's land grant university—to create healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies.

FFI is a grassroots collaborative whose work focuses on school wellness, youth engagement, local food system development, improving community health and creating partnerships to help endure these efforts.  They work to create systemic change in the region so every day all people can experience, celebrate and promote healthy locally grown foods and enjoy abundant opportunities for physical activity and play.

The award, a framed citation, was presented to Teresa Wiemerslage, regional extension program coordinator, by Cathann Kress, Vice President for Extension and Outreach.
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Take the NE Iowa Employment Transportation Survey

Posted: November 1, 2012
Upper Exploreland Regional Planning Commission is part of a local team of NE Iowa economic development, transportation, and employment specialists is conducting a survey about employment transportation in Northeast Iowa.  This survey is being conducted as part of the Job Access Mobility Institute being hosted by CTAA (Community Transportation Association of America).  The goal is to get a better understanding of current employment transportation options and needs. 

The team is looking for responses from employees, employers and job seekers that live or work in any of these Iowa counties: Allamakee, Winneshiek, Howard, Fayette, and Clayton.

Any person who lives or works in NE Iowa as an employer, employee or job seeker is encouraged to complete the survey.  The survey team appreciates any assistance to share this link to as many people as possible.   

Click here to take the survey.

The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete. Responses will be accepted Nov 1 – 18, 2012.  This is an anonymous survey; only general demographic & transportation questions will be asked.

If you know of someone that would want to complete the survey, but does not have computer access, a paper version is available. Please contact Karn Pankow, Operations / Mobility Manager at NEICAC to request one.
Email: or phone: 1-866-382-4259.
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Registration Open for the Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference

Posted: November 1, 2012
Early bird registration for he Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference (MVAAC) is extended to November 15. The MVAAC will return for its 14th year on December 12-13, 2012 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This year's co hosts, River Country Resource, Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) and Wisconsin Farmers Union want to ensure as many people as possible can take advantage of the lower priced early bird registration.

The MVAAC is an opportunity for farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs, non-profit staff, cooperative staff and agribusiness and agency representatives to make connections and learn from each other about how to foster more profitable, innovative and sustainable farming operations.

Keynote presentations will be given by; Laura Jackson, author of "The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems with Ecosystems"; Francis Thicke, author of "A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century;" and John Ikerd, author of "Small Farms are Real Farms: Sustaining People Through Agriculture" and "Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense." The conference will also feature a farm dinner banquet, presentation and book signing with famed Wisconsin author and entertainer Michael Perry.

Conference sessions include Marketing, Farm to Fork: Accessing Local Food Systems, Business Management, Farmer to Farmer: Nuts and Bolts of Successful Strategies, On Farm Renewable Energy and a Fast Track. The conference will also feature networking sessions and an extensive tradeshow.

Over 80% of the food sourced for meals and snacks will be from local producers.

Visit the River Country RC&D website for more information and to register for this event.

Call Conference Coordinator Melanie Baumgart at 715-579-5013 or email with any questions.
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Bus Trip Planned to Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo

Posted: October 28, 2012
The Great Lakes Expo is the premier tradeshow for fruit and vegetable growers, farmer marketers and greenhouse operators. This annual event held in Grand Rapids, Michigan gives food producers a chance to network with other producers, attend educational sessions and workshops, and attend a trade show with nearly 400 exhibitors in attendance. This year's event will be held at the Devos Place Convention Center in Downtown Grand Rapids.  

Windridge Implements, along with the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and the NE Iowa Food and Farm Coalition are sponsoring a chartered bus trip to the Great Lakes Expo on December 3-5.  The trip cost is $125 per person and includes the bus ride, lodging, and admission to the Expo.

Guests will board the bus at locations throughout Northeast Iowa on Dec. 3 and return late on the evening of December 5. Interested parties should contact Eric at (563) 380-6605 or Brandon at (563) 880-8547 to get more information and reserve their spot on the trip. The registration deadline is November 12 and space is limited. For more information on all the exciting events planned for the Great Lakes Expo please visit their website at
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UNI's CEEE partners with Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) to serve area schools

Posted: October 20, 2012
The University of Northern Iowa's Center for Energy & Environmental Education (CEEE) is partnering with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) to aid local school districts in promoting healthy foods.

Six school districts will participate in the new program: Decorah, Postville, Turkey Valley, South Winneshiek, Waukon and Cresco. The CEEE, along with FFI, will help these six pilot districts create a regional, cycle menu that includes seasonal, fresh produce. UNI's Jacqueline Bilyeu-Holmes, food program specialist for the CEEE, will serve as a nutrition outreach coordinator for the program.

The partnership hopes to make Iowa a place where residents experience and promote a healthy lifestyle, through the consumption of locally grown food and opportunities for physical activity. The CEEE and FFI believe that their work will make healthy choices accessible to all Iowans.

For more information, contact Bilyeu-Holmes at 319-273-7883.
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FFI Blog: A New Look for School News

Posted: October 5, 2012
Back to school means new jeans, new shoes, new books, new teachers and...a new newsletter?!

This fall marks the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative's fourth year of programming and partnering with schools to create healthy environments for students and staff.

The Initiative has always valued transparency, cooperation and the stories of its partners.  In an effort to share more stories, and to distribute that responsibility to more people, we have launched a blog feature to our website.  

School resource contacts (RCs), FFI staff, youth and other partners will be sharing at this site and the tagging feature will make those stories easier to find. We would love to feature your stories and will post guest blogs from time to time.  

You can even have the updates delivered to your inbox by subscribing to the RSS feed or by email.  We hope you enjoy this new way to receive your news.  See you at the blog!

Bookmark it!
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Decorah's new destination trail opens

Posted: September 27, 2012
Some trails become destinations. The High Trestle Trail from Ankeny to Woodward proved that over the last two years. People flocked to it from all over Iowa and beyond. The Iowa Great Lakes Trail in northwest Iowa is another, winding around Iowa's clearest bodies of water.

Now another paved Iowa trail can make a solid argument, just in time for fall biking: Decorah's recently completed Trout Run Trail.

The scenic loop around the northeast Iowa college town is less than half as long as the High Trestle or Iowa Great Lakes trails, but its 11 miles pack a long list of highlights that include public art, bluff vistas, riverside views and challenging switchbacks. It also runs past an often-visited trout hatchery and the famed nest of the Decorah eagles that millions have viewed on a live online camera.

It wasn't easy to build in this most rugged of Iowa topography, taking 12 years and $8 million before officials could finally cut the ribbon at a trail celebration Sept. 23.

You can park a couple of blocks north of the charming downtown district that includes a nationally known Norwegian-American museum, restaurants, taverns and ice cream shops and begin by skirting the Upper Iowa River, one of the best rivers in the Midwest for bluffs and clear waters.

You will pass parks along a tributary creek, then the fish hatchery and eagle's nest, before entering a series of switchbacks in the hilly countryside south of Decorah. Heading north into town, across the last link of trail to be finished late this summer (a pedestrian bridge over busy Highway 9) you will see more pleasant river views. A cut right through a limestone bluff takes you back to your start.

The trail started with that western stretch many years ago, when the little-used gravel Dug Road was converted to a 1.8-mile trail. Officials noticed people would drive dozens of miles just to stroll on that small trail along the river.
A trails group formed in 2001 with visions to expand it to the fish hatchery, said Mike Huinker, a Trails of Winneshiek County board member. The vision expanded in 2005 — a full loop around the outskirts of town — when Vision Iowa grant money became available.

Decorah was already a lure to river paddlers, trout fishermen and mountain bikers, who were attracted to 16 miles of single track on the north side. But Huinker said the biggest challenge was convincing 24 landowners of the value of a multiuse asphalt and concrete trail that would wind through their property. A nearby example proved handy. Just to the north, Lanesboro, Minn., had become a tourism magnet, largely thanks to its Root River Trail.

They realized they had to build an expensive bridge over the busiest highway in this northeast Iowa hub and blast away thousands of tons of limestone to cut through a bluff north of the highway.

Organizers also led an effort to install public art along the trail.

These amenities, plus three additional branches of the trail that go to neighborhoods and Luther College, added to the cost and required raising $1.3 million in private donations to add to county, state and federal grants.

"It was relatively easy," said Brenda Balk, director of the Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That speaks volumes about Decorah."

The trail is truly a destination now, said Andrea Chase, trails coordinator for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and it's not surprising it took 12 years to complete, considering the tight funding for trails.

"We should not forget that this is not just a paved path around town. This is a sculpture park, a fitness facility, a transportation corridor, an outdoor classroom and an economic resource," Chase said. "When you think of the work that it takes to create just one of these amenities, and realize that Decorah has integrated them all into an 11-mile multiuse trail, 12 years doesn't seem so bad at all."

The project has already added to the quality of life for residents.

Case in point: Joe Sheridan, 62, of Decorah. At 255 pounds and on two blood pressure medications two years ago, his doctor urged him to lose 10 pounds.

Back problems meant walking was difficult, so he bought a bike. Two years later, he has pedaled 8,000 miles on the Trout Run Trail. His back is stronger and feels better, he's off his medication, and he lost 60 pounds by biking 182 days this past year. With the trail complete, he now makes two loops around it nearly every day.

"There are so many things to see. Some trails are former railroad beds and are flat, but we've got great scenery and some challenging switchbacks and cuts," he said. "On that first switchback the other day I passed a lady and she said, ‘Look at that view,' and I said, ‘Yes ma'am. It's here every day.' I think it will be a magnet to bring people here just to see our scenery. Already, I've noticed everyone is bringing their bikes."

Source: Mike Kilen, Des Moines Register, Sept. 7, 2012
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Farm to School 4-H team teachers trained

Posted: September 27, 2012
High school students from six northeast Iowa school districts recently participated in a training coordinated by Iowa State University Extension at the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation Center. The training prepared students for their role as cross-age teachers in the Farm to School program which begins in September.

The high school age 4-H team teachers will facilitate Farm to School lessons with second grade students once a month using lessons developed specifically for northeast Iowa. Farm to School is a national program that teaches kids about their food and how it is grown – especially foods that are grown right here on farms in northeast Iowa counties. Local foods introduced for lessons in 2012-2013 will be raspberries, cabbage, pumpkin, pork, popcorn, cheese, greenhouse tomatoes and salad greens.

Students from Howard-Winneshiek, Postville, Waukon, Decorah, Oelwein and Turkey Valley high schools participated. Each school has an adult coach for the program as well as an AmeriCorps or FoodCorps member and support from ISUEO County Youth Coordinators. In addition to participating in the recent training, the coaches, service members and/or CYC will also be in the classroom to support and supervise the team teachers.

The training was led by ISU Extension and Outreach and the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative. The trainers included Lynette Houser, Region 4 Youth Coordinator, Teresa Wiemerslage, Region 4 Program Coordinator, and Melanie Stewart, FoodCorps.

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