History of agriculture

WhyWheatNoLongerThe history of agriculture began long, long ago, when the cave man gathered leaves, stalks, roots, fruit, nuts and seed in the jungles, forests and plains surrounding his habitat.

He drifted north and south with the seasons in pursuit of his food.

One day he realized that seeds dropped by accident near his cave grew into new seed-producing plants.

That gave him the idea of planting seeds purposely near his dwelling place and, finally, clearing a patch of ground and loosening the soil with a stick before planting.

As far as is known today, that was the beginning history of agriculture.

Agriculture is the scientific term for the cultivating of soil to make it more productive. The word is derived from the Latin ager—field, and cultura—tilling.

With the growth of the tribe ever more cleared acreage was needed to meet the demands for food.

Around about then, many of those early farmers decided it was wasteful to kill all their enemies, and decided to use them to till the fields instead.

These were the first forced-labor slaves, a practice that continued for thousands of years throughout every continent and culture.

Cereal grains (cerealis—pertaining to Ceres, the Roman goddess of vegetation) were the most ancient and prolific of staple foods. They included all food grain-bearing grasses—barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, rye, wheat, corn etc.

All the grains, with the exception of corn which was native to South America, originated in Central Asia and the Far East.

They have been cultivated since prehistoric times, and their distribution became world-wide as civilization advanced.

The cultures of antiquity were all built around the agricultural centers of grain-growing people:

The Chinese, Indians, Koreans and Japanese in Asia; the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Phoenicians, Israelites and Syrians in the Near East; the Egyptians, Lydians, Nubians and Carthaginians in Africa; the Cretans, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans in Europe; the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs in South and Central America.

Thus, the history of agriculture advanced.

Over nearly 7000 years of  agricultural development the methods and tools of the toilers in the fields changed little—except for expansion of populations, fields and the numbers of workers required to produce the food.

It was only in the last century or two, with the rise of industrialization that the mechanical wonders of modern farming machinery were introduced and boomed agrarian economies.

More recent developments in chemistry led to still further uses for the products of agriculture.

Today we use plants and herbs not only as sources of food, clothing and medicine, but for so many hundreds of newly developed industrial needs that it staggers the imagination.

Yet for large parts of the world, agricultural methods and farming tools are still nearly the same as they were in Biblical times.

Time will tell in the history of agriculture—and man and inventions, additions and tinkerings—the fate of agriculture on its long journey to the present and on to the future.

Will it become better in nutritional value and healthy populations— or worse?

Source: Folklore and Odysseys of Food and Medicinal Plants, Ernst and Johanna Lehner.