What will it take to feed the world?
Now, we know this is a loaded question, maybe even a little heavy for the start of a blog post. But this is a question that Farmer Joe at Seven Springs Farm must think about as he continues to try and do just that.
It is no doubt that farming has become heavily industrialized. "You may think it's only the industrial farms that are responsible for feeding the global population, but there are still family owned operations like Seven Springs Farms who help with this problem - even as the farm has grown to span across 40,000 acres. Host Gabe McCauley went to visit the farm and talk to Farmer Joe Nichols about the intense need to feed the world. “Every year, we’re getting to a smaller, dwindling bunch...less number of farmers expected to do the same things throughout the same year.” So there’s the problem: the number of farmers is decreasing.
2012 was the last year that a census was conducted by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The number of U.S. farmers declined between 2007 and 2012, with the number of principal farmers - those who run day-to-day operations - decreasing by 4.3 percent. As stated in the table below, this percent drop is significant.
It’s now 2018, and the census has not been conducted yet, but Farmer Joe will tell you that this number is still declining. “And by 2050, we are supposed to feed three times as many as we got here today.” To feed this mass number of people, technology has to be implemented in the agricultural industry. Farmers can no longer rely on yesteryears practices. The good ol’ horse and plow won’t cut it anymore. “You have to be on the leading edge of GMO. You have to,” states Farmer Joe.
So what happens to this giant desire for organic products? The trusty Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us that organic (in terms of farming) is “the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.” Joe will tell you that feeding the world organically isn’t going to happen. Organic farming on a large scale is quite the task, but people are willing to pay for organic products, and farmers need to meet these desires without losing money. However, as the price rises, people want the cheapest option. See the conflict?
“The main thing [Farmer Joe] can stress is the world is only one crop away from starvation. And nobody realizes that.” Those large, industrialized pieces of farming equipment you get stuck behind while driving are just farmers trying to bring food to the public at the cheapest price while still meeting their margins to survive.
Host Gabe asks the true lingering question as our world continues to boom, “Where will our food come from?” As America continues to progress, farmers, like Joe, are genuinely trying to solve this problem. They are fighting to feed the world.