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Grinnell food economy

What crops grow best in Grinnell?

I have been researching online about what crops grow best in the Grinnell and Fairfield areas (in regards to Timlynn's question relating to the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator). Though my online research has yielded no results, Jon Andelson sent me some good information in response to an e-mail:

"Among commodity crops, it's pretty clear than corn and soybeans grow best here (compared to wheat, for example, or rice). Corn can be for humans (sweet corn, popcorn), though that's a small part of what is grow here. Soybenas can, too (tofu, soy yogurt, etc.), though, again, that's a small part of what's grown here.

Similarities and Differences Between the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets

A statistical analysis of the data I collected from the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets. See my more detailed write-ups of the two markets ("A profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market" and "A profile of the Fairfield Farmers' Market) in earlier blogs for more information.

The Vendors

Total number of stations:

  • Grinnell: 27
  • Fairfield: 23

Total number of vendors:

  • Grinnell: 34
  • Fairfield: 37

Gender of Vendors:

  • Grinnell: 41% male, 59% female

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."

"Local Food and Grinnell College Dining Services"

I have just finished reading "Local Food and Grinnell College Dining Services," a report from an independent study group at Grinnell College in the spring of 2006. Professor Jon Andelson (who lent me the report) was the faculty mentor of these students.

The students convincingly make the case that Grinnell College dining services should increase the percentage of local foods it uses from 5.8%. The argument is based upon five principal factors: helping the environment, nutritional value, support for the local economy, cost effectiveness, and student opinion. These factors are roughly in line with GALFA's "Five Reasons to Buy Local": Taste and freshness, food safety, environmental protection, economic health, and connection (for a detailed explanation of these five factors, see

Take time to stop and smell the data...

The next step before going too much further would be to do some field work. There is no substitute for direct observation of what you are trying to model.

You should plan to spend a Thursday session at the Grinnell Farmer's Market first, followed by a Saturday morning at the Fairfield market. Ask questions of buyers and sellers, take notes. Keep in mind all that you have been reading and thinking in terms of modeling the market elements. Use the blog space to share how this direct experience shapes your thinking around the system model.

Also before going further on the modeling side of this project, you should do a good bit of on-line research on the local food economy projects here in Iowa. Get a good feel for each project and develop a kind of 'mental model' if you will of how each 'system' is set up.

Some thoughts about Grinnell's food economy

From Wikipedia (,_Iowa)

There are four grocery stores serving Grinnell.

* Hy-Vee Food Stores - Located on the very far southern edge of town. There is no sidewalk or other way for bikers and pedestrians to get to Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers drive-up service upon request (you drive to the side of the store and they will load your car with your packages for you). Hy-Vee is open on Sundays.
* McNally's - This locally owned independent store is the most centrally located grocery store in town. It has the widest selection of gourmet food products as well as a large alcohol section. This store caters to the college crowd and to those looking for upscale or smaller-market products. McNally's has carry out boys and they will also deliver. McNally's is open on Sundays.


Use Case Observations from Grinnell Farmers' Market

From my visit to the Grinnell farmers' market on August 11, 2006, I designed both a template for interactions between vendors and customers, and a set of use cases depicting these interactions.

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