A series of messages promoting gardening throughout Iowa will be released in April. Cultivate Iowa, a social marketing campaign, will promote gardening as a way to increase food security, save money, and share fresh food with others. Gardening is key as it is one of the more feasible ways for many Iowans to contribute to their own food supply. Food grown in our own back (or front) yards is the freshest source, picked right at the peak time to maximize taste. It is also food that each of us can control and know exactly how it was grown and what was added (or not) in terms of fertilizer, pest controls, and water sources.
The new strategic marketing campaign is based on social marketing research completed by Dr. Betsy Danforth Richey PhD MPH and Angie Tagtow, MS RD LD. Their work was funded through a Healthy Communities grant from the Wellmark Foundation to the Iowa Food Systems Council. The two-year grant is focused on building food security, self-sufficiency, and improved health by increasing food gardens across Iowa.
The research included mixed-methods needs assessment involving food pantry staff and volunteers, low-resource Iowans, current food gardeners, and members of the Food Access and Health Working Group of the Iowa Food Systems Council. Methods included qualitative interviews, focus groups, and semi-quantitative surveys. The data was cross-examined resulting in a consistent and reliable understanding of social factors influencing food gardening in Iowa among individuals, households, organizations, and communities.
Many challenges were identified within each group studied. Some were common to more than one group, including insufficient funding, few volunteers, engaging new gardeners, lack of garden space, limited knowledge on growing, cooking, and storing fresh produce, and lack of awareness of produce donation. Since social marketing campaigns often increase knowledge, resources and partners, this approach could address many of these challenges.
The aim of the Cultivate Iowa campaign is two-fold: 1. engage more low resource Iowans in growing some of their food and saving money, and 2. invite current gardeners with excess harvest to share the extra with those in need. An Executive Summary of the Food Gardening Social Marketing Initiative is available here.
The campaign will be unveiled on Friday, April 19 at the Iowa Arboretum in Madrid, Iowa. The event begins at 9:00 am. Details can be found here.