I sat looking at four little test tubes on a desk in my office. Expecting these brilliant colors representing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash in my garden plot, as well as the pH. No brilliant blues, hot pinks or electric oranges, but a nice sick looking green that told me the pH of my soil was about 6.5, which would be very good for my tomatoes (I think).
Why does a weekend farmer need to test the soil on his 2000 square foot plot? Probably because it makes him feel like a chemist or something. I always failed miserably in the chemistry labs of my college courses, not literally failed, but failed to the point of needing a partner who was more meticulous than I was.
There is something about test tubes sitting on a desk that make me feel kind of important. It is sad I know, but it seems our lives are circular in that I had to have that microscope at around age 12, I would kind of like it back so I could study my dirt. What I am finding out is much less important that simply pretending to do something important.
Ever wonder how enough food is produced to feed all the people in the world? It is pretty amazing. We worry about sports or gas prices or what color dress or shirt to buy, but we sometimes take farmers for granted.
Where would we be without the likes of George Washington Carver, Cyrus McCormick and Norman Borlaug?
Norman Borlaug? Yes, sadly, I didn’t know about him either. Norman’s obituary in 2009 noted “… he taught the world to feed itself.” He is credited with saving hundreds of millions to as many as a billion lives from starvation. Listen to that number again – “as many as a billion lives.” That is pretty doggone impressive.
Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work on the world’s food supply, and is known for his highly successful wheat breeding and wheat research programs that were conducted in Mexico.
He created prestigious awards including the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize the achievements of the individuals who advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Norman stressed the importance of an adequate food supply for every human being, and spent his lifetime working on improving food production to feed an ever-growing world population.
You know when it’s all over, you want to think “you made a difference.” Goodness gracious, giving away a basket of tomatoes, cucumbers or squash always makes me feel so good, but touching a billion lives?
Growing up in the South, I knew about George Washington Carver and his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes. He was a genius, single-handedly improving the lives of thousands of poor Southern farmers by providing information on crops, cultivation techniques, and even recipes. My Daddy’s Daddy was a share-cropper, thus this hits home with me.
Carver also encouraged farmers to submit soil samples for analysis to determine causes of poor yields and I suppose ugly tomatoes. Maybe those four little test tubes help me appreciate Mr. Carver even more.
Cyrus McCormick was known for the mechanical reaper pushing folks farther to the west in the United States. This western expansion was due to the ability the reaper had in replacing real manpower with mechanical manpower. If you are ever on Jeopardy and the clue is “Father of Modern Agriculture,” hit the buzzer quickly and answer, “Who is Cyrus McCormick?”
So, my mind is not necessarily on prize winning watermelons or tomatoes, it’s more on squash pies, fried green tomatoes and canning pickles using cucumbers from my own little garden.
I patiently wait on “Opening Day.” Opening day is the day after the fellow comes to plow our community plots and we mark off everybody’s rectangles with wooden stakes and string.
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