Yesterday and today I’ve been volunteering in Washington DC. The Wheat Foods Council (www.wheatfoods.org) has brought a living wheat field to the mall of Washington DC. We are just down the street from the Capitol and outside the National Museum of the American Indian.
The purpose of the event is to educate our urban countrymen about wheat. The display is set up from field to fork, starting with a combine and pallets full of wheat at various stages of development, millers demonstrate how raw wheat is turned into flour, the Nebraska Wheat Growers have brought there mobile baking lab, and at the end is a grocery store aisle with nutritionists teaching folks how to read labels and showing just how many products contain wheat.
My part has been to answer questions in the wheat field. Questions have ranged from the complexity of the wheat genome, to the fact that family farms are still prevelant on the countryside. We’ve had teachers ask about the nutritional value of different kinds of flower and administration workers ask why we only grow certain crops in certain parts of the world. We’ve had school kids come and see just how big a combine is and some older people come and say “I grew up in Montana, I know what this stuff is.”
Wednesday was interesting on Capitol Hill, wheat farmers canvassed the House office buildings inviting members and staffers to visit the wheat field while outside, PETA protestors dressed in HazMat suits protested the egg industry. It’s because of organizations like PETA that don’t really know what happens on farms that we farmers have to do events such as this. Farmers generally don’t seek opinion forming headlines and that is part of our problem. This event is attempting to do just the opposite, grab some headlines, correct some false opinions, and educate the masses. It reminds me of a story about a school teacher in Toronto who gave her kids a bean seed in a styrofoam cup, we’ve all done this in school, I’m sure, she told her kids to put it in some dirt, add some water and watch it grow. That was all fine and exciting to the kids until one who resided in a high rise apartment building asked “where do I get the dirt.” I never thought I’d take dirt for granted but I guess I do.
If your in DC stop by the Urban Wheat Field, we are on the street outside the National Museum of the American Indian or check the picture gallery on http://www.wheatworld.org.