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America Revealed -

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(generated from captions) Welcome to the series that takes
you to the heart of America

where we give you the big picture

of what actually
makes this country work.

My name is Yul Kwon.

Whoo!

I've worked
in many different fields -

from law to government to business.

I've even won
the reality show 'Survivor'.

This is impressive.

But in every part
of my life,

I've been fascinated by the same
things - systems and networks.

The sheer size of this thing
is incredible!

In this series, I'm going to explore
the remarkable systems

that move us,
feed us and make our economy hum.

And how we put together
the materials and manpower

that keep this incredibly vast
and complex country working,

day after day, hour by hour.

Watermelons! Picked this morning!

In this episode we'll explore how
America puts food on its table.

An industrial revolution has turned
our prairies and pastures

into the biggest, most productive,
most efficient food machine

the world has ever seen.

If you think of our food industry
as a giant factory

that's designed to feed us, what you
see down there is the factory floor.

But even though each part
has been carefully designed,

the machine, as a whole, has not.

It produces more
than we can possibly eat...

Excuse me!

..and it pushes
resources to the limit.

Has the price of water
been going up?

Yep, just like my taxes.

(LAUGHS)

As demand keeps growing...
the system is under pressure.

Well, you're not gonna have
pumpkins,

not gonna have apples,
not gonna have cherries.

But Americans count
on the food industry to deliver.

This is a story of how that machine
keeps us fed 365 days a year.

This is America Revealed.

Imagine a portrait of America
showing all the food we consume.

Each dot you see here
represents a single food outlet

of a nationwide chain.

This is
Subway's 24,000-strong empire,

rivalled by tens of thousands
of McDonald's,

Burger Kings and Wendy's,

complemented by KFC and
Taco Bell, Papa John's and Domino's.

Fill out the national menu with
IHOP, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks

and you have just some
of the brightest stars

in our dining galaxy.

If you'd rather cook at home,

you can shop at over
3,000 supermarket chains

and hundreds of thousands
of independent grocery stores

in the US.

Or you can choose from bakeries,
gourmet shops and restaurants

that dot our landscape
from sea to shining sea.

Now, here's the challenge.

In order to feed us,

every one of these outlets
has to be supplied with food.

This frenetic little dot
is the delivery end

of a vast and complicated machine -
literally!

We put a GPS unit
on a pizza delivery man

and recorded his typical Friday
night in the heart of New York City.

This is Raju Hossain
and he works for Domino's.

So how long does your shift
usually last?

Eight hours, nine hours.

And how many pizzas
do you usually deliver?

Oh, 30, 40 pizzas per night.
Wow.

I have one customer,
they gave me $200 tip!

Wait, what?
I was like, "Wow!"

Pizza is an edible snapshot
of American food -

it's fast, it's filling

and, for what you get,
it's actually pretty cheap.

Plus it's completely customisable -

you can get pretty much anything
you want on top of the pizza.

This is the final stage
of the Domino's food machine.

But where does it begin?

Pull back a bit.

Each of these streaking blue lines
is another Raju Hossain,

riding each night through
the streets of Manhattan

in a kind of crazy bicycle ballet.

Like all great performances,

what makes this dance possible
is what goes on behind the scenes.

This is Manhattan.

A daily supply line brings
Domino's ingredients here

from a supply chain
centre in Connecticut.

That hub supplies all Domino's
stores in the north-east region.

And Connecticut, in turn,

gets fed with a constant
stream of ingredients...

..pizza dough,
peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes,

often from clear
across the country...

..all moved by satellite-tracked,
refrigerated trucks

to distribution hubs
spread across our landscape.

And it's all perfectly coordinated

so that Raju Hossain can
deliver a pizza to your door

still hot and ready to eat.

But the story behind
this food delivery system

is even more remarkable.

From New York City,
I've travelled 3,000 miles

to the other end of the continent

to find out where one of pizza's
key ingredients comes from

and how it's produced
on such a monumental scale.

This is California's Central Valley,
and my guide is farmer Ted Sheely.

Ted, what are you growing out here?

We grow fresh market onions,
wine grapes,

pistachios, cotton, wheat

and we grow about 1,500-1,600 acres
of tomatoes.

How many is pounds is that?
About 60 tons per acre.

That's a lot of tomatoes.
That's a lot of tomatoes.

Yes, the humble tomato,
the foundation of pizza sauce.

Ted and his fellow
California tomato growers

produce close to 13 million tons
of them every year.

That's nearly all the tomatoes
America processes

for foods like pizza sauce,
ketchup and salsa,

as well as a third of
those consumed by the entire world.

Right up the road from Ted's farm,

a half million tons
of these red babies

make their way through the state's
processing plants every week.

It's an industry worth
an estimated $1.5 billion a year.

But Ted doesn't just grow tomatoes.

Like his neighbours,

he produces an extraordinary variety
of different crops.

A staggering 50%
of America's fruits and nuts

are grown in California's
Central Valley -

what is effectively
a giant, open-air food factory,

powered by the sun.

What makes this the perfect
place to grow

are the terrific soils,
bright, sunshiny blue skies,

temperatures range 95 to 100 degrees
during the summer,

cooling down
to the upper 60s at night.

The only ingredient that Mother
Nature didn't give us was the water.

But I'm looking around
and water is everywhere.

It's not coming from the skies.

This is the Central Valley today.

And this, in a rare aerial survey
from the 1930s,

shows the exact same valley
as a barren desert -

the valley's natural state.

It takes a lot of water
to make this desert bloom.

And that water comes from far away,

400 miles to the north.

It's hard to believe

but this is the same water
Ted Sheely uses

to irrigate his tomatoes
in the state's hot, dry south.

And he gets to use it
because of this -

California's Shasta Dam,
completed in 1945.

The sheer size of this thing
is incredible!

For California's food machine
to work on the scale it does,

it needs vast resources
and monumental infrastructure.

Right now, I'm flying over
fine examples of both.

It's giving me a bird's-eye view
of how America puts nature to work.

To learn more, I'm meeting up with
Shasta Dam guide Sheri Harral.

Shasta Dam is the keystone to
the entire Central Valley Project.

And it makes it one of the
leading producers of food and fibre

for our entire country.

Without it, buying a head of lettuce
would be an incredibly big deal.

We are actually now 428 feet
from where we started up above,

174 feet above bedrock,

and 67 feet past
that concrete is Shasta Lake.

There's over 450 feet of water
behind that wall.

Wow.

So if that wall disappears,

you and I are swimming
all the way down to Los Angeles.

A quick swim too. Yes, absolutely.

Starting at Shasta
with the Sacramento River,

the Central Valley Project
connects 20 dams and reservoirs

through 500 miles
of tunnels and canals...

..turning 42,000 square miles
of desert

into what is, in effect,
the world's biggest greenhouse.

It's an extraordinary achievement

in terms of technology
and engineering and ambition.

You realise how effectively
and efficiently

California has managed to maximise
the one resource

it never really had.

What California has basically done
is to turn dirt into paydirt.

And to understand
just how successful

California's tomato crop is,

all I have to do is head
next door...to Nevada.

These are Californian tomatoes,

just over a million of them.

150,000 pounds of beautiful,
juicy, smelly tomatoes.

And they've been placed
here in the middle of Reno, Nevada,

not so that the good people
of this town can eat them,

but so that they can throw them
at each other!

Welcome to the Reno Tomatina,

the country's largest annual
tomato fight.

All the tomatoes here are surplus
tomatoes donated from California,

but rather than throwing them away,
they've been put to good use.

They're here to support
cancer research

and everyone here has paid $10

for the privilege of getting
hit in the face with a tomato.

Ugh!

Excuse me!

This is just a fraction
of California's tomato surplus,

but that surplus is reliable enough

to make the Reno Tomatina
an annual institution.

Over the last 50 years

the average American has come
to enjoy a bounty of food

never before imaginable.

California's agricultural revolution
is just one part of that story.

This is another part,

and an even more spectacular
transformation...

..the Midwest.

I've come in search
of the quintessential American farm.

And for me, that can only mean
one place...

..Kansas.

Remember Dorothy
from 'The Wizard of Oz'?

That's where Dorothy's from,
that's her home,

the natural world that Dorothy
wanted to get back to

after being stuck
in that artificial land of Oz.

Well, I've got news for you,
Dorothy -

if you saw Kansas today,
you wouldn't recognise it!

To understand
what's going on down there,

I'll have to get a lot closer!

Argh!

There's no place like home!

Whoo!

From up here, a dazzling
pattern of circular fields

stretches as far as the eye can see.

There's a good reason
for this cookie cutter perfection.

What you're looking at

is one of the greatest land
transformations in American history.

If you think of our food industry

as a giant factory
that's designed to feed us,

what you see down there
is the factory floor.

I'm dropping into Stone Acres,

the model of a multimillion-dollar
farm business.

It's been owned by the Stone
family for four generations.

(DOG BARKS)

The ghost of Dorothy
may be long gone,

but at least Toto's still here...

Toto, where are you? Toto?
(DOG BARKS)

..along with the current owner,
Greg Stone.

You made it. How was your flight?
Nice to meet you, Greg.

This is a satellite image
of Greg Stone's farm.

Just one of Greg's circular fields
occupies the site

of his grandfather's
entire 1930s homestead.

This is an aerial photograph
of that same landscape in 1937 -

a totally different world.

When Grandpa came here,
there was absolutely nothing here,

it was barren prairie.

He just pretty much
started from zero.

He had a few dollars in his pocket.

The Great Depression
had just kicked in

and then we had the 'dirty '30s',
which was a terrible time.

People tried to grow wheat
for a cash grain crop,

a little bit of feed
for the animals,

just whatever they could grow
to survive.

Anything, you know, weeds,
tumbleweeds.

Tumbleweeds?
Yeah, yeah.

That's a crop that you grow?
Thistles.

Well, they used it to feed the
animals, heat the homes, whatever.

And how successful
was your grandfather

in transforming this
into a productive farm?

He was successful,

but everything that he grew
was basically for his family,

and a few head of livestock
that he had.

But nothing, you know, on the scale
of what we have today, of course,

where we feed thousands.

In fact, where his grandad
harvested 20 bushels

from each acre of land,
Greg gets nearly 300.

In the last 60 years,

American farmers on average
have tripled their yield,

dwarfing the productivity
of every previous generation.

What changed? How did you get
to the scale that you're at today?

Well, two things - irrigation
and commercial fertiliser.

America's postwar chemical industry
revolutionised farming

by mass-producing key soil nutrients

like nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium.

When fertiliser became available,

it was an immediate miracle
drug to these...these crops.

You could inject a small amount
and quadruple your productivity

without doing anything else.

And then came the water.

The late 1950s, the first
irrigation wells were drilled

in this part of the state.

And Grandpa, he was one of the first
in the area, though,

to see that this was the future.

Greg's fields are circular

because they're watered
by one of the most powerful

and efficient inventions
in the history of farming -

centre-pivot irrigation.

There has always been water
beneath these once dusty fields.

They just couldn't get at it.

A couple of hundred feet
below where we stand here,

we're sitting on one of the world's
largest freshwater aquifers.

Really?
The Ogallala.

But the Ogallala aquifer
was out of reach

until after World War II,

when they finally had engines
powerful enough

to pump that underground water -
spanning 174,000 square miles -

to the surface.

Fertilisation and irrigation
has changed the environment,

it's changed the organic
matter of these soils,

it's improved everything.

It took just a couple of generations

to go from Grandad's dust bowl
subsistence...

..to Greg's high-yield operation.

And if you pull back even further,

with the help
of this satellite imagery,

you can see thousands of farmers
like Greg,

populating the
Midwest with industrial-scale farms

where once there were
tiny individual homesteads.

But this view from space doesn't
show an even more dramatic change.

Where Greg's grandad
grew a variety of crops,

80% of these fields grow just one...

..a single species that has come
to dominate the farming landscape,

and the American diet.

At 322 million tons a year,

we produce more of this
one grain than anything else,

making it the key ingredient
of our food machine -

corn.

It's such a natural instinct to want to look after
the ones you love. Which is why Brian and I
are putting a few dollars a week into an Apia Funeral Plan. There's guaranteed acceptance
for under-75s and access to as much as $30,000
when it's most needed. Sign up today
and Apia will thank you with a $50 Caltex Fuel Card. That's why everyone's
talking about Apia.

Every time we go to the supermarket,
though we might not know it,

we're surrounded by corn.

The average store has over 45,000
products on its shelves,

and roughly a third of them
are created using corn.

Thanks to modern refining
and processing,

cornstarch can be broken down
and reassembled

as sweeteners, fillers and additives
to make...well, anything!

From Corn Flakes to cake mix,
from Cheez Whiz to coffee whitener,

from soup to canned fruit.

In fact, the average American eats
about 100 pounds of corn products

every single year - and most of us
don't even realise it!

Take this chicken nugget.

It's made up of 37 different
ingredients.

Want to guess
how many come from corn?

30.

Just look at the label
of any processed meal,

including the drink
you wash it down with

and you'll find that corn
is in almost everything.

And that includes this.

If there's a single food that
symbolises the American diet for me,

it's beef.

I've always imagined cowboys

and great herds of cattle
grazing on the open prairie.

Well, the cowboys are real
and they tend real cattle...

..but this
is the modern-day prairie -

not a blade of grass in sight.

This is a CAFO - concentrated animal
feeding operation - owned by JBS,

the world's biggest meat company.

At full capacity,
it's the temporary home

to more than 90,000
prime beef steers.

(CATTLE LOW)

To feed all these cattle,

there's a huge factory
right in the middle.

It's processing
industrial quantities of,

you guessed it - corn.

MAN: The modern feedlot business

is really an extension
of the corn business.

Explaining the connection is
facility manager Mike Thoren.

We take grain that wouldn't be
very readily consumable by people

and transform that into
a marketable product

in the form of finished beef.

So you're basically selling grain,
except it tastes a lot better.

That's exactly right.

This vast quantity of corn

makes it possible to produce beef
on an industrial scale,

because an animal can be fed more
corn, a low-cost source of calories,

more efficiently here
than on a traditional ranch.

This cattle's kinda new.

It's still getting used
to having humans around.

Skittish?
Yeah.

New arrivals like these
1-year-olds are still grass-fed.

Because corn
isn't a natural food for cows,

it takes them a
while to adjust to it.

But soon, grass is phased out and,
when the grain wagon comes around

it's like watching kids
chase an ice-cream truck.

So the idea is
to try to fatten them up

in the shortest
amount of time as possible?

Um...

..basically, yeah.

How much do they weigh
when they come in?

About 600lb.

How much are they
by the time they get out of here?

1,300lb, average weight.
Wow! So they double their weight!

So I'm trying to imagine,
I weigh about 155lbs right now,

so in six months
I'm gonna weigh 300lb.

It takes just six months to go from
this...to this.

Two-thirds of a ton
of engineered beef steer.

What people don't know is that
the fat gives it its flavour.

When you're looking at the steer,
how do you tell if they're ready?

everything's perfect.

Just looks like
a nice, meaty animal.

But it's got that nice, thin
layer of fat that we want on them.

In order to satisfy
our cravings for beef,

nothing about these animals'
lives has been left to chance.

Conceived artificially from
parents who never met,

injected with antibiotics
to guard against disease,

their diets supplemented by growth
hormones to maximise every calorie.

What this guy sees
is just another human.

What I see is a new kind of animal,

an animal bred and raised
to meet the demands of the producer,

and the consumer.

Just five miles up the road
is the meat-packing plant.

More than 5,000 head of cattle
are funnelled through this factory

every single day.

And this is just one
of 632 plants in the US.

Collectively, they process
34 million cows a year.

Inside...
(WHIRRING)

..there's a cacophony
of blades and saws,

as an army of butchers dismembers
hundreds of carcasses an hour.

About a hundred years ago Henry Ford
perfected an industrial process

to make cars cheap enough so that
most Americans could afford them.

And perhaps mass industrialisation

is the only way to make
beef cheap enough

so that Americans
can afford that too.

And where beef has led,
pork and chicken have followed -

grain-fed, raised and processed
on an industrial scale

to give us what we want.

And the rest of the world
wants it too.

Companies like JBS export thousands
of tons of meat around the planet.

And we import what other nations'
food machines produce.

Every year, $86 billion
worth of food enters our borders,

like this lamb from Australia and
New Zealand, crossing the Pacific,

and every variety
of fruit and vegetable.

This globalised food market

means we can expect to eat
what we want, when we want,

regardless of season or distance
from the food source.

With all this choice,
how do we decide what to eat?

The most important word in
menu development is 'crave-ability'.

Scott Allmendinger is a food writer
and industry expert.

Joel Fierman is a wholesale supplier
here in New York City.

As they know well,

the food retailers
study and shape our tastes.

30 years ago restaurants were almost
exclusively celebration food -

this is our anniversary
or somebody's birthday,

and we'll go out
and have a big steak

and that will celebrate
the occasion.

The American public,
through affluence, started to say,

"I like that food. I want that food.
I crave that food."

And over 30 years,
the American public

has started to eat more and more
and more of the celebration foods

as part of their daily diet.

But it's not just about
satisfying our cravings -

food manufacturers are always
coming up with new product ideas

to stimulate appetites and demand.

In any industry, everybody is
looking for that next big hit.

And you can create
crave-ability with almost anything.

Outback Steakhouse did it
with one simple ingredient.

A perfect example
is the 'Bloomin Onion'.

You take an onion that has a price
point of maybe 32 cents per pound

and you turn it into this product.

This is an onion?

That was a rather large onion
that they've sliced

and soaked in buttermilk
and batter and deep-fried

and created into the Bloomin Onion.

It sells, it sells quite a bit.
It becomes a commodity.

It becomes an item
that the consumer wants.

When something like
the Bloomin Onion hits big

the impact is felt
all the way back to its source.

These are onion fields
in central California.

Remember farmer Ted Sheely?

In addition to all his other crops,

he's an expert at producing
Bloomin Onions -

1,500 tons of them every year,

precisely to his customer's
specifications.

The Bloomin Onion needs to be
3.5 inches in diameter,

not larger, not smaller.

If it's bigger than 3.5,

it won't fit their cutting
and cooking equipment

and if it's smaller than that,
the customer feels cheated.

And they're willing to pay extra
to get that particular size onion.

With the Bloomin Onion,

the Outback Steakhouse has turned
a common food item...

SONG: # Let's go Outback tonight! #

..from mundane to money-maker.

And they're not the only ones.

SONG: # Chilli's, Chilli's,
Chilli's, Chilli's... #

It's turkey sausage
wrapped in a pancake on a stick!

The food industry is in the business
of creating desirable commodities

and we're in the business
of eating...a lot.

The foods we crave are often
high in fat and calories.

That's an evolutionary survival
tactic, built into our genes.

So it's not surprising
that crave-ability

usually means adding calories.

The Bloomin Onion, for example,

has about 2,000 calories - roughly
an entire day's worth for an adult.

Over the last half-century,

the food machine
made it cheap and easy

for us to put away an average
of 600 additional calories

per person, per day.

It really is a collaboration
between the consumers who say,

"I like this,"

and the marketing people who say
what size it should be.

So now we all have woken up 30 years
later, and said, "You know what?

"This really isn't sustainable, so
what are we going to do about it?"

I see Scott's point.

Our expanding waistlines
are a national wake-up call.

He also makes me wonder how our food
machine will be able to keep up

with our growing, hungry population.

Take Ted Sheely.

To grow his onions,
he has to maximise his water use

in the resource-scarce
Central Valley.

California farmers already use
80% of the state's water...

..and the cost is going up.

It's become one of my largest
cash burdens on my budget.

How expensive is water relative
to other costs that you have?

Water's always the highest.
Really?

It'd probably be...probably be over
50% of my budget.

Holy cow!

So, like most American farmers,
Ted turns to technology

to try and get the most
out of every drop.

He's installing a $50,000
moisture monitoring system

to tell him precisely when to water
his pistachio trees.

And he uses a $2 million underground
irrigation network for his tomatoes.

My business plan

to stay in business for next year?

What am I going to have to do to be
in business five years from now,

or 10 years from now?

Water's the pivotal issue
and so I have to make it work.

And has the price of water been
going up over the last few years?

Yep, just like my taxes.

(LAUGHS)

It's getting harder and harder
for farmers like Ted

just to keep up with the
food machine's relentless demand.

As for our Kansas farmer,
Greg Stone,

his corn-growing operation
is under attack.

The threat is so serious
he has to hire a professional

to comb his fields every week.

Because his multimillion-dollar
business is a monoculture -

a farm made up
of a single crop -

it's more vulnerable to invasion
by a tiny killer.

This is where
they bore into the ear shank.

And you see the damage here.

They could actually tunnel up
into the ear,

and then they lay their eggs and
then their larvae feed on the corn

and complete the cycle.

There he is.

That is a multibillion-dollar
corn pest right there in his hand.

This is a European corn borer.

Don't lose him, Eric.
I won't.

This is a constant battle
producers have to face

year in and year out
all the way through the Midwest.

If you don't treat,
you can lose significant yield.

So Greg calls in an air strike.

Robert Grace is one of 3,500
ag pilots in the US,

an expert in the aerial deployment
of bug-killing chemicals.

Ag flying is a different type of
flying than virtually anything else

because of the precision
and closeness to the ground.

We're typically eight feet
off the ground

travelling 120 to 150 miles an hour

using GPS navigation

that will give us guidance
to within about one or two feet.

Like Greg, Robert
inherited a family business

which has seen extraordinary change.

When my father started
they had a handful of chemicals -

one or two or three.

Now it's not unusual for us
to have 40 or 50 products available,

because without that,
the yields will suffer.

The pesticide industry
has had to develop

this wide-ranging chemical arsenal,

because the insects have
their own secret weapon -

evolution.

Sooner or later, the pests evolve
resistance to every new product.

Of course, no-one's been
happy about this,

certainly not the farmers.

But caught between the need
to keep producing

and the increasing cost

of a chemical arms race
they couldn't win,

they needed a game changer,

so the food industry
turned to a new technology

rather than chemistry,

the genetically modified organism,
better known as a GMO.

80% of Greg Stone's crop
is now genetically modified,

engineered to produce
its own toxin

that's lethal to insects
like the European corn borer.

So, why do farmers like Greg
still need ag pilots like Robert?

This is a picture of Robert's work,
recorded over a period of two weeks

by a GPS unit
we attached to his plane.

He's still spraying,
just not as much as before.

Unfortunately, some corn borers
are resistant to the toxin

that the GM corn produces.

Robert's job is to make sure those
bugs don't take over the gene pool.

Between the GM toxin and the
pesticides, the system is working,

at least for now.

SONG: # Bad boys, bad boys # What you gonna chew? # What you gonna chew # When they come for you? # Bad boys, bad boys # What you gonna chew? # Food and drink can cause pH levels
in your mouth to fall. Chewing Extra helps
neutralise plaque acid and keep teeth clean and healthy. # Bad boys,
bad boys

# Bad boys, bad boys # What you gonna chew? # What you gonna chew when they come
for you? # Eat, drink, chew.
Extra.

Hey, sweetheart?
Mmm?

Could you download one of those
Bush Fire Survival Plans? It would be good to sit down
and see what needs doing. Yeah, can we do it later?
I'm just in the middle of stuff. I'll tell you what, I'll print one
off sometime this week at work. Righto, sweetheart.
Let's do it then.

All this modern technology

means farmers today
produce vast quantities of crops.

Now it's late September -
harvest time.

And farmers need
a 21st-century workhorse

to get this enormous job done.

I've come to get a hands-on
lesson in modern farm machinery

with specialist harvesting company
Sammons Adventures...

Hey, Roger.
Hey, Yul.

Wow, these suckers are huge.

..and its boss, Roger Sammons.

We're gonna teach you
how to drive it today.

It's a little bigger than my Prius,
but, uh, I'm game.

(BOTH CHUCKLE)

I'm about to take charge

of $500,000 worth of
brand-new harvester.

OK, now, full throttle.
Alright.

You are ready to rock'n'roll.
OK, get out of my way!

In fact, Roger's happy
to let me lead the pack -

the whole wheat crop
now depends on a rookie.

Fortunately, this big rig
has a lot under the hood -

a 360-horsepower engine, automatic
controls, moisture sensors,

even an optional
GPS guidance system.

Roger's machine can harvest
8,000 bushels of wheat per day.

60 years ago,

the average combine harvested
less than a quarter of that.

Lift up on your header
just a little bit.

Lift up on my who? On my header?
The header.

Oh, other side.
There ya go. Perfect.

But mastering these levers isn't
all it takes to produce a harvest.

Oops. I'm gonna assist you here.
Yeah, please do.

Here's the bigger picture.

Harvesting is a job on the go.

These are the places where
about a dozen harvester teams,

including the Sammons, stopped
to do their work last season.

Tucked into
their superefficient machines,

each year, they crisscross
the highways at the heart of America

in a series of hectic
mechanical migrations.

Turns out, instead of harvesting
their own crops,

thousands of American farmers

rely on the state-of-the-art
equipment

of specialists like the Sammons.

By the end of October,

Roger's team will have gathered
half a million tons of grain

and covered 5,000 weary miles.

You have to be able to thrive
on stress in order to do this.

A lot of people are
coming for the experience,

they want to see the heartland
of the United States,

but cabin fever sets in pretty fast,
it really does.

Odds are, they're not going
to come back next year.

So, a lot of turnover
in this business?

Oh, a tremendous
amount of turnover, yes.

Harvesting, like so many aspects
of food production,

relies heavily on people power
combined with new technology.

But sometimes nature's way
is the only option.

Alright, take a look what we have
right here.

It's this beautiful honey bee
inside this pumpkin plant.

It's rolling around inside,
sucking up the nectar,

but while its doing that
it's getting all this pollen

all over its legs
and the rest of its body.

It's a beautiful sight
and it shows, in action,

this delicate relationship between
the honey bee and the flower itself

that's absolutely critical to making
sure that this turns into that.

Even high-tech farmers haven't
come up with a better method

for pollinating their produce.

But there aren't enough
wild honey bees to do the job.

Enter long-distance bee-trucker
David Hackenberg.

We truck bees
all over the United States.

1 February is the big trucking trip
to California to pollinate almonds.

California is the country's
biggest producer of almonds

but they couldn't grow a single one

without the work of beekeepers
like David.

There's only
two million hives of bees

left in the United States

and it takes a million and a half of
them to pollinate the almond crop.

Then the bees leave California and
we truck the bees on to Georgia

to the woods,
to get some clean food into 'em.

David has to give them
a kind of bee 'detox'

because the California almond trees

have been treated with
7,000 tons of pesticides.

And then our next pollination
is apples in Pennsylvania

in the middle of April.

Once the apples are over,

these bees all go to Maine
to pollinate blueberries,

and then pumpkins start mid-July.

These bees
we're sitting here looking at,

just this Friday went down
to Pennsylvania last night,

picked up two truckloads of bees
and got home at 2:30 this morning

and here I am talking to you now.

By the end of their journey,

David's bees have travelled
8,500 miles

and pollinated an estimated
5,000 acres of America's produce.

But these bees are
facing a mysterious threat.

This hive of bees,
it looks really good today,

within a matter of 10 to 20 days
just disappears.

There's nothing left.
The bees are gone.

It was David Hackenberg
who first alerted the world

to a phenomenon
called 'colony collapse disorder'.

Are they dead?

It's a mystery - all that's
left is the combs of honey.

It's just like somebody
took a sweeper

and swept them all
out of there.

So what's causing this?

We have a lot of scientists
around the world working on it.

We believe that
it's environmental stress.

All the pesticides.

Pesticides, we have
systemic pesticide in the seed

and it grows up through the plant
to protect that plant.

Some of that is getting
in the flower.

Right.
The bees are bringing that home.

Then we see all kinds
of weird things starting to happen.

(COUGHS)
Don't...don't swallow.

I'm putting smoke in your...
Sorry about that.

A lot of people
agree with David's theory.

But the scientific jury's still out

on exactly what's causing
colony collapse disorder.

David doesn't know
how bad this year will be.

But long-term,
the prospects aren't good.

Most of us guys that are
in the pollination business

are losing 60% to 70% of our bees
every year.

So we've got big, huge fields

and there's not enough bees
here to pollinate the crop.

Say colony collapse disorder
keeps on happening,

and all the bees get wiped out,
what does that mean?

What happens to all these crops?

Well, you're not gonna have pumpkins
or apples,

you're not gonna have cherries,
and you're not gonna have almonds,

and you're not gonna have
a lot of things.

David's story is disturbing to me.

If the bees are in trouble, so are
the farmers who depend on them,

and the consumers
who want fresh produce.

And it's clear the bees are not
the only ones feeling the pressure.

America's food machine is pushing
all of our resources to the limit,

from bees to water to the people
who make the system run.

We rely on the nomadic lifestyles
of harvesters and beekeepers

and tens of thousands of truckers

moving products
all around the country

to keep our food machine running.

Even those who don't travel
for a living are rarely fixed,

like ag pilot Robert Grace,

or the JBS meat-packers in Colorado,

or Ted Sheely's tomato
harvesters in California.

It's estimated there are now
4 million agricultural workers

who migrate from job to job
across the continent.

There's a real irony here.

10,000 years ago,
people stopped chasing animals,

they stopped hunting and gathering
and they started farming

so that they could stay in one
place, they didn't have to move.

Yet look at us now -

we can't stop moving.

One reason that ag workers
have to cover so much ground

is that these days

there are a lot fewer people
available to do those jobs.

A century ago, a third of us
worked and lived on farms.

Now it's barely 2%.

For the first time in human history,

just 2% of the population
can feed the other 98%.

And a lot of farmers,
like Greg Stone,

will tell you that technology
has made their work a lot easier.

The human element is becoming
less and less of a factor,

and that's good because it doesn't
matter if the sun's up, down,

or if it's cloudy,
or if it's Sunday or Saturday.

It has eliminated a lot of the need
for skilled humans.

It sounds pretty different
from what your grandpa did.

I mean, would you consider
yourself to be a farmer now?

Pah. No, I'd be more of
an input/output manager.

But I do wonder all the time,
"What would Grandpa think of this?"

It'd be fun to see his reaction.

So...so...it'd be cool.

The original
self-sufficient farmer

who laid the foundation
for America's growth

has largely disappeared
from the Midwest.

But in some places,
he's making a comeback.

I've dragged myself out of bed
at five o'clock in the morning

to help a man aptly named Will
Gardner get his product to market.

Hey, what's up, man?
Hey, what's up dude?

Will is one of thousands of
small-scale farmers across the US

reviving the homestead ideal.

You don't want to get
too close to the soil line,

'cause I want the growth
to still continue,

so I just chop it off right here.

It's pretty tasty, man. A lot
of people at the market love it.

This is real back-to-basics farming,

and, some think,
part of a new green revolution.

How'd you get into this
in the first place?

I just wanted to save money,
you know, eat healthier.

I figured it would be
a lot cheaper for me

to grow the vegetables that we
eat on a daily basis in my backyard,

you know, simple stuff,
and it just became addictive.

They're very tasty.

Do you use any, like, pesticides?

Nah, just compost, man.
So I put a lot of compost.

I should have asked you that
before I stuck that in my mouth.

The amazing thing is, we're not
in deepest rural Pennsylvania,

or even suburban New Jersey.

This is where Will farms -
the inner city of Detroit.

Among its many problems,
this area is a food desert,

a place where it's hard to find
groceries, let alone fresh produce.

Although the surrounding
neighbourhood

looks like an urban war zone,

in fact, it's reverting
to its rural state.

This is an aerial photograph

of the packed landscape
of central Detroit 70 years ago,

at the height

As the city's economic fortunes
declined,

an estimated 44,000 lots
of that land have been abandoned,

quietly turning into green space,

where 16,000 urban farmers like Will

are now planting the seeds
of an alternative agriculture.

It's a great feeling.

I feel I'm part of something big
happening in the city.

You know, it's more personal.

People come down here and volunteer

just to be able to connect
with your farmer.

And that connection extends
right into the heart of the city.

$4, ma'am. Thank you very much.

Eastern Market in downtown Detroit,
where Will sells his produce,

is the biggest of its kind
in America.

Watermelon! Salad greens!
Fresh kale! Picked this morning.

And after half an hour, immersed
in the amazing vibe of this place,

I realise how different this
approach to feeding people is

from what I've seen on my journey.

Picked fresh from a local garden
run by my friend Will.

Local, where the food machine
is global.

Organic rather than powered
by chemistry and genetics.

And produced on a grassroots,
rather than industrial, scale.

WOMAN: I think it's great
there are alternative ways

that we produce the majority
of the fruits and vegetables

that Detroiters need to be healthy.

Ashley Atkinson runs
Greening of Detroit,

a non-profit
that promotes urban farming -

not so much as a lifestyle,

but as a way for both farmers
and customers to thrive.

Local farmers, Michigan farmers,

don't have a lot of resources to
compete with industrial agriculture.

And places like this actually bring
together consumers and producers

trying to not only provide

fresh fruits and vegetables
to the community, but make a living.

Is it working?
It is working, absolutely.

It is even more
of a powerful argument

for how important urban agriculture
is for the city of Detroit.

There's something kind of nice

about this reconnection
of land and people.

And local, organic food
is reshaping diets,

not just here
but all across the country.

How far it can ultimately go,
however, is open to question.

After all, how many small-scale
farmers like Will Gardner

would it take to supply
every one of these food outlets,

even if America found crave-ability
in local greens and grass-fed meats?

In spite of its problems, our food
machine meets this challenge

and feeds 300 million Americans
every day.

I've decided to go back to the heart
of that industrial food machine,

high above the cornfields of Kansas

to try and figure out
where it's headed.

I'm taking a ride with Robert Grace
in the Boeing Stearman his dad flew

when he started the family
crop dusting business after WWII.

Between them, father and son
have witnessed a revolution.

When you have an increasing
population, automatic,

you have to have larger and larger
yields every year, forever!

The food machine that Robert's dad
and Greg Stone's grandad

helped create some 70 years ago

would be unrecognisable
to them today.

To sustain us,
that machine faces many challenges.

TED: Maintaining this
infrastructure we have,

we have to pay for that maintenance.

So, as that canal infrastructure
ages,

our cost is going to continue
to rise.

As our tastes evolve,

crave-ability doesn't have to lead
to more Bloomin Onions.

JOEL: Trends are
going to change again,

because now America is moving
away from that high-fat diet.

So, we're going to see
all these trends change again.

New voices are growing louder,
reviving old ideas.

WILL: Something had to be done,

and, like, I heard
that silent cry for help.

You know, I felt that we have some
space out here, I can contribute.

For most of the time that
humans have walked the earth,

the biggest threat
to human life was hunger.

In 21st-century America,

our food machine gives us more food
than most of us will ever need.

But it's not just about
producing more calories.

The question we now face is

how can we feed ourselves in
a way that's healthy for us

and sustainable for the environment?

GREG: I think the future's
very bright for agriculture.

These crops we grow today

will not look anything
like they do now in five years.

And that's part of the fun,
to be part of that.

One thing's for sure -
as this revolution continues,

our food industry
will have to reinvent itself,

as it has done so many times before.

To keep food on the table,
we're counting on it.

Supertext Captions by
Red Bee Media Australia
Captions copyright SBS 2012