Local foods get big boost with new facility

One of the fastest growing segments in agriculture has made its way to Marshalltown with a new food processing facility. Iowa Choice Harvest had a ribbon cutting Tuesday at its facility, 812 E. Linn St. in Marshalltown.

Iowa Choice Harvest is a group of central Iowa farmers who are developing a process to freeze fruits and vegetables and create a distribution network to sell to institutions and grocery stores in the state.

“We’re really happy to be here in Marshalltown,” said Penny Brown Huber, CEO of Iowa Choice Harvest.

This facility opens up a new wholesale market to growers in central Iowa.

“It will be a great opportunity for farmers,” Brown Huber said. “We want to contribute to building a dynamic local food system in Iowa.”

The facility processed sweet corn earlier this year and is currently processing apples. Apple producers such as Hinegardner’s Orchard in Montour and Appleberry Farm in Marshalltown are examples of two local growers involved in this group, Brown Huber said.

Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development state director, expects more of these types of facilities to pop up in the region.

“This sort of food hub really is the future of expanding access to local foods,” Menner said.

The USDA awarded a loan guarantee and federal grant funds totaling more than $662,000 to help the start-up business.

Menner said the focus on local foods has continued at a rapid pace as evident in the growth of farmers markets.

“It’s exploding,” he said.

Menner said a continuing focus on local foods can help smaller rural communities.

“Building markets for local and regionally grown agricultural products makes great economic sense,” he said.

Iowa Choice Harvest brings two full-time jobs and several part-time jobs to Marshalltown. Brown Huber hopes to expand to eventually have 15 to 20 full-time jobs as part of the operation.

The operation is the former site of the Dunham-Bush steel facility, now owned by Don Anderson.

Tom Deimerly, president of the Marshall Economic Development Impact Committee, called Tuesday an exciting day for the area.

“It’s excellent to see it come to fruition,” Deimerly said.