LOCALLY GROWN: Push To Increase Knowledge

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We've heard we're supposed to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This time of year, you have plenty of options to get your hands of fresh local produce. And, as the local food movement grows, there's a push for one group of professionals to learn more about it.

Louie Bergquist is getting back to his roots. The ten-month-old doesn't have much to say, but you can tell he enjoys digging in the dirt. Mom Erin Bergquist says, "He likes to get out in the garden and help and eat a little bit of the dirt."

Bergquist is teaching her son a love of produce at an early age. Not just because she's a mom, but also because she's a Registered Dietitian. As an instructor with Iowa State University's Dietetics Internship Program, she's helping others learn about the benefits of eating locally grown food. She says, "Local food is usually picked when it's ripe, so the flavor is better. When things taste better we eat more. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables."

Bergquist joined about a dozen other dietitians from around the country in developing guidelines dietitians can use for a resource. The “Standards in Sustainable, Resilient and Healthy Food and Water Systems” is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jean Anderson with Iowa State University’s Dietetics Program says, "The local food movement and the sustainability concepts are very important as we work with our students and with our clients so they are doing the best practices."

Practices like helping consumers find where local food is available or grow their own, and encouraging them to try produce in a variety of colors you may not find in the grocery store. Bergquist says, "If you like carrots, try purple carrots or yellow carrots. If you like potatoes, there's blue potatoes and there's a million varieties of tomatoes."

She goes on to say, "We're kind of getting a more nutritional punch when we have a variety of bright colors."

Burgquist is hopeful the standards will plant seeds of health for future generations. She recommends people visit cultivateiowa.org, if you need help growing a garden or donating extra produce from an established garden.

If you don't want to grow your own, Bergquist says you can find a farmers' market in central Iowa most days of the week. Or, you can buy a community supported agriculture share to get a box of produce fresh from the farm each week. Click here for more information from Drake's Buy Fresh Buy Local.


  • Brian

    Just because you buy something locally grown doesn’t mean it is healthier or better for you. In fact, I would argue that more often than not, the “organic” foods are worse for you than the stuff you buy at the grocery store. A lot of the “organic” foods you buy at a farmers market, or at a store, are are usually not treated for fungus, parasites or insects. If they are grown in a greenhouse, that isn’t a problem, but many are not. Many commerical organic foods are fertilized with human sludge, or other manuer, rather than injected nitrogen like traditional crops. They also are much more likely to be infected with disease. Free range meats sound great, but have a much higher rate of parasites, some of which cause illness in humans if consumed. My point is, just because something is locally grown or sold to you as “organic”, doesn’t mean it’s better in any way. If you grow something in your garden, that’s one thing, but when you buy something that isn’t regulated from someone else, it’s probably okay, sure, but its also buyer beware.

  • Stephanie

    There are many reasons people choose to grow their own food or buy locally. Kudos to Erin for teaching her son (and dietetic students) about where food comes from. My relationship with my community and family (especially my 93 year old grandmother) has been strengthened as a result of eating good food together as a family.

  • JJRR

    Hey Brian, care to share any research about what you’ve stated? I could share a bunch of evidence-based information about the risks and dangers of eating veggies laced with chemicals… Maybe start here just to get a very basic understanding: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

  • Hannah Rae

    I love seeing dieticians supporting local food and sustainability, especially as a mom. I’m currently an undergrad student working towards becoming a RD and could not agree more that there is a great connection between our health and the source of our food. There are so many benefits to sourcing locally in its many forms whether growing your own or supporting local farmers. Local food gives us the whole food we are designed to function off of and brings us a little closer to nature too. Please let me know if you have any resources/articles for sourcing locally/dieticians/sustainability and thanks again!

  • Erin

    Thanks so much for a great story!

    Would love to have you as a fellow professional! The best resource for dietitians is the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group: http://www.hendpg.org


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