Have you ever gone to the supermarket, looked around and wondered where all those full shelves of food came from? Or how we have all that abundance in this country?
Probably not. Most of us take for granted that our stores will be full of food. All kinds, shapes and sizes that we demand. We have never experienced what it would be like to not have enough to buy or to be hungry.
Let me share an example of why we have the abundance we enjoy in our country. About a month ago, I wrote about a prominent plant scientist named Norman Borlaug, who developed drought and disease resistant varieties of wheat and rice. He is given credit for saving billions of human lives by increasing yields of these crops all over the world.
Somehow my article was picked up by another plant scientist named Noel Vietmeyer, who lives in Lorton, Va. Dr. Vietmeyer had worked for many years with Dr. Borlaug, both doing similar work but with different crops in different parts of the world. He had made many notes of conversations with Norm Borlaug over the years.
Since Norm knew about these notes Noel had taken, he asked him to put them together in his biography. This has resulted in two volumes with a third one in progress.
Working through our local Farm Bureau Office, Noel contacted me and wanted to send me copies of Norm Borlaug's biographies. When he learned, through our e-mails, that I would be in Maryland over the holidays, he suggested we meet and visit.
So we made arrangements and got together at the National Academy of Sciences Office and Warehouse in southwestern Maryland near Washington, D.C. It was an intensely interesting visit. My Maryland family and Betty were with me and shared the experience of talking with Noel.
During the brief time we had, he talked about a few of his vivid memories of Norm Borlaug. We could have listened to him all day. Then he shared some of his own work with us. He has worked on food plants for underdeveloped countries in many parts of the world. Some of these plants were domesticated and others wild but with a food potential. He has authored several books about his works. Four of them he gave to me.
Noel wanted to give me a supply of volume I of his biography of Borlaug. So, we went into the Academy of Sciences warehouse where thousands of books are stored and distributed. He gave me a box of these books to bring home to distribute in this area.
In reading this biography, it is clear the important role agricultural technology and science plays in filling our stores with the abundant food supply we enjoy. Genes that Norm Borlaug developed in his wheat and rice varieties are found in many of our foods today. These would include bread, pastries, pastas, cereals and more.
Without agricultural science and technology, combined with the adaptability and hard work of our American farmers, we could be living in a subsistence country like large parts of the world today. And down the road, we will need even more technology and innovative farmers if we are to going to feed this country and other parts of the world.
We will continue to need more Norman Borlaugs and Noel Vietmeyers. More funding for agricultural technology and the educational programs such as Ohio State University Extension are also essential if we expect to get the job done.
Parker is retired from Ohio State University and is an independent agricultural writer.