Thinking Ecologically 
On April 22nd 1970, 26-year-old Earth Day coordinator Denis Hayes delivered a speech to a crowd of over 1 million people at the first Earth Day celebration in New York City. Over 20 million gathered across the county that day, making it the largest demonstration to have ever been organized in the United States. 

"I grew up in some of the most scenically stunning parts of the world in the Columbia River Gorge," said Hayes in an interview earlier this year. "I woke up every morning when I was growing up with a sore throat, and went up to the forest and saw that they were now all just a bunch of muddy stumps. I thought this was kind of ugly, but I didn't have a conceptual framework within which it all fit. What happened that was important for me was that suddenly the principles of ecology became the load-star upon which I could hang all these other things. In fact, that was at the root of what we principally tried to accomplish, and in some large measure did in fact accomplish with earth day." 

Earth Day 1970 was a remarkable moment in American history where millions came together to protect the natural world and the welfare of humans and other species within it. Over the next 4 years the Clean Air Act (1970), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (1972), Clean Water Act (1972), Endangered Species Act (1973), and Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) were written into law. 

Farming Ecologically 
Today farmers and ranchers across the country are choosing to use sustainable agriculture to address the many of the same issues Hayes and 20 million Americans mobilized around four decades earlier. These producers are: Through these and other sustainable agricultural practices, farmers are making an immediate effect on the ecosystems they steward. However, miles beyond the fence lines of a farm, farmers depend on others to develop the social and economic systems necessary to support them. Without the cooperation among different members of society to create markets and rebuild distribution systems, educate and introduce people in new ways of thinking critically and creatively about food and agriculture, these farms would not have the support and resources they need to produce food for a growing population while also caring for the land, water, animals, and microorganisms with whom their businesses must coexist. 

Organizing Ecologically 
The University of Minnesota's 2015 report Cultivating Collective Action: the Ecology of a Statewide Food Network catalogs the efforts of over 250 statewide food networks across the country, including Iowa's Regional Food Systems Working Group (of which Dubuque’s Local Food group is a part) who coordinate the efforts of diverse members of society engaged one way or another in building the social/economic systems needed to support earth-friendly agriculture. The graphic below explains the ways in which these food networks are like natural ecosystems in structure and function.

Earth month is often a time where we volunteer to tidy up designated "natural areas" and explore ways to "minimize our footprint" on the planet. Recognizing that people are a part of nature, not separate from it, this month's Local Food newsletter uses the ecological framework offered by University of Minnesota to highlight how people our network are  building relationships: the foundation to a socially inclusive, economically sustainable, food system where both humans non-humans can coexist harmoniously. Supporting the development of these systems helps lay the groundwork for our society to integrate everyday earth-care into our communities through our food choices. 

For more information about how you can get involved in any of the initiatives below, please contact us at Dubuque County ISU Extension & Outreach, email me at cscherf@iastate.edu 

Happy Earth Month, 

Carolyn Scherf
Twitter @LocalFoodDBQ
Local Food Coordinator
Dubuque County ISU Extension & Outreach 
563 583 6496
Earth Day Volunteer Opportunities in Local Foods
April 22, 2016

For more information about Days of Caring Earth Day opportunities visit dbqdaysofcaring.com
  • Washington Neighborhood Garden: Mulching & building seating area (Contact DBQWashingtonGarden@gmail.com
  • Four Mounds: Gardening (Contact chris@fourmounds.org)
  • Dr Viner Community Garden: Gardening (Contact jwoodyard@crescentchc.org) 
Convivium Urban Farmstead Volunteer day 
 Local Food Networks 
Networks are rooted in geographic, political, and other contexts of a place. Early stages focus on information gathering. Tension exists between being highly intentional and process driven, while remaining nimble and adaptive to recruit and excite members. 
 Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit 
Year one of the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, a three year process of food system planning and design is nearing completion in Dubuque County, with the last of three public input sessions having taken place Saturday April 16th with community members at the St Stephens' Mobile Pantry & Health Fair at Audubon Elementary School.

The core leadership team established for the AUT process has remained flexible, recruiting new members as new needs have been identified. Folks representing farmers, schools, non-profits, emergency food providers and others have contributed to drafting the Local Food Team's Mission and Core Values statementsand have taken part in interviews and stakeholder meetings to help shape a community food assessment, which will be finalized and considered in the next phase of the process: selection of short, medium, and long term priority projects

While this slow, intentional, information gathering and planning process is taking place, exciting projects have begun to sprout as stakeholders around the table build new relationships and expand their vision of what's possible, and what's urgent with regards to food access in our community.

Community Members line up for April 16th Mobile Pantry at Audubon Elementary School organized by several Ag Urbanism Partners including DCSD and St. Stephens. Over 200 families were served last Saturday. Chick here for video coverage of the event courtesy of TH Media 

Over the last few months, organizations as diverse as Dubuque Community School District and St. Stephens Food Bank have begun collaborating to meet immediate needs identified though the food assessment process, co-organizing, for example, last week's Mobile Pantry & Health Fair. With support from nursing students from the University of Iowa and Social Work students from Loras College surveys were collected as pantry clients sampled mango salsa (courtesy of Hy Vee) to get a better understanding of what people's experience and ideas are relating to healthy food access in Dubuque. The event was held at Audobon Elementary school, located in a USDA designated food desert where 44% of students are considered overweight. 

Over 200 families took home food and other essential items. More than 10 community organizations tabled as part of the day's health fair, including SNAP outreach, who signed 12 new families up for SNAP assistance. Survey results will be used to inform groups ranging from the AUT Leadership team to the School District Wellness Policy Coalition to the Inclusive Dubuque Heath Working Group. 
Spanning Network Boundaries: In ecology, it is the edges of ecosystems that are most productive and diverse, not the center. We seek to bring alignment to existing initiatives in part because redundancy is simply not sustainable.

Food Hub Development in Iowa 
Institutions wishing to purchase from local farmers at wholesale quantities face some obvious challenges to getting all the fresh foods they'd like including limitations on time to contact multiple farmers and ability to manage multiple invoices for multiple farms. As more eaters learn the benefits of local foods more institutions (schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, care facilities, etc) are looking for efficient ways to meet the growing demand from customers for fresh local food.

An example of a network or “linking circles” approach to developing a people-friendly, earth-friendly food system is the Iowa Food Hub "node" pilot study.  A collaboration between Dubuque County ISU Extension & Outreach and Iowa Food Hub in West Union, IA.  

A white paper has extended the theory of “food hub nodes” as a way to increase access to shared storage, aggregation, marketing, and distribution for farmers throughout Iowa. Nodes are small cold storage facilities that are managed remotely by a larger hub. Nodes can make it easy for farmers to tap into a larger distribution system with minimal increases in transportation and transaction costs. Starting a food hub can be a capital intensive endeavor. Coupled with the fact that wholesale food distribution is a high volume, low margin activity, having food hubs in every county is simply unrealistic.

The Iowa Food Hub (IFH) a wholesale distributor to food service, schools, grocery stores and restaurants offers a full product line of local meat, eggs, dairy, produce and grocery items, and focus on a service area of 150 miles from West Union.

With funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, this project proposes using the Iowa Food Hub staff, infrastructure and sales platform to test the concept of a food hub node in the Dubuque region to increase markets for locally produced food. This one-year project will:
  1.  Identify at least 5 “anchor buyers” (institutions) to develop purchasing goals for Summer and Fall 2016.
  2. Identify at least 5 “anchor growers” from the Dubuque area to bring into IFH’s quality management system.
  3. Provide customized assistance to the buyers and growers as they build markets and distribution logistics to support local food purchases.
  4.  Identify potential locations for a food hub node.
  5.  Identify procedures for additional buyer and producer engagement
  6. Generate $50,0000 in local purchases in the area in 2016.
For more information about the Iowa Food Hub Node Pilot project, contact Carolyn, (563) 583-6496. For more information about sourcing, contact Georgia, (563) 422-6226.
Diversity is a valuable characteristic of food networks, helping to keep them grounded in communities, and more resilient to face inevitable changes in membership, leadership, and other contexts. As is the case with farms where crop diversity helps ensure resilience in the face of uncertain and changing enviromental conditions, a diversity of perspectives means bringing players to the table beyond the “usual suspects.”
The contexts food systems operate in are dynamic, ever-changing, and diverse. Local and statewide food networks are intentional spaces where key stakeholders representing diverse perspectives and geographies can come together to learn and collaborate. As such, they are uniquely poised to bring about broad scale solutions to the complex challenges of the food system, sometimes referred to as “wicked” problems.

In our community, food insecurity is a "wicked problem" impacting the the health of and well being of citizens. Sharing information with other communities about best practices, leaders in our community are now working on a few initiatives to tackle the co-related issues of food insecurity and obesity locally and across the state. 

St Stephen's Food Bank 


Inspired by what food banks in other communities have begun, St Stephens Food Bank is now in the process of crowdfunding a new program to begin purchasing fresh produce from local farms to ensure greater access to fresh healthy foods in emergency food contexts like pantries and free meal sites. This Growing & Giving Program is intended to: 
1. Help Farmers reduce food waste by supporting a market for 'seconds' or 'ugly produce'
2. Help low-income consumers gain access to the fresh food everyone needs to be healthy
To learn more and support the Growing & Giving Program Crowdfunding Campaign Click Here

 Dubuque Farmers' Market  

Last year the Dubuque Farmers' Market, managed by Main Street Dubuque launched the Market Money program, allowing SNAP participants to use their food assistance dollars to purchase fresh food from over 50 vendors on Saturday mornings. In the first year of the program over $5,000 SNAP dollars were directed back to the local economy though this program. 

The expanded vendor participation, coupled with free transportation through the Jule did a lot to expand healthy food access, but affordability remains a significant barrier for many people wanting to eat more fresh fruits & vegetables.

To help reduce the affordability barrier, a coalition of food coordinators are now working together under the leadership of Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative to implement a statewide pilot program called Double Up Bucks, whereby each SNAP dollar spent at market would be matched (up to $10/day) by dollars raised privately.

Here in the Dubuque area, we will beginning to fundraise at the local level in the next few weeks, with the goal of launching the program statewide in July 2016. 

If you are interested in learning more, and helping get this collaborative effort off the ground, please check out the links below and contact cscherf@iastate.edu for more information about sponsorship opportunities! 

FAQ Double Up Bucks
Double Up Bucks Fact Sheet 

"We believe extending local food education opportunities to a broad range of audiences will create a well-rounded community capable of participating fully in the transformation of the food system in the greater Dubuque area."

- DBQ Ag Urbanism Toolkit Team, Core Values 2015

Over the last few months, there have been a number of local foods education events for producers and others. Below are a list of resources and links for more information. 

Agroforestry Workshop with Grant Schultz
Powerpoint: USDA & Extension Agroforestry Resources 

Edible Landscaping with Fred Meyer & Jackson County Master Gardeners
Backyard Abundance 

Buy Fresh Buy Local Farmer Mixer

This year's Driftless Farm & Food Weekend will be held
September 10-11, 2016 

Sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds to benefit local foods education at Four Mounds, Dubuque Rescue Mission, and Dubuque County ISU Extension & Outreach. For more information contact: cscherf@iastate.edu 

 Dubuque Community Garden Coalition
Upcoming Events 



Friday April 22 Dubuque Days of Caring @ Washington Neighborhood Community Garden, Dr Viner Community Garden & Four Mounds Community Garden 

Saturday April 23 Washington Neighborhood Community Garden Orientation, 1PM

Friday/Saturday April 22/ 23 Wading Pool Garden Delivery –  time TBD based on participant availability

Sunday April 24 Jaycees Community Garden set-up

Saturday April 30 Wading Pool Garden Fair @ Dubuque Rescue Mission


Day TBD May 20-22 – Dubuque Fine Arts Festival - Container planting kids' activity. Volunteers needed – Contact Danielle Stowell danielle.stowell@gmail.com

Saturday July 30 â€“ Sustainability Fair at Dubuque Rescue Mission