Thursday, July 19, 2012
Ignorance Is Bliss
This picture appeared on my Facebook news feed, and frankly, it pissed me off. The page Knowledge Is Power posted it. I'm sure it was put up just to spark discussion, but what the statement implies belies actual hands on knowledge of how that "acre" is used and works.
Yes, when one compares total acreage in the US, one can see that producing vegetables is a pound for pound winner.
That acre of ground cranking out the tomatoes? Labor freaking intensive and the crop requires a certain temperate zone with lots of water.
That acre of ground cranking out the beef? Chances are it is in grass because that is the only thing that will grow there plus it's being used to hold the soil in place. It's too rough to use for farm ground. It does not have enough available water to grow vegetables. The labor supply is too short to tend to them. The winter temperatures are far too low and the growing season too short.
The undiluted fact is that we aren't completely stupid out here. Potatoes have been tried, along with other crops. What grows out here on tillable ground is wheat and grain sorghums, and corn/soybeans if has enough ground water for irrigation, along with hay and alfalfa. The Ogallalla aquifer is being depleted growing just these things right now - how fast would it drop if some granola munching hippies forced us to grow potatoes and tomatoes? How about the grasshoppers? Can we use pesticides in this brave new farming world? If you want veggies, you'll be spraying.
In order to actually grow that stuff out here, you would have to repurpose the farmground. Working up a bunch of draws and bluffs ain't gonna work, so that grass would have to remain, unless you want all of the ground to end up in New Orleans. Then you are gonna probably have to haul in a bunch of sand to mix in the soil - the clay composition naturally here does not support vegetables. Once again - water. Once again - the huge amount of labor required to tend to the plants and harvest them.
I see a fair amount of veggies grown in Eastern Colorado along the Front Range - stuff like onions and cabbage. Cabbage is harvested by running a wide platform with a row of seats so the workers have a place to sit and pick the cabbage as the platform runs through the field. Onions are harvested mechanically.
But none of those grow here.
It seems people have it in their heads that cattle are raised on grass paddocks like you'd see around Churchill Downs where the racehorses can frolic. Nope. It's the roughest, toughest, driest and most inhospitable ground we've got.
The whole idea of self sustainability depends on the ability to actually grow everything everyone needs within a short radius. Not gonna happen here or about anywhere else. We can raise beef more efficiently and cheaply out here, ship it to you, and still beat the price of locally grown labor intensive stuff. Other areas can raise tomatoes far more efficiently than we can, so if we want tomatoes, they're gonna have to be shipped here.
Self sustainability is a bong influenced pipe dream.