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Practical Farmers of Iowa is proud of this statistic: 72% of our members farm or aspire to farm in the near future. This is an important number, because as an organization we believe that farmers are the experts, and should set and lead organizational priorities.
However, the remaining 28% of members who don’t farm nor aspire to are also important to our organization: they buy member farmers’ products, they advocate for farm systems they believe in, they rent to farmers, and they support farmers and farming systems in their professional roles. One non-farmer working to improve agriculture in Iowa is Sarah Kielly. Read on to hear her perspective and contributions to farming in Iowa. Thanks, Sarah and other non-farmers for your important role in shaping our food and farm systems!
I am a non-farmer. Growing up, I was exposed to life on the farm through my grandparents, who raised hogs and grew row crops. My grandmother taught me about gardening and I always looked forward to the fresh produce every summer, which amazingly tasted different than buying it from the grocery store. It wasn’t until I was older that I really began to appreciate the importance, simplicity, and reward of growing my own food.
My name is Sarah Kielly and I am the Local Foods Coordinator for Buchanan County ISU Extension and Outreach. Working in this role, I draw on this personal connection to strengthen our local food system, which is critical for our local economies. Without supporting our close friends and neighbors and keeping our dollars in the community, our thriving towns and cities would not survive. We need to be conscious of what we are buying, where our money is going and who it is supporting.
Through the farmers market, schools, and businesses in Buchanan County I work with producers and consumers, as it is vital to continue to grow agriculture in Iowa toward a more sustainable future. Many kids are not exposed to gardening or even the concept that their food comes from soil and just not the grocery store. It is imperative that they are taught at a young age about our food system and their impact on it.
I challenge you to make one small step toward supporting your local food system, such as buying local milk, beef, or eggs. Even visiting a farmers market once a month is a great first step! Non-farmers like me are just as important as the people who grow our food. We all need to continue to work together to advocate and keep agriculture in our state moving toward a sustainable and great future, all while supporting our local economies and neighbors.