Agriculture is typically defined as “science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products” (Shelach-Lavi, 2015, p. 46).
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Culture vs. Discipline
One might argue that agriculture should be viewed as discipline as opposed to culture since it focuses mainly on one aspect of people’s lives, i.e., food. However, agriculture should also be viewed as a cultural phenomenon as it defines the lifestyle of the people participating its processes. Culture, in its turn, is defined as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom, and many other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Whitney & Larson, 2014). Seeing that agriculture shapes the society and defines the course of its further development, promoting the ideas of environmentalism and sustainability, it will be reasonable to assume that agriculture belongs to the domain of cultures.
Nature and Origins of Agriculture
Back to the Fertile Crescent
The art of growing plants, in fact, has one of the longest histories among the rest of the existing cultures. Resulting from the basic human needs, i.e., the necessity to eat, agriculture emerged in the area known nowadays as the Fertile Crescent. Starting as an attempt to create food reserves for the future, agriculture slowly developed into the art of growing food.
Defining Markets and Trade
While the subject matter primarily revolved around growing plants and working in the field, it slowly started shaping the economy. The effects of the phenomenon under analysis can be traced nowadays in the relationships that agrarian societies build with the rest of the states.
Food and Politics
Although the connection between growing food and entering the political arena might seem somewhat farfetched, one must agree that trade relationships, in general, and food trade, in particular, defined the course of political relationships between states at some point of the global development.
Agriculture: Essential Constituents
Culture of Food
At the very start of agriculture development, the domain was primarily related to food and the related concepts. There is no need to stress that food is the primary product of the agricultural activities. Therefore, the members thereof consider food as not merely something to fill their stomach with but as a crucial resource, the production of which requires a significant effort and care.
Significance of Natural Resources
The emphasis on nature as the source of products that life depends on is another essential characteristic trait of agriculture. As a culture, it clearly puts a very strong stress on the need to appreciate natural resources.
Connection with Nature
In the present days, the phenomenon under analysis is typically viewed through the lens of sustainability. Agriculture requires a perfect knowledge of a range of plants, good understanding of the natural processes so that the emergent issues such as drought could be addressed properly, etc. Moreover, the members of an agricultural community traditionally stress the significance of exhaustible natural resources as something to be cherished and taken good care of.
The tools that are typically associated with the culture in question have undergone sufficient changes since their invention. At first, agricultural tools implies primarily manual labor. Thus, the use of hand tools such as a hand hay was typical. However, with the technological breakthrough of the 20th century, machinery is used for these purposes (e.g., tractors, cultivators, sprinkler systems, etc.).
Among the key activities in agriculture, soil cultivation, planting, irrigation, and harvesting deserve to be mentioned. Each of the procedures listed above addresses a certain stage of growing a plant and is primarily carried out with the help of machinery, especially in large agricultural communities.
People Belonging to the Culture
Reasons Behind the Choice
As a rule, the choice to accept agriculture as a lifestyle is defined by one’s geographical location. Living in the rural area that does not invite one to become a member of any other culture and requires that one should consider agricultural activities as the main source of income are usually the choice factors.
In lieu of the recent environment-related issues, particularly, the use of finite sources and the appropriate allocation of resources, environmental awareness and responsibility can be viewed as the essential traits of a farmer.
In addition, talking about farmers as the most common type of agriculturists, one must mention the fact that the given denizens of the state population tend to have a very good sense of togetherness and community. Every single member thereof has strong ties to the rest of the members. The specified phenomenon can be explained by the fact that most agricultural processes must be carried out in a team. Consistent participation in team-related activities, in its turn, creates a sense of togetherness and invites the participants to build strong relationships based on cooperation, commitment, and appreciation for traditions.
Claiming that people belonging to the culture under discussion defy innovations, however, would be wrong. On the contrary, farmers working in the rural areas tend to mix technological innovations and the latest ideas with the traditional approach so that the two concepts could be compatible. The delicate balance, which the task above requires to maintain, allows agriculturalists to remain an integral part of the global community, at the same time being committed to their traditions and culture.
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Impact and Further Evolution
Sustainability in Agriculture
Although the focus of agriculture has always been on natural resources, it has only been comparatively recently that the issue of resource replenishment, the problem of finite resources, and the concept of sustainability were brought up.
In fact, the culture has spurred the growth of biodiversity. Seeing that agriculture encourages sustainable use of resources, it can be considered significant for preventing different environments and habitats from being destroyed. The processes above align with the essential principles of biodiversity promotion, according to the existing definition thereof:
Agricultural biodiversity is a broad term that includes all components of biological diversity of relevance to food and agriculture, and all components of biological diversity that constitute the agricultural ecosystems, also named agro-ecosystems: the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, which are necessary to sustain key functions of the agro-ecosystem, its structure and processes. (What is agricultural biodiversity?, 2016, par. 1)
Therefore, when considering the impact of agriculture as a cultural phenomenon, one must mention that, in the context of the contemporary green movement, it addresses some of the most topical environmentalism issues. Particularly, the concept of sustainability as the most plausible tool for managing resources use deserves to be brought up.
Agriculture vs. Urbanism: Coexistence as a Solution
As it has been explained above, the current trends in technology and development, in general, affect agriculture on many levels to a considerable extent. Among the trends that are currently shaping the subject matter significantly, the concept of urbanism deserves to be brought up. The phenomenon above is traditionally defined as the process of industrial expansion. It, therefore, implies that urban areas should be expanded and that the rural ones should shrink. Although the identified process may be viewed as positive for economics as it provides opportunities for business growth, it is likely to have a deplorable effect on the development of agriculture unless carried out with the basic principles of sustainability in mind.
Despite the fact that agricultural areas are currently shrinking, the land that is used for the purposes of growing food and carrying out other agricultural activities is still very large. According to the latest estimations, the overall amount of agricultural land made 38% in 2015 (Agricultural land (% of land area), 2016). Furthermore, the correlation between the rural and the urban areas has been practically the same (around 36–38%) over the past decade. Although the area above is not populated just as densely as urban areas are, the overall number of people working in the field of agriculture, no pun intended, is still very large. Therefore, although the problem of urbanization as a threat to agriculture remains an issue, there is still time to develop the strategy that will allow retaining this culture.
Although the transfer into the digital environment has not yet affected agriculture to a considerable extent, it is expected that agrarian societies will have to suffer significant changes. In case the ideas of environmentalism remain influential in the future society, it can be expected that the digital innovations emerging as a result of the technological progress will be used to enhance the further development of agriculture.
In fact, the adoption of the current IT tools and especially the use of modern media, including social networks should be viewed as an important step in making the discussed culture popular among the rest of the people. Shedding more light on different aspects of agriculture, its proponents will help people understand the goals and objectives thereof. Consequently, extensive support from the rest of the world can be expected by the members of agricultural communities.
Although agriculture is typically interpreted as the process of growing different types of crops, fruit, and vegetables, it can, in fact, be viewed as a unique culture aimed at maintaining balance in the use of natural resources. A large number of people support the ideas that the philosophy of agriculture is based on.
The culture is mostly represented by farmers living in the rural areas. Because of the unique lifestyle, agriculturists have built a strong culture based on the idea of sustainable use of resources and the promotion of support across the community. The emphasis on togetherness that can be traced in the designated setting easily allows assuming that agriculture as a specimen of the contemporary cultural movements needs to be encouraged.
At present, however, the culture above needs significant support. The emphasis on urbanization and the following use of large areas of land hampers agricultural development. Therefore, raising awareness has to be viewed as the next step in making agriculture more resilient to negative external factors.
Agricultural land (% of land area). (2016)
Shelach-Lavi, G. (2015). The archaeology of early China. Boston, MA: Cambridge University Press.
What is agricultural biodiversity? (2016).