The apples Iowans buy at the corner supermarket likely weren’t grown in Iowa. More likely, they came from Washington state, but they may have been plucked from trees in New Zealand, Argentina or even Japan. A new online tool enables consumers to determine the origins of what they’re eating.
Rich Pirog, associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, explains how the database works. Pirog says, "We decided to put this tool together to provide Iowans, and really any folks around the country, with a better idea of where the fruits and vegetables that they typically would buy in the grocery store come from."
He says the staff at the Iowa State University-based Leopold Center took all of the data from a thick U-S-D-A report that was full of cumbersome tables and charts — and made it very user-friendly. Pirog says it’s very telling to see how global our grocery stores have become. For example, California is the top U-S grape producer, but last year, Americans also ate grapes from: Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Egypt, South Africa and Argentina.
Pirog says, "Anybody can come to our website and pick a particular fruit or vegetable item and click on it and it will show all of the possible locations, based on the U-S-D-A’s shipment data, of what states or countries that fruit or vegetable could come from." The database can be accessed for any of 95 different types of fruits or veggies, from apples to watermelons and everything in between, including cabbages and cantaloupes, potatoes and pomegranates, tomatoes and turnips.
"It’s a relatively accurate snapshot and folks will get a big kick out of looking at where all these items are coming from," Pirog says. "It’s a great lesson in food geography and as more and more consumers are asking where their food is coming from, I think it’s a useful tool for Iowans in that regard." The database holds plenty of surprises, like the popular summertime staple of sweet corn. Florida is the leading domestic source by far, not Iowa.
The easiest way to use the tool is to Google the words "Leopold Center" and then click on the link that says, "Where do your fruits and veggies come from?" Or follow this direct link: " www.leopold.iastate.edu/resources/fruitveg/fruitveg.php"