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I know that fall has officially arrived on the farm when the farmer’s pants are covered with stick tights from belt to hem.
After the laundry, shredded cockleburrs surface in the most unexpected places, such as underwear and sheets, in spite of diligent prewash searches. All the resident wildlife is moving to shelter to survive the coming winter; the annual invasion of field mice, crickets, and spiders into the house is well underway.
Like the bugs, I am shutting down the garden and flowerbeds for winter, and closing up the house. Storm windows, flannel sheets, and extra blankets, sweaters and boots come out of closets, ready for the coming chill. The pantryshelves and freezers are packed with the summer harvest.
Here in rural Kentucky, we are fortunate to have more food than we need, a legacy of generations of good farmers who valued the land. The larger world is not so fortunate. With the world population projected to grow from seven billion in 2010 to 10 billion by 2100, policy makers see a need for a 70 percent increase in food production.
Keith Collins, former chief economist for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, sees a looming threat for serious disruptions in food supplies if weather disasters such as droughts, and warming climates continue in major food production areas. Diversion of food crops into biofuel production is another significant contributor to higher prices, hunger, and political instability.
As food producers, we follow agriculture news with interest. Lately we are seeing information exploring a new source of food: Entomophagy, or insect eating. While eating insects has a high gag reaction in this country, much of the developing world is familiar with insects as food. Insects are high in protein, Vitamin B, and essential minerals, low in fat. They are easier to raise than livestock, produce less waste, and tolerate growing conditions with very low environmental impact. Insects have the same amount of protein as cattle, and are four times as efficient at converting feed into meat.
Are you looking shocked? Consider that we are already eating insects, as the present FDA criteria for food contamination allows 30 insect parts per 100 grams of peanut butter; 60 insect fragments in 100 grams of chocolate; and five fruit fly eggs per cup of fruit juice.
Trendy high end restaurants with menus from around the world are already serving insect dishes from other cultures.
With 80 percent of animal species on earth coming from the insect family, insects represent an option for nutrition that may be necessary in the future, with our present meat choices of beef, pork, and poultry saved for rare and expensive meals.
Wendell Berry reminds us that the future of food is not distinguishable from the future of the land, which in turn is indistinguishable from the future of human survival. Unless the world can change the pattern of global warming and environmental destruction, the future meals on our table may look very different from today.
If you are interested, I have a very delicious Crispy Cricket recipe from The Wall Street Journal for all those crickets that are looking for a home for winter.