The Local Food Economy Game is an applied research and social action project of Sohodojo. Our goal is to increase the production and consumption of wholesome foods grown and sold locally. We are developing a web-based exploratory learning environment where folks can have fun while deepening their appreciation of the social and economic impacts of "Buy Fresh, Buy Local."

A Profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market

The Grinnell Farmers' Market runs every Thursday, May 27 to October 14, 3-6 PM, and every Saturday, June 5 to October 9, 8:30-10:30 AM. A wide variety of goods are sold at the Grinnell Farmers' Market, including many different types of produce, baked goods, homemade crafts, berries, and even kettle corn. The Grinnell Market attracts buyers and sellers from many miles away; according to one vendor, Grinnell Market presents the best opportunity for sales in the area. Grinnell's Farmers' Market constitutes a large portion of the local food economy. Many vendors are dependent on their farmers' market sales; according to another vendor, "most people's sales are over after the farmers' market season."

Connecting "The World is Flat" with Sohodojo's mission

Having spent several hours over the last couple days reading content from the Sohodojo website, as well as the beginning of Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat," a connection between the two immediately becomes evident. Friedman argues that, in "Globalization 3.0" – from 2000 onwards – the global playing field is being leveled, and the game is increasingly being played by individual actors. Well, an important component of the "Small is Good" world is bringing individual actors to the forefront of economic decision-making. The more our world becomes global in the sense that individuals can and do make decisions, the more help we have in lighting the fuse for the Small is Good world. Furthermore, by increasing the importance of individuals in our global world, we gain support for the idea (which is stressed in Sohodojo blogging) that it is not scale that is most crucial in our efforts; rather, it is ideas – of individuals – that create change.

National Agricultral Statistics Service

The National Agricultural Statistics Service from the USDA has some census information on the counties we are interested in.

At this link:

one can simply enter the counties of interest and view all the data for those counties as a spreadsheet. This data includes number of farms in each county, size and value of each farm, harvested crops, inventory of livestock and poultry, etc.

I have compiled some of the more relevant statistics from each of our eight counties into an Excel spreadsheet. My database includes number of farms, total farmland, market value of all agricultural products sold, and net cash farm income.

Radius of Impact for Iowa Farmers' Markets

I have a few pieces of information from work done by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner that relate to the question of "radius of impact" of Iowa Farmers' Markets (how far sellers and buyers travel to reach markets). I will post more information regarding this question as I find it.

  • Consumers traveled an average of eight miles to get to a market
  • The attached file entitled "Radius of Impact Table" contains a table listing the number of visits to and the miles traveled to farmers' markets, based on their size, from a sample population from Dr. Otto's survey.

After doing some reading at

After reading Longitude - What It Means to be an Entrepreneur: The Remarkable Story of John Harrison at, I have a few thoughts on how the content of this blogging relates to our Local Food Economy Game project

"John Harrison stood up to, and held his ground in earnest opposition of, the Powers That Be. In the Big Is Good World, the Powers That Be define the rules of the game and are its referees. It is unbelievably difficult to 'reinvent the game' when competing against those who have that much control over Life As We Know It."


The nine counties surrounding Grinnell and Fairfield

There are nine Iowa counties of interest in this project. These include the four counties surrounding the town of Grinnell (Marshall, Tama, Jasper, and Poweshiek), and the five in the vicinity of Fairfield (Wapello, Jefferson, Davis, Van Buren, and Henry).

A map of the state of Iowa with the two regions outlined is shown in the attached file entitled "Outline of Two Regions."

Grinnell Region
Total Farmers' Markets: 7
Total Number of Residents: 113,442
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.17

Marshall County:

  • Population: 39,311

Creating a Profile of the Grinnell Farmers Market

During the week ahead you are scheduled to come to Fairfield on Saturday the 22nd to visit the Fairfield Farmer's Market with Jim and Timlynn, to do our mid-term assessment of your internship progress, and to plan our activities for the last half of your time with us.

In advance of your visit on Saturday, it's back to the Grinnell Farmer's Market this week.

Based on:

    * The research you have found on farmers markets in Iowa,
    * The kind of data we have asked you to investigate and collect most recently, and
    * Your deepening understanding of the context that needs to be captured/considered in doing a rigorous model of an economic system.

The Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator - Grinnell and Fairfield


Dig into using the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator a bit as it will be an important tool for the modeling project. In particular, check into two particular questions fist and then test the calculator based on what you find out in Question. See below.

From the research comes this caveat: County-level production data for several produce items were missing from the Agricultural Census. Data for these counties were estimated by comparing the undisclosed values for each item with the undisclosed values for each county. For this reason, county-specific production information may not be accurate in some cases and may affect some county-specific estimates of market potential.

Notes from a study of Iowa Farmers Markets

The following are some interesting pieces of information from an article entitled "Consumers, Vendors, and the Economic Importance of Iowa Farmers' Markets: An Economic Survey Analysis," by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner, Iowa State University (March 2005). All figures are from a 2004 survey.

  • Approximately $20 million in total Iowa Farmers Market sales were estimated through consumer reporting, while a more conservative estimate of $9.8 million originated with vendor reports.
  • An estimated $31.5 million of gross sales and $12.2 million of personal income effects were directly or indirectly related to farmers' market activity.

Very Interesting Tool: Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator

This tool, developed by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, allows users to compare what Iowans eat to what Iowa farmers produce. The calculator is designed to "help users determine expanding markets in Iowa if consumers ate more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables rather than produce from conventional sources outside the state."

For example, by selecting the options "demand," "apples," "farm revenue," and "per year," one can see that Iowans demand $6,496,000 worth of apples per year (the demand for each Iowa county is also available). Then, by selecting "market capacity," "apples," "farm revenue," and "per year," one can see that 50% of Iowans' consumption of apples is from local producers.


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