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Informal Meeting Minutes: November 12, 2013/ page 2
County. She said she conducted interviews with natural food cooperatives (co-ops) both
in Johnson County and outside of Iowa. Sullivan asked Singerman what she used as a
definition of “local” when compiling this report. Singerman said she used the stores’
individual definitions, which vary and are included in the report on page 12.
Singerman said food enterprise centers (FECs) supply infrastructure necessary for
food processing and preparation, an incubation function, business planning, technical
assistance, and coaching. A food hub is usually more a distribution business which
includes aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified or local food. The
idea is to move this food into secondary markets like wholesale, retail, and institutional
demand. Viroqua, Wisconsin has both a food processing center and a food hub for a
county with a population of about 30,000.
Singerman said New Pioneer Co-op has been particularly successful with perishables
and meat but there are efforts to make it better. Local package goods are difficult to
source and according to New Pioneer Co-op General Manager Matt Hartz, Johnson
County is lacking in the organized and institutional support for local foods that seem to
be available elsewhere. An example of this is that there is no resource for information
about food businesses and there is no commercial kitchen with food storage available for
rent. A consequence of this is a lack of market readiness for many local producers which
is at the low end of what is necessary to reach the retail shelves.
Singerman said there are many important pieces in place already to foster a strong
local food economy and support additional food businesses. Iowa City is an organic
hotspot and there are several businesses that are supporting development of a network
which is anchored by New Pioneer Co-op and the Iowa City Farmers Market. Johnson
County’s agriculture base is suited to additional local food production given the growth
of small farms and the relative diversification of agricultural production as compared to
other counties in Iowa. The area’s population is also growing as is the demand for local
Singerman suggested that Johnson County provide technical food processing training
or at least an annual workshop. This would provide a resource for entrepreneurs to get
started. It would also be worth doing research to determine if a food hub which would
be a distribution-focused business would be feasible in Johnson County. These food
hubs are not always economically viable but based on data; Johnson County is one place
where this can likely be done. She also thinks it would be worth researching an FEC with
a commercial kitchen, storage, business planning, and market development to determine
its economic feasibility in Johnson County. A survey of local businesses by the Iowa
City Area Development Group (ICAD) last summer determined that there is a demand
for commercial kitchen space.
Singerman said she and Grimm submitted a planning grant to the Leopold Center for
an FEC in the Johnson County-Linn County corridor with support from the City of Iowa
City, the Johnson and Linn Counties’ Boards of Supervisors, ICAD, New-Pioneer Co-op,
Hy-Vee, and Oasis in addition to a few others. The grant will be used for networking,
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