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Eat your vegetables: a simple way to support Wisconsin agriculture

“If only it was that easy.” How many time have you caught yourself thinking or saying that when facing a challenge? Of course, our Wisconsin farmers and processors always have unique obstacles. Weather, technology, market prices, crop yields and animal health create constant risks in the industry. One way to support our state’s agriculture industry is to simply purchase Wisconsin products, but with thousands of food choices on the market for consumers, I know it will not always be that easy.

I am grateful we do have so many choices in Wisconsin. No matter your preference of production, store shelves are stocked with safe, wholesome foods. While Wisconsin’s climate is ideal for growing many varieties of crops, our options for fresh produce obviously decline in the winter months. Thankfully, our Wisconsin processors made it effortless to enjoy the natural flavors and nutrients of these products year-round.

Jed Colquhoun, professor in the Department of Horticulture at UW-Madison, said we tend to

overlook the beauty of canned goods. Just take a look at our processing vegetables. They are packaged with basic ingredients, water and salt, inside a recyclable container. All we need to do is open and enjoy.

I recently attended the 2019 Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Forum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the forum, experts in the industry provided the latest data and predicted the future for our diverse agriculture industry. Colquhoun addressed our state’s specialty crops such as processing vegetables. It is a big market for Wisconsin. In 2017, Wisconsin grew 6.56 million cwt of snap beans, more than any other state. Our farmers are also third in the nation for carrots, harvesting 2.52 million cwt in the same year. Cucumbers totaled 687,000 cwt, and there were 967,500 cwt of green peas harvested.

From the ground up, processing vegetables have a healthy impact on the economy. Of the $3.5 billion of agricultural products exported to 147 countries in 2017, prepared vegetables were among Wisconsin’s most valuable agricultural export category. Plus, of the 413,500 jobs in Wisconsin agriculture, processing contributes 259,600. Every job in agriculture supports a nearly additional 1.5 jobs elsewhere in Wisconsin.

Despite the abundance of these nutritious foods and the opportunities they provide for Wisconsin residents, Colquhoun said the United States vegetable consumption is dwindling. His numbers showed all categories of vegetables declined by 5 percent in the past 10 years, and canned vegetables were down 8 percent. Colquhoun pointed out canned snap bean consumption and price have significantly dropped. Our farmers are harvesting fewer acres of snap beans, but because we are becoming more efficient and productive, yields continue to increase.

While consumer preference is just one variable in agriculture, it can have an impact on the prices farmers and processors receive for their quality work and passion. What can we do to help our comrades in the industry? Let’s encourage our friends and neighbors to revisit the canned goods aisle of the grocery store. Add snap beans as a side dish to tonight’s dinner. Our own neighbors and friends are growing some of the finest quality of crops in the nation, so let’s enjoy them together. It can be that easy. I've shared one of my favorite recipes below: three bean casserole!

Three Bean Casserole


-1 1/2 lbs hamburger

-3/4 cup brown sugar

-3/4 cup ketchup

-1 large can baked beans

-2 cans green beans (drained)

-1 can butter beans (drained)


-Brown the hamburger.

-Add ketchup and brown sugar. Blend until evenly mixed.

-Add beans.


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