Kurt Friese has a demonstrated passion for the johnson county community, and his entire career has been built around promoting local, sustainable food and small-scale food production. A key to succeeding at that is to protect farmland from concrete, and to encourage urban food production.
THE Mission & Accomplishments so far
Growth is good, and necessary for life, but uncontrolled growth solves the wrong problems, and becomes a destructive metastacy. New solutions include the sustainable use of land that is already zoned for development before rezoning more farmland and keeping new growth inside city limits or, failing that, within the fringe areas; offering property tax breaks to farmers who convert commodity farm land to local food production; creating ways for farmers to live and grow on smaller farms; and creating a farm incubator to to help bring along the next generation of farmers.
To do this, the Board eliminated the North Corridor Development Area in the Future Land Use Map (as Kurt promised in his first campaign) and confined nearly all the area designated for development to within the cities' fringe areas. And the Johnson County Historic Poor Farm plan was adopted with the goal of creating a farm incubator and redirecting commodity crop land toward food production, all while protecting dozens of acres of prairie and woodland. Farm buildings are being restored, bike paths installed, and soil & water conservation best practices being implemented. Again, this is all just as Kurt promised in his first campaign.
Moving forward, we must also develop a scenic roads plan, and expand the “Sensitive Areas” ordinance to give it teeth. Moreover, the Planning, Development and Sustainability department needs a full-time enforcement officer
Offering property tax rebates on farmland that is moved from commodity production to local food production will encourage more local food consumption, thus improving health, lowering carbon emissions, and helping to keep Johnson County money in Johnson County. We must also create an ordinance that allows farms of under 40 acres, and draw it tightly enough that it cannot allow for a back-door route to residential development on farmland, nor for expansion of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) stacked up like so much cordwood across our southern townships. While most farmers are excellent stewards of the land, those "good actors" ought to be leading the fight to stop the "bad actors from polluting our land, water and air while making all other farmers look bad.
Our farmers markets are a treasure, and have brought us a true sense of community. But a majority of the growers come from outside the county. The changes discussed here will improve that, and doubling SNAP benefits when used in all farmers markets will provide those new growers with more customers while helping get healthful food to needy families.
On the contentious subject of the minimum wage, the state must return local control to the counties AND raise the statewide wage. Even in the least expensive areas, one cannot keep up with the cost of living on $7.25 an hour. That’s barely $15,000 a year. The lower quartile of rent in Johnson County is $594, which means that even if you do find such low rent, you spend half your pre-tax income on rent. Add other occupants, like children, and the problem is magnified. No one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
Some of What Kurt Friese Achieved Before joining the board
- Kurt owned and operated Devotay, a community leader in local, sustainable cuisine, in downtown Iowa City for 21 years. He sold it in late 2017, and it continues to thrive.
- Devotay's "Sunday Benefit" program raised over $55,000 for local charities (Like RVAP, DVIP, Shelter House, The Emma Goldman Clinic, The Bur Oak Land Trust, and more) since its inception 8 years ago.
- Life-long progressive Democrat and member of the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee. Delegate to 2016 Johnson County, 2nd District, and State Democratic Conventions
- He served on the Boards of Directors of Slow Food USA, The Iowa Food Policy Council, the Iowa Restaurant Association and NewBo City Market. He also serves on the Advisory Council of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust.
- In his capacity as Director of Healthy Food & Advocacy, Friese recruited the anchor merchants that launched NewBo City Market.
- Friese published Edible Iowa, the preeminent publication on local food & farms in the state, from 2006-2016.
- He created a micro-apprenticeship program for The Shelter House, teaching clients there the basic fundamentals needed to gain entry-level employment in the food service industry.
- For 21 straight years Friese's restaurant supported the March of Dimes. Devotay's efforts there raised over $100,000 for healthy babies.
- Friese was a founder of Field to Family, and creator of it's popular annual Culinary Walk.
- He graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he met and married his wife of over 30 years, Iowa City native Kim McWane Friese. They reared and educated 2 kids, both of whom have remain in Iowa.
- And Friese has completed 12 consecutive RAGBRAIs and will ride his 13th in 2019.