DC’s Rolling Field of Wheat

September 1, 2010

Last week, tourists and congressional staffers walking down Independence Avenue near the U.S. Capitol building were treated to an unusual site: a wheat field growing smack in the middle of downtown Washington, DC.

It was all part of the Wheat Food Council’s Urban Wheat Field, an event designed to teach Americans a little bit about agriculture and the importance of wheat to our economy and our diets while reminding legislators and their staffs that America needs a strong farm policy.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)—along with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Reps. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), and GT Thompson (R-Pa.)—was on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon with NAWG President Jerry McReynolds, a producer from Kansas, and Wheat Foods Council Co-Chairman David Moore, a producer from Texas.

During his opening remarks, Peterson commented on the resiliency of American agriculture, saying, “No matter what they throw at us, no matter how many crazy things the EPA comes up with, and all these other agencies…we deal with it. And we continue to provide the most abundant, the cheapest, the safest food in the world.”

Interested passersby had the opportunity to learn about wheat firsthand from producers who came to DC from all across America’s heartland, taking time away from their farms during a busy time of year to give urbanites an important message: America counts on its farmers and ranchers for an affordable, healthy food supply. Milling, baking, and nutrition experts were on hand to give demonstrations (the impressive display included flour mills, a baking laboratory, and a mock grocery store aisle) and answer questions. In addition, visitors enjoyed freshly baked cinnamon rolls, cookies, and bread and took home small bags of flour.

But it was the live wheat that was the star of the show, covering a quarter-acre expanse alongside the National Mall. A full-size combine only added to the impressiveness of the sight. The wheat was grown at the University of Maryland and transported to the event. The project, which was on display for two full days, was free to the public.

The Wheat Foods Council and the National Association of Wheat Growers (who sponsored the opening reception) should be commended for putting on such a successful event, and for doing something that, unfortunately, isn’t done enough: teaching the American public about agriculture and its role in keeping America healthy and vibrant. As Congressman Peterson noted in his address to the crowd, “It is important for all of us in agriculture to educate consumers about what we do and how food gets from the field to the grocery store shelves.”

And as one out-of-town visitor who happened to stumble upon the Urban Wheat Field put it, “This has been an eye-opening experience for me. I came to Washington to see the museums and monuments, but I definitely didn’t expect to find wheat growing in the middle of the city.