The COMIDA farm co-operative began during the “Start Your Own Diversified Farm Course” offered by Marshalltown Community College and Iowa Valley Continuing Education in 2009. This 10 week course offers instruction in business and production, led by local growers and educators from Marshalltown Community College and Iowa State University.
Since a number of our students were from Latino backgrounds, we wanted to have a name for the co-op that was meaningful in both Spanish and English. In English, the acronym “COMIDA” stands for County of Marshall Investing in Diversified Agriculture. In Spanish, “comida” means “meal.”
Marshalltown Community College offers certified organic land for the incubation of beginning farm businesses. Land rental is on a variable fee basis, allowing farmers to begin their first year of production for a low initial cash outlay.
The college also provides a mid-size tractor with implements, and facilities for washing and packing.
A heated greenhouse for starting plants in the spring, and an unheated hoop house for season extension is available to the students as well.
· Des Moines Farmers’ Market
· Ames Farmers’ Market
· Marshalltown Farmers’ Market
· Hy-Vee Grocery
· Local independent grocery stores
· Direct SalesWorking co-operatively has a number of benefits for beginning farm businesses. This format allows us to share equipment, hand tools, and machinery, which can be prohibitively expensive for farmers working independently. We are also able to share knowledge and work together to solve production issues.
Marketing products as a group eliminates the need for a producer to be able to attend every market date and allows us to attend markets that may occur on the same day. Also, we are more easily able to fill large orders as we can source from more than one producer.
Our cultural and personal diversity helps us access markets that might otherwise go unrecognized and unutilized.
One of the greatest assets of co-operative growing is simply having access to people who are or have been beginning farmers themselves. This community is a great source of encouragement and technical assistance.