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Bring Canyon County crop signs into the digital age

Crop signs in Canyon County

Darrell Bolz explains why the agriculture community posts signs identifying crops in Canyon County.
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Darrell Bolz explains why the agriculture community posts signs identifying crops in Canyon County.

I love those signs identifying crops in fields. You see them sometimes along highways in Canyon County. They are a project of the Agribusiness Committee, a joint effort of the Nampa and Caldwell chambers of commerce.

When the Statesman published a Lewiston Tribune story about a crop sign program up in Idaho and Lewis counties, Agribusiness Committee member Darrell Bolz took us to task for publishing a nonlocal story without reporting on the local signs, which he noted have been around for about 30 years.

Bolz, a retired extension agent and former state legislator, had a point. So we dispatched business reporter Zach Kyle to follow up with story about the local signs, which we ran July 13.

I called Bolz. He told me most nonfarm people do not understand agriculture and don’t realize what a bargain their groceries are. I don’t take issue with that. And I have trouble telling a beet plant from a bean plant at 50 mph.

I do think farmers might do more to help teach their nonfarm customers and neighbors. For example, farmers’ increasing use of technology has received a lot of press. So why doesn’t the Agribusiness Committee use tech to build upon the crop sign campaign? It could start by putting up a website showing crops grown in this valley with tips on how to identify them. If it has funds and ambition, the committee could develop an app that uses GPS and video so that when you drive by a field or click on it on a map, a video pops up showing the farmer giving a 30-second lesson about the mint crop there.

Tech offers opportunities to teach urban Treasure Valley-ites interested in their food and their farming neighbors. Until then, I will keep looking with interest at signs telling me what crops I am driving by.

David Staats: 208-377-6417, @DavidStaats. This column appears in the July 20-Aug. 17, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on agriculture. Click here for the daily Statesman e-edition, including Business Insider (subscription required).

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