By Ryan Marquardt, farmer at Wild Rose Pastures and Iowa Food Cooperative Board President
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is very near and dear to me as the Board President of the Iowa Food Cooperative, as a farmer, and to my past and future education.
The Iowa Food Cooperative is an on-line retailer that sells almost exclusively Iowa grown and made products. The Cooperative grew out of a feasibility study funded by the Leopold Center ten years ago. The Iowa Food Cooperative is now a twelve hundred member strong and growing organization. We have members in nearly half of the states counties and distribution sites in seven counties: Story, Polk, Guthrie, Warren, Monroe, Mahaska, and Clarke counties. The Cooperative has sold nearly $1.8 million dollars in Iowa made and grown products since its humble beginnings as a Leopold Center funded study.
As a farmer and member of the cooperative, my little meat farm alone has done over $37 thousand dollars in sales through the Cooperative since I joined. My farm has benefited from using the enterprise budgeting and planning tools developed by the Leopold Center and available free on their website. As I look ahead at being the future manager and 5th generation running our 800 acre family farm, I consider the Leopold Center a valuable resource and ally in improving water quality, economical animal housing, ecological services, and foster local food systems.
I owe a great dept to the Leopold Center, for helping to get my graduate research started in grazing systems and grassland birds, in laying the foundation for the Iowa Food Cooperative’s very existence, and in informing me as a constantly learning farmer who hopes to pass the sweat equity of five generations farming onto my children. The work of the Leopold Center is not done. Thirty-years of progress is just the beginning. I would strongly encourage you to support the Leopold Center as a valuable contributor to developing Iowa grown solutions for a brighter future Iowa.