One of the readers for _The Makers of Things_ asked for a chapter on rice: I had written a draft of one, but pitched it before submitting the manuscript. As it turns out, the 5500 words I wrote over 5 days and wrapped up this past Friday is a much better chapter. I could write that quickly because I had ridden in enough tractors, boats, and combines and spent enough time walking fields, but I also needed the occasional bit of statistical information, and the [USDA’s Economic Research Service] was a real boon. While I wish, for my purposes, they had a greater historical coverage, the fact that so many of their reports were downloadable as Excel spreadsheets made the work of grabbing facts, compiling numbers, or, occasionally, creating graphs a really joy. (None of the graphs are likely to make their way into the book at this point, but it was nice to be able to use them for analysis.)
[USDA’s Economic Research Service]: http://ers.usda.gov
Anything with rice in the title is going to catch my attention. Not only is rice is an integral part of the research when I am in the midst of wrapping up — and it saddens me to say goodbye to it (more on this in a moment) — but I love to eat the stuff. And so, given the demands on the world’s agricultural system, it’s good to know that there have been in advances in rice culture in India that have resulted in the [doubling of output].
[doubling of output]: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution
Seventeen minutes. It seems tedious to watch the video: they just keep doing the same thing. But then you imagine it from their point of view: this is only seventeen minutes out of hours and hours, days and days of bent-over labor.
I was lucky enough to be invited by Dwayne Gossen to watch him and his son unloading rice. While a series of augurs swept the rice from inside the bin up to a chute that dropped into a waiting truck, I was invited to see things from the inside of the largest grain bin I have ever seen. Here’s what things look like when you’re inside looking out:
I love my job when I get to do things like this. These are incredible people doing incredible things: the rice on that floor could end up on our dinner table in a few months time.