Cheap energy = cheap food = loss of appreciation for food

by Dale Johnson, Farm Management Specialist, University of Maryland Extension

For the past century we have had cheap energy in the form of gasoline and diesel oil. Let me illustrate.

Suppose you need the energy to move 1,000 pounds of wheat 10 miles to market. Here are three ways to do it. All calculations are roughly adjusted to current dollars.

  1. Hire a porter at $200 per day for 20 days to carry it on their back at 50 lbs per 20 mile round trip. Cost = $4,000. Backbreaking labor was used for several millennia to produce food.
  2.  Hire a driver, wagon, and team of horses for one day to make the 20 mile round trip. Cost = $400. Draft animals took some of the backbreaking labor out of producing food.
  3. Hire a driver and truck at $2/mile which includes driver, deprecation, repairs, fuel and oil. Cost = $40.

This is only 1% of the cost of the most prevalent method used in the history of mankind.  Petroleum fueled machinery has been used for a less than a century to produce food.

By historical standards, $4/gallon of gas is basically equivalent to free energy. Think about that the next time you fill your car and stop to grab a burger & fries for your kids as you take them to soccer practice.

During most of the history of mankind, people spent 70%-90% of their time to get food. The rest of the time was spent getting clothing and shelter. Children were an asset to work more land to produce more food. The only soccer the kids got was kicking a squash around when their parents weren’t overseeing their weeding and watering.

Because of cheap energy, we have cheap food and we are losing our gratitude for it. It costs us much less than 10% of the time and energy we expend for work and other activities. Here at Grow It Eat It, we encourage spending more time and energy to generate food. People who grow some of their own food have an appreciation for it that is being lost in our society. One of our goals is to restore that appreciation for food in more people.

We encourage you join our efforts and be an advocate for Grow It Eat It.

One Comment on “Cheap energy = cheap food = loss of appreciation for food

  1. This is the stupidest post I've seen on this site. Sure, nutritionally insecure people appreciate food more. But that doesn't mean that such a lifestyle is better medically or morally. Cheap food is GOOD. It is GOOD that children have enough to eat. It is GOOD that child labor is no longer required for survival. It is GOOD that if our local harvest of something fails, we can swing by the supermarket and get something that's almost as good for very little money.

    Go visit a third world country for a while, and you'll get off your delusional high horse.

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