Food Festival encourages local produce after two year hiatus


Katelyn Squiers

More than 20 community vendors and organizations attended the ISU Local Food Festival Sept. 21.

Cardinal and gold tents lined central campus for the first ISU Local Food Festival in two years.

The festival took place from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 21 between Curtiss and Beardshear. A total of 22 local businesses, organizations and vendors attended the festival, including the ISU Creamery, Clayton Farms and the Holton Homestead.

“It’s like a farmer’s market meets festival on campus,” said Megan Kemp, agriculture and natural resources extension specialist.

The food festival has not taken place for the past two years due to COVID-19, but in previous years, the festival attracted more than 2,500 students.

“I’m excited to get back to that scale eventually, but today, this year is like ‘we’re back,’” Kemp said. “I’m for sure going to make sure that we do a lot more marketing in the future because I think everyone has something that they’re interested in here.”

The goal of the event is to encourage students, faculty and staff to explore sustainability-focused habits and connect the Iowa State community with local food opportunities.

“When you’re buying local, not only are you having a closer relationship with your food, but you also get to interact with your farmers, producers and grocery stores,” Kemp said.

Several vendors sold fresh locally-grown produce, such as onions, Honeycrisp apples and garlic. Clayton Farms, an indoor farm that grows and delivers produce year-round, sold $5 microgreens.

Clayton Farms participated in the event because it aligned with its values of providing healthy and nutritious local food and connecting with the local community.

“It’s been great,” Karen Tentner said. “I’ve had some really interesting conversations…and it’s been really fun to connect with some of the other vendors here.”

Another vendor, Healthy Harvest, offered smoothie samples created with a blender bike that students could pedal during the event. Healthy Harvest is a non-profit in Northern Iowa that connects consumers to the local food system.

“[The food festival] helps us achieve our mission of connecting and educating individuals,” said Amelia Attwood, a special project manager with Healthy Harvest. “But also, I think being here benefits us and helps us connect people to existing projects.”

Event staff handed people activity cards as they approached the tents. After receiving initials from five separate vendors, attendees could collect a free reusable bag.

Anna Garbe, senior studying biology, visited the event after noticing a friend on campus with a reusable bag from the festival. Garbe typically walks on the north side of campus but adjusted her route to pass through the vendors.

“I really like how [the vendors] are advertising and spreading awareness but also selling cheap produce,” Garbe said.

Garbe purchased a pint of mini peppers for $1.50 and a full sized pepper for $1.

Claire Arrants, a sophomore in the open-option program, explored the event after noticing a vendor selling jam. She and her boyfriend make jam together every month.

“I’m a bit of a jam enthusiast,” Arrants said. “Whenever I see jam anywhere, I love just going out and talking to [the sellers] about making jam and buying a couple of jars.”

In addition to jam, Arrants purchased a loaf of pumpkin bread from Joe’s Country Kitchen and a dish of ice cream.

“Honestly, just talking to [the vendors] has just brightened my day a lot,” Arrants said.

Additional information and a full list of participating vendors can be found on the Iowa State Extension and Outreach website.