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Interns promote locally grown food throughout the area

Three Iowa State interns are educating the community on locally grown produce

Three interns from Iowa State University are spending their summer in Iowa to educate people on locally grown produce and promote the people who sell them.

The three women are here as part of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Rising Star Internship program, which sends groups of students across the state to share their knowledge with communities.

Morgan Hoenig, local foods coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and owner of Mogo Organic Farm, said this is the third year she’s worked with interns from the program. The interns will be here until the last week of July, totaling their time in the area at 12 weeks, and work in four counties: Henry, Lee, Louisa and Des Moines.

Two years ago, Hoenig said she had design students that helped her more with the marketing farmers and farmers markets. Last year, she said they focused more on education in schools about locally grown food, but it proved to be too much driving around the various counties.

“This year, we’re doing a blend of education and marketing,” she said.

Hoenig said the interns have been traveling to libraries to present information about different foods and have kids try different things, like kohlrabi. Recently, they gave a presentation where community members tasted store-bought and homegrown strawberries to see the difference. They’ve also been making videos and social media posts about their experiences.

They’ve been presenting at the farmers market, too, she said, and have showed off a smoothie bike that mixed together fruit to create fresh smoothies on site.

Next month, Hoenig said they’ll be focusing more on working in community gardens and food pantries.

Having the Rising Star interns here has been very helpful, Hoenig said.

“Local food is in season right now, so it’s been good to have extra bodies out there in the community,” she said.

Part of the benefit of locally grown food is the freshness, Hoenig said. Produce in stores can be sitting on shelves for a week, but she said produce from local growers can be only hours old upon purchase.

She also explained that the types of produce selected for stores is based on looks and what can ship well across the country. The appearance of fresh, local produce isn’t a worry as much, she said, and produce that may not ship well is more readily available from local sellers.

“It doesn’t look as perfect, but it tastes better,” she said.

Part of Hoenig’s job with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is also to help farmers who are looking for resources and marketing and make them aware of learning opportunities in those areas. She also works to promote the farmers market.

Having customers know their farmers and where their food is coming from is important to them, Hoenig said. It also creates more revenue for the community when residents shop local.

“It helps support the local economy,” she said. “It stays in the community.”

l Comments: kayli.reese@thegazette.com