Ken Meter sees a lot of opportunities for local farmers in producing food.
Meter of the Crossroads Research Center in Minneapolis, along with Melvyn Houser, a Pottawattamie County, Iowa, supervisor talked about the benefits of locally-produced food during the Growing Food in Farm County event in Appleton, Montevideo and Hector.
The event was sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Land Stewardship Project and other local economic development groups.
Meter said he conducted a study of 10 counties in Minnesota, including Lyon County, looking at the food economy for the region.
"I have done a study on the food economy in a 10-county area that includes Marshall (Lyon County)," said Meter. "I showed the results of those findings to local economic development officials and some local farmers that were looking at producing foods for local use."
Meter said his research went back to 1969 and looked at the cost and benefits for producers in the region.
"I looked at the backbone of the economy with how much farmers make while producing crops and livestock with subsidies, without off-farm income - just getting down to the backbone of the production process."
Meter said a large amount of money was going outside of the state from the 10 counties, buying inputs for production.
"Farmers are spending about $460 million a year buying inputs that are sourced outside of the region," said Meter. "You have all the oil you need, all the fertilizer you need is produced outside of the region and even outside of the U.S.
"Increasingly, feed and seed are also being purchased instead of being raised by area farmers," Meter added.
Meter conducted a similar study in Iowa.
Houser said based on the study and other information gathered, the county created a Local Food Policy Council that will be funded at least for the next five years.
"We committed $30,000 a year for five years to help staff the food council with a local food coordinator," said Houser. "They will help promote, educate and establish markets for local producers and consumers for locally-grown food."
Houser said Pottawattamie County sees locally-grown and locally-sold food as a good economic opportunity that is worth pursuing.
"When you start looking at the food industry, it is a broad reaching business," said Houser. "There are a lot of things the strategic planning committee thought we needed to do.
"We have seen other parts of Iowa and other parts of the country that have tried this endeavor but it was always done by volunteers," Houser added. "If you have a dedicated staff person, maybe the project can get off the ground and get going."
Meter said sourcing as many inputs and keeping products local would be a good way to build up a local economy.
"Shifting toward local food systems is a good way to build local wealth and is one step towards building our economy in the face of what we're going through right now," said Meter.