- Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, swine, sheep
- Animal Products: dairy
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: demonstration, participatory research, study circle, technical assistance
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, market study, marketing management, new enterprise development, risk management, value added
- Sustainable Communities: community services, employment opportunities, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, social capital
“So much agriculture, so little food.” This phrase has come to typify much of the Midwest, but Iowa in particular. Some of the best soil in the world and yet much of its bounty lies beyond our reach because of spotty processing infrastructure and/or coordination between processors, farmers, and eaters. Meat in particular has been difficult to coordinate locally, as processing requires much human and built capital. This project seeks to improve decentralized meat processing infrastructure by forming a participatory action research working group of a dozen organizations charged with inductively developing a plan for a coordinated structural support system for small meat processors in Iowa, inclusive of both public and private resources. The result will help reverse the trend from non-economically-founded declining processing access to one of expanded opportunities to serve local markets with local foods. This Working Group began meeting in Sept of 2006, with three “test cases” - processors seeking to expand or upgrade – as means of investigating obstacles and weaknesses in structural support. After several months of work it has become clear that the project will take longer than the one year that was originally planned. While much progress is being made, such as mapping of business planning resources and the designing of mechanisms to recruit partially-skilled labor from larger processors, seeing the test cases through planning and into construction and operation will take at least another year. This grant proposal seeks funding to coordinate a second year, as there is still much to be learned. This project was conceived of and implemented by the applying graduate student.
Project objectives from proposal:
The overall project long-term goal is to establish a comprehensive and provider-coordinated structural support system for small meat lockers in Iowa. The process has been somewhat iterative due to its exploratory and participatory action nature. Through the short terms outputs of organizing a working group of support organizations and, as a group, working through three “test cases” – lockers seeking to expand or upgrade – intermediate-term objectives that support the overall goal will be fostered:
1. Cultivate inter-organizational trust and familiarity, and social capital between working group members so as to facilitate working group members and their organizations working together for the long haul.
2. Produce a guidebook of resources available to small meat lockers that will both serve as a reference for working group member organizations and an educational resources book for small meat lockers and organizations that work with them.
3. Establish an annual meeting where working group members get together with each other and small meat locker owner/operators in order to refine support. This will probably happen at the Iowa Meat Processors Association annual conference.