My Lunch in 20 Years

…Will probably be a macro plate. But that is not what this post is about! (If you do want to see another yummy macro plate read yesterday’s post.) Last night I watched part of “The Future of Food“, a documentary on Netflix streaming.

(My lunch in 20 years)

(A McDonald’s lunch that is 20 years old – kidding, but this is probably what it would look like: completely and totally the same. The preservatives will keep it fresh. Maybe it will be a little dry. Source.)

The Future of Food: Some Simple Facts About The Food Industry’s History

Today’s facts are not even so much about the future of food, but of the past (I’ll cover the future in a later post, perhaps). I’ll start with a basic question – where are the farmers?

History of the Farming Labor Force

  • Currently (2010) less than 2% of the U.S. population are farmers.
  • In 1790, 90% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1840, 69% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1900, 38% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1940, 18% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1960, 8.3% of the population were farmers.
  • The numbers decline quickly after that, leading to today’s number (<2%).
  • (Source.)

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the fact that fewer of us make a living working on a farm – it is just an interesting trend to follow. Obviously most of us work in offices nowadays. Onto more facts.

History of Agriculture

  • 12,000 years ago people began to plant and save seeds
  • Agriculture led to a huge boom of civilizations. Not having to spend our days hunting and gathering freed up our time to think, create, and develop complex social systems. Agriculture allowed us to discover wonderful things like calculus and to pursue the arts.

History of Food Variety

  • In China, they used to grow thousands of varieties of rice.
  • There used to be over 5000 varieties of potatoes worldwide. (Today there are 4 main varieties.)
  • There were over 7000 types of apples grown just in the U.S. in the 19th century.
  • About 97% of the varieties of fruits and vegetables that existed at the beginning of the 20th centry are now extinct.

This is another interesting trend. When there are fewer and fewer varieties of a type of plant, that plant becomes more and more susceptible to catastrophes. For example, the potato famine in Ireland killed 1 million people because they only grew a few varieties of potatoes. That same potato blight hit in Peru, but they did not suffer nearly as much because they had more varieties of potatoes and many were resistant to the blight. The blight only affected a few of the crops, and people did not starve.

My Farming History

My family used to be farmers. We still have the farms! But we don’t farm anything anymore. Sometimes I wish that I would have had the choice/opportunity to work on a farm (or even run one). My sister works at an organic farm. I wish I had that job when I was in high school (I worked at a video store instead, and then a restaurant).

Have you seen The Future of Food? What did you think? What do you think about the trends in agriculture currently – fewer and fewer farmers, more and more genetic modifications (more on this later), less variety, and so on…?