Urban Edge. . . beautiful new homes at the edge of a soybean field, North America.
In many ways, what lies ahead, what the future holds for us, is not so much to be found
beyond some distant horizon, but rather directly underfoot, for, in many respects, how we
husband and care for our soil -- much like how we nurture and protect our young --
forms the basis of what is to come. And throughout the Great Plains of North America,
there is much cause for concern. According to the American Farmland Trust, " America
loses over one million acres of our fertile farmland every year to sprawling cities and endless
[...] At this rate, in just 25 years America will lose an area of rich, productive cropland
equal in size to all of New England! [...] Short sighted, destructive farming techniques and
misguided government priorities are causing irreversible damage to many of the farms that
remain. In fact, each year TWO BILLION TONS of fertile, irreplaceable topsoil are lost
forever to erosion..." [...]
The mathematics of development are revealing: The average price for a new family home
in North America is currently about $350,000. The current market price for a bushel (36.37 liters)
of soybeans is about $4.85. That makes a house equal about 72,165 bushels of soybeans.
Now, the parcel of freshly planted land in the foreground of the photograph is about
40 acres (+- 16 hectares) and might produce on a good year between 20 and 40 bushels
per acre. For the sake of our argument, at 30 bushels per acre, it would take about sixty
years to grow that many soybeans. This sounds at first like a pretty fair deal, were it
not for the fact that the farmer needs to make at least $5 a bushel just to break even.
But, of course, if the farmer were to cash in on the current market value of suburban
land going at, say, $5 to $10 thousand dollars an acre, he might then purchase a house.
(Photograph was made Friday, the 7th of June, 2002)
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Photograph by Cliff Crego © 2002 picture-poems.com