Monday, May 14, 2012

Rewind: 'Farming in the 21st Century' (1960)

by John L. Russell, Jr.

What will farms be like 50 years from now? How will the average farmer live? Will there even be farms?

Dr. James Bonner, professor of biology, California Institute of Technology answers yes to the last question.

He says people will still be eating food and plenty of it. They won't be taking their daily supply of energy directly as electrical current nor will they be satisfied with a pink pill.

But of course farming will change radically by the year 2000. The silo, farm house, and the old red barn will be replaced with sleek, modern, streamlined, air-conditioned structures filled with electronic equipment.

Growth regulators will control the rate and type of animal and vegetable produced. Chemistry will make possible producing three-pound broilers in eight weeks instead of 11 and 2,000 pounds of beef will be produced in the same length of time it now takes to make 500.

Frozen sperm irradiated in nuclear reactors will furnish mutation offsprings stronger and better for bigger market prices. Farmyard manure will still be used but will be supplemented with sewage sludge and waste products.

Weeding crops and worrying about diseases or insects will be a thing of the past, and even the weather will be controlled by satellites.

Computer and photo-electric sensing devices and programming on magnetic tapes will allow farmers to plow, sow, cultivate, and reap several fields of crops at the same time. By simply monitoring at the console of a television receiver, robots will do most of the labor.

All timber will be cut electrically to any shape desired by a form of electric charge -- thus cutting out the double processes of sawing and planing. Electricity will be furnished by collector plates that will soak up the sun's heat to provide energy for your own little electric power plant which will operate the many electrical appliances around the farm.

The farmer clothes will be very different 50 years from now. There will be no weaving or knitting. Fabrics will be poured in liquid form from giant pastry tubes or rolled into large sheets and cut in tremendous quantities. But you will be growing the very products from which these new materials are made.

From the central electronic center in your home or office, you will be able to see on your closed circuit TV all that goes on anywhere on the farm without leaving your easy chair. If you want to give orders, you will simply use your intercommunication system or your pocket telephone.

You won't be shipping your goods long distances any more. With the coming of automation there will be no need for people to congregate in big cities. Farmers will tend to "live in" rather than inhabit the countryside; farms will be near their markets in smaller cities of around 10,000 which will be self-sufficient and independent.

No longer will any farmer have to do without city luxuries. The typical farm house of the year 2000, powered from a small local atomic power plant, can have heating and cooling systems, germicidal lamps, water and sewage systems and many other things.

Charles H. Weaver, vice president in charge of atomic power activities for Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and Francis K. McCune, vice president for atomic business development of General Electric Company, both see the typical home 50 years from now with an automatic control center that will take the labor out of housework and provide a very easy and rich living for all.

With a magic wand the furniture can be dusted. Floors and furniture will be scuff-proof and indestructible. You will have wall-sized TV in color and 3-D.

Your electronic oven will prepare food in seconds. Dishes will be washed in a soapless, super-sonic wave cleaning chamber and automatically put away.

John L. Burns, president of the Radio Corporation of America, foresees the miracle home of tomorrow being run by a pushbutton household electronic center. This center will get you up with the chickens -- if you still want to -- close the windows, start the coffee going, cook the bacon and eggs, and what all else.

Frederick R. Kappel, president of American Telephone and Telegraph Company, predicts you may be able to make cheap phone calls anywhere in the world when satellites begin to take over relays.

Going to town to shop will be unnecessary. The wife will just dial a department store on her TV and a salesperson will hold up the various articles.

You can buy your farm equipment the same way too. After making your decision, just press your charge plate into a machine. An electronic eye then goes into action and the price will be telemetered to central billing at the store's main office located 100 miles away. Central billing will automatically mail you a bill at the end of the month.

Spray washing will be used to clean both people and laundry, eliminating expensive plumbing. A pint of water an hour is all that will be required for the average farm house, and this will evaporate into the air. Sewage will be disposed of chemically on the premises or turned into valuable fertilizer.

All your vehicles, including farm machinery, will be powered by atomic energy. The vehicles will require little maintenance and will need fuel only once a year -- if that often.

With almost totally automatic farms, there will be plenty of time for travel. Supersonic jets and rocket airlines will be popular and cheap to fly by this time, so you can spend the weekends in Europe.

See you down on the farm in 2000 A.D.

["Farming in the 21st Century" appeared in the August/September 1960 issue of The National Future Farmer. John L. Russell, Jr. also wrote The Shape of Things to Come, a book published by the Popular Mechanics Company in June 1960.]