Dallas County farmers are supporting each other by meeting each month to eat locally-grown foods, share ideas and experiences, and even share equipment. The group is called the Dallas County Growing Food and Profit Group (GFP) and meets once per month during the months of January through April at the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas Center. The GFP began as a program of the Iowa State University Extension in Dallas County in the winter of 2006 in cooperation with the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) and the Dallas County Farm Service Agency (FSA).

During the meetings, the group shares a potluck supper, usually comprised of items the farmers have produced themselves. A presentation follows the supper and covers a wide variety of agriculture topics. "I’ve learned about freeze drying foods. The group also took a tour of Des Moines Waterworks to understand more about how farming affects our water, which was really interesting," commented Lisa Bean, a member of the group and also the president of the board for the Iowa Farm Cooperative.

At a recent meeting, Rick and Stacy Hartmann, owners of Small Potatoes Farm in Minburn, gave a presentation regarding managing weeds on an organic farm.

"That was fascinating because, for me, that is the biggest struggle if you’re trying to grow things organically," said Bean. "Everybody brings something different to the conversation. It’s just a way of connecting people with similar interests."

The purpose of the group is to provide the opportunity for local growers and those interested in eating locally-grown foods to network and support each other and learn from each other.

"It’s encouraging to see other small farmers in the area come together for a common goal," said Jenn Miller, owner of Clarion Sage, a community supported agriculture farm located in Dallas County. "Small farmers really depend on sharing and supporting each other."

Over the years, many of these groups were formed throughout the state of Iowa, however, many of those groups have ceased to exist. The Dallas County GFP has managed to strive under the voluntary leadership of retired Dallas County Extension Education Director Linda Nelson. Membership is free to anyone who is interested in growing or consuming locally-grown foods. Current members are located in Dallas, Boone, Polk, Warren, and Madison counties.

For more information, email Linda Nelson at: lsnelson1@hotmail.com or call 515-491-3984.