Some Quick Thoughts on Feeding Ourselves

Occasionally I find an article in a major publication about a new way of growing food, perhaps announcing a new technology, or an indoor facility for producing vegetables closer to their markets to save transportation costs and energy. These ideas always sound promising and I wish them well. But let me cite some statistics to try to inject a bit of perspective on this subject.

First, at mid-year the population of the United States was estimated to be 339,996,563. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. (And for the moment, just ignore the idea that we’re only about 4.23% of the world’s population.)

To feed that many requires a lot of land. According to the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, total crop acreage in 2020 was estimated to be approximately 341 million acres ( To make that land productive would require a lot of manpower, except thanks to mechanization, farm families represent only two percent of our population. In other words, our food is plentiful and a reasonable prices because we have the most efficient agriculture in the world.

This is what alternative farming methods are up against. It would be nice to have all food grown locally to save energy. Another benefit would probably be greater varieties because mechanization requires uniformity on a sweeping scale. But when you read about these alternatives, consider if they can match the current system in both quantity and cost.

But as I said earlier, I wish them well.

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