A History of Agriculture

Important aspects of Agriculture need to be understood in order to discuss how agriculture has changed. The starting point of this research needs to be found from the deep history of the agrarian age and how their changes influenced the changes of today.

First African slaves brought to Virginia; by 1700, slaves are displacing southern indentured servants

18th century

Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail

7th and 18th centuries
All forms of domestic livestock, except turkeys, are imported at some time; crops borrowed from Indians include maize, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, gourds, squashes, watermelons, beans, grapes, berries, pecans, black walnuts, peanuts, maple sugar, tobacco, and cotton

17th and 18th centuries
New crops from Europe include clover, alfalfa, timothy, small grains, and fruits and vegetables; African slaves introduce grain and sweet sorghum, melons, okra, and peanuts

18th century
Tobacco is the chief cash crop of the South

18th century
Ideas of progress, human perfectibility, rationality, and scientific improvement flourish in the New World; small family farms predominate, except for plantations in southern coastal areas; housing ranges from crude log cabins to substantial frame, brick, or stone houses; farm families manufacture many necessities

Birth of the Grange 1870’s –

Granges commercialised Farming, opening it up to entrepreneurship because of the backwardness of farm life. The distribution of the produce was more considered by using railroad to spread it round. Granges try to promote the economic and political aspects of farm life and services so its more commercialised to a greater market. Granger laws made fair prices for railroads and grain companies, to make farm life much more profitable .


Farmer’s Alliance 1877

Primary concerns of the Southern Farmers’ alliance were twofold. Farmers wanted to join together when they bought the supplies needed for their profession, this way they were able to buy in bulk, reducing the individual costs, making it easier to make large profits. Also, Farmers grew frustrated with the decrease in the price for their services, and the increase in the fees for the middle men (retailers) selling the products of their hard labour. The alliance sought to improve this situation by buying more in bulk and bypassing the middleman to make the consumer source direct from them.


The first gasoline tractor was built by John Froelich

FSA 1935 (See previous blog post) –

‘The FSA (Farm Security Administration) was set up in 1935 in order to take care of the rural depression in America. They tried to improve farming because of the poor living conditions of farmers; many who had these poor living conditions found it difficult to make a living from their land that wasn’t yielding much success. The FSA brought a programme to purchase this land from farmers and relocate them to land that would benifit them more for their profession. Many photographers including Walker Evans were employed to depict the era through bleak images that would depict the poor land as inefficient, encouraging people to force change and make the FSA’s policies justified.’


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) establishes working procedures that have substantially reduced tariffs between member nations

Organic chemicals called chelates are found to help protect plants against certain metal deficiencies

Number of tractors on farms exceeds the number horses and mules for the first time


Farmers’ Markets a popular way for small farmers to reach consumers directly

Farm entrepreneurial population: 5,024,000

Farmers begin using satellite technology to track and plan their farming practices. The user of conservation tillage methods, which leave crop residues in the field to combat erosion, continues to rise. FDA grants first approval for a whole food produced through biotechnology, the FLAVRSAVR™ tomato. Farm Bureau celebrates its 75th anniversary. U.S. Congress approves General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), helping liberalize world trade


Agricultural exports set record at $60.4 billion

Even though perceptions that agriculture was  more successful in the Agrarian age, statistics show that with the digital age and the progression of farm machinery, that production and farm incentive increased.  However, agriculture in the earlier days was more dominant in terms of % of exports because there were less entertainment products and other manufactured goods:


Agricultural exports: $40 million/year or 87% of total exports


Agricultural exports: $2.42 billion/year or 22% of total exports


Agricultural exports: $48.2 billion/year or 9.5% of total exports

Clearly with the introduction of easy trade and other entertainment products the figures of exports aren’t as strong as they once were. However, with exports as high as $48.2 billion per year it shows that farmers deserve a lot more credit for the work they do. With people saying that agriculture isn’t as strong as it once was is wrong. From my research agriculture is improving dramatically and adapting to the times well, its because external factors like supermarkets, the media and government polices that take the attention away from the good work that they are doing, my project seems a lot more worth while after finding all this context around the issue.

Research taken from – http://www.agclassroom.org/gan/timeline/ag_trade.htm



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