Brief History of Farming
A short history of agriculture and farmers
Farming has been an integral part of our civilization and it’s considered one of the most important human activities we need to do for our survival. Before humans discovered farming, they were hunter-gatherers. They gathered plants and hunted animals for food. They led a nomadic life and did not settle in one place.
While it’s still debated how and why early humans shifted from hunter-gatherers to farmers, may experts and scholars agree that this might have been due to climate change. Early humans started farming and breeding and herding animals in the end of the Ice Age when the weather was warmer. Around 12,000 years ago, humans started farming. They domesticated many wild plants and animals. Rice, wheat, barley and lentils are among the first plants to be domesticated. Dogs are considered to be the first animals to be domesticated. They were used as hunting companions. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia at around 11,000 BC. Sheep and cattle were domesticated in Turkey and Pakistan.
As humans started to engage in farming activities, they abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and built homes in permanent settlement. They also had to live near their crops to protect them from wild animals. They started developing tools for farming and hunting. This was the beginning of a more organised life when people started to live in groups.
Early discovered that the soil near riverbanks were suitable to grow crops which is why most early civilizations started near rivers like the Nile and Tigris. Early humans also discovered the role water plays in growing crops. Some early civilizations like those in Mesopotamia developed a simple irrigation system. They channeled water from streams onto their fields which allowed farmers to settle in ears which were otherwise thought to be unsuitable for farming. Later on, people began to work together and organized themselves to build better irrigation systems.
During the Roman empire, the Romans took notes of the best farming practices from the people they conquered and applied these practices to their own farming methods. They also developed different kinds of farm management like manorialism and sharecropping. Some farms were managed by farm owners and their families while others were managed by slave owners with the slaves doing all the farm work.The Middle Ages saw further improvements in farming methods. Monasteries became centers
for knowledge related to agriculture. Developments in iron smelting allowed people to make farming tools such as ploughs and other hand tools for farming.
During the British Agricultural Revolution, there was an increase in crop production and net output. This was primarily due to the introduction of new and improved farming practices like using machines for farming, enclosures and four-field crop rotation. Population also increased which freed up the labor force which helped drive the Industrial Revolution. Machines which made farming more efficient were invented during this era. Jethro Tull’s seed drill and Foljambe's Rotherham iron plough improved farming methods.
Farming has evolved significantly during the modern age. Farmers use tractors to perform mechanized agricultural tasks. Fertilizers were introduced to increase annual crop yields. Modern farming methods have become a subject of debate because of their effects on the environment and overpopulation.
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