Posts Categorized: Today

You can support Iowa arts with new local crowd funding site!

The Puppet Project

Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) has launched Iowa’s First Crowd Funding Website for the Arts. The website, www.IowaART.org, is up and running and accepting donations for three projects. But only until July 31, 2014! Each project has a goal of $5,000. Contributions may be tax deductible as a charitable donation and some projects even offer super special incentives for contributors.

“We are extremely excited to launch this new crowd funding website,” Northeast Iowa RC&D Executive Director Lora Friest says. “As far as we know, this is the first crowd funding website for multiple art projects that anyone in Iowa has ever launched, but funding to advance the arts in our small communities is so limited that we feel this is an important initiative. We have seen individual projects raise funds over the Internet and certainly many art projects receive private funds but this is different in its scope. The public has a chance to contribute large and small amounts to multiple projects and then watch as those project funds are raised to see if the projects meet their goal.” It’s called crowd funding because many people can each donate a small amount to reach a larger goal.

IowaArt.org Image

The three projects open for contributions are The Puppet Project, Nisse on the Trail, and the Creativity Center: Artisan Café and Courtyard. The Puppet Project will help develop three enormous parade puppets that will make appearances in parades around Northeast Iowa and will join their mythological brother and sister puppets in the Nordic Fest parade. The Nisse on the Trail Project will develop permanent Nisse sculptures along the Trout Run Trail to be found by curious explorers. The Creativity Center Project will bring culinary arts to the after school fine arts program in Guttenberg.

While July is the only month to donate to these three projects, it may not be the end to crowd funding at www.IowaArt.org for creative initiatives in Iowa.

“This crowd funding website will have a tremendous impact on our rural Northeast Iowa communities, bringing them alive with all types of private and public art that enriches our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren,” Friest says.

Projects for the site are selected through a competitive process by the Northeast Iowa Arts Funding Council–a multi-county group of volunteers that includes artists and community leaders. They aspire to “Encourage, Support and Strengthen the Arts in Northeast Iowa.” The Council plans to accept applications for projects annually from a seven county area of Northeast Iowa.

If donating through the Internet makes you queasy, you can also mail in donations to Northeast Iowa RC&D, PO Box 916, Postville, Iowa 52162 or call (563) 864-7112 and specify which project you’re interested in funding. Everyone else can donate at www.IowaART.org.

Inspire(d) Life: 5 Potty Training Lessons

imageWondering what it’s like at Inspire(d) HQ? Well, right now we’re potty-training our almost-two-year-old. It is one of the most patience-trying things I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, kid, do you really have to go every time I lay you down for sleep? Even after the last time…just 10 minutes ago?

But it also makes me laugh, and often! I hope, when you’re most frustrated, you can laugh too!

Here are some potty-training *facts I’ve learned over the past month:

1. If it’s in the bathroom, it’s covered in pee. It doesn’t matter if it’s five feet up, inside a cupboard; it’s covered in pee. Possibly poop. Yeah. Just go ahead and wash it.

2. Nobody wants to encourage the Girl Who Cried Pee. But the minute you call her out, she’s gonna make you pay. With pee.

3. You’ll be shocked by the number of times you say things like “Get your head out of the toilet!” or “No, do NOT pick up the poop. Just say, ‘bye bye’ to the poop.” And my personal favorite: “Downward dog so I can wipe your butt.” (<– this really happens…)

4. Potty is quite possibly the worst word in the world, but soon you’ll find yourself using it in public even when your kids aren’t around.

5. Your child would like to cordially invite you and everyone you know to her bathroom for a poop-viewing party. Grandparents, neighbors, strangers on the street, behold: Your Child’s Poop. You may now clap your hands. (Then wash them.)

*These are in no way facts.

XO,

Aryn

What’s a Food Hub Anyway?

‘Fresher is Much Finer’
Story and infographic by Aryn Henning Nichols

Making sure it’s fresh is not just a fish thing any more. Actually, it hasn’t been in a long time. Like ever.
Folks with discerning palates across the world have always known that with food – any food – fresh is best. Lucky for all of us, food hubs – like the Iowa Food Hub based in Decorah, Iowa – are making fresh food an easier option.

“If Chicago can get something that was picked here today the very next day…that’s a big deal,” says Chair of the Iowa Food Hub Board Nick McCann. “Everything in our program is picked, packed, and delivered in the course of a couple of days.”

That really is a big deal.

Many small-to-mid-size farmers and producers face challenges in distribution and processing. This is generally due to a lack of infrastructure that, if in place, would help these producers to meet the rising demand for local food in retail, institutional, and commercial markets. That’s where food hubs come in.

“We facilitate market connections that producers couldn’t make otherwise,” McCann says.

Food hubs offer a variety of services: from the obvious combining of your products with others for mass sales (called aggregation) to production, distribution, and marketing services.

“You can do one, maybe two things well. You have to grow, harvest, and market your crops. Those are three large, intense things. And it’s too much for a lot of growers,” McCann says. “A lot of people worry that we’ll be taking all their profits, but after working with us, they realize our fees aren’t that much – especially for what we can do for them.”

And what is that, exactly? Well, through food hubs, retailers can buy locally but still know it’s source-verified. Food hubs can also act as umbrellas for liability insurance, which is incredibly helpful for the “little guy”. But the biggest part is that food hubs do the legwork on virtually all of a producer’s resale needs – finding retailers, educating them on your products, making sure those products are properly handled from shipment to store, and ensuring fair and competitive pricing that will bring customers back, especially once they taste the quality of their purchases.

That’s the kicker: Quality. Food hubs are sourcing things locally, and many assume local products will cost more than, say, bulk tomatoes from California. But, surprisingly, it can actually be more economical! And, unlike what you’d expect, the savings don’t really come from shorter shipping distance. The real savings to retailers is on shrinkage. They’re not losing products to over-ripeness or rot when the produce is that fresh.

“What’s the “real” cost of those tomatoes from California when you lose seven percent right off the bat?” McCann says. “We’re working to convince retailers it really is a win-win.”

The additional bonus is that more folks get exposed to local products – in the Iowa Food Hub’s case, Iowa and Driftless Region products. It’s the final link that keeps everyone growing together, pun intended.
The Iowa Food Hub buys from anyone – organic, conventional, agricultural – in its 150-mile radius, although most of the producers are based in or near Northeast Iowa. Iowa Food Hub, just one year old this spring, is the largest in Iowa.
“There are just so many farmers and producers in this region, it’s not surprising that we’ve grown fast,” McCann says. “We saw a need here, and a role for an entity to play.”

Check out the food hub infographic below or download a printable pdf  to learn more about how it all works, and works for us!

Aryn Henning Nichols is a big fan of “work smarter, not harder.” This seems to be a big proponent of food hubs, and she thinks that is pretty darn cool.

Food Hub InfographicPLUS! Check out the Iowa Food Hub’s Grocery Subscription Program

The Iowa Food Hub offers services not only to producers and retailers, but also to consumers in the form of a grocery subscription program. The “food box” program delivers local, fresh food each week to worksites, schools, or churches that have signed up for a subscription. It currently includes weekly delivery to stops in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Waterloo/Cedar Falls.

Using local products in the food boxes keeps money in our communities and allows folks to enjoy and get exposed to more of what this region has to offer.
Iowa Food Hub includes both farmers who grow the products, and processors who turn raw agricultural products into usable goods. As such, the food boxes include meat, milk, eggs, yogurt, produce, breads, and more.

Iowa Food Hub offers a Grocery Subscription Program that delivers local, fresh food to worksites, schools, or churches that have signed up for a subscription. Learn more at iowafoodhub.com.