As you know, I’ve been following the cotton crop for the past three years in the It All Starts Here series. This year, my plans were thwarted when the acreage was bought by another concern who decided to plant corn rather than cotton. Wahhh! Foiled, I thought the agricultural series was doomed but then I realized that the trend of rising prices for corn causing cotton acreage to shrink was important considering rising costs of energy.
First an update to the local field. It was being irrigated when I went by but Piporro and Juan were nowhere to be found. It was about 5:30PM so I imagine they were fetching dinner. I was pleased to see the new owner had invested in infrastructure updates. Up and down the length of the irrigation side of the plot, new water gates have been installed. A considerable expense, these were very nicely done.
Along with new gates, new berms to create water holding areas along the entire length of the field between the ditch and the field were built.
Have you ever built a berm? This is a tremendous amount of back breaking work requiring knee high boots (snakes), gloves (mice) and a shovel. You can’t get a full-sized back hoe in there, not once the field’s been watered (as it had been). I wish I’d known this new owner was so professional, I would have known to have taken a better “before” photo. The one below is from May 2007.
The photo above compared to the one above it is pretty dramatic. This new owner has done a lot. I’ll bet many have never realized a field could be repaired, mended or “remodeled”. As per recent trends, it’s likely that these investments will pay off. Considering the price of corn, I doubt this field will be growing cotton anytime soon.
Speaking of, while corn prices (and oil, not unrelated) has been trending upward for several years, the situation has become quite dramatic over the past several months. Other than prices at the gas pump, the most visible being the floods in Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s leader in corn production with millions of acres normally in cultivation. The problem is, it hasn’t stopped raining. NPR says that the governor has declared 88 of 93 counties as disaster areas. Perhaps you think all will be well once the waters recede. The problem is, some farmers have already planted -and lost- their corn crops twice and aren’t certain they can absorb the costs of a third planting. In just the past two weeks, commodities futures for the price of corn has escalated to $7.00 a bushel. While you’re not likely to see the effects of this anytime soon, you can count on even higher meat and dairy prices six months to a year from now. Maybe it’s a good time to transition to being a vegan? Even the New York Times says:
1. Forget the protein thing. Roughly simultaneously with your declaration that you’re cutting back on meat, someone will ask “How are you going to get enough protein?” The answer is “by being omnivorous.” Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat. (For example, a cheeseburger contains 14.57 grams of protein in 286 calories, or about .05 grams of protein per calorie; a serving of spinach has 2.97 grams of protein in 23 calories, or .12 grams of protein per calorie; lentils have .07 grams per calorie.) By eating a variety, you can get all essential amino acids… Americans eat about twice as much as the 56 grams of daily protein recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (a guideline that some nutritionists think is too high).
Or maybe it’s time to grow your own vegetables?
Speaking of growing your own, the NYT isn’t the first to mention that consumer interest in gardening has skyrocketed. I would have expected that so I was surprised to learn seed companies were taken unaware. Seeds are in short supply.
Seed companies and garden shops say that not since the rampant inflation of the 1970s has there been such an uptick in interest in growing food at home…George C. Ball Jr., owner of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, said sales of vegetable and herb seeds and plants are up by 40 percent over last year, double the annual growth for the last five years. “You don’t see this kind of thing but once in a career,” he said. Mr. Ball offers half a dozen reasons for the phenomenon, some of which have been building for the last few years, like taste, health and food safety, plus concern, especially among young people, about global warming… “Food prices have spiked because of fuel prices and they redounded to the benefit of the garden,” Mr. Ball said. “People are driving less, taking fewer vacations, so there is more time to garden.”
Another interesting trend I heard anecdotally, some consumers think gardening isn’t sufficient as a cost cutting measure. In Portland OR, there was a story on the evening news about the increase in sewing due to financial concerns. What a switch. While many traditionally sewed to save money, it hasn’t been that way for at least fifteen years. Most people today sew for pleasure. I suppose it’s good news that more people are drawn to sewing regardless of the motivation for it.
Similarly, the fashion industry has been hit and hit hard. Fewer people are willing to pay the high prices of designer goods. Also a trend in the making, the uptick in resale and consignment stores has been dramatic.
Both merchants and consumers say that purging the closet and buying castoffs can be cleansing for the soul. “The whole idea of recycling and going green motivates some of our customers,” said Ms. Fluhr of Michael’s. “People are aware that Jimmy Choos fill landfills, too.” …Ms. Yun said she has grown increasingly sensitive to environmental issues. “Selling to resale shops becomes a platform to recycle,” she said. “Besides, I tell myself, ‘It’s obscene to have so much.’ ”
Idly, I’ve been bouncing ideas off friends…would there be appeal for coat sewing patterns come fall? I’m thinking of producing some for consumers. Interest in coat sewing seems to be on the upswing.