DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — 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.
While the study looked at the Midwest, regional food production could have similar benefits elsewhere, with adjustments for what kinds of produce were needed in those parts of the country, said Michelle Miller, associate director of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, which helped fund the study.
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 Leopold Center requested the study after seeing increased demand for food grown closer to home, especially from public schools and colleges.
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.