Local group looks to grow new market control for farmers

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Area partnership sees a green future

A new produce marketing group based in northwest Iowa hopes to become a model for such initiatives in the state, while also showing why such farm endeavors should be considered economic development.

Lori Sokolowski, the Holstein producer leading the effort, said these types of regional partnerships could mean a green future for many Iowa farmers.

"Industry and biotech have their place, but agriculture has always been here and it needs to stay here," she said.

The 10-member produce marketing association is in the beginning stages of organization. In fact, it's so new members have yet to name it, Sokolowski said.

The group will focus on marketing its produce to a variety of consumers in northwest Iowa. Members are from Cherokee, O'Brien, Plymouth, Woodbury and Ida counties.

While there are no members from Buena Vista County yet, Sokolowski said that should change in the future.

"We want to start small and make sure it's going to work, but we don't want to leave out anyone interested in joining," she said. "Buena Vista County and Storm Lake offer some unique possibilities because of the diverse population."

As far as organizing the marketing group, organization structure, bylaws and a board of directors all need to be formed. The group will most likely take the form of a cooperative, Sokolowski said.

Funding to help organize the group came from a grant through the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

Sokolowski has already worked with most of the members of the new marketing group, having led a three-state marketing feasibility study last year. She said many she talked to then were interested in networking and developing some sort of marketing association.

This group should provide some new experiences for its members, Sokolowski said.

"They have been marketing basically to farmer markets - some do some retail marketing and institutional marketing," she said. "Now they'll be reaching out beyond that."

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