Category: From the President

From our President

From IFC Board President, Susan Ekstrom:


I recently represented the IFC at a rally celebrating National Clean Water Day put on by the project Mighty Earth. As I listened to the other speakers I felt such appreciation for all the organizations striving, as I think we do, to help protect our environs and our own health.

Mighty Earth is currently working to get Tyson Foods to buy animals to process from farmers who use sustainable agriculture practices.

It really will take all of us together to resist the influence of ‘big ag’.

PS I also reminded the gathering that healthy worthwhile food is not cheap!



Why does the Leopold Center matter?

Ryan awaits speaking at the budget hearing on Monday, April 17th, 2017

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.

Ryan speaks at the budget hearing, Monday, April 17th, 2017

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.


Get involved by signing this petition and contacting your lawmakers today–before it’s too late!

2014 Annual Meeting


Greetings IFC members!

Our annual meeting hosted by Eric and Julie Underberg of Agricultured was held on Nov 9 – due to early winter weather we had a small but lively crowd (45) – we enjoyed great food and even better camaraderie.

You can click on the links below to see our presentations in detail – a very brief over view is bulleted below

  • 44% growth in sales for 2014
  • 202 new members
  • 30 new producers (selling milk, cheese, dried beans, maple syrup, lots more produce to name a few of our new products)
  • new staff to help manage distribution and quality of products
  • 30% growth planned into 2015 budget
  • possibilities for future – expand wholesale market, onsite sales, community outreach, classes for members ……

We thank our out going board members Carrie Williams, Alexander Grgurich, Dan Beougher (7 Pines Farm) , and Eli Kalke (Fieldstone Farm) for their dedication to IFC, We welcome new board members Shelene Billups, Dale Morris , Tony Thompson (New Family Farm) and Jessica Krupicka (Heritage Hill Farm ) and we look forward to working with them and all of you as IFC moves forward.

(Click through the slides below to view the annual meeting presentation and a presentation from the general manager)

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Download a PDF of the annual presentation here.

Download a PDF of the manager’s report here.

See our 2014 Audit by clicking here.

On a personal note – I am now able to buy almost everything I need by shopping the coop. Shopping the coop brings me great joy because I know my dollars are going to good hard working people that really care about their products – and everything tastes so good . Many thanks to my IFC family – producers, consumers, volunteers – it takes us all!!!

Lisa Bean





Summer at the IFC–Decorators Wanted!


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It seems hard to believe that we moved to a new location, just a month ago – and we have completed two distributions there; it already feels like home. We have windows, easy access, and friendly neighbors, growing room so much potential. The comments from all of you – 100% positive so far so; all in all, the Board is very pleased with our new home.

We listened to what our consumers said they wanted in our last survey and we have added many new products – milk, ice cream, more cheeses, lots more produce, even worm castings, not to mention our many varied meat selections for summer grilling.

We have lots of people looking through the windows, thanks in part to the steady stream of patrons at the barber shop next door. We will have our sign within a month, but in addition we want to make our space warm, inviting, and improve our curb appeal.


So we could use some time and talent from our membership. If you are artistic or handy or just like to do that sort of thing, let us know so that as soon as we get our boxes unpacked we can start to DECORATE! Ideas we have been kicking around – wall and refrigerator art (pictures of producers, farms, logos, products), stenciling, etc, etc….

We also have a wish list which includes outdoor chairs and a small table, a small set of book shelves (for all our extra cookbooks), a couple of bar height stools, refrigerators/freezers to accommodate our ever growing product list, a tree for out front…..

Many thanks to all of you that helped us move and that help us with every distribution. Special thanks to our producers as well who work so hard to deliver good quality products for us all to enjoy.

Exciting times at IFC –

Email us below to lend your talent!


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The Growing IFC


I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought milk, butter, and toaster pastries (for my husband). The rest of our groceries for the month came from the IFC and what a good feeling it is to by food from sources I know and trust.

I mention this experience because we had a lively board meeting last Monday on a related topic. It came during our discussion of responses to our recent survey about two new practices aimed at increasing our product selection. One involves granting variances to non-Iowa producers so they can sell products we don’t have available. The other involves buying products (preferably from local or Iowa producers) not available from our producers and reselling them to our members.

The motivation for these new practices is so people like me don’t have go to a grocery store for items not available through the IFC, and we were gratified to learn that most of you support these methods to expand product offerings. Seventy-two percent of consumers and 80% of producers were okay with occasionally granting variances to non-Iowa producers if the reasons were compelling. On buying and reselling products not available from our producers, 92% of consumers and 70% of producers were okay with this way to increase product selection.

With these levels of support, you may wonder why our discussion was lively. It was because it included a passionate discussion of values – who we are and what is our mission?  We are selling some non-Iowa products so the board has decided to  employ an abundance of caution in moving forward, including developing clear guidelines to use when adding products through variances or buying products for resale. We also decided that we need to spend some quality time discussing and revising our mission statement, or what we stand for. In the interim, we decided to change it from:

“To facilitate farmer-consumer relationships and build our farms and communities through web-based marketing of Iowa products.”


“To facilitate farmer-consumer relationships and build our farms and communities through web-based marketing of primarily Iowa products.”

We will continue to put IFC producers and Iowa producers first. For example, if products like potatoes, onions, or shallots are missing during winter months, we will try to secure them first from an Iowa producer as opposed to producers from other states. Also, if these products become available from an IFC producer, we will end this practice. Truth be told, buying and reselling products is added work for us. But we want a shopping experience that allows our consumers to buy as much as they can from trusted sources so they remain engaged and shopping.

Farmers helping farmers gave us the opportunity to offer these incredible shallots.

We respect that some of our members only want to purchase products directly from local producers who have grown, raised, or made those products. Our policy of full disclosure means these kinds of choices remain an option. This policy will never be changed, and the choice of what to buy from who is ultimately left with you – the consumer.

Be assured as well that the board understands that we need to move carefully and cautiously. We will make sure our Iowa producers get full preference, and we will continue to seek your input as well.

I look at this as creating community. If we can reach out to other producers who care about the land and the quality of their products to connect them to people who want those products  our IFC community grows.

Happy shopping!


Board President

2014 Happenings at Your IFC


When I first discovered the Iowa Food Co-op a few years ago, I had no idea it would be a life changing experience. Now I am Gary’s (our manager) right hand man at distributions and YIKES! – President of the Board…

Why do I do these things? Long story short – because I just love the co-op. Over the holidays I was able to say to my family, “You are eating this or that and I know who made it, grew it, or raised it.” I’ve said that countless times, and it felt great knowing we were eating local and responsibly produced goods from folks I actually know.

These days it is easy to feel a bit powerless in terms of food – our food system has grown so big and has so many layers…. Belonging to the co-op empowers me; my dollars go where I want them to go, and I am supporting good hard working people who are raising quality products in a responsible way. As I said – I love the Iowa Food Co-op!

Last year was a good one for IFC. We only had to move once, sales were up, and we added new members. For IFC to thrive, this trend needs to continue. In order to tackle this challenge we are implementing a few new strategies. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these because we collectively own IFC together.

New products – we have recently added dried beans, organic applesauce, and frozen corn, to name a few. We continue to look for new products, so keep us posted if you come across something that we don’t have that you think we should offer.

Our recent survey to determine what consumers want indicated that generally we need more dairy, fruit, and vegetables. Our producers received a summary of the survey results so that they can plan for the future. (Click here if you’d like to see these results.)

While we will always put our Iowa producers first, we also recognize that we need to be aware of our consumer desires. Occasionally we grant variances to our standards that only Iowa producers can sell products they’ve grown, raised, or made. The board carefully considers these decisions.

I mention this because we recently granted a one-year variance to Popsie Fish Company so that they can list their Alaskan salmon in 2014. There were several reasons for granting the variance. Popsie’s owner, Tony Neal, is a Des Moines Iowa native, and it is a family-owned small business. The salmon is of superior quality – just the kind of thing our members expect. But most importantly, the salmon is a sustainable alternative to farmed Altantic salmon that is the norm locally and that is so incredibly harmful to the environment. This last point – giving our members who buy salmon a sustainable alternative – was the clincher in granting this variance.

We are also pursuing the idea of looking beyond our borders for other products that our members want. For example, we’ll be purchasing some certified organic shallots from a small producer in Wisconsin to resell over the next few cycles to our customers. The reasons are: 1) we do not currently have shallots available, 2) we will be supporting a small producer from this part of the Midwest, and 3) we want to test how buying and reselling works (it may be the only way we will ever be able to sell milk). Call it an experiment, but it’s one that we think will have benefits with little downside.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any thoughts on these decisions. As well, we will ask for your feedback with a survey in the next few months to gauge our member’s opinions on these new approaches to achieving our mission.

Lastly, we have just launched a Services Directory on our website where our members can list services. We thought it would be a nice way to make connections in our IFC community. We have some amazing talents in our membership and we want to help spread the word. If you have a particular service you would like IFC members to know about, fill out the application form so your listing can be found by IFC members. A few examples – green energy, veterinary services, catering, photography – check it out!

I have to say something about volunteering. To our volunteer staff – you make distributions a pleasure. We could not do it without you. Many, many thanks and see you soon. If you haven’t yet volunteered, join the crew we have a good time. Sign up to volunteer by clicking here!


President’s Blog – On Turning Five

By Pete Woltz, IFC Board President

Unexpected costs can be aggravating. Last week I misplaced my car keys and had to rent a car to get back home from KC.  I thought I chose the company with the most reasonable rates, but when I returned the car I was shocked to see my final bill.  With taxes, fees, and adjustments, it was a third more than the quoted price.

I mention this story because we as a cooperative have just come through a remarkable fiscal year that ended on June 30. Thanks to dedicated consumers, popular new products, and an increase in the number of distribution cycles, sales exceeded expectations and we ended up with a $6,300 profit for the year.

However, just like my rental car bill, there have been costs that are not reflected in our profit figure.  To keep the Coop alive financially, we lived off of grants and the help of volunteers. We’ve  consumed some of your equity, eliminated staff, and underpaid remaining staff. Perhaps most importantly (and thanks to the generosity of Merle Hay Mall), we have paid no rent.

Unfortunately, to use a term we local food enthusiasts can relate to, these practices are unsustainable.  To address this issue, the board approved a modest increase in our fees for the first time in our history. As a member of the board and a participant on this year’s budget committee that approved the increase, let me say that the decision was a painstakingly difficult one.

The decision came down to a question of sustainability. Our success in 2013 gave us a glimpse of what the IFC can become.  It was the unanimous opinion of the board that we embrace our destiny by creating a business that is financially sustainable.  This remarkable local food delivery system that we have built together these past four years must not be allowed to go away due to the lack of adequate funds to cover costs.happy-birthday-cake65

We have turned five and have matured as an organization.  It is now time to accept our financial responsibilities and keep this truly unique organization serving us for many delicious years to come.  Thank you for supporting this decision and KEEP SHOPPING!

President’s Blog – Out of the Primordial Soup!

By Pete Woltz, IFC Board President

PlanningI have been thinking lately about my dual role experiences as both a producer and consumer of the Iowa Food Coop.  Shopping and selling products through the IFC presents some interesting challenges.  Because I have become a product of a society geared toward instant everything, delivering product and shopping on a two-week schedule requires me to resurrect an ancient set of skills… planning!

Many of our regular shoppers have a highly evolved ‘meal planning’ gene.  To them, sitting at a computer to plug from over 1,000 locally-produced IFC food treasurers into approximately 42 meal time slots becomes second nature.  One by one they mix and match and visualize the future.   “Let’s see, Steak ‘n’ Eggs greens simmering with LaVentosa Berkshire bacon, that’ll work for next week’s potluck”. 

As producers, we must accurately plan and track our inventories so as not to ‘out’ a product on distribution day.   And, I am not talking sexual orientation here!  Outing occurs when a product is removed from a consumer’s invoice.  This can occur for any number of reasons, but it is usually a sad event for everyone involved.  It creates loss of revenue for the IFC, loss of revenue for the producer, and, most importantly, disruption in the lives of our highly evolved and much beloved consumers. 

Here are a couple Evolutionof things we as producers can do to help keep ‘outs’ from happening.  Check and double check orders prior to delivery.  Also, use the IFC website’s inventory feature to control sales volume.  Check inventory against orders prior cart closing.  That way, consumers can be notified in time to make a product substitution in the event of a product ‘out’.

The IFC is the best place on the planet to feed ourselves.  It may take a little more planning and a little more strategy, but hey, we are evolved!  SHOP THE COOP today.

President’s Blog – You Are How You Eat!

By Pete Woltz, IFC Board President

The IFC is much more than another place to buy food.  A while back Kelly and Angie Tagtow shared a request from a journal that was seeking essays that explored “the intersection of cooperatives with alternative food systems initiatives”.   I was so moved by the request’s language on cooperative food systems that I read a portion at an IFC board meeting for a bit of pre-meeting inspiration.

The words hit a familiar note for me.  Cooperative food systems were described as organizations populated by “food citizens” acting within “civic food networks”.  Cooperative food systems, they went on to say, were distinguished from conventional cooperatives in that they:

  1. Reconnect farmers and consumers in more direct and meaningful ways
  2. Sell to local and regional markets through alternative networks
  3. Promote food production, distribution, and consumption processes that are environmentally sound or socially just.


As my involvement in the IFC has expanded over the years from producing products that meet IFC standards, to public speaking, to Board involvement, to volunteering on distribution day, I have come to feel a compelling sense of citizenship within this extraordinary local food community.  More than just an intersection of consumers and food producers, I find the IFC to be a vibrant community of citizens accepting the responsibilities and enjoying the privileges that come with citizenship.

What are the responsibilities?   For starters, an all-volunteer workforce of “food citizens” somehow manages to collect hundreds of local products every other Thursday and distribute them to lines of very patient consumers at four different sites.  Thank you volunteers and patient consumers!

But responsibilities in a cooperative food system go beyond the sometimes overwhelming tasks of distribution.  There are responsibilities our producer owners accept to offer wholesome foods produced with practices that protect our land, water, and wildlife.  There are responsibilities to care for those who are less fortunate, which we do by supporting our EBT members with donations to cover their fees.  Indeed, being responsible is a theme that runs through everything we do.

What about the privileges that come with citizenship in our local food system?  Are you kidding – local greens in February!?!

I would also argue that this great privilege is also our responsibility. I encourage you as a coop citizen to buy products from our producers.   April sales are well on the way to meeting budget projections.  You can help us meet our goals and keep our community alive and healthy by loading your cart this next cycle with the most wonderful local Iowa products available anywhere.  Please shop your Coop!

Zaza’s Pasta

Dine with Zest with Zaza’s Pastas, by Rita Pray

If you are looking for an elegant yet easy dinner, stock up on some of Zaza’s homemade Ravioli.  It’s about as easy as it gets, and with some simple accompaniments, you can have a delicious, amazing meal on the table in about 10 minutes.  The first ravioli I  tried was the Butternut Squash-Parmigiano Ravioli, which I embellished with a quick and easy creamy pesto sauce.  It was rich and creamy and filling.  Just recently, I served the Beet Ravioli with Gorgonzola cheese and Caramelized Leek filling.   I followed the recommendation of the Zaza folks and served it with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Accompanied by fresh greens from the Berry Patch and a glass of red wine, we had a lovely meal, simply made and exquisitely delicious.

Zaza’s Pastas originate in North Liberty, made by a producer who learned to cook from her Italian grandmother.  Zaza’s offers a variety of focaccia breads, breadsticks, biscotti, homemade pasta sauces, and about a dozen or more varieties of dried pasta and several types of frozen ravioli.  The dried pastas are colorful (beet, semolina, seppia, butternut squash, saffron, herbed) and shapely (fettuccine, lasagna, farfalle.)  The ravioli boast filling ingredients from local creameries and vegetable gardens when possible.   All of the pastas are flavorful and nicely textured, and make a simple pasta sauce shine.   But for the easiest dinner ever, the ravioli wins, hands down.  Simply boil a salted pot of water, drop in the frozen ravioli and let them simmer for 3-5 minutes, drain and drizzle with olive oil or sage butter.

I have tried one of Zaza’s dessert offerings, by accident when I was given another member’s order of Pizelle—which are the light and crispy waffle-style Italian cookies.  I served them with fresh blackberries, a drizzle of chocolate, and whipped cream, feeling only a little guilty about the unexpected windfall in our distribution.   I’m guessing the tiramisu would be fabulous, based on the other Zaza’s treasures I have discovered.  Buon Appetito!