The following originally appeared in The Des Moines Register on March 1, 2018.
Economic impact of the Leopold Center has been immeasurable
As a young farmer, I often worry about what kind of future my wife and I and our two children will have in our rural community in western Iowa.
Like so many rural communities, ours is in decline. The population of our county continues to trickle downward as farms get bigger and young people leave the area.
There are not nearly enough resources being devoted to such a large problem, and one of the best organizations working to provide answers to the hollowing-out of our state was recently defunded. That organization is the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
As an organic crop and livestock farmer, I have personally benefited from the research and outreach the Leopold Center has provided since its inception. The practical research they have pursued and promoted has been well documented. But the positive effect the Leopold Center has had on our state’s economy has not received the publicity it deserves.
After growing vegetables for a couple of years, my wife and I quickly realized that no infrastructure support existed in our region for marketing and delivering our produce. We decided to work with our neighbors and farming friends to create a food hub in western Iowa. Currently we work with more than 40 producers from across Iowa, marketing and distributing their products to the Des Moines and Omaha foodsheds. We supply schools, institutions, grocery stores and restaurants with local foods.
This would not have happened without help from the Leopold Center. In 2015, with support from the Leopold Center, a food hub managers working group was formed in the state of Iowa. With that group we were able to navigate the stressful early stages of our business development. To add more stress, we were expecting our second child in the spring of 2016. The Leopold Center reached out and offered support during this vulnerable time by providing an interim manager who researched food hub practices and improved our efficiency. This allowed my wife to go on maternity leave. Today our business is thriving, has created several jobs, and is continuing to be an economic boon to our rural community.
We are just one of many businesses that can point to the Leopold Center as a source of support. And with such a small budget, the Leopold Center is one of the best returns on investment of any program funded by the state.
In a time when conventional agriculture offers little hope economically to young farmers and rural communities, the Leopold Center, with its promotion of diversity and keen eye to what works financially in agriculture, is needed more than ever.
The economic impact of the Leopold Center has been immeasurable. A fully funded Leopold Center is needed now more than ever.
There is an opportunity to show your support for the Leopold Center at a meeting of the advisory board in the Pioneer Room of the Iowa State Memorial Union on March 9 from 9 to 11 a.m. Please consider attending.
Daniel Rosmann is an organic crop and livestock farmer. He and his wife own FarmTable Procurement and Delivery in Harlan.