On the Farm: Oil dependence impacts everything

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It seems to me that we just started the new year and now tomorrow is the 15th, which is the middle of some months. Reminds one of the farmer getting his sons out of bed early Monday morning and saying, “Come on lads, day after tomorrow is the middle of the week and we haven’t anything done yet.”

Working hard used to ensure success when farms were self-sufficient. Now, you have to work smart and you need luck, too, and the proper markets to be successful at farming. In the name of “progress,” we on the land have climbed on the efficiency treadmill and exposed ourselves to all kinds of forces that our great-grandparents never dreamed of.

I was watching a late-night documentary last Tuesday night that listed how much oil (and products made from oil) are involved in the production of one kilogram of various food products. Pretty scary when you think how unstable oil prices are and that there is a finite supply of the stuff.

It makes a return to self-sufficiency look like a worthwhile goal. I suspect that many young farmers are thinking about overdependence on oil and will be looking seriously at alternatives. I don’t know what the figures are, but watching corn production these days would make me bet that less commercial fertilizer per acre is used today than in the 1970s, when we started corn production in this area. I see more new manure spreaders around than fertilizer powers now.

Products like heat pumps and solar panels are becoming more visible as I drive around (using that oil-based product to power my car).

I’m not saying that we can or should go back to driving around in a horse and buggy. I’m just saying that we should be careful and keep watching for anything that will lower our dependence on oil products. It makes me nervous to see a new price posted each Friday at the gas stations and half owly to see that every station posts the same price. You can explain this to me until the cows come home, but I will still believe that there is very little competition in our major energy supply. 

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