History of Farming: Current Day Implications & Needed Changes

Farming is a symbol of humanity’s dominance over animals and plants to provide sustenance for survival. Early Neolithic peoples practiced agriculture as early as 20,000 BC, marking perhaps one of the most critical turning points in civilization. Since then, there have been dramatic changes in the way farming is practiced, but at its core is the necessary ability to cultivate to provide.

Farming has become a lucrative enterprise across the world. However, its more negative effects are becoming apparent, primarily as concerns for the environment and climate change increase. Humans may have become masters of harnessing agriculture to their advantage, but at the detriment of countless other organisms, sometimes needlessly.

How did the global population turn something so invaluable to its continuing existence into something that, while still indispensable, carries numerous long-term harmful effects that one day may pose a threat to the delicate balance of life humans are apart of?

This change most likely occurred during the time of the British Agricultural Revolution between the 16th and 19th centuries. This period in history saw a massive increase in agricultural productivity that enabled the population to jump to 5.7 million people in 1750.[1] During the Industrial Revolution between 1760 and 1840, new inventions and mechanized tools made it easier to clear land for an even higher number of farms.[2] As the number of people globally continued to climb, more pressure was put on farmers to supply the ever-growing demand for food.

The need for high yields and profits has led many farmers and other food producers to adopt less than responsible practices that have numerous adverse effects on the environment and quality of food that people consume. This includes over cultivating the soil, destroying forests, using chemicals excessively to grow food, pesticides for controlling pests, and much more.

This demand has not slowed, and farming has become a profitable business for many, especially larger farms. While food production is at its highest point, and many countries have a surplus of food, there remains a disparity between those who consume and those who cannot. This disparity can be found even in wealthy countries like the US.

Innovative farming is the answer to the problems traditional farming can cause. By switching to methods such as greenhouses, vertical growing, aquaponics, and the numerous other eco-friendly practices, the world’s dependence on traditional farming as a source of food could diminish significantly. Introducing urban farms to metropolitan areas decrease transportation between farm and store and make healthy foods more accessible for lower-income communities while cutting down on fossil fuels.

Innovative agriculture can provide enough food to feed the estimated 9 billion people in the world by 2050 while still having enough for livestock. Fertilizers are unnecessary with these modern methods, and greenhouse gases will start to decrease over time as fewer farmers use them. It indeed is the best way to tackle the environmental issues facing humans and gaining control of agriculture once more.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Agricultural_Revolution

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution#Chemicals