MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Marshalltown might be losing the business farmers had pushed for to support locally produced foods. Iowa Choice Harvest (ICH) is one of the only small batch food processing facilities in the Midwest...
Since 2013, ICH has provided locally grown, Iowa fresh produce to schools, restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores all across the state from their plant in Marshalltown, until the tornado hit back in July.
“I remember thinking will there be anything standing,” Penny Brown Huber, the president and CEO of ICH, said.
Luckily, the plant was still there, but not without some damage.
“It was destroying telephone poles and transformers as it was pushing through,” Brown Huber explained. “So even though our plant was still standing, our equipment took a lot of supercharge. There were parts inside the equipment that were melted.”
The roof of the bigger facility was also damaged. Forcing production to halt right in the midst of sweet corn season.
“I think it was six days after the storm that we were able to get back up and process our first sweet corn,” plant manager Jason Dunham said. “We were hand husking it, but we were able to process some sweet corn.”
But they weren’t up and running for good, with the plant having to shutdown multiple times since then due to other issues after the storm.
“I’ve come to really think a lot about disasters because you have a lot of things happen and you think it’s that thing, it’s that tornado, but in reality it’s all the things you kind of discover for months and months and months as you go on,” Brown Huber said.
ICH was ready to make Marshalltown their home indefinitely, but mother nature had other plans. Now Iowa’s only local fruit and vegetable individual quick frozen (IQF) processing plant is having to make a move.
“It’s been very difficult because we really believe in rural Iowa, but at the same time when you’re trying to find an industrial site to work in there is just not that many in Iowa. So we have to kind of be open to the possibilities,” Brown Huber said.
The one of a kind business that relies heavily on temporary workers says they have no other choice but to build a new plant, most likely not in Marshalltown.
“It’s really going to hurt those people that we are not able to get them a job,” Dunham said. “Realistically they really don’t have anywhere else to work in town, especially at the wages that we were offering them.”
Another hit to a town that’s slowly getting back on its feet.
“We’ve lost a lot of good employers, a lot of good companies,” Dunham said. “Hopefully the area can recover from that.”
The company says the landlord uncovered other problems after the storm, making the current building no longer suitable. Owners say there's not a space in Marshalltown, at the moment, that would fit their needs.
ICH is asking for help to move to a new location so they can continue to provide healthy local food. You can help them reach their goal on their crowdfunding campaign by clicking here.