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AGRIBUSINESS: Iowa Communities Rallying To Support Local Produce

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Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a decades old initiative for people to get direct market produce. Rick Hartmann, co-owner and operator of Small Potatoes farm in Dallas County Iowa, harvests fresh vegetables for members.

"We create a budget and then we split it up equally among the hundred families or so we serve here in central Iowa." He says, "We've had really terrific support from the community of people that participate here at the farm."

Emily Weaver is a member of the CSA, she says it was an easy choice. "I love to cook, I love to eat, and I like the choices that I can get here at the CSA. They're fresh, they're healthier, they taste so much better."

She says, "Usually when I pick up my boxes, they were picked this morning, or the day before. It keeps a lot longer and looks a lot better and it's local. I think that's the right choice."And it's about as local and community supported as you can get, Hartmann says banks don't own his farm, CSA members hold the notes.

To stay an organic farm, Hartmann's operation has to be inspected every year. About 12 years ago Congress ratified the National Organic Program, which created regulatory standards."An inspector will come out and he will check my plan for the farm, my organic plan, make sure that I'm following all the standards and he'll look around, visit the crops, he'll look at all the record keeping that I have."

Organic agriculture is a booming industry with a growing retail value of $35 billion annually.

Iowa State University has 75 Iowa CSA locations on record. They say membership costs can range from $150 dollars to $800 for 10 to 25 weeks of harvesting. The majority of the farms give about five to 20 pounds of vegetables to its members every week.

To find a local CSA in your area, ISU extensions has a free list: