The Winneshiek County Agricultural Extension District has been awarded a $48,000 grant to purchase a refrigerated delivery truck to transport goods to markets outside the region through the Food Hub Program.

Senator Tom Harkin announced recently a total of $306,000 in grants would be coming to seven Iowa counties, businesses and institutions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program for rural development projects across the state. Harkin is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds these initiatives.

"While our economy recovers, it is important that we continue to make investments that promote businesses, create jobs, build recreation areas and improve our state's small towns," said Harkin.

"I commend Secretary Vilsack and the Obama administration for continuing to make these important investments through the RBEG program. I congratulate the Iowa recipients of these awards, and I look forward to seeing these funds used to invest in rural projects so critical to the social fabric and economy of our state."

Six counties

The Food Hub program serves Winneshiek and five other Northeast Iowa counties, helping connect small- and mid-size growers with larger markets outside the region, according to Nick McCann, Iowa State University Extension food value chain coordinator who is based in Winneshiek County.

The Hub Program has been renting a refrigerated truck and with the grant will purchase its own. Goods from the region are being delivered to markets in Iowa City and Waterloo/Cedar Falls areas. McAnn estimated about $12,000 in monthly sales are coming back to the region through the program that serves nearly 50 farms throughout the region.

The grant funds also will pay for technical assistance.

"We'll be doing some distribution experiments, helping farmers learn more about if we do multiple deliveries a week, whether we will we get better results," McCann said.

Currently deliveries are made about once a week. Products being distributed include milk, yogurt, produce, meat, eggs, jams, jellies and bread.

The Food Hub Program is an economic development program funded through USDA Rural Development, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. It is sponsored by Allamakee New Beginning, a non-profit organization specializing in economic development.

The program is always looking for more growers and processors, according to McCann. For more information, contact the Winneshiek County Extension office.

Other grants

Other grants awarded were:

• Cass County - $11,554 to provide technical assistance for developing sustainable and economically successful local foods systems that support farm-based businesses and entrepreneurs

• Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance - $19,600 to provide technical assistance

• Iowa State University of Science and Technology - $59,420 to provide technical assistance to support the development of a Standard Operating Procedures Manual to benefit large-scale business start-ups.

• ISED Ventures - $99,000 for technical assistance and training toward Latino entrepreneurs to develop and grow sustainable businesses in Southeast Iowa

• Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce - $5,750 to develop a feasibility study, market analysis, and business plan for a community kitchen and local food business incubator and venue

• Ottumwa Progress, Inc. - $62,676 to provide technical assistance.