World Food Prize winner focused work on growing vegetables

WASHINGTON — The 2019 World Food Prize winner does work that many people in Iowa can relate to.

Simon Groot of the Netherlands is the founder and leader of East-West Seed and has helped small farmers in 60 countries learn how to expand and improve their vegetable gardens.

Groot spoke about winning the Iowa-based prize via a video. “First of all, I am extremely excited that the World Food Prize has recognized the importance of vegetable farming,” Groot says.  Groot says he has worked for 35 years to develop vegetable varieties that are more disease resistant and produced higher yields.

“To make vegetable farming — how should I say it — more rewarding for the small farmers that we have. That really has been my main objective,” according to Groot. World Food Prize president Kenneth Quinn said in his award announcement today that as the use of his seeds spread throughout the Philippines and to Thailand, Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, farmers’ daily lives were uplifted and consumers benefited from greater access to nutritious vegetables.

“Groot in effect developed a stunningly impactful global network of seed producers who are transforming the lives of 20 million farmers every year.” Groot says small scale vegetable farming is a great way to grow rural income and employment and improve nutrition at the same time.
“It seems like the world is beginning to recognize that this was an important endeavor that is still in full swing and that will never stop,” Groot says.

The prize was founded in 1986 by 1970 Nobel Prize winner and Iowa native Norman Borlaug to recognize outstanding contributions in agriculture. The award carries a $250,000 prize and the formal award will be made at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on October 17th.

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