Can farmers really grow enough food to feed the world?

assorted vegetable store displays
permaculture raised beds

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that, in order to feed the world’s population in 2050, farmers will need to grow 60% more food than they do today. But can farmers really grow enough food to feed everyone?

Surprising fact

It’s not just about how much arable land there is on Earth. And it’s not just about how many hands are willing to work that land. Many social and political factors affect whether or not people can access basic necessities like water, shelter, education, and of course, food. The reality is that some countries have access to more than enough arable land (Brazil, for example) but still struggle with hunger. And some countries lack a consistent source of fresh water yet produce bountiful crops year after year (Israel being a prime example). It may seem counterintuitive—and it definitely makes solving global hunger difficult—but poverty is often at the root of malnutrition worldwide.

white flowers with green leaves

The solution

How can we ensure that farming is sustainable and healthy for humans, animals, and our environment? The simple answer: diversify. Diversifying your farm increases profitability and helps ensure that you’ll be able to continue growing for years to come. Remember, when it comes to preparing for future generations, planning in advance will help keep your farm running as smoothly as possible so it can outlast any rough patches. And when times are good, don’t be afraid of expanding or branching out into new territories—the key is planning ahead so that you have an established strategy in place when it’s time to expand. By diversifying your business, you’re ensuring a stable future for yourself and others. After all, if one crop fails, there are plenty more waiting in line to take its place!

What can we do as individuals?

There are easy things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and thus help put a dent in rising greenhouse gas emissions. You probably know most of them already: choose CFL light bulbs over incandescent ones, take public transportation or carpool instead of driving, turn off your lights when you leave a room, unplug unused electronics, and don’t wash your clothes as often. Reduce meat consumption is another good one—with livestock producing tons of greenhouse gases from their waste alone. As individuals, changing our lifestyles may seem like small steps. But combined, those small steps have huge environmental impacts—and make it more likely that future generations won’t have to worry about global warming as much as we do now.

Why we should be doing something

It seems like everyday we read another study touting how our global food system isn’t going to be able to keep up with our demands. And it makes sense that there’s a ton of attention on how we can make sure everyone has plenty of resources in the coming years; in fact, we should pay extra attention now so that when problems do arise, we’re prepared. The thing is, most people are actually pretty far removed from farms—and they don’t know what they need to do next (or even what they can do). In order for us all not just to survive but thrive in a food-scarce future, though, there are simple steps everyone can take. Here are two things you can start doing today to prepare yourself and your family for any changes to come 1) Start by thinking about your weekly shopping trips. Next time you go grocery shopping, try picking up some long-lasting foods such as wheat berries or rice instead of fresh produce or dairy products. While these foods won’t last forever, they’ll provide nutrients without requiring refrigeration for many months to come. 2) Learn about storage methods for preserving food items that require little electricity. One easy way to get started is by storing grains in Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, which will help prevent mold growth and extend shelf life considerably. These aren’t fancy—but if you have them filled with dry goods and tucked away in an emergency kit, you can rest assured knowing that you’ve got a few weeks’ worth of food on hand. Just remember: No matter what kind of preparations you make for possible shortages down the road, never stop learning about new ways to save money at home! We may all have different situations, but there’s always something we can learn from each other.–MM

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