The Leopold Center had produced a Local Food and Farm Plan mandated by the state legislature, with funding and policy recommendations to help build the local food economy. Counties stepped to the plate and contributed funds to build local food commerce, leadership coalesced to create a statewide non-profit food systems council, and in July 2011 the state appropriated funds to support recommendations found in the Iowa Food and Farm Plan.
In rural America, local food systems supported through farmers markets, roadside stands, and institutional and retail sales will continue to have some impact on local economies and increase food security in the region. Without a regional framework that includes interdependence with nearby micro or metropolitan areas, however, these local efforts may not have enough of an impact on the jobs, entrepreneurship, and innovation that rural America needs and that strategic investments will require.
In late May I moved to Lansing, Michigan, to become associate director at what will soon become the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University. Our mission is to engage the people of Michigan, the United States, and the world in applied research, education, and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems. Look for the Center for Regional Food Systems to play a critical role leading the discussion about the challenges and benefits to developing these systems. We’ll conduct research, develop new outreach mechanisms, and build new and catalyze existing networks. Here are just a few questions that we hope to research and discuss:
Rich Pirog's research and collaborations on local and place-based foods, food networks and communities of practice, food value chains, and ecolabels has been publicized in magazines and media outlets across the globe, used by local food practitioners, and are often cited in books and college courses. In 2003, he received the Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from Practical Farmers of Iowa, and in 2004, he received the Iowa State University College of Agriculture Award for Outstanding Achievement and Service.