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Roy Smith: The future of agriculture

07/22/2010 @ 11:00pm

A few weeks ago there was a program on Iowa Public Television that I found very interesting. It had to do with the proliferation of microbreweries in the state. I am not a beer connoisseur or expert, but I do occasionally drink one when I get thirsty. The focus of the television program related to the notion that giant multi-national companies have taken over most of the brewing industry. This has left consumers with very little choice when it comes to selecting suds that suits their taste buds.

In the early days of this country, almost every town of any size had its own brewery. Larger cities may have had several. The products of these small establishments had unique tastes and qualities. As consolidations took place, the selection of products available became less and less. Today the flavors of these mass produced products is uniform worldwide, but they may not appeal to many possible customers. Hence the development of micro-breweries which cater to the taste of the populations in diverse communities. 

In 1990, Sharon and I took a trip to Europe. There we discovered that the concept of community breweries still exists. In the two weeks that we toured Germany and Austria, I experienced a wide variety of beers. The only one I did not like was in Salzburg. The educational television program mentioned earlier indicates that people who are attempting to recreate the community brewery concept in Iowa are meeting with considerable success. You can now experience beers brewed in such exotic locations as Sioux City and Iowa City. I plan to make a trip later this summer to research the products originating in Ames.

As I watched the TV show, I thought about how much the agricultural seed industry consolidation has paralleled that of the brewing industry. When I was growing up almost every locale had its own hybrid corn brand. In my county, it was called Steckley’s Hybrids. The plant was located at Weeping Water, Nebraska and the seed was grown within a few miles of the plant. On my office wall, I have burlap bags that once carried Field’s Hybrid corn and McNielly Hybrid corn, both raised and processed at Shenandoah Iowa. 
   

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