Web Exclusives: LetterBox

Letter from an alumnus about Farming and invention

Date Posted: 05/22/05

Having farmed and gardened organically for 25 years, I take exception to Nathan Myhrvold *83's statement (Perspective, April 6) that "American farms are the most efficient in the world, but agriculture as a major part of the workforce has come and gone."

American farms are grossly dependent on fossil fuel to manufacture fertilizers and persticides, and to plant, irrigate, weed and harvest. The industrial food supply system (after food leaves the farm gate) depends on fossil fuels to process, store, package, ship and distribute. Energy in/energy out ratio studies show energy inputs of 100 to 150 calories to produce one calorie of food on the table. Oil output is expected to peak soon and decline steadily thereafter; our oil-dependent food system cours rising costs at best and structural disaster in the long run. The human costs of this industrial food production system are appalling: migrant worker families suffer ill-health from pesticidees and back-breaking labor practices, disrupted education, haphazard medical care, and abysmal wages.

Local, sustainable organic food production offers secure, healthy, interesting, biologically responsible community-based jobs, food self-sufficiency, local sourcing through farmers markets and a way to replace a fossil-fuel intensive food prouction ssytem with a human-powered food system.

Invention is alive and well in the little-known engineering field of appropriate technology (technology that does not harm the environment).

Mother Earth hopes we wake up soon to the human, nutritional, educational, societal and environmental benefits of community-based agriculture.

Lindianne Sarno '76

Tucson, Ariz.

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