Blog 07, Change in Farming System

What are the root causes of the major change in farming systems from a diversified, crop-animal integrated model to industrial, specialized methods of producing crops? (Francis, 2015)


Agriculture has changed dramatically throughout history. Our grandparents might have answer differently than us on how they got their food. When the population was relatively small and dispersed, farmers implemented crop-animal integrated model as their farming system. Multiple types of plants and animals were grown together which enabled farmers and the communities for self-sufficiency (Hurt, 2002). These traditional practices have tremendously changed over the course of history, and modern industrial techniques are now used for producing crops. Crop production in the United States is extensive, covering 18 percent of the surface area of the lower forty-eight states and producing more than $216 billion in sales in 2012 (Schnepf, 2013). Population growth and industrial revolution are the crucial factors that have contributed to the change in the farming system.

A resource video on YouTube explains the agricultural revolution. This video is a part of ClickView AU/NZ original series- The Industrial Revolution. The host states, the industrial revolution began in the Britain in the early part of the 18th century. Prior to this revolution, people lived in agrarian societies with open field villages and farming was greatly influenced by seasons and weather. Mostly, people relied on subsistence farming which produced enough food for the family and the community. During this time, farmers used rotating crops technique over three fields with one field fallow. This fallow field was used to raise livestock and simultaneously to fertilize the soil. During 1730s, Lord Turnip Townshend introduced the Dutch Four Crop Rotation system in Britain which helped in maintaining the nutrients in the soil (ClickView AU/NZ, 2015). And this was just a start of the agricultural revolution.

(Source: ClickView AU/NZ -YouTube Channel)

There are 323 million people in the United States and only 2 percent comprises of farm and ranch families produces the food, including fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy, that everyone eats. Over 200 hundred years ago, the population of the U.S. was just over 5 million, and a large percent of the population lived on farms. The farmers produced their own food to eat and provided for a small community. As the population grew, the demand for food supply increased. Farm lands were comparatively small, and the farmers had to meet these new supply standards. Farmers started buying more land from the neighbors and the farms became larger (Francis, 2015). Plowing the large farmland with horses was not efficient which resulted in the use of larger machinery like the tractor. As these larger types of machinery became available and easy to implement, more farms merged, the need for labor reduced, and people moved to cities for seeking higher income jobs (Francis, 2015).

Industrial Revolution was the transition of going from hand production to machine driven manufacturing and production. Technology emerged and agricultural techniques improved with the implementation of mechanical seeders, steel plow, and steam-powered threshers (Francis, 2015). A single farmer could manage a large farmland using these machines. Enhanced irrigation systems and abundance of natural resources led farmers from diverse farming to more specialized methods like monoculture fields in which a single crop, plant, or livestock is grown. Industrialization introduced a term “technological treadmill” in which those who run fast keep buying more land and accessing production inputs, whereas others fall behind or fall off the treadmill (Cochran, 1993).

Prior to industrialization, practices involving raising livestock were unchanged for eight thousand years with outdoor access to animals and with diversified farms (Kim, Horrigon, Love &, Nachman, 2015). Traditionally, farmers usually raised livestock on pasture and also grew the feed they needed to sustain their animals over the winter. As prices dropped, farmers added more land to make up their lost income, which then caused more supply and further price drops (Food & Water Watch, 2010). Over the last few decades, farmers started implementing factory farms over livestock farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs, and chickens in tightly packed facilities. Farmers have adopted factory-farming practices with modern techniques and equipment to raise the livestock with minimal labor.

Crop rotation was practiced in the early days to avoid pathogen and pest buildup on one specific crop species if produced continuously. This practice also balanced the soil nutrition by planting legumes and pastures in rotation as a nitrogen source. With the use of chemical fertilizers, natural nitrogen source was eliminated and, as a result, raising the livestock became a specialized industry separate from food crop production (Francis, 2015). Also, chemical herbicides eliminated the need to control the weeds. Technological advances such as Global Positioning System became started guiding in the application of the fertilizer and the herbicide (Francis, 2015).

As discussed, these social, geographical, and technological changes took place over the years, which more or less contributed to changes in the farming systems from a diversified, crop-animal integrated model to industrial, specialized methods of producing crops. I believe we are in the technological revolution right now and the changes in the farming techniques and practices will continue for coming years.




Boserup, E. (1975). The Impact of Population Growth on Agricultural Output. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 89(2), 257-270.

ClickView AU/NZ (2015, August 10). Causes of the Industrial Revolution: The Agricultural Revolution [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fast Facts about Agriculture. (2015). In Farm Bureau. Retrieved from

Food & Water Watch (2010). Factory Farm Nation – How America Turned Its Livestock Farms into Factories. Retrieved from

Francis, C. A. (2015). Crop Production and Food Systems. In R. A. Neff (Ed.), Introduction to the US Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity (pp. 265-287). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Intensive farming. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Kim, B. F., Horrigan, L., Love, D.C., & Nachman, L. K. (2015). Food animal production. In R. Neff (ed.), Introduction to the U.S. food system: Public health, environment, and equity.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

U.S. and World Population Clock. (n.d.). In United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from



5 thoughts on “Blog 07, Change in Farming System

  1. Blog VII Critique

    1. Thesis is well articulated and clearly focused.
    Your thesis was well articulated. There were several statements that helped shape the overall theme of your essay including in your opening paragraph information regarding the percentage of U.S. land for crop production and in your third paragraph your statement about farmers adding to their already existing land. Your conclusion was well formulated and brought a logical conclusion to your thesis. Your argument was clearly focused. Each of your paragraphs included content that stayed within the scope of your question and provided supported information by additional references that helped the reader understand the root changes in the farming system.
    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written. Your essay was well organized. Your introductory paragraph provided an informative opening, discussing older practices and an introduction to contemporary methods. Both of your references included in paragraph one helped the reader understand the scope of your argument. Several reference is paragraph four provided information on contemporary farming practices that helped the reader understand the differences between the old and new farming practices, with examples such as GPS and the specialization of livestock farming. Your paragraphs are in logical order of content presented and your conclusion paragraph was effective in recapping the theme of the essay.
    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay. Your references were focused on the argument and support the thesis of the essay. Your use of the text, more specifically multiple chapters helps us in the class reflect back on previous content and provides effective support of your essay. Your Farm Bureau reference helped support the farming practices information in your argument and your world population clock reference helped the reader understand the transition of traditional farming practices to contemporary farming practices.
    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity. Your additional references were of professional quality. Your use of multiple chapters within the text provided professional references. The You Tube video provided provided valid data to support your argument and the Factory Farm Nation website provided valuable, valid information regarding both economic and geographic shifts in farming.
    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature. Your argument is well made with valuable data that supports your writing. You effectively provided a description that describes the transition from traditional farming practices to current trends in agriculture. You used significance points from both text chapters and additional references to make a valid presentation and your conclusion provided an effective closing to the transition from traditional farming practices and what the root causes to a more industrialized model.
    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented. Your argument resulted in a clear conclusion that emerged logically from your previous paragraphs. Your introductory paragraph and the body of your writing led to a well developed conclusion. You provided information on both past and current farming practices in paragraphs one through four and your summary in your closing paragraph were a reflection and wrap up to your argument.
    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct. Your bibliographic formatting and internal referencing are correct, meeting standards of the APA 6th edition. Your use of RefWorks or other bibliographic tool has allowed you to apply an accurate in text citation and references list.
    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Your spelling and grammar were correct throughout your writing. I found no spelling or grammar errors. The sentence structure throughout the writing was correct.

  2. The additional chunking did increase the readability. I appreciate the fact that you even chunked your critiques this week. When a writer takes the time to consider the needs of the audience they will always get positive feedback from me.

    I also appreciate the fact that you looked at the industrial revolution in Great Britain and the Agricultural revolution in Australia and New Zealand. The video and your references help to illustrate what happened and when it happened in those places.

    (Searching for and finding appropriate videos and images is an important web based skill. It takes time and effort and there is learning involved in process. Some people are so product oriented that the idea of getting credit for going through a process of searching, selecting, and inserting doesn’t make sense to them yet. Eventually it will.

    I do think it is important to note that the industrial revolution and the agricultural revolution occured later in the US than they did in Great Britain and because the US was still growing it occurred in some parts of the country before it occurred in others. The speed of the agricultural revolution in the US was also slowed by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when great dust storms greatly damaged the eco!ogy and agriculture of the plains in both the US and Canada. It was a failure in dry farming techniques.

    The impact of the Great Depression was not relieved until the era of the New Deal when public work programs included the construction of hydroelectric damns that among other things brought electrical power to the rural farms of America and extended the work day. The next leap for US agriculture was associated with the World War II. The US did not immediately join the war and its agricultural sector benefitted greatly from the needs of Its European allies for its farm products.

    It was after that War, 1946, that the industrial food system we are studying really came into its own and since then it has become, as you mention, even more technologically sophisticated.

    I think that a sociohistorical approach that looks at societal changes that are considered to be “revolutionary” needs dating in the different countries of the world. I think that it helps us to remember that the entire world did not experience these revolutions simultaneously.

    After World War Ii we had the industrialized nations of the world and we still had nations that were characterized as “developing.” Globally both industrial food systems and traditional food systems existed at the same time. When you look at any country in the world you can legitimately ask to what extent its food system is industrial or traditional or even the extent to which it uses post industrial technology.

    I am going to stop this substantive discussion about the timing of the industrial and agricultural revolutions in different countries or I will go too far from your prompt and start talking about how colonization and industrial imperialism helped to create the countries that are struggling to feed their people while other countries have huge surpluses of food.

    Saying that a discussion of timing in the US would have strengthened your essay is not the same as saying that your essay is weak. It would be a mistake to consider it a negative criticism when it is intended to make a strong essay a stronger.

    In a face to face seminar you would actually be expected to respond to my suggestion and we would talk to each other about different ways of looking at the questions. An open dialogue would ensue and others would join in. This week I found Vandana Shiva in every thing that I touched and she is the embodiment of someone who opposes the industrial and the post industrial and pushes for the traditional. I learned more about the food system in India and the timing of its agricultural crises that brought me a few “aha” moments.

    However in this medium the post and the critique seem to be as much as people can manage.

    I understand how difficult English grammar can be when it is not your first language and you are fighting interference from four other languages. You are dealing with this very well and I can see how hard you are working. However, I am not going to tell you that your essay is perfectly proofread and free from errors when it is not. Writing on the web creates another set of obstacles and very few blogs that have been posted are completely free of grammatical errors and or typos.

    But I am so not the grammar lady. I am the readability lady. Keep chunking. Keep working on writing simple declarative sentences in the active voice. Keep working on writing shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. You are doing very well – your proposal was spot on – and you caught my error in the grading of them. That was a great job.

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