What Crop Best Reflects Your Country?

The Lempert Report
February 23, 2017

Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin had exactly that in mind when they created their “food map” series.

The Food Maps are a collection of country and continent maps that are made using ingredients to show those areas staple crops as reported in the National Geographic magazine. 

The United States is made of corn, Italy tomatoes, India rendered in spices, New Zealand in kiwifruit, South America in citrus. 

Keep in mind that the foods most commonly associated with a particular place aren’t actually native to that spot. A majority of tomatoes, for example, come from South America, yet today they’re an integral part of Italian cuisine.   

On the otherhand, for their map of the United States Hargreaves and Levin chose as their medium an assemblage of corn varieties and corn-derived products. Today no other country produces more corn, which made its way north from Mexico some 7,000 years ago and is now grown throughout the U.S. in every state from New Hampshire to Hawaii. 

These maps influence could go far beyond just an interesting medium for art – they could be used to educate kids as well as adults as to the origins of our foods and actually be used to remind people that foods we eat start on farms across the globe. Our PBS special, Food Sense, had its origins form an LA Times column that reported that a vast majority of elementary school students had no or little idea where foods came from. 

Our schools, our supermarkets and our trade groups have a responsibility to educate and reinforce just where our foods come from. Which trees, which fields and which countries.