From Farm to Fork, Healthy Harvest Empowers Communities Through Local Food

From Farm to Fork, Healthy Harvest Empowers Communities Through Local Food Main Photo

16 Apr 2024

Located in the heart of Iowa, Winnebago & Worth counties are vibrant agricultural hubs, showcasing the area’s commitment to fostering a thriving community where residents can savor the richness of life. Renowned for its scenic beauty, cultural attractions, career opportunities, and affordability, the region prides itself on its idyllic lifestyle - yet amidst this picturesque setting, a movement is brewing: one that champions healthy eating, supports local farmers, and fosters vibrant community engagement. At the forefront of this movement is Healthy Harvest of North Iowa, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the local food system and enhancing access to nutritious options across the region.

Healthy Harvest of North Iowa, led by Director Andrea Evelsizer, operates across nine counties in North Iowa. Despite limited resources, the organization has strategically prioritized efforts to address the unique needs of rural communities, bridging the gap between local farmers and communities seeking fresh, sustainably-grown foods. 


Farmer’s markets, which serve as significant hubs where communities converge to enjoy locally grown produce, are a cornerstone of Healthy Harvest’s efforts to increase access to fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Farmer's markets, serving as vibrant hubs where communities come together to enjoy fresh, locally-grown bounty,  like produce,  honey, maple syrup, meat, baked goods, and more, are a cornerstone of Healthy Harvest's efforts to increase access to various seasonal goods. While the organization does not directly manage these markets, Evelsizer says the organization assists new markets when approached and provides resources to establish and promote existing ones. “We try to support all the markets in our region through demonstrations, online marketing, and campaign templates,” she says. In 2024, Healthy Harvest plans to ramp up its efforts by hosting local food preparation demos, taste tests, and networking events for market stakeholders. Moreover, initiatives like the Grow.Eat.Play campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage patronage of farmer’s markets, thus fostering a thriving ecosystem for local growers and consumers alike. 


This year, in the spirit of building a robust local food system, Healthy Harvest has a full harvest of initiatives planned to encourage local food production and consumption. From farm field days to licensed kitchen networking events, the organization offers diverse opportunities for farmers, producers, and consumers to connect and collaborate. Interactive events and online resources link people to local farms and activities. One is the Local Food Connection Field Day series, which takes participants directly to local farms. There are farmer’s market sampling events, network gatherings for market managers and commercial kitchen owners, and promotional campaigns with interactive online content. Another notable project includes the development of a North Iowa Licensed Kitchen Directory and a Library of Kitchen Equipment aimed at facilitating culinary entrepreneurship and promoting local food processing. The organization also encourages local food producers to list in their Local Food Guide, which allows them to become eligible for field days, online marketing support, and other business growth opportunities. 


Furthermore, building robust partnerships is critical for Healthy Harvest. Acknowledging the significance of nutrition education and engagement initiatives in equipping the next generation with knowledge and appreciation for healthy eating habits, the organization actively collaborates with schools on various programs. These include nutrition education sessions and taste tests to instill lifelong healthy eating habits in students. The nonprofit also convenes a North Iowa Local Food Coalition with quarterly meetings focused on pivotal topics such as community gardens and farm-to-school programs. The gatherings serve as platforms for stakeholders to exchange ideas, share best practices, and collectively work towards building a more sustainable and resilient local food system.

“We’ve had discussions with Buffalo Center schools and hope to work with others across the region,” says Evelsizer. “I expect we’ll also host farm-to-fork dinners, networking events, cooking classes, and more throughout the year.” 


Winnebago and Worth Counties are fertile ground for innovation in providing residents with agricultural advantages and healthy eating options. As Evelsizer states, “Apart from helping organize farm-to-table culinary experiences, our prowess lies in a deep connection to the statewide local food system and our ability to pull resources into north Iowa through partnership development and collaboration. Our team  members are the local experts as we work towards imparting statewide resources to North Iowa."  Healthy Harvest’s initiatives prove that a small nonprofit can have an outsized impact by galvanizing farmers, businesses, institutions, and passionate residents. When communities collaborate to provide better access to fresh, local foods, everyone reaps the rewards of a bountiful harvest.


Winn-Worth Betco, a regional economic development organization, supports Winnebago and Worth Counties businesses. By assisting with site selection, workforce recruitment and training, business startup, and expansion opportunities, Winn-Worth Betco facilitates the growth and prosperity of businesses in the region. "Whatever a business needs - we are here to help!" Contact us here for any assistance.

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