How do you get your food every day? This unit examines the origins of agriculture and how it has spread throughout history. A primary focus is on the role technology 🚜 has played in transforming methods of food production over time. The unit also includes a careful examination of the global system of food production and trade 🌎 and how this system affects countries with varying levels of economic development 💲. Finally, the unit will conclude with an analysis of the positive and negative consequences of modern land use and food production methods.
Agricultural production has changed dramatically over time. First, hunter-gatherer societies began domesticating plants and animals during the First Agricultural Revolution. Improved farming techniques and mechanization 🚜 during the Industrial Revolution 🏭 were important characteristics of the Second Agricultural Revolution. In the past century, the Third Agricultural Revolution (Green Revolution) has transformed the global agricultural system and increased connections 🔗 between countries worldwide. The common theme in each of these agricultural revolutions has been an increase in the food supply 🥫😋 due to improvements in farming practices and agricultural technologies.
Image from Flickr
Image from Pixabay
Cultural Landscapes in Agriculture 🌱
Beginning with the first domestication of plants and animals 🌱🐄 thousands of years ago, humans have been altering natural landscapes to increase agricultural productivity. Cultural landscapes (“built environment”) have evolved as humans have increasingly leveraged agricultural innovations such as terracing 🌄, irrigation 🚰, and deforestation 🌲🪓 to raise plants and animals more efficiently. Factory farming 🏭🌱 practices have become a more common theme in agricultural landscapes since farming first started utilizing mechanization during the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s.
The “Why of Where” in Agriculture 👀🗺🌱❓
The “Why of Where” in global agricultural production—understanding why certain plants and animals are grown/raised where they are—requires an understanding of global climate zones and economic forces of supply and demand 💰💹💱💸. Some crops can only be grown in humid tropical environments 🍍🍌, while others thrive in more moderate climates. Pastoral nomadism 🐐🐑🐪 and ranching 🐄 are more common in regions with dry climates unsuitable for crop production. Besides climate-related restrictions, what farmers decide to produce depends on demand at the local, national, and global scale. For example, more developed countries have more money to spend on food items that would be considered luxuries in less developed countries (tropical fruits, beef products, etc.)
Extensive & Intensive
Knowing the difference between extensive and intensive land use is another critical component required to fully understand the “why of where” concerning agricultural systems.
Extensive land use involves a smaller amount of capital resources and paid labor in relation to the amount of space used—common examples include:
Both of these examples utilize large amounts of land with minimal inputs of capital and labor.
Intensive land use requires larger capital and labor inputs relative to the space that is being used. Examples include:
Pastoral Nomads (Extensive)
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Market Gardening (Intensive)
Image from Flickr
Large-Scale Agribusiness 🌱🕴🚚🏭📺📈💼💸
An increasingly common trend in agriculture has been a shift away from small family farms 👪 to a more complex agribusiness model of food production. While this trend is seen mainly in higher developed countries, it has affected virtually all countries due to increased globalization 🌍. The large-scale agriculture practiced within this model involves far more than simply planting and harvesting crops and raising livestock. These goods are usually processed in highly mechanized factories 🏭, transported to multiple locations 🚚, and eventually marketed and sold in various retail outlets 🏪. Another critical component of this system is the continued research and development of new crops 🌱, fertilizers, agrichemicals, and other agriculture-related technologies.
Image from Flickr
Global System of Agriculture 🌐🌱
As economic and political relationships have increased worldwide due to globalization, agriculture has become more interconnected 🔗 than ever before. Advancements in transportation ✈🚢🚚 and communication technologies 📱💻 have resulted in the development of a highly complex system of global food production involving countries at all levels of economic growth.
Rural Land Use
By far the most essential model of rural land use ever developed is the Von Thunen Model, which was initially designed to better understand the relationship between the location of farms in relation to market forces and transportation and production costs. A comprehensive understanding of rural land use also involves knowing the differences between land survey systems such as the metes and bounds, long-lot, and township and range systems.