Friday, June 30, 2006

Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma--Bad Fact I

On page 38, as part of a discussion comparing the state of agriculture post-World War I to now, Mr. Pollan says that in 1920 only 257 tractors were built in the U.S. That seemed improbable, given the volume of cars so I went to my old copy of "Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1957" and in table K-150-158 found there were actually 257,000 tractors in 1920. Mr. Pollan or his research assistant missed the unit of measure (thousands). See here For an accessible source providing some historical background. (Who knew we were actually producing over 2,000 steam tractors a year in 1900?)

1 comment:

GreenmanTim said...

Those pesky sins of omission. There is a wonderful publication about the state of Connecticut's farmland by an organization I will not embarrass here that states that Litchfield county lost 93,000 acres of farmland between 1997 and 2002. Astonishing, if true, as that would be more than a seventh of the entire land area of the county. In fact, that figure is the total number of agricultural acres remaining in the county, down 7,800 over a five year period.
Still an alarming decline, but nowhere near as dramatic as the erroneous figure indicated.