DES MOINES - Playing with your food took on a whole new meaning-and a much larger purpose-at the unique "Back to the Farmer" exhibit at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.
"We are building on the success of last year's 'Together We CAN!' exhibit and are showcasing the incredible achievements of farmers past, present and future," said Aaron Putze, director of communications for the Iowa Soybean Association and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project. "'Back to the Farmer' tells the story of how today's farms and food systems bring a lot to the table to benefit everyone."
Presented by the IFFP, the "Back to the Farmer" exhibit portrays how and why farming has changed through the years. Located in the south atrium of the Varied Industries Building, the popular exhibit also shows how modern agriculture contributes to human health, environmental quality and economic vitality.
For centerpiece of the "Back to the Farmer" display, members of the American Institute of Architects - Iowa Chapter incorporated hundreds of canned and boxed food items as they built the larger-than-life exhibit. During the first four days of the fair, visitors had the opportunity to donate $5 to the Iowa Food Bank Association and have their name placed on one of nearly 2,000 cans of food that were built into the "Back to the Farmer" sculpture. Following the fair, all food items used in the exhibit will be donated to the Food Bank of Iowa to help those struggling with hunger.
"This is a really impressive exhibit, and it emphasizes that farmers are focused on doing the right thing, from producing food to serving their communities," said Randy Souder, a farmer from Rockwell City who serves on the Iowa Soybean Association's Farm and Food Ambassador team. "This is a good way to help farmers share their story with thousands of people."
Encouraging conversations about farming helps promote greater awareness about the many ways farmers contribute to a safe, nutritious, wholesome food supply, Putze said.
"People have sincere questions about where their food comes from and the methods used to produce it. Farmers and those involved in the food system are passionate about what they do and are eager to share their knowledge."
Sponsors of the "Back to the Farmer" exhibit included the Iowa Soybean Association, Casey's General Stores, Farm Credit Services of America, Hy-Vee, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Food Bank Association, Iowa Select Farms, the Midwest Dairy Association, the United Soybean Board and Syngenta.
"Consumers don't always realize where their food comes from, and this compelling visual display can make a big impact," said Ann Bryan, senior manager of external communications/crop protection for Syngenta. "Not only does it show how farmers feed the world, but it also helps address the challenge of hunger here at home."
More than 400,000 Iowans are food insecure, meaning they struggle to put food on the table during the course of a year, said Jordan Vernoy, state director of the Iowa Food Bank Association.
"In the past two to three years, there has been up to a 50 percent increase in demand for the items supplied by food banks across Iowa. At the same time, there has been a decrease in the amount of food supplies available. The contributions that food banks will receive from Iowa farmers and state fairgoers through the 'Back to the Farmer' exhibit will be invaluable."
Last year, the IFFP's can exhibit at the state fair included more than 10,000 food items that were donated to feed the hungry. In addition, fairgoers donated more than $6,500 to fight hunger in Iowa. Project coordinators look forward to helping Iowans in need again this year, thanks to the "Back to the Farmer" display.
"This exhibit is sure to inspire conversation and greater awareness about farming and food production and what it means to our quality of life and enduring sense of community," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.