National Geographic : 1943 Apr
Farmers Keep Them Eating BY FREDERICK SIMPICH 1 TE SHALL fight in the fields ... we shall never surrender," said Win Sston Churchill. In the fields. That's where American farmers, including women, girls, and school children are fighting now fighting frost, heat, dust, drought, mud, flood, and insect pests, growing our biggest crops in history. Food is as much a munition as TNT. Farm tractors and milk wagons, like tanks and can non, are war machines. Farmers don't get killed and wounded on battlefields, get decorated with medals, or have to sleep in mud and snow. Yet without this "soldier of the soil" all armies would soon have to quit, for it is still true that an army travels on its stomach. Besides the piles of food sent to our own armed forces, whole fleetloads go overseas, through Lend-Lease agents, for our Allies. In one month we shipped more than 400 million pounds! Each month, more and more. Last year our farmers grew thirty billion pounds of potatoes, equal to one giant potato suggestive of Gibraltar! Corn enough to stretch one big ear far across Europe! Farmers' hens, in 1942, laid fifty billion eggs, equal to one fried egg vast enough to blanket hundreds of square miles! Meat? Enough to pave a wide highway one inch thick from New York to San Fran cisco; and vegetables enough to have covered the Great Wall of China throughout its whole 1,500 miles! American Food Sustains Britain's War Effort I asked Mr. R. H. Brand, of the British Food Mission in Washington, what the Amer ican food that goes to Britain means to our war effort. "It is enough to keep Britain in the war," said Mr. Brand. "It furnishes more than one-fourth of Britain's total supply of the rich protein foods we so badly need." "Why is the share we send to Britain so vital?" "Well, if you lift a 6-foot drowning man only a couple of inches, that small fraction may be enough to keep his nose above water and save his life. "When Denmark, the Netherlands, and Bel gium were occupied, we lost overnight about three-fourths of the bacon and eggs and dried and condensed milk that we normally im ported. That brought us down to pretty short commons after the Battle of Britain, when we stood alone against the Axis. "When your first Lend-Lease ship arrived in May, 1941, it brought four million eggs, sixty tons of cheese, and one thousand tons of flour. But that first ship also brought something else. It brought a million tons of hope. It let us breathe again." "What kinds of food does Britain need most from us now?" "The same as you have been sending," said Mr. Brand. "Meat, dried eggs, dried and evaporated milk, cheese, bacon, lard, vitamins, dried fruits. These foods take the minimum of shipping space, and yet they balance our critically marginal diet and make it adequate." Farmers would enjoy sitting about the big Lend-Lease table in Washington, D. C., when the food buyers from Moscow and London are in action (page 439). "We'll take $5,000,000 worth of lard," the Russians may say, "and five shiploads of wheat for Vladivostok." "For us," announce the casual, well-groomed British, "one hundred carloads of dried milk. two million pounds of cheese, and all the canned tomatoes we can get." Like a clerk in a big grocery store, week after week, Uncle Sam takes these dizzying Lend-Lease orders. What Is a Shipload of Food? Here's what the average U. S. freighter carries: 6,000 barrels of dried eggs, equal to a year's work for 229,137 hens. 6,000 barrels of dried milk, a year's work for 2,783 cows. 16,522 cases of evaporated milk, a year's work for 304 cows. 20,000 boxes of cheese, a year's work for 3,037 cows. 14,500 big cans of pork, the meat from 5,021 hogs. 16,800 boxes of lard, the fat of 27,632 hogs. 6,061 sacks of flour, the wheat from 838 acres. 26,111 cases of canned vegetables, equal to 40 acres of tomatoes, 100 acres of snap beans, and 102 acres of peas. To load this ship took the products from 3,824 average farms. Today, American farm ers feed people around the world. Under Lend-Lease all this food is bought by Uncle Sam and sold on credit to our Allies.