September 2, 2023
While visiting friends in Canada during harvest time we had the opportunity to experience something new to both of us.
One of their fields was being harvested by the farmer who rented it. We had seen combines in fields over and over during our travels this summer, but now we were going to get see one up close.
Make that, Very Up Close! Linda, being a farm girl when little was so exited to be able to ride along. Her dad owned a farm implement store at one time in the 1950’s and she said how much he would be amazed at the changes from then until now.
My turn in the jump seat. The amount of technology in these big machines is unreal. Gary, the farmer operating the combine would turn it around at the end of a pass, push a button and the autopilot would take over and he remarked how much better all this technology made his life.
Transferring the crop from the combine to the transport trailer was as simple as pushing another button. The GPS in the tractor pulling the trailer made sure it was lined up precisely with the combine to make the transfer.
This is the seed head of what they were harvesting, “canola”, a special cultivar of rapeseed developed in Winnipeg, Canada, not all that far from the our friend’s farm where we are staying. It is used as a vegetable oil and a source of protein meal. In the US we tend to think of it as something grown only in Canada, but actually rapeseed is the third largest source of vegetable oil and the second largest source of protein meal in the world, being grown in many other countries..
The seeds are tiny, about the size of poppy seeds. With each seed being approximately 40 % oil, it is hard to imagine the number of seeds it takes to make a quart canola oil, but by my admittedly very rough approximation it would be somewhere around 450,000 seeds on average. At least I hope my order of magnitude is correct.
So often we never think about what it takes to put the foods we consume onto the store shelves. Agriculture has been modernized in so many ways, and while people may differ on whether some some foods are better or not, the end result has a been a far better life in general of all of humanity.