Area Stores and Restaurants Turn to Local Producers

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

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By Ben Hoppenworth

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Buying fresh and buying local is helping boost Iowa's economy.

According to a report by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, more grocery stores, restaurants, schools and hospitals are buying from local farmers.

A small sample of just over 100 farmers reported more than $10 million in sales, the actual number is expected to be far greater.

On restaurant in the Cedar Rapids area that strives to use local ingredients is Class Act, inside Hotel Kirkwood. The restaurant uses meats, cheeses, vegetables, and even wine from local producers.

They buy from about 20 Iowa farmers. When the farmer's market and NewBo Market are open, they shop there. If they can't buy local, they try to make the item, trucking in as little as possible.

While the average American meal travels 1,500 miles to the table, the average local product travels less than 60. And customers don't have to pay more for fresher ingredients.

"It ends up costing less, actually, because we can get it from the producer, we don't have to pay for infrastructure, semis, plans from Mexico," said Daniel Dennis, chef at Class Act.

For farmer's like Nathan Lein of Big Boy Meats, selling to restaurants means a steady reliable income. Lein used to just rely on walk up retail sales from customers at NewBo Market. His businesses has expanded over the last year, he now sells to several NewBo food stands, Class Act, and Bata's.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has begun to study the impacts of the regional food system on the local economy, but said in their report that the movement has tremendous growth potential.

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