Value-added Agriculture 101: What is it?


Fresh tomato
Salsa jar


Value-added agriculture is the process of adding value to a raw agricultural product by changing it or adding something to it so people want more of it. (You may want to write that on the board for your students to see and read together. Then proceed with the following discussion.)

Let’s use a tomato as an example of a raw agricultural product and salsa as a value-added agricultural product.
(Hold up the tomato in one hand and the salsa jar in the other.)

Raise your hand if you would prefer to eat a raw tomato rather than salsa.
(Count the hands.)

Now raise your hand if you would prefer to eat salsa rather than a raw tomato.
(Count the hands. Usually the salsa gets the most votes. You may want to lump salsa in with a group of value-added agricultural products made from tomatoes such as pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, etc. and vote again.)

If the people want more tomatoes in the form of salsa rather than raw fresh tomatoes, will the farmers have to grow more tomatoes?
Yes, they will have to keep up with the demand for more tomatoes. It also takes more tomatoes to make salsa.

Will the farmer get more money for his tomatoes?
Yes, people will be buying more tomatoes, which will make them worth more. The farmers will have more money to spend in the community.

How has the tomato been changed so that it can be an ingredient in salsa?
The tomato has been washed, chopped up, and in some cases, cooked before it becomes an ingredient in salsa.

What has been added to the tomato to turn it into salsa?
Other vegetables such as onion, peppers, sometimes corn or tomatillo and fruit such as lime have been added. Herbs such as cilantro or garlic add to the flavor. Sugar is often added.

Does it take more people to get a fresh tomato to the store or to get salsa to the store?
Salsa. It takes a lot more people to make salsa and package it. They all get paid. That adds value to the economy.

Are you glad that people are trying to add value to raw agricultural products such as tomatoes? Why?
So you can easily have more fun and tasty choices.


In 2007, Iowa farmers produced 2.4 billion bushels of field corn! What was all that corn used for?
(Possible answers include ethanol, corn syrup, corn meal, cereal, food for animals, etc.) There are more than 3,600 uses for corn besides the number one use of feeding livestock.

Since about a fourth of Iowa’s corn is used to feed livestock, let’s look at the value-added products from cattle. We think of just the food value from a beef animal, but nothing from the animal goes to waste.

99% of the beef animal is utilized, items manufactured from beef by-products are all around us. Yogurt, car tires, drywall and a variety of medicines all contain a beef by-product. Automobile and bicycle tires contain stearic acid, which makes the rubber hold its shape while driving or riding along the road. Even the asphalt on our roadways contains a binding agent derived from the fat of beef cattle.

What are all the value-added agricultural items on a hamburger from a fast-food restaurant?

Meat didn’t used to be ground up. Value was added to meat when it was changed to ground meat because people wanted more of it that way. Mustard and ketchup are value added agricultural products from mustard seeds, tomatoes and other ingredients. The lettuce leaf hasn’t been changed. However, if you buy a pre-made salad in a bag, the lettuce has been changed/torn and ingredients have been added to make it a value added agriculture product. The cheese is made from milk, the pickles have been made from cucumbers, and the bun is made from grain and other agricultural products. Everything has been made to be extra tasty and convenient so that you want more hamburgers. That adds value for everyone involved because they will get paid for making all the hamburgers and value-added products on the hamburger. The producers, processors, distributors, and marketers will spend their earnings in their communities.


Iowa generally ranks second or third in agriculture production in the United States. California usually produces the most agricultural products and Iowa and Texas go back and forth for the second spot.

What agricultural products, plant or animal products, rank in the top ten in the United States?
If you guessed corn, soybeans, eggs, pork, beef, sheep/lamb, turkey, and dairy, you are right on!

What are soybeans and corn are used?
Livestock feed, fuel, seed for planting, sweeteners, snack foods, cereal, batteries, cleaners and thousands of other products you eat and use.

What is livestock used for?
Meat, meat products, eggs, leather, wool, feathers, skin and hair products, gum and thousands of other products you eat and use.

What value-added agricultural products have you eaten or used today?

*Continue with the with the lessons and activities in this section to learn more about value-added agriculture.

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