State Stereotypes

Published in the December 2009 Issue Published online: Dec 16, 2009 Tyler J. Baum, Editor
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Like it or not, each of the 50 states seems to have its own stereotype associated with it.

If you're from New Yawk, you're automatically labeled impatient and abrasive, but you're also extremely productive. And the whole state of New York is one big city. If you're from Texas, you're assumed to be laid back and friendly, but you've got a don't-mess-with-us attitude if someone insults your state.

My wife is from northern California. She came to understand the California stereotype when she attended college outside the Golden State. Her out-of-state roommates assumed, before meeting her, that she was a surfer and would be blonde. She's never been on a surfboard before.

Agriculturally, that's the same. Though it's certainly that way because each state promotes the crop they produce the best, many states have a crop stereotype. People I meet from other states assume that EVERYONE in Idaho grows potatoes, so of course it only furthers the stereotype when they find out my father still grows potatoes. People associate pineapples with Hawaii, though pineapples aren't actually native to Hawaii. (They weren't introduced in Hawaii until the early 19th century-by the Spanish-and the first commercial plantation wasn't established until 1886.) If it's an apple, it had to have come from Washington, even though close to 40 percent of apples in the U.S. come from outside Washington.

Wisconsin seems to have the market cornered when it comes to dairy, and people know it. It doesn't help that Green Bay Packers fans wear cheese-shaped hats when they root for their team, but I digress. Wisconsin produced close to 26 million cwt of potatoes last year.

That's why it's nice when we at Potato Grower magazine can venture outside Idaho. Don't get me wrong-I love the state I grew up in, but this piano has more than one key.

In this December issue, we're plunking a different key we haven't heard in awhile.

You'll read about the new Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Storage Research Facility at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station in Hancock, Wis. Built in 2006 and in operation since that same year, Wisconsin scientists there are coming up with storage solutions more localized to growers in their region.

You'll also be reading an article from University of Wisconsin associate professor A.J. Bussan who addresses storage shrinkage concerns, particularly in the north-central U.S. region.

And, you'll be pleased to hear a little bit of good news. The Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station in Rhinelander, Wis., has been donating surplus potatoes to their state prison system for over 60 years in exchange for harvest labor. However, recently inmates have been able to help donate some of those potatoes to the Salvation Army and other food pantries. (The Hancock station is involved, too.)

It's easy for us to always focus on Idaho since we're here, but we haven't forgotten all of the rest of the potato-producing states that make the industry what it is.

So please pass the potatoes. And the cheese.