The Future of Agriculture and the Importance of Developing Our Skills and Knowledge Base

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We must take a serious look at how we shall feed ourselves in the future and how we will organize societally to insure our subsistence.
To deny the reality of what is the future of food production is simply naive. We, in the *developed* world, have become far removed from the actual production of our basic food, unlike those in *less developed* parts of the world.
Manual labor, especially in the area of food production, is unknown to most of us in the *modern* world. We may enjoy our gardens and reap the benefits of limited food production, but few of us produce all we consume. Or are able to do so, for any number of reasons.
We would be well advised to follow the advice of this article, and many others I have posted... in order to develop our skills, soils, preservation methods, inventory, etc.
Mankind is poised to take steps backwards and many will step into oblivion, though many may be able to survive if they position themselves and develop the mindset and knowledge to do so. *They* are not going to take care of us. We must take care of ourselves and each other.
Care Charlie
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: ----------------------------------------
Excerpt: Full article........
http://countercurrents.org/goodchild220907.htm
Agriculture In A Post-Oil Economy
By Peter Goodchild
22 September, 2007 Countercurrents.org
The decline in the world’s oil supply offers no sudden dramatic event that would appeal to the writer of "apocalyptic" science fiction: no mushroom clouds, no flying saucers, no giant meteorites. The future will be just like today, only tougher. Oil depletion is basically just a matter of overpopulation — too many people and not enough resources. The most serious consequence will be a lack of food. The problem of oil therefore leads, in an apparently mundane fashion, to the problem of farming.
To what extent could food be produced in a world without fossil fuels? In the year 2000, humanity consumed about 30 billion barrels of oil, but the supply is starting to run out; without oil and natural gas, there will be no fuel, no asphalt, no plastics, no chemical fertilizer. Most people in modern industrial civilization live on food that was bought from a local supermarket, but such food will not always be available. Agriculture in the future will be largely a "family affair": without motorized vehicles, food will have to be produced not far from where it was consumed. But what crops should be grown? How much land would be needed? Where could people be supported by such methods of agriculture?
WHAT TO GROW
The most practical diet would be largely vegetarian, for several reasons. In the first place, vegetable production requires far less land than animal production. Even the pasture land for a cow is about one hectare, and more land is needed to produce hay, grain, and other foods for that animal. One could supply the same amount of useable protein from vegetable sources on a fraction of a hectare, as Frances Moore Lappι pointed out in 1971 in Diet for a Small Planet [12]. Secondly, vegetable production is less complicated. The raising of animals is not easy, and one of the principles to work with is, "The more parts there are to a machine, the more things there are that can go wrong." The third problem is that of cost: animals get sick, animals need to be fed, animals need to be enclosed, and the bills add up quickly. Finally, vegetable food requires less labor than animal food to produce; less labor, in turn, means more time to spend on other things. A largely vegetarian diet is also the most healthful, but that is a separate issue.
With a largely vegetarian diet, one must beware of deficiencies in vitamins A and B12, iron, calcium, and fat, all of which can be found in animal food. Most of these deficiencies are covered by an occasional taste of meat; daily portions of beef and pork are really not necessary. Animal food should be used whenever it is available, but it is not a daily necessity.
Of vegetable foods, it is grains in particular that are essential to human diet. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors took various species of grass and converted them into the plants on which human life now depends. Wheat, rice, maize, barley, rye, oats, sorghum, millet — these are the grasses people eat every day, and it is these or other grasses that are fed (too often) to the pigs and cows that are killed as other food. A diet of green vegetables would be slow starvation; it is bread and rice that supply the thousands of kilocalories that keep us alive from day to day.
In general, the types of crops to grow would be those which are trouble-free, provide a large amount of carbohydrates per unit of land, provide protein, and supply adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Most grains meet several of these requirements. Winter (not summer) squashes are also high in kilocalories. Parsnips rate high in kilocalories, whereas carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and beets are slightly lower on the scale. Beans (as "dry beans") rate fairly well in terms of kilocalories, and they are the best vegetable source of protein, especially if they are eaten with maize or other grains with complementary amino acids.
HOW MUCH LAND?
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<Charlie> wrote in message

Just for laughs, try suggesting to a 17 yr old kid that a good summer job would be harvesting broccoli at a nearby farm.
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What you are saying is that no one will work like that unless they have to. Us pessimists think that in the very near future, we will have to. Of course we could pay farm workers a living wage and, perhaps, raise the beds to reduce stoop labor. That would cost money. Maybe its time to reduce subsidies on corn and soybeans that are making everyone fat, and start subsidizing the cost of growing fruits and vegetables, that can make people healthy.
--
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Billy

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_We_ might work like that because _we_ (folks over thirty that have come to appreciate the benefits of fresh air/ sun light/ exercise without gym fees) have experience in life. Meanwhile, that 17yr old has air conditioned classrooms, multiple channels of choice on multiple home televisions and the job choice of making a slightly better wage working the local fast food restaurant where the buddies and fellow classmates visit.

A living wage would be a major cost, but the current wage would not be so bad if the workers could take home part of the harvest for the family to eat. Not a new idea, just an old one that has dropped from use. In my youth, back in the sixties, I remember farm laborers getting more than just a paycheck. The produce carried home was not first quality in appearance, the nutriment was still there. Small farmers knew they could not pay the same wage as the local factories and found other ways to make it worthwhile for school students and homemakers to work for them.
Raised beds for crop production are a whole different story. Most of the raised bed farming I see offered is just a few inches higher than surrounding land. Four inches does not help hand picking the crop much. I have been attempting to design raised beds that an adult on a movable bench could easily reach for early tending of the crop and an adult standing could easily reach the crop to harvest without much stooping.
I am blessed with hilly terrain. So I only need a solid terrace wall, about two feet high, on the downhill side. This would allow me to reach the planting area from the upper walk-way with a roto-tiller without any lifting. Walk-ways will be left in grass and clover. Planting space three foot wide, walk-ways three foot wide. Plan is to mow walk-ways with mulching self bagging mower, then dry clippings for livestock winter feed.
Back to that terrace wall. Any suggestions of material to use for this wall? I would like to use concrete block, but the expense is too high for current budget. Another thought is to use logs left over from a recent logging operation as a temporary wall and add the concrete block, or possibly native rock with cement to hold shape, as money is available. I am currently in one of the severe drought areas, the logs would help hold water until they rot away.
I am over ambitious and old enough to have problems walking. Any thing I plan now includes the concept of handicap access. The over ambitious part is I would love to put three to six acres into this form of terrace gardens. But this also means that these fields can not longer be used to graze horses or cattle, maybe the goats and sheep. The sheep may be too stupid to not fall off the terraces, which leaves only goats to be used to clean out crop residue and add a bit of organic fertilizer. Earthworms, red wigglers to start, are also a major part of this concept and the walk-ways are safe locations to help keep the earthworms healthy.

Great idea, but the big corporation farms like the money from corn and soybeans. The corporate farms have the equipment to raise and harvest these crops. The corporate farms also have something that we, small un-united farms, don't. They have the money to pay campaign contributions and people to harass elected officials into creating laws that favor corporate farms.
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Social Security is often taken out of farm workers' paychecks just to be pocketed by the labor contractor. Later when farm workers apply to Social Security, there is no record of their contributions. Most farm workers receive no fringe benefits with their jobs. For the vast majority of farmworkers, this means:.
No health benefits
No paid vacations
No sick leave
No pension plans
While all other workplaces require that toilet facilities are provided when as few as one worker is at the workplace, farms are only required to have toilets if 6 or more workers are on the fields. Many farms do not provide toilets even when large numbers of workers are in the fields. Drinking water and water for washing hands is often unavailable to workers.
Due to stoop labor, pesticide dangers, transportation and farm equipment injuries, among other hazards, farm work is considered to be one of the five most dangerous occupations in the nation.
Farm workers stoop down for many hours a day to pick tomatoes, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables. Stoop labor causes many back injuries due to the constant strain.
Fruit pickers often climb high ladders while carrying bags that weigh up to 95 pounds when full. A typical citrus worker harvests fruit from a ladder of 18 to 20 feet in length, picking three to five tons of fruit per day. Many injuries occur when workers fall from trees, or strain backs due to heavy loads they must carry.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 300,000 farm workers are poisoned each year by pesticides. Farm workers suffer the highest rate of chemical-related illness of any occupational group; growers regularly use deadly chemicals such as methyl bromide, which is banned in other industries.

that they can take home. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the "AVERAGE" American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. Fast food establishment typically have 300% to 400% turn over in employees per year because after 90 days they are entitled to benefits.

And so migrant labor, legal and illegal, subsidise the richest country in the world? With respect to the illegals from Mexico, this would be because the US ships its' cheap subsidized corn to Mexico, putting Mexican farmers and workers out of work.

how do you feed your family with an extra ten pounds of broccoli?

that turning the soil kills worms and drives away any survivors. Worms nourish the plants and ventilate the soil. Check out "Teaming with Microbes" from your local library for a fuller explanation of soil communities (flora and fauna).

not a sentence. OK?) Sounds like reality check time. Don't want to rain on your parade but you should plan on doing less in the future. (It's just the way that it is.) At least focus on what you want to do most, that you will be able to do when you're too old and silly to do anything else;-)

Yeah, we live in a fascist state, but don't get me started. Mi amigo Charlie and I wailed and complained about our fascist kleptocracy in Washington D.C. for the better part of a year. Now Naomi Kline has come out with a book, "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" and will get paid for printing what Charlie and I were muttering about in newsgroups.
Enjoy freedom while you can, before it gets privatized.
--

Billy

Bush & Cheney, Behind Bars
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<Charlie> wrote in message

At the beginning of such a famine, I would agree that animal used land would be a problem. Later, when mankind finally dies off enough, such would be okay. In the early part, just keeping your starving neighbors and travelers away from your farm/garden would be a major problem in of itself. Use your imagination.
Grain oriented stuff is okay. Unless, of course, we fall into a small ice age during the famine times. Cold and heavy wind tolerant foods may only be possible.
Guess we'll have to get used to eating raw vegetables including some hard beans. There's not many trees left to use for a fire to cook such.
Freshwater will initally be difficult to come by. The large clots of people usually have some sewage treatment facility. All will now just dump into its nearby river until mother nature finally clears all of it some years later.
All wells will fail, no power for the pumps. Deep wells can't use manual pumps. Local septic tanks will fail soon for a number of reasons. Mostly, lack of water inflow.
Many parts of the world, including the USA, has population in an area that won't support gardening/farming due to lack of rainfall.
The current lack of physical labor is just the tip of the iceberg. That, in itself, is the bright side of the picture.
A simple world-wide famine will produce enough available land for use for the enterprising individual to garden/farm. Surviving its initial impact is the biggest problem. Dave
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Well provided-for political types vs. the hungry mobs that don't want to go into that sweet night. Then it's unstable governments and button, button. Who's got the nuclear button?
--
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Billy

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wrote:

Bingo! Someone else gets it. This has been one of my points for a long time. Mitigation of the initial shock and hardship and developing the skills necessary to produce food under less than ideal conditions.
You understand the issue well, it seems.
Care Charlie
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<Charlie> wrote in message

The question is will our politcal masters get it in time. At present too many want to talk climate change and peak oil out of existence. The longer they leave it before taking action to change our way of life and resource economies the more drastic and unpopular the remedies will be and the greater the risk the populace will reject them. How do you plan for a 40 year problem with a 4 year term of office?
Western societies require that a very complex web of inputs and intertwined systems must be managed to retain stability. Work and production is so specialised and integrated that even partial failure of just a few systems will put many out of work, prevent transport or power systems from working, etc
As we have seen several times in the last few years large cities are quite fragile, they rely on millions being willing and able to turn up to work and do their thing day after day and upon major inputs flowing to them in a steady stream. As soon as there are food, power or water riots, law and order will go down the toilet preventing even more systems from working. In our doomsday scenario there will be no outside rescuers to provide resources to regain stability. Then the cities fall into catastrophic negative feedback, and in the short term, irrepairable failure.
I don't think it will necessarily get that far in this country (Australia) because the tide of opinion is starting to turn. I think that given good leadership the majority would accept major change and a drop in standard of living. Also despite our generally impoverished soils (a long term problem) we have vast coal reserves that can provide energy until the development of renewables and reduced consumption can be acheived . On the other hand major dislocation to the world economy would mean that nobody would be spared entirely.
There is an ancient curse "may you live in interesting times". I had hoped not to inflict it on my children.
David
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On Tue, 25 Sep 2007 13:30:41 +1000, "David Hare-Scott"
< snip of good analysis and understanding of the issue>

Ain't that the truth. And I add, my grandchildren.
Good luck Charlie
"We must become the change we want to see." ~Ghandi
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On Tue, 25 Sep 2007 09:29:36 -0500, Charlie wrote:

Um, I'd like to add me.
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How many children do you have?
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Why do I feel this could be a loaded question.
My wife has two. AFAIK I have the same.
David
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If you'd said 4 or 6 or 9.2, it would've turned into a different kind of discussion. I was just curious.
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well, i have one biological child, but we hope to eventually adopt several more. i'm interested in taking on family groups of kids, which, it seems, many adoptive parents are not. i think breaking up kids from their siblings is pretty unkind. so if i ever say i have 6 or 9.2 kids, do i have to also explain that i acquired them by other than biology? lee
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Well, it does matter. I'm not a fanatical believer in the zero population growth idea, but there is a difference between building 5 kids of your own, vs building 2 and adopting 3. By adopting, you haven't added any to the population. And, with regard to food & water supply issues, population growth is certainly a factor.
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<Charlie> wrote in message

I really don't understand why people keep falling for these gloom and doom articles.
There are enough renewable energy resources available, at least in the US, to power the electrical needs of the population. They just need developing. Perhaps a review of the following is in order:
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/trends/rentrends.html
And of course this is also sidestepping the fact that we have plenty of coal to burn to produce electricity, and it will last far longer than oil supplies.
As for the loss of fertilizer, that will only impact wheat growing by reducing yields. Since the US is already a net exporter of wheat, clearly we can sustain a yield loss. And as we have millions of unplanted acres in the south west that have very high amounts of sunlight all that is needed is irrigation - and that will be electrically powered, if necessary drawing in desalted ocean water.
The big question on electrical power has been that of vehicle travel. But, the latest high capacity lithium ion battery capacity is stunning. There's a video of a guy that did a burnout on an electrical battery powered motorcycle that can go 175Mph floating around the net. With the automakers getting into hybrids in another 20 years your going to see plug-in hybrids become the norm. And as oil prices get more expensive people with hybrids will start plugging them into the power grid more, and running them off liquid fuel less. Your going to eventually see liquid fuel mainly used for heavy duty long haul trucking and a lot of that will transition to biodiesel.
Food costs do not consume as large a percentage of the average US families budget as do vehicle costs like car loans, gas and insurance. As fuel costs rise, cost of vehicles will rise and gradually the lower-income families will start giving them up more and transitioning to mass transit, and as fuel costs continue to rise, more and more people will end up on mass transit on a regular basis. People will move to be close to their jobs. Costs of items that require long distance shipping will rise, until eventually you will see manufacturing that is offshore now, come back home, as transport costs of goods eclipse labor costs.
As the oil supply drops and the price of oil increases, everything based on oil will disappear. Goods packaging will revert from plastic back to glass, paper and metal. Plastic goods like "resin" chairs and suchlike will start to be replaced by metal and wood and cloth. There will be an entire market of low-low-low priced throwaway products, like half the junk Wally World carries, that will disappear. This may of course be considered by some to be a lifestyle hardship.
Remember that oil only started to become widely used a bit over a century ago. If you look at the goods and products that were everyday then you will get a preview of what is going to be coming once oil runs out. And there will be plenty of synthetic materials available as well, they just will not be cheap as they are now, so likely will not be considered as product mediums like they are today.
Truth is that population growth in the US has already been adequately checked by rising expenses of raising children. If there was no immigration the population growth would be much closer to reaching flat, steady state.
The United States will be OK. Where the real nasty stuff will be happening is in many of the other countries. This is why you see such interest in the immigration issue. The population of the US wants it's southern border sealed and for good reason - as things get more expensive here, we do not want the increasing prices that increasing population growth brings. We are just lucky that China isn't on one of our borders.
Ted
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Not just wheat, corn will also be affected - and it's a bigger crop than wheat these days.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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On Tue, 25 Sep 2007 01:02:43 -0700, "Ted Mittelstaedt"

Perhaps because they realize truth? Doom and gloom. I find that being used like the term "conspiracy theory".

Uhhh.......yeah. Notice the doe.gov reference. Pretty much says it all. Perhaps you should further research renewable energy and total energy requirements for the world. The u$ gummit isn't going to give you the true answers to this.

Yeah, that will work out well for carbon emissions.

Do you think that the rest of the food grown is grown organically and without petrofertilizer?

Hmmm......not.
Uhhh........hwere you going to grwo the food and the excess to import when cropland is converted to fuel? Lots of info available on how this whole biofuel thing is a "good thing" mainly for the likes of Cargill and ADM. Did you know that people are already hungry because of this misbegotten idea that only benefits the few?

What mass transit? Standard Oil and General Motors saw to the dismanteling of that system and it is gone.

Checked out the housing market lately? People aren't going to be moving closer to their jobs at the local strip mall, hospital, or slop joint.

Takes energy to produce these things and energy to transport . There wouldnt be all the throw away shit at wally world if people weren't so stupid as to buy it and encourage the manufacture of such.

Yeah, oil allowed us to get into this mess and in pretty damned short order. Unfortunately we squandered the window of opportunity for development of viable alternatives to oil. That and greed and ignorance, on all levels.

No Ted the United States will not be OK. The united States is not OK now. The world is not OK now. The world will not be OK in the near future.
I don't even know where to start with you and don't have the time. You are responsible for yourself and responsible for doing much of your own research. Being a pollyanna ain't the answer, friend.
Good luck, I hope you soon realize that your type of thinking and belief, as pertains to "doom and gloom",is a huge part of the problem we are facing. You seem to have a lot to learn and unlearn.
--
Care
Charlie
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Our good friend, China, owns some $407.8 billion in US Treasury assets and such. Only Japan owns more. We (the oligarchs) have been borrowing money like crazy ever since Regan. We (you and me) owe $161,287 per man, woman and child - - or $645,148 per family of 4, $45,514 more debt per family than last year. Who do you think got the money? Who do you think will have to pay it back? If you thought oligarchs, try again. (Hint: the oligarchs get the money, we get the debt.) In third world countries, that usually calls for stringent budget controls. Cutting of health and safety standards, reduced salaries, and an enhanced police state. Just ask South America.
While paying 15% on earnings from investments, investment firms like The Carlyle Group (H.W. Bush, et al.) are using their oil, and defense profits, in part, to buy old folks homes and squeeze the last drop of blood out of their occupants. http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/1842
So while we are paying back money we never saw King George will have earned his money the ol' fashion way. He'll have inherited it. And that won't be hay.
Beat on them pots and pans. Raise a ruckus. Wake up!
--
FB - FFF

Billy

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