Getting a foot in the farming door

I’m used to traditional agriculture. Though the farm I grew up on was a small family farm, we milked cows, raised pigs, grew corn. The traditional crops and livestock you think of when you think of Iowa agriculture.  When organic farming came on the scene, I viewed it as serving a niche, targeting a small group of people with a lot of disposable income. I wasn’t thinking broadly enough I learned as I worked on an article on sustainability for the latest issue of The Iowan.

Dr. Linda Barnes who teaches biology at Marshalltown Community College has spearheaded a new program that includes organic farming, but is much more. Called COMIDA, the program is a way into farming for people who don’t have a family already in farming or the money to make the massive investment in land and equipment required to get into farming the traditional way.

COMIDA is based on and teaches sustainable agriculture. As Barnes says, “Good sustainable agriculture views the farm as an ecosystem. All components contribute to the health of the whole system, including the economic success of the farmer.”

Developed in cooperation with the ISU Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, COMIDA stands for County of Marshall Investing in Diversified Agriculture. COMIDA also means ‘meal’ in Spanish.

The COMIDA cooperative links farmers to consumers, distributing products produced by the cooperative through restaurants and schools, at farmers’ markets and through an online farmers market.

Talking with Linda and Norman McCoy (COMIDA program director, left) gave me a whole new appreciation for ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ and what those can mean to new farmers and all of us consumers.

To read more about this program, see the entire article in the Sept/Oct issue of The Iowan.

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