Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bounty of Agriculture

Red Empire Apples - Cornell Orchards
    Last night I dreamed about agriculture and the bounty of food production in the U.S.   I suppose that is not unusual since I have deep roots in agriculture through my childhood and later career as an agricultural engineer.    I think U.S. agriculture is truly amazing.   The bounty of food we have on our tables year around is stunning.   And while I applaud U.S. agriculture, I have to acknowledge we are also beneficiaries of the bounty of agriculture many other nations.   As we approach Thanksgiving we should pause to give thanks for our good fortune of the riches of food and fiber produced by agriculturalists world wide.

     In my reflections about agriculture as a follow on to my dream I tried identify all the various crops that I have personally harvested in my lifetime.   During my growing up on the farm these are the crops that I harvested.
Grains -  Wheat, Oats, Buckwheat - Wheat and oats were even harvested with a McCormick binder.

Vegetables - Carrots, Lettuce, Red Beets, Onions, Spinach, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Snap Beans,  Red Kidney Beans, Peas, Cabbage, Pumpkins - During World War II there was a huge demand for vegetables and our farm produced as much as we could with the labor we had available.  Harvesting required significant backbreaking labor.

Fruits - Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tart Cherries, Sweet Cherries, Elderberries, Currants, Grapes - As a general farm we grew a variety of fruits for many different markets.  All these products were harvested by hand labor.

     During my years as a teacher and researcher at Cornell I had the opportunity to mechanize the harvest of many fruits and vegetables.   I participated with a team of engineers and viticulturists in the creation of one of the first grape harvesters.   Other fruit and vegetable harvesting machines that I helped create were, apple harvesters, cabbage harvesters, blueberry harvesters, and lettuce harvesters.   Our cabbage harvester design continues to be the sole design manufactured in the world today.    Some of our work served to reduce the back breaking or stoop labor for the harvest of some crops.

     As we have become a non-agrarian society, most folks have lost all sense of what it takes to produce and provide food for our table.   I think it would be good therapy for everyone to spend a week or two on a working farm carrying out the tasks that are necessary to produce our food.   Meanwhile, be thankful.   Happy Thanksgiving all!


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