Corn and soybeans have provided very good livings for Iowa farmers in recent years. But the focus on these two cash crops has meant that people living in the center of the nation's bread-basket are now likely dining on vegetables grown in California or Florida, not from a farm on the outskirts of town.
Now four young entrepreneurs at TableTop Farm have set out to change the way Iowans eat. Working on rented land near the central Iowa town of Nevada, rookie farmers Chris and Kim Corbin and Luke and Sally Gran have quickly established their intent to provide families, as well as wholesale and retail buyers, with locally grown organic produce.
TableTop is part of the growing Community Supported Agriculture movement, which itself is gaining ground from the "locavore" trend – people searching for freshly picked, local fruits and vegetables.
With 86 percent of Iowa devoted to farmland, this would seem a good place to further the eat-local movement. So 24-year-old Sally Gran convinced relatives to rent her and her partners the ground they needed. They sold "shares" to area families that guaranteed delivery of more than a dozen vegetables throughout the summer.
Those subscribers provided TableTop with cash to start their crop. The couples also borrowed money and boosted income with sales at farmers' markets. Sally Gran says she may close a deal to provide carrots to a local food supplier.
"Those carrots are really sweet," she says.
The farm will double its acreage next season, and TableTop plans to hire four full-time workers to help deliver the news – and food – to a growing audience.
– Steve Dinnen, Des Moines, Iowa
Next in the series: The Change Agents