THE Iowa Food & Family Project (IFFP) hosted an exhibit at the Iowa State Fair to feed the curiosity of fairgoers that wonder where their food comes from.
Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Assn. (ISA), said “Our goal this year was to create an eye-catching display that would inspire fairgoer to ask questions about the food production.”
A 12 ft. tall, 50-ton sand sculpture accomplished that goal. Carved into the sand were various food and agricultural products. The exhibit theme was that of “What Farmers Grow Makes Iowa Go.”
Some fairgoers were surprised to see a McDonald’s restaurant storefront carved in the sand.
“We were pleased when McDonald’s came to us asking if we could form a partnership that would help raise consumer awareness about how food is grown and raised,” said Aaron Putze, IFFP coordinator and director of communications for the ISA. He noted that, “the state fair exhibit was just one of our partnership projects.”
Four thousand children participating in a coloring contest received vouchers for free ice cream cones from McDonald’s. Longtime foodservice partner Machine Shed restaurants provided 2,700 complimentary dessert coupons to fairgoers that participated in other activities.
Ottumwa, Iowa, farmers Pat and Don Swanson volunteered at the exhibit to answer visitor questions. “People really are curious how their food is grown,” said Swanson. “We share first-hand information and hope to bring clarity to production issues they do not understand.”
The Swansons host tours coordinated by the IFFP and ISA on their farm and welcomed first time farm visitors. “When hosting a tour we do not just show them what we do. We listen to their questions and provide them with honest information. Being able to demonstrate to how we produce agriculture products helps build their trust in our food system.”
Besides the conversations and other activities at the display, fairgoers were asked to complete engagement cards that entered them into some of the contests offered at the display. Nearly 10,000 people will now have the chance to further the conversation about food and farming by receiving the Iowa Food & Family Projects monthly Fresh Pickings newsletter.
Leeds pointed out, “If you look closely at the sand sculpture you will see that all of Iowa agriculture works together to provide food and farm products.” The Iowa Pork Producers Assn., Farm Credit Services of America, Midwest Dairy, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, Iowa Corn, Iowa Food Bank Association, Iowa Grocery Industry, joined McDonald’s, Machine Shed Restaurants and ISA to power this display. Over 40 groups partner to support IFFP.