An Integrated Agriculture System

Anticipating the likelihood that resource constraints would get worse in the years ahead, Missourian Charles McCutcheon developed an integrated agriculture system in the 1970s for farmers and homesteaders.

| November/December 1980

It doesn't take a soothsayer to figure out that the role petroleum-based fuels have played in our society is going to change. Political unrest abroad, dwindling crude reserves here at home, and the ever-rising cost of locating, unearthing, and processing "black gold" (not to mention the environmental price we pay as a result of both retrieving and using the fuel) should all serve as weather vanes to indicate that humankind must start using alternative forms of energy now to avoid getting caught short in the future.

And, naturally, it is necessary that such changes be made by governments and individuals alike. MOTHER EARTH NEWS recently visited one "little guy" who's seen the handwriting on the wall (and has chosen to do something about it), Charles E. McCutcheon, Jr. of Fayette, Missouri. Charlie, together with his sons and a long-time employee, operates McCutcheon's Midwest Miracle Products, a small manufacturing firm in the Show Me State's agricultural heartland.

The business — although modest — is a surprisingly diversified one. In effect, the McCutcheons have worked out a well-balanced integrated agriculture plan that might provide a valuable example for folks who want to protect their farms or homesteads from the food, fuel, fertilizer, and economic shortages that are sure to become worse as time goes on. 

Three-Way Independence

Charlie refers to his system for self-sufficiency as "energy-protein-nitrogen independence" ... and for a good reason. Briefly, here's how it works: A large part of the McCutcheons' operation involves high quality, family-built ethanol distillation equipment ... that's been designed to operate at a much greater level of energy efficiency than does a conventional still of comparable size, because it functions within a vacuum. Therefore, Charlie uses less thermal energy than would normally be required for alcohol production. (A mere 130°F will keep his distillation column in operation!) 

Using his low-energy distillation apparatus, Mr. McCutcheon converts local grain produce (either corn or milo) into 160-180 proof alcohol fuel for use in his tractors, trucks, and other farm equipment ... and has the additional option (because of the new federal legislation governing the production of ethanol fuels) of selling any excess for a comfortable profit.

But McCutcheon's concept of integrated farming for self-sufficiency involves more than simply producing fuels. In order to manufacture ethanol at a reasonable cost, one must take full advantage of the value of the process's by-product ... the leftover distiller's grains. Normally, such protein-rich remains (which usually total about one-third of the raw materials' original weight) can be sold outright as a livestock feed supplement or used directly on the farm for the same purpose. Charles, however, employs the residue to produce a sizable "crop" of earthworms!

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