A friend passed this along to me. I thought it a nice change of pace. Thanks Elizabeth. (E)
“Things You Wouldn’t Know If We Didn’t Blog Intermittently.”
09 May 2010
As you drive through this part of the country, what you see nowadays is corn. Then more corn. Then still more corn. I used to drive on a regular basis from Madison, Wisconsin to Toledo, Ohio and quite frankly there were few moments in the entire trip when a cornfield was not within view. That is not corn-on-the-cob-for-dinner corn. That’s corn to feed cattle and corn to export and corn to be broken down into various components. For those unfamiliar with the situation, the movie “Food, Inc.” is a good place to start.
With that in mind, note these comments in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal this week:
The Midwest is known more for growing corn than cauliflower, but if its farmers raised the fruit and vegetables eaten in the Heartland, they could create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income, according to a recent study.
The study from Iowa State University looked at what would happen if farmers in six Midwestern states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin – raised 28 crops in quantities large enough to meet local demand. It found that if an ample supply of produce could be grown regionally, it would spur $882 million in sales, more than 9,300 jobs and about $395 million in labor income…
Growing enough food to meet regional demand also wouldn’t take much land, Miller said: “That’s one of the wild things about it _ you can grow a lot on a few number of acres. Anyone who has a garden knows this.”
How few acres? One of Iowa’s 99 counties could meet the demand for all six states, said Rich Pirog, associate director for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State.
The study included apricots, asparagus, mustard greens, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, peaches, cabbage, pears, cantaloupe, plums, carrots, raspberries, cauliflower, snap beans, collard greens, spinach, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, strawberries, garlic, sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce – both leaf and head.
Crops such as pumpkins, apples and cherries weren’t included in the study because the Midwest already grows enough of them to meet local and regional demand. Corn, as well as soybeans, are considered grains, not produce…
The advent of commodity payment programs in the 1930s, the development of refrigerated trucks and the interstate highway system, and a hodge-podge of other policies encouraged farmers to grow crops where it could be done most efficiently.
It won’t be easy now for farmers to switch to other crops, Swenson said. Expertise in the Midwest tends to be in livestock or commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, not produce. The states don’t have policies to encourage expanded fruit and vegetable production, and many consumers don’t think much about where their produce is grown…
Let me repeat the most striking statistic in a larger font:
One of Iowa’s 99 counties could meet the demand for all six states
The farmland in just ONE county could provide all the veggies needed by the people of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.
And still we ship our carrots thousands of miles. Incredible.
Support your local farmers’ market.
- Food prices may rise as corn, soybean output drops (usatoday.com)