Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD – The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) has chosen Fairfield to be its “pilot town” for a project to preserve local food farms.
The pilot project in Fairfield is the first step in SILT’s “Circle Our Cities” campaign. The organization wants to expand the program to 10 cities, where each city will be surrounded by 10 farms for local food production.
In launching the project, SILT hired its first Farm and Food Coordinator Christi Nickey, who moved to Fairfield last year. SILT’s goal is to preserve three local food farms near Fairfield within a year. Nickey said she is busy setting up meetings with as many farmers as she can to talk to them about donating their land or putting it in a conservation easement.
“We talk about their plan for their farm, about the legacy they will leave and how they’re going to protect it in the future,” Nickey said.
Nickey comes from a long line of farmers. Her family in Indiana has been farming for seven generations.
SILT said on its website that it chose Fairfield for its pilot program because of its vibrant local, healthy food system, management test-plot size properties and because of supportive local SILT leadership. Among Fairfield’s residents are SILT Board President Stuart Valentine and advisors Francis Thicke and John Ikerd.
Suzan Erem, SILT’s executive director, said her organization has already protected 12 Iowa farms consisting of 1,100 acres. She said for a local food farm to qualify for this program, it won’t need to be organic, though it will need to be certified by a third party. She said farmers will be able to use the land in a number of ways and not just fruit and vegetable gardens. For instance, the land can be used for grazing to raise animals for meat, or it can be timber. Erem said timber can be used to grow mushrooms or medicinal items that fetch a good price on the market.
Nickey said she is passionate about local food, and is excited to meet farmers who feel the same way.
“When food doesn’t have to travel long distances, it’s more nutritionally dense,” she said, remarking that tomatoes are a good example of a vegetable that is noticeably better when grown locally.
Those who want to learn more or get involved may contact Nickey at firstname.lastname@example.org.