A new project designed to generate economic development opportunities linked to sustainably raised Iowa foods has won a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan.

The one-year grant will support activities of the Pork Niche Market Working Group, a partnership of more than two dozen organizations representing pork producers, processors, distributors, retailers, state agencies and educational institutions. The group has focused on markets for hogs that are raised under specific standards of animal welfare, and environmental and community stewardship.

The project, “Value Chains for A Sustainable Agriculture” will be coordinated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in cooperation with Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa State University Extension, and the Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU.

“Iowa has several examples of alternative food supply networks, and more opportunities exist,” says Rich Pirog, marketing and local food system program leader at the Leopold Center. “We hope this project can illustrate that universities, agencies and nonprofit organizations can work with farmers and industry leaders to foster additional successful value chains rooted in sustainable agriculture.”

Health and environmental concerns among consumers are creating new market opportunities in the food and agriculture sector, says PFI director Robert Karp. "Iowa needs to be proactive about tapping these markets, which can reward our farmers with premiums and bring economic vitality to our rural
communities," he adds.

Jill Euken, ISU Extension field specialist, says the Kellogg project may help set the stage for partnerships to supply other sustainably raised products. She says preliminary supply chain investigations have begun in other market niche areas including organic dairy and poultry, and meats from grass-fed animals.

The Iowa project is one of eight funded as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food Systems Higher Education-Community Partnership in its Food and Society Initiative. The program seeks to enhance the capacity of universities and colleges to work with nonprofit, government, community-based and private sector partners on critical food systems issues.

For more information, contact Rich Pirog, Leopold Center, (515) 294-1854; Robert Karp, Practical Farmers of Iowa, (515) 232-5661; Jill Euken, Iowa State University Extension, (712) 769-2600; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272.

Leopold Center For Sustainable Agriculture