Buying local boosts economy, environment

Margo Hansen, Clinton horticulturist, left, and Cindy Heilmann, local organic farmer, right, listen as Dorothy O’Brien, owner and operator of Clinton’s Wide River Winery, answers questions about organic production at a local foods workshop Oct. 10 in Clinton.

By Sallyann McCarthy

CLINTON — The benefits of buying food locally include freshness, flavor, higher nutritional value, fewer synthetic chemicals and a stable local economy, participants in a recent workshop said.

Sponsored by Clinton Franciscan Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking, the hour-long program Oct. 10 featured presentations by Margo Hansen, horticulturist and host of the “Great Green Garden Show;” Dorothy O’Brien, owner and operator of Wide River Winery, Clinton; and Cindy Heilmann, owner and operator of Heilmann Hawkeye Acres, Goose Lake.

Hansen, keynote speaker, emphasized the higher nutritional value of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables. “When you see those radishes and turnips with the tops still on and they are still green and fresh, you know they were just picked and that means they are higher in vitamins and minerals,” she told her audience at The Canticle, home of the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton.

She also pointed out that farm-fresh produce found at local famers’ markets are generally cheaper than mass-produced stock because no transportation costs are involved in bringing the food to the consumer and it is likely that little or no synthetic chemicals were used on the crop. “You can ask the farmer at the local market what she or he used in their fields,” Hansen noted. “That’s not possible with tomatoes grown in Chile. Plus, the carbon footprint of those home-grown tomatoes is much less because so little fossil fuel was burned to bring them to market.”


According to Heilmann, 90 percent of Iowa food comes from other states and other countries.  Noting how well suited Iowa is to growing good food, she asked, “Why do we ship cheap food into our state? Money spent at local markets stays in Iowa.”

O’Brien explained the value of wine produced with locally and often organically grown grapes.  “The color of the grapes is a sign of freshness and the fresher the grapes, the better the wine,” she said.

Hansen cited statistics that 223 farmers’ markets in Iowa have resulted in a $71 million boost to the state economy, of which nearly $60 million stays in Iowa. Iowa is fourth in the nation in actual number of markets in the state and second nationwide per capita. Local markets drew 99,000 customers last year who were served by 1,500 vendors.

This workshop was the first in a series of programs at The Canticle on Building a Sustainable Clinton. At 2 p.m. Nov. 14, a “Greening the Holidays” program will explore environmentally friendly celebrations.

For more information, call (563) 242-7611 or visit

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