The Iowa Food & Family Project, in partnership with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Soybean Association, welcomed more than 2,500 booth visitors for its debut appearance at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market on May 30.

Attendees took home a variety of ag- and food-related materials including 700 “Food and Family” cookbooks, 400 “Feed Your Curiosity” ag fact books and hundreds of Subway coupons while Iowa FFP received an influx of new followers and subscribers to its monthly “Fresh Pickings” e-newsletter.

Des Moines Farmer’s Market guests also participated in a spin-the-wheel ag trivia contest and welcomed the chance to visit about a variety of food and farming topics, said Leon Sheets, a pig farmer from Ionia and Iowa FFP farmers’ market volunteer.

“I don't recall a group engaging in the wheel questions or staying focused on ag and food issues as what they did during the time we were present at the farmers’ market,” he said. “They didn't grab the freebie and run, but seemed interested in visiting about issues important to food and farming.”

With a steady stream of water quality coverage in the news, market-goers were interested in learning more about the state’s ag drainage districts and farmers’ efforts in environmental stewardship. Several other questions related to food labels, animal care, GMOs and nutrition also piqued consumers’ curiosity and generated productive conversations.

Farmers Mike Clark of Polk County and Dan Hanrahan of Madison County joined Sheets in polling the crowd on trivia questions related to sustainability, animal welfare, food safety and more. In exchange for participating, consumers walked away with a coupon for Subway restaurants, explaining that Iowa’s farmers are the number-one suppliers of turkey to Subway and Jimmy John’s.

For Hanrahan, those little connections opened up for further discussions, and he enjoyed hearing families and friends chatting about agricultural issues. 

“I got to witness one guest accurately describe to another the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit in 30 seconds. I was impressed,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Cristen Clark, Polk County farmer and Food & Swine blogger, interacted with attendees and signed copies of the new Iowa Food and Family Cookbook — a compilation of more than 50 recipes from Iowa bloggers, farm families and commodity groups to help tell the story of agriculture through food and family traditions. 

Two hours, 250 autographed books and dozens of photo ops later, Clark enjoyed the opportunity to meet fans and make new friends while “agvocating” for farm families. 

“I enjoyed the farmers’ market and the chance to interact with a melting pot of consumers with different backgrounds and levels of knowledge within agriculture,” she said. “No matter your ag experience, food is something we can all relate to — it’s our common ground. Connecting with someone over a cookbook is a foot in the door, and helps forge a bond that can lead to deeper conversations about food and farming.” 

The Iowa Food & Family Project seeks to engage urban Iowans about the food they eat and the farm families who grow it. It involves more than 40 partners including IPPA, IBIC, ISA, Machine Shed Restaurant, Hy-Vee, Farm Credit Services of America and Subway.

To learn more or to get involved, contact your commodity association or log on to www.iowafoodandfamily.com.