I know the title of this column isn’t original. It comes from an article that originally appeared in the New England Homestead and was condensed and republished in Standard Oil’s Digest of Farm News. The vintage magazine I was looking at recently was published around 1960.
Mr. John L. Russell Jr. looks to the future and speculates, as we all have at one time or another, what farming will look like in fifty years. It’s interesting to look at his past predictions to see if they were fulfilled.
He begins by assuring us that there will be plenty of food in the year 2,000 A.D, as he wrote it. There must have been some thought that our vitamins and energy for living would come from electrical current, nuclear power or from a tiny capsule, but Russell Jr. assures us that we will still sit down to eat a good old turkey or steak. (Whew, I am glad that prediction hasn’t come true. Eating is mighty enjoyable!)
He predicted the population was going to increase, and that by the year 2000, “the face of the earth will be will be swamped with 6,250,000,000 humans.”
Well, the United Nations says the population is at 6.1 billion. If my translation is correct, that looks like 6,100,000,000. Mr. Russell’s estimate was quite accurate.
There is a paragraph that says the old red barn, silo and farmhouses will have a sleek, modern, ‘air-conditioned look’. I have to admit, the tall silos now look pretty abandoned, barns are becoming a rarity, and how many farmhouses are without air conditioning these days?
Our food production looks like it’s fast forwarding through a movie reel, as he indicated that growth regulators would let us produce three-pound broilers in eight weeks, and two thousand pounds of beef in the time it took to raise five hundred pound beef. Plus, frozen sperm that had been irradiated in nuclear reactors would mutate offspring into bigger, stronger and better livestock, for better prices.
Again, his predictions were pretty accurate.
This man was pretty amazing – he said computers and other devices would permit farmers to do all their farming while they sat in an armchair, while smoking a pipe and monitoring a television console.
Well, the pipe has become taboo, but the technology is already in place for the rest this to happen.
We weren’t going to have to worry about destructive weather, as climate would be controlled via satellites. Spraying and dusting at the time of planting would eliminate insects and diseases. Here’s where he doesn’t have it right – the weather still isn’t ours to control, and it seems as though insects and diseases have increased. But climate control is still a hot topic.
Nuclear energy must have been the buzzword of the day, as he refers to it often. Rather than having the large cities continue to grow, America was going to be a land of self-contained and self-sufficient smaller communities, the energy coming from small nuclear power plants. It’s true that in the 1960’s, factories began relocating from the cities to rural areas. Farm wives and youth made up the majority of employees.
He predicted produce from farms would be used locally, and if we wanted to go to the city, we would simply hop on ‘the monorail’, and then board a ‘Carveyor’ system. Tiny cars would take us to the heart of the city, where moving sidewalks would carry us to wherever we wanted to go. It’s a good thing the moving sidewalks didn’t happen. Most people don’t get enough exercise already.
His prediction about home luxuries was pretty accurate, listing standard equipment, but I don’t know what a germicidal lamp is. My dishes are not cleaned in a super-sound wave chamber that makes them ‘spic and span’ without any soap or water. I guess we all love our shower and bath time too much to exchange it for fine sprays that evaporate into the air.
He did predict that robots would be doing more of the work. Well, I do think that robots could be keeping our fields clean, applying nitrogen just at the right time, just as they are milking our cows and picking some of our fruits or vegetables.
Mr. John L. Russell Jr. did a great job with his predictions fifty years ago. It would be interesting to hear his predictions for the next upcoming fifty.
What are yours?