Committee wants to educate motorists about variety of crops grown
By SEAN ELLIS
A small Idaho business committee uses a simple way to educate area residents about the importance of agriculture to their county.
The Nampa-Caldwell Agribusiness Committee pays for crop signs that are used to inform motorists what is growing in farm fields. The signs are placed near fields along major thoroughfares in Canyon County.
"Our duty is to try to educate not only the consumer but the general public about what agriculture is doing out there and the economic impact it has on our area and state," said NCAC Chairman Linda Ramsey. "One little way we can do that is by letting people who are driving up and down the road know what crops are growing out in the fields they are driving by."
NCAS is a subcommittee of the Nampa and Caldwell chambers of commerce. The committee has been funding the program since it was formed in 2004.
"Most people driving by farm fields don't actually understand ... the difference between wheat, oats, barley, and (other crops)," said Canyon County Commissioner and committee member Kathy Alder, who has farmed in the area for 40 years. "It's an education tool and I think those crop signs do a lot of good for our county."
Canyon County is one of the state's leading counties in terms of total farm-gate receipts and, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, has about 2,400 farms, far more than the state's second-leading county in that category.
Alder said well over 100 different crop varieties are grown there, including onions, beans, mint, potatoes, corn, sugar beets, grain, hops, peas, echinacea and a variety of seed crops.
The signs are also used to identify what is growing in orchards.
"One gentleman in Caldwell is trying to raise truffles so we even have a truffles sign," Ramsey said.
The signs cost about $10 each and a couple dozen need to be replaced each year because they fade or are damaged. That's no insignificant cost for a small committee with limited funds, Ramsey said, but she believes the effort does a lot to promote agriculture.
"The crop signs create a better connection to help people understand how their food is being grown and that it is growing in their back yard," she said.
Alder said about 84 percent of the county's land is used in agriculture and the industry plays a pivotal role in the county's overall economic health.
"Agriculture is very important to our county," she said. "These crop signs are a really good effort to try to inform people about how diverse our agricultural economy is here."
Ramsey said getting the signs positioned right can be a challenge.
"We need to get them close enough to the crop so people know what it is but we also need to keep them off the right-of-way and out of the field," she said.