Sunday, May 30, 2010

Before Chemical Fertilizers

Several years ago I came across this picture in a "coffee table" book (from my parents' house) on the history of America. The picture covered a full spread in the book—two full pages. I was able to get the whole thing on my scanner to make a copy.

The picture had no accompanying text other than something like a "Farm Family." But here's what amazed me about the picture: Chemical fertilizers weren't introduced into American agriculture on a widespread basis until after World War II. Based on the dress and appearance of this family, I'm guessing this picture was taken before that era. Also, American topsoil was still relatively prevalent then, not having been destroyed by commercial farming and poor management practices in the post-War agriculture boom. That means this farmer probably plowed with a horse(s), used manure as fertilizer, and practiced traditional (= organic) farming techniques. I could be wrong—these are just assumptions based on the picture.

And look at the bounty! These vegetables are HUGE—especially the root crops (carrots, turnips, etc.). A huge head of cabbage on the left front corner of the table, huge eggplants (?) on the right front corner. I would imagine these vegetables are multiple times higher in nutrients than today's vegetables because of the soil they were grown in.

I may be romanticizing, but I question the amount of progress we've made in farming if a hardscrabble couple like this could produce these kinds of results. (Forgive me if this is a duplicate post. I searched my blog but couldn't find that I'd posted it previously.)

Giant Veggies

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