By Kathryn Kavanagh, Food Safety Project Coordinator
Since 1915, Iowa Farmers Union (IFU) members have worked together to strengthen Iowa independent family farms through education, legislation, and cooperation by supporting sustainable production, safe food, a clean environment, and healthy communities. Among the grassroots producers and advocates is Christina Dexter, Communications and Outreach Director at IFU. We took a moment to get her take on Iowa Farmers, food safety, and the future of farming.
What is something you love about Iowa farmers?
CD: I love the generational values of Iowa farm families and how they see their land as more than just property. Though these farms are businesses, they are surrounded by beautiful sentimentality. Each time I visit a member’s farm, I love to hear how it all started, how it has been handed down from one generation to the next, adapted and changed.
What motivates you to do food safety work?
CD: I’m motivated to do food safety work because it is a way for the Iowa Farmers Union to grow, connect with our members, and offer them important resources. Food safety is an important part of running a successful operation! The work helps us stay relevant and connected to the needs of Iowa vegetable farmers.
How has working with English as a Second Language (ESL) communities strengthened the food safety work of Iowa farmers?
CD: Working with Spanish-speaking farmers and farm workers in Iowa has given IFU a chance to learn and connect with a community we hadn’t reached before. It has let us understand the unique issues facing farmers and farm workers whose first language isn’t English and has helped us build working relationships with the organizations that were already in the business of serving them.
What is something new that a farmer has taught you this year?
CD: Iowa Farmers are continually teaching me to adapt to changing circumstances and environments. This year has been no different. I’ve watched farmers in our membership and in my family deal with changing weather patterns as they struggle to get crops in the ground this spring. To farm, one must have an incredible spirit of resiliency. That’s something we can all learn from.
What excites you about the future of farming?
CD: I’m excited for the future of farming as I see more young people getting involved, either organizationally through leadership roles or on the farm as they start small operations or move back to the family farm.
To learn more about Iowa Farmers Union and upcoming events, check out their website and Facebook page. For more food safety resources, visit the National Farmers Union’s Local Food Safety Collaborative website along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow LFSC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on the latest food safety news.
This work is supported by the Food Safety Outreach Program [grant no. 2020-70020-33022] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.