Using the Odum Energy Analysis on the Dan Taylor Family Farm

Dan Taylor's Family Farm goes through an energy analysis to determine its self-suffiency, and the results shown here are quite interesting.

| March/April 1978

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    The energy analysis revealed that oxen on the Taylor farm do just as much work as the Taylor family themselves.
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    The Taylor family has become almost self-sufficient by drastically reducing their dependence on fossil fuels.
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    Mike Burnett created this energy analysis diagram following Howard T. Odum's design to show the flow of energy on the Taylor farm.

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As you may recall, one of the judges of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Self-Sufficient Food Competition was Dr. Howard T. Odum. And for good reason. Dr. Odum — besides being the kind of good-humored, dynamic guy you just love to have around — has been Professor of Ecology at the University of North Carolina, Chief Scientist for the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center and Director of the Institute for Marine Science of the University of Texas at Port Aransas. He's also a well-known author of articles and books on energy and the environment and is currently Director of the Center for Wetlands and a Graduate Research Professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. 

Dr. Odum rocked the environmental field in the early '70s when — at the request of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science — he produced Energy, Ecology, and Economics. This paper outlined the interrelationships of man, his use of energy and the probable future of the planet in far more understandable terms than they'd ever been outlined before. Much of the excellent work now being done by Amory Lovins and other environmentalists would not be getting done — or would be far more difficult to accomplish — if that landmark paper had never been written. 

We considered ourselves quite fortunate, then, when Dr. Odum agreed to help judge MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Food Self-Sufficiency Competition. And we felt even more fortunate when he suggested that one of his students might be interested in running the contest's winning entry through the now-famous Odum Energy Analysis for us. And that's exactly what Mike Burnett, whose specialty is alternative agriculture, has done, and here's Mike's report. — MOTHER

The Energy Game of the World

As MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers are well aware, the old ground rules of the world's energy game — ridiculously low prices for petroleum, unlimited supplies of natural gas, etc. — have been drastically changed during the past few years. It is very probable that things like the Arab oil embargo and the early-1977 fuel crisis during an unexpectedly cold winter are only the first signs of the far more serious energy concerns that lie ahead.

For this reason, every segment of our society is now being closely examined by the government, special interest groups, environmentalists and just plain concerned citizens. The questions being asked are: "Can this area of human activity function on less energy?" "Can it function on less energy if we somewhat restructure the activity?" "If we do the activity in a completely different way?" "Can we do this job with a different form of energy?" "Can we do away with this job altogether?"

Use of Energy in the Agriculture Business

U.S. agriculture — which produces a very large percentage of the world's food and natural fibers — seems to have become especially energy intensive during the last 30 or 40 years. In particular, its current dependence on fossil fuels is enormous: Fossil fuels power its tractors, combines and other equipment in the field ... the dryers that must be used to cure its fragile modern hybrid grains ... the trucks which haul its crops to market ... the machinery which processes and packages those crops ... the trucks, trains and other forms of transportation that distribute the packaged products ... and all the manufacturing processes which fabricate those trucks, tractors, combines, etc., themselves.

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