By Leigh Howe
If you haven’t looked closely at the farming industry lately you might be surprised. Creativity is not only for the big city. Creative farming is probably better known to many as value added agriculture. According to Michigan State University, value added agriculture is a process of increasing the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural commodity. It is an alternative production and marketing strategy that requires a better understanding of the rapidly changing food industry and food safety issues, consumer preferences, business savvy, and team work. Adding features to a raw agricultural, marine, aqua cultural, or forestry material used to make a product is an example of a value added activity.
When people think “value-added agriculture,” genetically modified crops and engineered foods come to mind. While those may be part of the picture that get the most media coverage, value added activities may be more basic such as new processing techniques and creating greater consumer appeal for commodity products. Organic growing methods foods are an example of creative agriculture. But it is nothing new! It is actually growing food without the help of chemicals or other artificial components – the old fashioned way. Traditional farms are focusing more on organic growing as the demand for such products is growing at a healthy 20% per year.
Organics are just the tip of the iceberg. Farmers and food specialists are tasked to reduce trans fatty acid, reduce saturated fats, increase fiber intakes and innovate new flavors, just to name a few. As the population in the United States becomes wealthier, older, more education, and more ethnically diverse, the demands for foods will continue change. Consumers are demanding more new food products, new packaging, more convenience, new delivery systems, and safer and more nutritious foods. These trends will all drive the farming and food industry to meet this needs with creativity in flavors, packaging, and healthy foods.
For further investigation on the subject, check out the following sites:
- Iowa State University Extension — http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Pages/valag/
- Agriculture Marketing Resource Center — http://www.agmrc.org/
- Michigan State University Extension — http://www.msue.msu.edu/valueadded/
- Technology Review Agriculture Section http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/eneagr.asp