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Should Agriculture Remain The Same?

December 5, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week I made note of an interesting book called Bullets and Bread, looking at food in the time of World War II. The war effort including rationing, Victory Gardens, advances in food processing and a host of other changes. Not surprisingly, agriculture adapted also to accommodate the changes and demand.

Rationing items involved more than what many today can imagine.

People may often think of things such as beef and sugar when talking about rations however the first thing rationed in January of 1942 was actually tires. This was due to wartime shortage of rubber. The rationing of tires was aided by the efforts of the government to educate the public on conservation and recycling. A combination of printed pamphlets covering a staggering amount of issues, motivational choices, celebrity appearances, and news reel reports worked very effectively in getting the message out. Rationed Items included tires, cars, bicycles, gasoline, fuel oil and kerosene, solid fuels, stoves, rubber footwear, shoes, sugar, coffee, processed foods, meats, canned fish cheese, canned milks, fat and even typewriters.  When the war ended the need for rationing was slowly lifted. Most items rationed returned to normal purchasing for the consumer by the end of 1945. But the limits on sugar remained until 1947.

Can you imagine today going in to get sugar or coffee and being told no it’s rationed for the soldiers? Can you imagine getting a flat tire on the car an not having another tire available to buy? Can you imagine doing without a host of items you probably deal with every day?

Like many industries, the war changed agriculture forever.

One aspect of the war on the United States Agriculture business was the incredible amount of improvements the overall system saw. As America entered the war the majority of produce farming was very regional in nature and relied on many smaller farms. Over the course of the war advancements in production equipment, transportation, markets, storage, packaging and even seed and crop selection had dramatically increased. The way farmers selected crops, planted, treated, harvested them and shipped to market had improved in a few short years. These wartime advancements in agriculture on a commercial basis were not lost. Agriculture had quickly changed, and continued to change, from smaller operation to larger corporate style farms.

In three years agriculture changed for efficiency, for the market handed to them that they had to find a way to fill. This was for several reasons, but certainly food storage, food transportation and reducing losses while increasing production was a huge factor.

What modern things shall we do away with in other sectors of life? Why is agriculture penalized for success and profit when few other businesses are? After all – Verizon, AT&T, Dell, WalMart and hosts of others aren’t the same as they were then! How could they imagine computers when typewriters were rationed?!

We have nearly two and a half times the population now as then, and there were shortages then of food. As many farms got larger and more efficient, they could afford to mechanize as smaller operations can’t. And consumers welcomed the changes! If we return to those good old days, there will be widespread hunger, and consequences many cannot imagine.

As we approach Christmas, consider how much we want, rather than need. It might surprise you, and hopefully will bring more appreciation that we have so many choices in our lives now that didn’t used to be.

Be thankful for them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2013 6:07 PM

    What we should always be thankful for in life are the farmers for putting food on our table. Thanks for the insight of what life was like in the 40’s and the questions that we shouldn’t take for granted.

  2. TheFarmGirl permalink
    December 9, 2013 6:16 PM

    Excellent reminder of how blessed we are to have such abundance!

    • December 9, 2013 6:22 PM

      Thanks for stopping by – I’m thankful to be spoiled, but it’s easy to lose history of how it really was.

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