Story of Farming
"Over 80 percent of mankind's diet is provided by the seeds of less than a dozen plant species." (26F, pg 2) Over the years man has invented new machines and techniques to increase the amount and variety of crop production. The following will be an overview of the history of farming. We will examine the major historical cultures, the development of the tractor, and the major types of agriculture practiced today.
The roots of farming began in the areas of
present day Turkey and the Middle East about 10,000 years ago. Two of the
earliest settlements are known as Catal Hüyük and Jericho. Catal
Hüyük had, by 6000 B.C., more then 1000 houses. It
is at this place that we have discovered evidence of people taking wild grasses
and using the seeds for food and planting for the next years food. These
seeds are now known as cereals and make up a large percentage of the worlds food
Jericho, like many early cities, was located around a consistent water source, a spring which produced over 1000 gallons of water every minute. (#16, pg. 6) Jericho consisted of about eight to ten acres on which it is estimated that two to three thousand people lived. These people were supported by farming of wheat, barley, peas, and lentils. Archeologist believe the earliest settlers in this area were a small group of hunter-gathers. Hunter - gathers would live off the land forging berry and edible plants, as well as hunting wild animals. These types of people lived in smaller groups because they had to be mobile to find more food. It was not until man began to plant and harvest crops that large permanent settlements could be established, like at Jericho.
We find many of the early civilizations began along major river systems. For example Egyptians settled along the Nile River, Harappa culture along the Indus, Chinese Empire along the Huang River and the Mesopotamian Countries along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The river systems provided these early civilizations with a consistent source of silt from the yearly floods and water for the crops. The silt is like a natural fertilizer, bringing new minerals to enrich the crop depleted soil.
Farming changed very little from early times until about 1700. In the 1700's an agriculture revolution took place which led to a large increase in the production of crops. This increase of crops came about in a large part by ". . . little more then the final destruction of medieval institutions and the more general adoption of techniques and crops which had been know for a long time" (17F, pg 53). Included in some of these changes was also the adoption of crops from the "new world" such as corn and potatoes which produced a very large yield.
In the 1850's, the industrial revolution spilled over to the farm with new mechanized methods which increased production rates. Early on, the large changes were in the use of new farm implements. Most of these early implements were still powered by horse or oxen. These new implements combined with crop rotation, manure and better soil preparation lead to a steady increase of crop yield in Europe. (17F)
The advent of steam power and later gas powered engines brought a whole new dimension to the production of crops. Yet, even as recent as 100 years ago, four-fifth of the world populations lived outside towns and were in some way dependant on agriculture. Even in 1970's Griggs suggests that half of the worlds working population is still employed in agriculture. (17F, pg 1)
In the following pages we will examine the cultures, the farming types, the tools, and much more as they relate to agriculture.