Photo: Photo Courtesy of Milton Creamery
Stories Livelihood

Food Industry Entrepreneurs & Community Support

In Iowa South, we are proud to be a home of innovators and entrepreneurs — particularly in the food industry. 

Bloomfield is home to two of these types of businesses. 

Joe and Rose Dotterer own The Red Shed, a unique store that sells homemade chocolates, food, gifts, home decor, toys, and more. While today their store and eatery attracts the attention of tourists and travelers and boasts a near-perfect star rating on Google, they initially moved to Iowa for farming purposes. But some community support led to The Red Shed. 

“When we moved here, my wife made chocolates at Christmas time and sold them at the local farmers market,” Joe Dotterer explains. “These were family recipes from back in the 1960s. The demand grew and we had to find a certified kitchen.”

The chocolates were so in-demand that after some time and some things fell into place they were able to purchase their own store. And today, they give back to that same community that supported them by hosting annual events like Fall Farm Fun Day and December free sleigh rides, bringing the community together for some fun.

“I don’t know if you can fall in love with a business, but whatever the equivalent is to that, that is what happened to me."

Photo courtesy of Hastings Meat Processing

Only five minutes away from the Red Shed is Hastings Meat Processing, owned by Josh White. White is an Iowa South local, born and raised in Centerville. After he graduated from Iowa State University he knew exactly what he wanted to do: acquire or establish a meat processing plant. 

He searched extensively throughout the state for options when he came upon Hastings Meat Processing, then owned by Kevin Hastings. 

“I don’t know if you can fall in love with a business, but whatever the equivalent is to that, that is what happened to me,” White shares.

Hastings hired White who quickly developed an appreciation for the community.

“The people here are supportive and positive, creating an atmosphere to raise a family and operate a small town business,” White says. 

White fulfilled his post-college plans in 2014 by purchasing Hastings, officially running his own meat processing business, and doing so in a supportive environment.

In Agency, Becky Warren owns Mrs. Bonser’s Noodles, a business started by her mother in 1974 from their family home. 

“My dad owned a grocery store here in town, just a little town grocery store, and my mom didn’t like it,” Warren says. “She didn’t like working in it so she started a noodle business in our basement and kind of went from there.” 

Today, their noodles can be found in grocery stores throughout the Midwest. Though they’ve grown out of their basement, they’ve kept the business in the family’s town of Agency, devoted to their community. 

“I like the culture that is in southeast Iowa,” Warren says. “I like the work ethic in southeast Iowa. And this is where I grew up, so I just want to keep it here in Agency if I can.”

The loyalty Warren has for Agency is similar to that of the Musser family’s dedication to their community in Milton. 

The Musser’s began Milton Creamery after asking themselves how they could add value to the agricultural world.

“That has been their mission for nearly 15 years, to support small family farms in America, keep them alive, pay them extra, and do something that adds jobs,” says Angie DiMeo, marketing manager for Milton Creamery.

Cheesemaking process at Milton Creamery - photo courtesy of Milton Creamery

And they’ve done just that since they started in 2006, purchasing all of their milk from local, small dairy farms. And that loyalty and dedication to their community might just be why their successful products are found nationwide — but that’s not their focus.

“That’s why they stay in business today,” DiMeo explains. “it’s not to make endless amounts of profits and buy a bunch of things, it’s to have jobs for local people, it’s to provide a cheese that is amazing and delicious and that consumers love — which we’re lucky enough that they do — and to have those farmers be valued at a higher rate.”

The Musser’s have particularly shown how much they value their community this year, after being hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s effects on businesses occurred after an investment and expansion of their facility. But despite that challenge, they still took on two more dairy farms and added more employees to their team.

“There’s a sense of community and a sense of we are here to give back,” DiMeo says. 

That supportive culture whether coming from a business supporting its community or a community supporting its local businesses is very much alive in Iowa South. And that’s what keeps our innovators and entrepreneurs motivated and trying new things. 

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