By Lauren Moore, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of External Affairs
Following USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini’s visit to Nebraska, he headed straight to Iowa for a meet and greet with FSA employees at the Iowa State FSA Office in Des Moines.
Also on the agenda was attending the National Association of FSA County Office Employees (NASCOE) Convention in Cedar Rapids. NASCOE membership is comprised of FSA employees who work together to ensure FSA operates successfully and employee interests are protected while meeting agency objectives.
At the national convention, Dolcini saw many familiar faces and met FSA employees from offices across the United States. In addition to addressing the general assembly, he participated in a panel with FSA management representatives to answer questions from employees ranging from employment issues to FSA program implementation concerns.
After the convention, Administrator Dolcini toured two agriculture operations in the Cedar Rapids area, Feed Iowa First and Abbe Hills Farms.
During the first stop, the Administrator met Sonia Kendrick, a retired Army National Guard Veteran, who founded Feed Iowa First in 2011. Through the organization, Kendrick grows fresh vegetables and donates them to local food banks. Feed Iowa First, located in Linn County, partners with local schools and organizations to help grow more vegetables and increase the scope of the existing program. Kendrick hopes to expand beyond the Linn County area to one day serve the entire state of Iowa. The organization supports the community in more ways than one. Feed Iowa First also trains and invests in beginning farmers to help safeguard the future of agriculture.
After learning how Feed Iowa First supports the community and beginning farmers, Dolcini hit the road again and stopped southeast of Cedar Rapids at Abbe Hills Farms in Mount Vernon.
Abbe Hills Farms is Iowa’s largest community supported agriculture (CSA) operation. CSA enterprises allow individuals in the community to buy shares from the farming operation and in return receive an allotted portion of the harvest. Laura Krouse began this venture when she purchased 72-acres in 1988, and she established the CSA in 1996.
Abbe Hills Farms currently has a Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) for cold storage with FSA. This loan program provides low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities to store eligible commodities they produce. The operation uses cold storage for fruits and vegetables.
After a busy week of traveling, Administrator Dolcini departed Iowa with proactive agency feedback from FSA employees and with a deeper look into farm operations and regional food systems in the Midwest. Check back soon for a recap of the Administrator’s view of America agriculture from, “Above the Arctic Circle” in Alaska.