Article #4: Texas Could Feed Nearly Half the World by T.C. Fry
Recently we published the statement that Texas could feed the United States with its vast agricultural capacity and that the United States could feed the whole world. This presumed, of course, that the world would be eating its natural biological diet.
That statement drew some exceptions from people who told us we were out of our minds and were publishing outright lies, exaggerations, and distortions.
Today I received the first issue of a new magazine, Science 80. And what did I find? More than two pages devoted to a new gardening/farming technology that promises better than the statement we previously published.
In Palo Alto, California, Mr. John Jeavons has been experimenting with organic intensive farming. He has found that only 2,800 square feet of land will produce in one four-month growing season enough food to sustain the average person for a full year. But if the growing season is twice that as it is in Texas, half that amount of space will do. (The Texas growing season varies from six months in the panhandle to all year in the Rio Grande Valley. Most of Texas has eight to nine months.)
Our world's population is about four billion. At 1,400 square feet of land per person, 30 persons could be fed per acre. Texas' 60 million arable acres, then, if devoted to organic intensive food growing through tree and plant cultivation could feed nearly half the world! No wonder one billion Chinese are so well fed!
This article is not written to praise the merits of Texas but to point out that the world could be well-fed with its present resources and to highlight a new method of agriculture that is staggering to the imagination.
Mr. Jeavons started building up some unpromisingly barren California soil by employing the biodynamic French intensive method, a method that has long been practiced in France and much of Asia, including China. This method requires few tools and little labor relative to the yield. "The most complicated machine required is a wheelbarrow."
One of the key features of the biodynamic/French intensive method is the elimination of row culture, as rows waste much growing space. Space devoted to actual growing can be doubled, tripled and even quadrupled. Further, by composting with organic materials, remineralizing with ground rocks and restoring the ecobalance by using insects, worms, and microorganisms instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Mr. Jeavons again doubled, tripled and quadrupled the yields. For instance, his plot yields 16 times more zucchini squash than conventional methods! This greatly multiplied yield offsets conventional labor savings. Mr. Jeavons estimates that people who want to grow produce for a livelihood can work 40 hours per week for about eight months of the year and earn about $10,000 to $20,000! And, get this—on an acre or less of ground! But the biggest plus is ecological! Instead of, producing poisoned produce and land, we can grow more wholesome food on rich and highly-productive soil.
Perhaps you read of the Minnesotan who farmed over 1,300 acres of land conventionally and ended up with earnings of almost $50,000 in a good year. He sold all but 50 acres of his land. This 50 acres he turned into an organic farming operation on which he consistently earned more money by organic methods than he had at anytime earned on his tremendous 1,300-acre farm. Further, he worked less for his increased earnings.
If the farmers of this country get off the chemical bandwagon and start working for themselves and their consumer clients instead of for the giant chemical companies that have made them their serfs, the health revolution will begin. (Mishandled soil is the first link in the long chain of practices that lead to disease, including degenerative disease.)
The biodynamic/French intensive method requires so much less water that land not presently arable may become usable. Mr. Jeavons uses one-eighth the water conventional farmers use even though he waters his plants lightly every day. Even though they employ sprays, conventional farmers lose 25 to 30% of their product. Mr. Jeavons loses only about 10% of his produce to pests because he has established ecological balance—pests have natural enemies. Where he does not have natural balance such as with snails and gophers, he employs manual gathering of the slugs and traps for the gophers.
Mr. Jeavons has contrasted the amount of land required for various types of agriculture based on different consumer diets. The biggest contrast is that one meat eater requires about 22,000 square feet of land for his diet intake whereas a fruitarian/vegetarian requires only 1,400 square feet, only one fifteenth as much land.
The average person can, by the methods Mr. Jeavons employs grow his total food needs (a 2,400-calorie diet) on just 28 minutes of labor a day.
To say that this Science 80 article is a revelation is to put it mildly. Its portents are, I repeat, revolutionary for the health and well-being of everyone in the world!
If you'd like to learn more about biodynamic/French intensive organic farming, buy John Jeavons' book, How to Grow More Vegetables. You can also find helpful guidance if you subscribe to Organic Gardening, a wonderful monthly magazine published by Rodale Press.
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