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The Zombie Farm

Touch the Soil News #681

The definition of a zombie is a corpse that has been re-animated. The term was first used in 1819. However, the re-animation is not in the form of a normal person. So what might you ask does this have to do with food and agriculture?

Imagine for a moment the wonderful foods we consume that the nation’s farmland and farms in other nations produce. The USDA estimates that up to 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste. So what happens when food goes to waste? Food waste is re-animated to produce methane – the third largest source of methane in the United States. Furthermore, the food waste is re-animated to create downstream losses of 21 percent of all freshwater, 19 percent of all fertilizers and represents 21 percent of waste going into landfills.

There are a number of estimates of how much cropland it takes to allow the nation the abundance to throw away 40 percent of its food. A number that has been around for decades is the amount of land it takes to feed 1 person at American standards of eating. That number is 1 acre. Today, the U.S. population is roughly 325 million. Forty percent of that is 130 million. At a one acre per person need, that translates into a zombie farm of 130 million acres.

This zombie farm is equivalent to a farm that is 1 mile wide and reaches almost to the Moon. We use this perspective because it is a total loss to humanity and the resources necessary to stay alive. It is estimated that over 80 percent of the food waste takes place at the grocery store and consumer level.

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