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As soon as humans began to form permanent settlements and gave up wandering in search of food, agriculture was born. The Latin roots of the word agriculture mean "cultivation of the fields." From the beginning, agriculture has included raising both crops and livestock. At first, this new way of providing food and other raw materials developed slowly. But, because it made life much easier for many people, it became the preferred way of supplying a basic human need. The people who worked at agriculture came to be called farmers.
Society was different before there were farmers. Nearly everybody devoted much time to gathering plants for food or to hunting or fishing. When food was abundant, there were feasts; when it was not, there was famine. Gradually people discovered the advantages of caring for animals in flocks and herds. They learned to grow plants for food, medicine, clothing, and shelter in areas set aside for that purpose.
As the food supply became more reliable and raw materials became more abundant, some people were free to do other things besides farming and hunting. Many of them chose to live in towns and cities, using their talents in various ways, including becoming expert in different trades. They made a variety of goods, which they could trade with the farmers for food. This began the division of labor into the rural farming community and the urban industrial complex, a fundamental partnership that still exists throughout the world.
Other people used their new leisure to observe, to think, to experiment. With the passage of centuries, such activity led to the bases of science, religion, government, and the arts, the foundation of modern civilization.
Farming used to be primarily a family enterprise and to a large extent still is in most countries. In the more developed areas, however, more efficient large-scale operations are overtaking the smaller family farms. These large farms usually specialize in one crop or one type of crop and often are run by giant parent corporations. Such farms are part of the current trend toward more controlled and cost-effective agriculture, called agribusiness.
The goal in agriculture has almost always been increased production and decreased labor. In the early 1900s the American farm, for example, was run by the muscles of people and of draft animals. Today machines of great size and complexity, some computerized, accomplish in hours what took many of those people and animals days to complete.
There are still family farms similar to those of an earlier era even in the most industrialized nations, but they are becoming fewer every year. There are also small-scale agricultural systems in many emerging nations of the world. But the trend almost everywhere is toward larger farms that are mechanized and that utilize the latest scientific agricultural methods to provide products more efficiently.
There is a great range in agricultural production around the world. Some countries, using high technology and advanced methods, produce more through agriculture than they need or can use, while others underdeveloped and poorer never produce enough to sustain their populations.
The farming systems that maintained ancient civilizations in Asia Minor or in the New World are incapable of supporting populations in those areas today. In underdeveloped Africa, farming techniques are improving but are not even as advanced as those of the ancient Babylonians or the Incas.
Nations with more advanced agriculture often attempt to help such areas improve farm productivity. This aid is often invaluable, but sometimes questionable for the long term. Agricultural systems are intimately connected to places and peoples. Propelling such areas into modern agricultural cropping techniques may be a shock to the local culture. Advanced technologies may not be advisable under the climatic and soil conditions of the area. The native method is often a marvel of ingenuity developed over many generations through intimate contact with unique situations.There may be no bumper crops, but the wonder is that there is any crop at all.
Many countries in the Western Hemisphere consistently produce more food than they use. The surpluses are stored in granaries and warehouses for later use or sale to other countries. Storing the surpluses costs money because giant bins and huge buildings must be built and maintained. Techniques for reducing spoilage and loss to pests add to the cost.
As farmers continue to seek the greatest possible yield for the most reasonable cost, advanced agriculture is becoming as elaborate and as complicated as other modern industries. In the United States and in other wealthy nations where population is not yet a burden, the cost of labor is relatively high and is the limiting factor in production. Thus there has been more and more mechanization and automation.
In general, the world is no better fed today
Terminology mentioned in this term paper
food supply, common agricultural policy, CAP,
Organizations mentioned in this paper
government, United States Congress, European Economic Community,
Locations talked about in this essay
United States, Canada, Asia, Africa,
Health Conditions included in this essay
Keywords talked about in this essay
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