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.