To our friends and supporters: By now you have seen the election results, and know that we did not win the race for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. However, we did engage the public in an important discussion and debate on the future of our food and agriculture, and we moved the dialogue forward. I very [...]
“This editorial board sees Thicke as being head and shoulders above the competition, and we want him as our next secretary of Agriculture.” So said the Iowa State Daily editorial board in its endorsement of my candidacy for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Here is their full endorsement statement: Last week the Daily’s Editorial Board ran [...]
Chapter 34 – Food Policy
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has formally recognized the economic and many other benefits of local food production in a new program called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” which is encouraging the expansion of local food production across the country.
Chapter 33 – Connecting Farmers and Consumers
The opportunities for consumers to buy food directly from farmers have been increasing. In Iowa, there are now 223 farmers markets, and farmers market sales have increased 92 percent over the past five years. Farmers markets give consumers the opportunity to meet the farmer who produces the food they eat and to ask questions about how their food is produced.
Chapter 32 – Healthy Foods Make Healthy People
In 1960, we in America spent 5.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care. By 2008, our health care expenditures had more than tripled, rising to 16.2 percent of our GDP. On the other hand, our food costs over the same time period followed the opposite trend, falling from 17.5 percent of our disposable income in 1960 to 9.6 percent in 2008.
Chapter 31 – Economic Development
Iowans eat $8 billion worth of food annually, but about 90 percent of that food is imported from out of state – another ironic statistic from the “Food Capital of the World.” Growing more of our food right here in Iowa represents a potential multi-billion dollar economic development opportunity. This potential economic activity could create thousands of new jobs and help revitalize rural communities in Iowa, as well as provide Iowans with fresh, nutritious food. It would also increase the biodiversity on Iowa’s landscape.
Chapter 30 – Because It Tastes Better
Imagine a tomato picked green in Mexico, boxed up and shipped to Iowa. By the time it gets to the grocery store shelf, it begins to turn pink and even a little red. Now, imagine picking a red, vine-ripened tomato in your back yard. You can practically “taste” the difference in your imagination.
Beyond its superior flavor, produce ripened on the plant can be nutritionally superior. For example, the Vitamin C content of tomatoes will increase to some degree after picking, but it will not reach levels found in tomatoes allowed to vine ripen. Also, local fruits and vegetables generally get to consumers more promptly after harvest and at the peak of freshness, which contributes to retaining their nutritional value.
Chapter 29 – Where Does Your Food Come From?
Food is so familiar and intimate to our daily experience that most of us rarely think about where it comes from. We don’t stop to think that the apple we are eating may have come from China, or the tomato from Mexico, or the grapes from Chile. We just know that they all come from the grocery store.
Chapter 28 – Energy Policy
A scientist friend of mine recently said to me privately, “corn ethanol is not part of an energy policy, it is part of a corn policy.” He also pointed out that corn ethanol is not really a renewable fuel because both corn production and ethanol production are highly dependent upon nonrenewable fossil fuels. He makes some good points. It could also be argued that the crops most heavily subsidized by federal farm programs provide the least resilience on the landscape and are the least resource-conserving. For example, the most heavily subsidized crops in Iowa are the annual crops corn and soybeans which, as we saw above, create the most vulnerability for soil erosion and nutrient loss to water resources.
Chapter 27 – Imagine
In my youth, it would have taken a vivid imagination to think that in 40 years I would be carrying around a personal communication device that would allow me to instantly communicate with anyone around the world, and to have instant access to the latest information and cutting-edge knowledge of every field of life – at the touch of a few buttons.
Likewise, today we probably cannot fully envision what the future portends. However, we should not limit our thinking to a projection of the status quo of today, and we should not naysay about technologies on the horizon because they are not yet fully developed. Sometimes people who say things cannot be done need to get out of the way of people who are already doing them. As Abraham Lincoln purportedly said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”