- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Johnson County officials say they aren’t surprised that a new study has recognized the county as a hot spot for organic food.

A Pennsylvania State University study released Wednesday by agricultural economist Ted Jaenicke named Johnson County and five other Iowa counties as organic hot spots, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/1RwXCaZ ) reported.

They were identified as having high levels of organic agricultural activity whose neighboring counties also have high organic activity. The study found that these hot spots reduced poverty levels by an average of 1.3 percentage points and increased median household incomes by an average of $2,000.

“People in Iowa City and Johnson County have, for a long time, demonstrated a strong interest in what they eat,” said Rod Sullivan, Johnson County supervisor. “So it doesn’t surprise me that that’s the outcome of this finding.”

Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque, Howard and Fayette counties were also listed as organic hot spots in Iowa. More than 200 counties across the United States were given the designation.

Jaenicke began researching organic food because he was curious about the effect it had on local economies.

“I’m pretty optimistic that it might provide a new way of thinking about organic agriculture,” Jaenicke said.

This year, Johnson County started an initiative to alleviate food insecurity in the county. The group farms 2 acres and donates crops to area hunger-relief agencies.

“We’re probably a little better here at eating it than we are at growing it, simply because the cost of land can be very daunting in Johnson County, but we’re doing our best and we’re working to improve,” Sullivan said.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

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