When Howard Buffett finds himself behind the will of a farm tractor he acts like a 58-year-old, gray-haired kid. He even went on to describe the tractor’s GPS system as “very cool.”
“I’m driving hands-free,” said Howard Buffett, son of billionaire business leader Warren Buffett.
He went on to mention that the tractor has been set to automatically plan 16 perfect rows of seeds, “so it makes everything more efficient. And it’s going to give you a better crop in the end.”
Howard owns a 1400 acre research farm in Southern Arizona, which is about an hour to the east of Tucson. He is hoping to efficiently use land better and produce better crops. He’s hoping to achieve this for poor sustenance farmers as well as the large corporate farmers too. His charitable foundation – Howard G. Buffett Foundation – has been working hard in an effort to reduce hunger throughout the entire world.
When Howard was a child, he enjoyed playing in the dirt. It’s no prize that he grew up to be a farmer. When his father Warren Buffett gave him money for his foundation – in the amount of about $2 billion at this time – it wasn’t difficult for the younger Buffett son to figure out what he planned to do with the money.
Howard tells us that it really doesn’t make sense when millions of small farmers around the globe have a difficult time feeding their families. It’s also ludicrous that millions of Americans struggle to eat nutritious meals each and every day.
“You’ve got a global food problem,” he says. “You’ve got a food problem in the United States. You’ve got a food problem in Africa… In Asia. And so the truth is, the US is going to have to produce more, on not very many more acres, honestly. And so we’re going to have to do a better job.”
This is the precise reason why Buffett has this research firm and to others that are just like it. One is in South Africa and the other is in Illinois. It’s surprising that Howard Buffett is such a hands-on, down-to-earth guy. He is a rich philanthropist after all, so it’s kind of unexpected.
The research farm tests many different things, including: planting techniques, irrigation and soil content. They are also working on making land prone to droughts more productive. When they succeed, they will find ways to get the information to other struggling farmers all across the world, including Africa.
Buffett and company are also testing to oxen – named Earl and Ike – in order to find out which farm implements they will be able to carry. They also want to find out how long they can carry them. This should help the poor farmers efficiently use their animals.
Howard Buffett has also received many awards. He’s even received an award from the United Nations World Food Program. This is in recognition of the work that his foundation does on a global scale.
In recent years, he has turned his attention toward solving the domestic hunger crisis. In Buffett’s opinion, it doesn’t make sense to ignore what’s going on right in front of your eyes. Even know it isn’t as obvious as other countries, Buffett reminds us that hunger in the United States does exist.
Last year, Howard’s foundation teamed up with a network of United States food banks called Feeding America. They set up a program called Invest an Acre. This program encourages local farmers to donate at least one acre worth of crops – or more if possible – to the local food banks.
Buffett also has plans in the works to allow farmers to use land for free, and this is in the experimentation phase. But they have to donate half of their crop to a food bank. Buffett grew 60,000 pounds of pinto beans last year for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which is based in Tucson.
The proprietor of the food bank, Bill Carnegie, mentioned that Buffett showed up one day out of nowhere and asked what he could do to help. That’s when Carnegie mentioned that protein rich pinto beans were very important and a staple for his clients.
“He probably saved us somewhere around $100,000 on this one contribution. So we’re just very happy,” says Carnegie.
He also says that he’s quite happy with Buffett’s holistic approach to hunger issues. Buffett understands that it’s a lot more complicated than getting lots of food and then giving it to those who are in need. He understands that it’s about making people self-reliant over the long run. Carnegie mentions that the economy might be recovering somewhat, but the people coming to his door are growing in numbers. Buffett mentions that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Eliminating hunger in America is doable, because we have the resources to do it,” said Buffett.
Buffett also recalled visiting a school in Decatur, Illinois, his hometown, where roughly 92% of the students receive reduced price meals or they get them for free. Ironically, the school is located very close to the largest corn plant in the world, and it produces hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn each and every day.
“The trains go out of town past kids that don’t get to eat every day,” says Buffett.
Buffett also mentions how he’ll never forget about a couple that he met while visiting a food bank in Fresno, California – an unemployed accountant and her husband who was in out of work aerospace mechanic.
“They said… ‘The worst part is when we go out, we wait for it to get dark and dig through dumpsters and see what we can find,’” recalls Buffett. “And I’m thinking, you know, this is America, you know, the American dream. Well, this is not the American dream.”
It’s certainly not the American dream that his wealthy family grew up with. Buffett understands that he has been given a tremendous gift. That’s why he is attempting to do something that will have a lasting impact on the world. He understands that most people aren’t that lucky.