Iowa’s known nationwide for its corn, pork and cattle production but a new report says it could also be known for the food it produces on a smaller scale. Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University help write the report. Pirog says the report called “Geography of Taste” highlights some of the foods that Iowa had success with in the past. He says it takes a look at how Iowa’s food history, ecology and culture all integrate to offer some “interesting and intriguing” potential for Iowa’s future in economic profitablity for rural areas and tourism go. Pirog says he got the idea while traveling abroad. He says our cousins in Europe have been able to develop their food histories and traditions that benefit farmers and rural communities through what are called “place based” foods. He says the foods have a certain quality, reputation and taste known for a certain geographic region. Pirog says there are already some examples in Iowa. He says one of the more famous place based foods is the muscatine melon. He says another example is that Harrison County was once the Jonathan Apple capital of the world. Another example is the sweet corn sold under the Grimes name in central Iowa. He says they’ve actually gotten e-mails from travelers who have gone through the state and stopped at a stand that sold Grimes sweet corn. He says they wanted to get that specific type of sweet corn again. Pirog says Iowa once was a leader in canning sweet corn, growing sweet potatoes and also onions. He says using some of that past history could be used to develop niches for farmers.He says they’re not saying they should go back and try to compete on a commodity basis, he says they’re trying to find what is unique and different that Iowa has to offer. He say they could develop them as highly differentiated foods that offer a premium to farmers and create tourism opportunities. Priog says Europeans are able to keep good control over their unique products and that’s something that would have to work into a plan for Iowa. He says if you control the amount of product, you can control the premium on the product so the market doesn’t get commoditized and the price gets lower. He says there needs to be more thinking on policy and production and how the two work together. To see the report you can surf to the Leopold Center website at: www.leopold.iastate.edu.
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