THE LAND THAT FEEDS US by John Fraser Hart


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 Hart (Geography/Univ. of Minnesota) does much more here than catalogue the risks taken by the American farmer. His analysis points the way to radical land reform and use that should, he contends, reduce both the gamble and the waste. Hart looks at the primary farming regions in the US (excluding the West), and describes the local farming history, crops, farming methods, and architecture; the governmental control that regulates crop selection; and farmers' likely profits. He revisited the same areas and, in some cases, the same farmers in the 1950's, 60's, and 80's. C.H. Tarwater, in the Great Smoky Mountain foothills of Tennessee, noted that in 1953, ``we sold eggs for 65 cents a dozen, and last year [1983] they were 64 cents.'' At the same time, his labor cost rose from $1,200 to $85,000. While Tarwater wants to continue farming, he has seen tourism drive the price of land up to $10,000 per acre--an irresistible price. Despite rising land prices, however, Hart notes that family farms have actually become bigger since WW II, and that they actually produce more. Indeed, says Hart, American farmers have become too good, too efficient: ``They are producing prodigious surpluses...but the world no longer needs the food and such abundance.'' (He does not address the problem of world hunger or the distribution of the food supply.) Hart advocates a radical land-retirement program that takes farmland out of production to be saved for a day when it is truly needed. In order to save the ``family farm''--an agribusiness that must now gross anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million annually and competes on the international market--the necessity of subsidies not to grow crops and for long-term planning must be accepted and efficiently administrated, he says. A must for agriculturalists, geographers, and community and governmental planners. (Fifty-eight drawings and maps.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02954-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991