Iowa fruit and vegetable growers have a new tool to help determine the demand for their crops in Iowa and surrounding states. The online program, developed by Iowa State University researchers, allows users to calculate the rate of demand for 80 fruits and vegetables in and around hundreds of communities.
Rich Pirog, at ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, says the tool will be useful for farmers, economic developers and others interested in local food production.
“They’re not program crops, so there’s no subsidies for farmers planting fruits and vegetables so and the level of risk is higher,” Pirog says. “Obviously with the variable weather we’ve had, farmers are taking more risk in growing fruits and vegetables.”
Pirog says the tool will help provide answers about the economic development potential of increasing Iowa’s local food production:
“You look at it from the perspective of the farmer, what the demand is,” Pirog says. “As we try to make the case for investment at the state level, they want to know what does that mean for the state? What kind of economic impact will occur if we expand that industry?”
The calculator uses data from the U-S Department of Agriculture and the U-S Census. It’s based on a similar tool created five years ago to determine demand for a smaller number of crops. Pirog plans to release a manual later this year that will enable researchers in other states to replicate the concept outside of Iowa.