Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mi Caucus e Su Caucus

If I were a candidate for president running in Iowa, I would not be talking about ethics, or business savvy, or trustworthiness. No. I wouldn't bring up manufacturing jobs either. They're not coming back the way we imagine. What would I steer the conversation toward? Farming.

Iowa is American agriculture. An entire third of the state is designated a national heritage area in partnership with the National Park Service. It's soil and climate are ideal. I see too little reason why we are not looking for Iowa made products and no reason why we are not clamoring for Iowa grown produce. Except that Iowa, with the exception of a few forward thinking farmers and producers, is caught in the conventional agribusiness mindset and unwilling to unravel itself.

There are millions in this country willing to pay more for better quality, better agricultural standards, better livestock practices, and better labor practices. Most of us cannot buy pork from Flying Pigs, it's just too darn expensive. We need larger producers who are willing to maintain higher standards, use less additives (salt solutions for instance), enact much better labor practices, and charge 25 percent more (or even more) per pound. I can't afford Flying Pigs bacon, but I certainly can afford higher cost pork and do not think that I am alone.

Why can't Iowa be the heart of grass fed beef (and bison) in this country? Millions of acres of feed corn are waiting to be converted to the more sustainable practice. Consider lamb and goat while you are at it.

I think of all the discriminating Italian markets and other quality grocers who are already selling Iowa produced, value-added agricultural products like la Quercia pork. Check out what they have to say about their farmers and pigs.

Iowa, your state will never be a manufacturing hub, a cultural center, or a financial powerhouse, but you could have a piece of all those things if some visionary leadership was taken. Imagine people looking for that IOWA stamp on the side of cured ham, grass fed beef, or organic produce.

If Iowans can't see it now, they may very well never see it. The Romneys and Gingrichs and Santorums of the world don't care much for these ideas, but I tell you what- they sure as hell know good pork when they see it.

Good luck Iowa.

3 comments:

  1. Amen, Brother. I was born in rural Iowa but couldn't wait to move away from the state when I was out of college. My grandfather rotated his crops on his 120-acre farm. He had about 50 hogs and another 30 cattle. The idea of rotating crops seems so antique now that you can inject nutrients back into the soil. 120 acres is tiny compared to the 15,000 that my high school friend farms. And huge confinement facilities with 1000s of hogs make having a couple dozen laughable and economically impractical. I never understood how a people that make their living on the land could be so out of touch with it.

    Glad you mentioned La Quercia. They show a way forward.

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  3. Brian, I'm pulling for Iowa. I think it's a great place to be growing good food.

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