An Iowa State professor set out to discover what it would take for the Midwest to grow the fruits and vegetables its residents consume. If Midwestern farms set aside 270,025 acres of cropland — about what’s found in one of Iowa’s 99 counties — the region could produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet the partial year demand in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The study was conducted by Dave Swenson, an Iowa State economist.
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, according to an Associated Press story. The study didn’t include pumpkins, apples or cherries, since the region already grows enough of those crops to meet local demand. Growing local would create $882 million in sales and add 9,300 jobs in the Midwest. (Jobs and sales would decline in other regions, of course.)
Swenson doesn’t expect Midwestern farmers to switch their crops any time soon. He said the best chance for growers came with demand for local foods from city buyers. “The people that supply that demand will organize close to those markets,” Swenson said. “If locally grown foods are going to take off and be a viable component of the economy, it’s going to happen there.”