Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Importance Of Agriculture

I don't think "city folks" quite understand the importance of agriculture. I know for sure I didn't, until I moved out here to this college town in the middle of a rural area, and started giving it a bit of study. I started feeling bad that when my kids would interrogate me about where foods came from, I didn't know all the answers. These were not questions like "When is the best point in the life cycle of the corn worm to spray insecticides?", these were questions like "When will the peaches be ready on the trees?" I was dumbfounded to discover that I hadn't a clue as to when most fruits and vegetables were in season. I had lived all my life in a culture where fruit goes on sale, not comes into season.

As I live and learn, I am discovering just how important agriculture is to everyone, not just the farmers. It goes without saying that agriculture grows the food we eat, and without agriculture we would all die of starvation. But more than that, I'm learning about the role of agriculture in the environment.

Now I consider myself to be a bit on the "green" side, even in an environmental state like Utah. (Yes, Utah is a very environmentally-oriented state, despite being a heavily Republican state. The two are not mutually exclusive.) I use cloth diapers and try really hard not to use pesticides and chemical fertilizers on my flowers and vegetables unless it's absolutely necessary. I recycle and I dry clothes outside in the summer. I own Energy Star appliances. But I'm not one of those environmentalists who holds the simultaneous and contradictory beliefs that people are animals too, but that every animal but us is permitted to impact the environment. And I don't romanticize "native" ways, although I do believe that the people indigenous to an area have more than likely learned a few things about the area while living there and ought to have their knowledge respected.

So it was with interest that I read this article about a man whose contributions to end world hunger through high-yield agriculture have gone unnoticed (and have even been spurned!) by environmentalists. (Thanks Instapundit for the link.) It surprised me how hard it's been for this guy to get funding to bring his miraculous agricultural techniques to the farmers of Africa. It didn't surprise me much, though, to learn that the people standing in his way were "environmentalists" romanticizing the "native" methods of agriculture. I've known way too many "environmentalists" who were more interested in having people see them recycle their soda can than in actually doing stuff that might really preserve the environment.