A campaign to create local food farms

Ten Iowa cities with 10 permanent food farms in 10 years.

By Kirsten Ferguson August 12

That’s the ambitious goal of Circle Our Cities, a campaign by the accredited Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT). The mission is to permanently protect land to grow fresh produce close to urban areas, which can play an important role in the fight against food insecurity.

“The origin of Circle Our Cities is to bring home the fact that our metro areas are importing 90% of our food from out of state, when we have some of the best soils in the world, and we can use just a fraction of that [land] surrounding our cities to feed the people in them,” says Suzan Erem, SILT’s community engagement specialist.

SILT works to identify and obtain land for nature-friendly, sustainable farms. The organization is in the midst of a three-year, $3 million campaign to fund the effort. During its pilot project year, SILT protected the Anderson Prairie Farm and the Sustainable Living Coalition property in Fairfield, Iowa, and is on track to protect more this year with the launch of the campaign in two cities. SILT also hired “land scouts” to reach out to Iowa landowners who may be interested in donating land or entering into conservation easements.

“They will network with folks who work with landowners who are both excited about our vision and our mission of growing food for the future and have the capacity to donate their land, or a portion of their land, or a conservation easement,” Erem says.