The Essential Harvest

Somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, a farmer is digging out a cassava plant to use the roots for food and cutting up the stems for planting the next crop. In the Northern Hemisphere, a farmer is performing a similar task with potatoes. From scraping dirt off vegetables to driving massive machines across expansive fields, the harvest is crucial, and with the world’s growing population, food production remains the most important human task.
In this traditional time of harvest, many are still hungry, and the words that acclaimed scientist Dr. Akin Adesina says about his home continent ring true for us all: “It is a mission to ensure all Africans have access to better food and nutrition… We must accelerate a green revolution in Africa.” Dr. Adesina will be in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 13 to receive the prestigious Borlaug CAST Communication Award. But more importantly, he will continue his role as a leader and proponent for agriculture around the world. He knows we need common sense practices that feed people no matter where they are harvesting, whether that might be in his home country of Nigeria or in the fields of central Iowa.
In America’s Midwest, the harvest is occurring now in the cool of shortened days. Farmers in huge machines leave trails of dust across fields of corn and soybeans, and loaded wagons form silhouettes against glowing sunsets. When modern farmers finish the day and leave the relative comfort of the tractor cabs, they smell warm diesel exhaust and hear the drone of grain-bin dryers.
The meaning of “harvest” varies according to place and time.  With modern seed corn and science-fiction like machines, a farmer outside Des Moines can combine hundreds of bushels in a day. But as one old timer recently pointed out, “We’ve hauled nearly as much corn in the past few days as my Uncle Fred harvested during the entire fall of 1939. He hired out to pick corn by hand for a neighbor.  By Thanksgiving, he’d picked 4,400 bushels, and by my reckoning, that’s 260,000 ears, and he did it one ear at a time.  He got paid $175, enough to pay off his car loan.”
Whether farmers are eating their produce or using it to pay off loans, they need to use techniques that make sense for them, the consumers, and the environment. Whether they are bending over in a rice field or handling a $200,000 combine, they ultimately are doing the traditional and essential work of harvesting the crop. As Dr. Adesina says, “Agriculture is the key to poverty reduction and broad-based economic growth.”     by Dan Gogerty

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