views updated May 21 2018


Farmers in antebellum America were committed to a mix of subsistence and commercial production. Slavery and the cotton gin drove the rapid expansion of cotton farming in the South. Slavery and the plantation system also created profitable markets for northern farmers, particularly for the sale of corn and pork. Midwestern farmers increasingly specialized their production for local and regional markets, and the emerging railroad network carried farm products to eastern markets cheaply and efficiently. Northeastern farmers could not compete with Midwestern farmers who raised cattle, hogs, and grain, and they began to specialize in dairy, hay, and fruit production. Rapid technological change and settlement between

the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River also characterized agriculture during the antebellum years. Periodic economic depressions caused financial problems but most farmers experienced general economic improvement during the antebellum period. Prior to the Civil War, wars against the American Indians, forcible removal of American Indians from native lands, the war with Mexico (1846–1848), and the expansion to the Northwest were partly motivated by American desire for more agricultural territory.

When the Civil War began in April 1861, approximately half of the U.S. population of 31.4 million lived on farms. Agriculture provided seventy-five percent of the nation's exports by value. Three farmers out of four owned their own land. In the North and border states, self-sufficient farms prevailed, but farmers also produced for the market economy to make a profit by raising wheat, corn, oats, hay, hogs, and beef and dairy cattle. In the South, large-scale plantations emphasized specialized production of cotton, rice, tobacco, and sugar cane with the use of slave labor. Small-scale farmers often raised cotton or tobacco for the market and corn for home consumption and livestock feed.

In 1861 few people believed that agriculture would affect the outcome of the war for the Union or Confederacy. Northerners expected the war to end quickly in their favor by force of arms while Southerners anticipated British intervention to ensure cotton supplies for English textile mills and, thereby, Southern independence. Both sides soon found that the war dramatically affected agriculture and farm life. The Union blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and Mississippi River prevented Northern farmers from shipping pork, corn, butter, wheat, oats, lard, and other commodities to Southern consumers who began to experience food shortages by early 1862.

war and society: southern agriculture

The Union blockade of the Mississippi River prevented Texas cattle from reaching Confederate markets, particularly New Orleans, and, thereby, cutting supplies of beef for soldiers and civilians. During the first two years of the war, many planters continued to raise cotton because they believed the conflict would increase prices. Confederate leaders, however, urged farmers and planters to increase corn, hog, and vegetable production to feed soldiers and civilians. Although many planters raised less cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar cane, by 1863, Confederate food shortages became critical.

Southern agricultural production declined because many farmers and their sons enlisted or were drafted into the army. Confederate women now assumed many farm jobs but they often could not handle tasks that demanded considerable physical labor, such as plowing and harvesting grain. Moreover, Confederate ironworks concentrated on weapons and stopped making farm equipment, and agricultural production declined as a result of inadequate planting and cultivating, and limited availability of harvesting implements. The Confederate armies often impressed slaves to build fortifications, or they were captured or ran away to nearby Union forces. The loss of slave labor further hindered agricultural production. Slave men and women also became increasingly reluctant to work in anticipation of their freedom after President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, that became effective January 1, 1863.

The movement of farm and rural people to the cities worsened the agricultural and food problem. Northern forces drove an estimated 400,000 pro-Southerners from Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, thereby increasing the demands for food on Southern farmers. Moreover, the Southern railroad system proved inadequate to transport agricultural products to the cities or the moving armies. By 1863, Confederate soldiers received only twenty-five percent of their allotted meat rations, and their horses had weakened due to insufficient grain and hay. Bread riots occurred in Atlanta, Richmond, and Petersburg, among other cities.

As food became scarce, agricultural prices increased rapidly. Soon inflated food prices became a major problem. Worthless Confederate paper money drove inflation. By 1862 many Confederate farmers refused to accept it as payment for their commodities, and they began to hoard food, all to the detriment of the soldiers and civilian population. Confederate farmers located near Union markets or advancing armies frequently traded across enemy lines because Northern buyers paid with paper money based on gold. The cost of goods that farmers needed also increased rapidly. In some areas farm implements and clothing increased two thousand percent.

The Confederate government attempted to control inflation by regulating farm prices, particularly those paid by agents who purchased agricultural commodities, such as meat, grain, and hay. Farmers, however, complained that Confederate purchasing agents or impressment officers paid prices below those offered on the open market and with nearly worthless paper money, which Confederate creditors often refused to accept for the payment of farmers' bills. Impressment agents often left Confederate farmers with too few horses, mules, cattle, hogs, and forage to remain viable farm operations. Confederate and Union armies also took livestock, grain, hay, and foodstuffs from Southern farmers as they passed through an area and tore down fences for firewood. During the last year of the war, foraging Confederate troops pillaged Southern farms as wantonly as Union raiders.

war and society: northern agriculture

Northern farmers did not experience invasion and the loss of property, crops, and livestock, except for Confederate forays near Antietam in 1862 and Gettysburg in 1863. Although farmers suffered a temporary loss of Southern markets when the war began, the Union army quickly provided a steady and lucrative market for them. An extensive railroad system carried agricultural commodities from the farms to food processors, the army, and urban consumers. Farmers increased production of commodities needed by soldiers. Some farmers began to specialize in the production of wheat, corn, hay, horses, and dairy and beef cattle. Border state and Northern farmers, particularly in Connecticut, increased tobacco production to cover the loss of Southern supplies. Wood and flax production increased, stimulated by high prices, and textile manufacturers wanting to offset the loss of Southern cotton, although Union troops captured considerable cotton stores.

The North had a larger population, and enlistments and draft inductions to the army proved less draining to agricultural labor. Approximately half of Northern farm families sent men to the army. Immigrants often took their places as hired labor with no loss of production resulting. Many Northern farm women replaced husbands and sons in the fields, and high wartime prices enabled farmers to purchase agricultural implements, such as reapers, mowers, horse rakes, and planters, that their wives operated to ease and speed their work. Rapid technological adoption helped expand production and reduced the need for hired labor.

agriculture, war, and public policy

The Union Congress passed three important acts in 1862 that affected all farmers after the Civil War. Southerners had opposed this legislation because it threatened to open the West to the creation of non-slave states, thereby reducing Southern political power in Congress, or because they believed the acts would prove costly, bureaucratic, and increase the power of the federal government at the expense of the states. On May 15, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill that created the United States Department of Agriculture, which became the most important scientific agency devoted to improving agriculture during the late nineteenth century.

The act authorized the department to acquire, test, and distribute new seeds and plants, conduct practical and scientific experiments, collect agricultural statistics and other information beneficial to farmers, and publish its findings in an annual report. Congress also approved the Homestead Act, which Lincoln signed on May 20. It authorized the federal government to provide 160 acres of pubic domain free to any head of a household, male or female, twenty-one years of age or older who was a citizen or who had filed for citizenship and who would live on it for five years and make improvements. On July 2, Lincoln also signed the Morrill Land-Grant College Act. It authorized the creation of state colleges where agriculture and mechanical arts would be taught to improve farm life.

agriculture and the legacy of war

When the war ended in 1865, Southern farmers confronted a host of problems that would take years to solve. In areas of Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Carolinas where the armies had moved or fought, houses, barns, and fences lay in ruin, fields stood abandoned, livestock had been killed or captured, and farm equipment was worn out or destroyed. The slave labor force that had tended the fields and livestock had been freed. The emancipation of four million slaves brought significant capital and credit losses to their owners and the necessity to convert slave-based farm and plantation operations to free or hired labor after the war. Some 260,000 Confederate soldiers, mostly farmers, had been killed. In contrast, Northern farmers used high wartime prices to pay debts, buy new equipment, and purchase land. For them the Civil War brought prosperity.

After the Civil War, American agriculture experienced rapid technological change. In the North, the Corn Belt spread west across the Midwest. Farmers moved onto the Great Plains, many taking advantage of the Homestead Act. They increasingly specialized with a single crop, and farmers gave less attention to self-sufficiency and more to surplus production for the market economy. Specialized agricultural production tied farmers to bankers, railroads, and businessmen in ways that often caused discontent and encouraged agricultural organization and protest. In the South, farmers primarily remained reliant on cotton, but the sharecropping system held many farmers in a state of poverty and near peonage. Thus, the Civil War contributed to the transformation of American agriculture and American society: Western migration expanded; Northern farmers became more commercial and capitalistic; and in the South, decades of economic decline followed the end of slavery and the new system of sharecropping.


Gates, Paul Wallace. The Farmer's Age: Agriculture, 1815–1860. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1960.

Gates, Paul Wallace. Agriculture and the Civil War. New York: Knopf, 1965.

Hudson, John C. Making the Corn Belt: A Geographical History of Middle-Western Agriculture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Revised edition. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2002.

R. Douglas Hurt

See also:Sharecropping and Tenant Farming.


views updated Jun 08 2018


Farming, or agriculture, is the science or art of cultivating the soil, growing and harvesting crops, and the raising of animals. Beginning some 10,000 years ago, people in various places around the world began to grow plants and domesticate animals. Slowly and over time, farming made living in one place possible, encouraged innovations in tools, and allowed a dramatic increase in population. All civilizations, from the earliest we know about down to our own, have evolved from this ability intentionally to grow plants and raise animals for larger groups of people.

Ancient stories and the oldest oral traditions speak of the origins of plants and animals. In the classic mythologies of all world cultures, agriculture came as a divine gift. In most stories a god or goddess came to instruct the people in the arts of growing plants and raising animals. In the Mediterranean region instruction came from a goddess, Isis in Egypt, Demeter in Greece, Ceres in Rome. From cuneiform tablets we learn that the source for agriculture for the Babylonians, and Chaldeans was a god named Oannes, who appeared to these people of the Persian Gulf coast and taught them to grow crops and raise animals. In Chinese mythology P'a Ku separated the heavens and Earth, created the sun, moon, and stars, and produced plants and animals. The Aztec and Mayan people thought that corn was on Earth before humans. In all of the myths and stories about the origin of agriculture, knowledge is gratefully received as a blessing from the gods or goddesses.

From Hunting and Gathering to Farming

Our modern scientific stories suggest that, for several million years or more, our human ancestors survived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. Then, from about 10,000 and to about 4,500 years ago, hunter-gatherer societies in at least seven regions of the world independently domesticated selected species of plants and animals. This time period is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. This development toward farming and the domestication of animals in the Middle East, southeast Asia, northern China, Africa, southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru profoundly altered the direction of humankind.

As these new agricultural systems emerged, they allowed human populations to increase, as well as setting the stage for the creation of complex human societies far beyond what had developed in hunting and gathering times. Large farming villages appeared as people gathered and settled in permanent villages. Villages turned into towns and cities, and eventually into city-states that dictated the production of food. These changes eventually led to the industrial and technological world that we live in today.

The question of why and how agriculture or farming became important in human societies continues to be investigated. One notable theory suggests that farming of some kind was practiced by hunters and gathering peoples all along. This "proto" farming encouraged certain plants and animals and resulted in increasing available foods. Other theories speculate that farming was less costly and safer than hunting and gathering or that climatic changes reduced the number of big game animals and made farming necessary to support a larger number of people. Farming may have allowed people to live in less hospitable environments such as semideserts and mountainous regions. Still other theories propose that changing climatic conditions eventually encouraged people to move into fertile riverine environments or people living in more marginal habitats encouraged the growth of certain plants that led to the deliberate planting of seeds and the cultivation of certain plants.

The Domestication of Plants and Animals

As people made the shift to farming they experimented with domesticating useful and familiar plants and animals. Perhaps this process started with a wild plant that people liked and used as an important food crop. Observation and experimentation resulted in plants that could be cultivated and relied upon. The big seeded grasses of the Middle East, rice in Asia, and the zea grasses that became corn in the Americas fulfilled this role. South Americans cultivated the potato, chocolate, and tomatoes.

Many early farmers domesticated animals as well as plants. People observed animals in the wild that were not solitary and not too large, fierce, or migratory. Many mammals can be tamed easily by capturing young animals and raising them in captivity. The domestication process requires rearing many animals over many generations and eventually altering the gene structure.

For example, in the Middle East we find species of goats and sheep that were domesticated from wild animals. In the wild they are relatively slow and docile, and both species lived in social groups ruled by a strong leader. Over time, these once-wild sheep and goats have undergone a reduction in size, a complete loss of horns in the female sheep, and mutations for wool. In goats, twisted horns and long hair called mohair appeared. Breeds of cattle appeared with long horns, short horns, crumpled horns, or humps. The earliest South American farmers found and domesticated llamas and alpacas. Other animals that lived on the outskirts of human settlements, such as dogs and pigs, developed relationships with humans before people settled as farmers. Small animals such as rabbits, turkeys, and guinea pigs were probably caught and enclosed.

Humans rely on other animal and plant species to produce food. Farming eventually succeeded because people figured out ways to coax more food from the environment than would otherwise be possible. The adoption of farming enabled human population to rise from an estimated 8 million present 10,000 years ago, to between 100 million and 300 million at the time of Christ, to 6 billion in the year 2000.


Biodiversity is the vast and varied combination of habitats and the many species of plants and animals that thrive in combination with each other. One of the serious environmental problems humankind faces today is the loss of that biodiversity. Scientists feel that this is the direct result of the transformation of natural landscapes by people for farming and grazing uses. These lands include breaking up and clearing large tracts of wild lands and wetlands. The logging and clearing of tropical and temperate forests have contributed to the loss and decline of many species of plants and animals along with their genetic and ecological complexity. This biodiversity is lost when tens, hundreds, and thousands of farmers clear land to increase yield, when loggers clear forests to provide lumber for houses and furniture, and when city dwellers need more land for homes, schools, and factories. Cutting old-growth forests to make room for cultivated fields has encouraged erosion on slopes and mountains. Swamps have been drained and rivers damned and diverted to provide water for irrigation. Overgrazing of grasslands and the use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides have polluted lakes, rivers, and streams.

The accumulated actions of all of these people over time have led to a massive extinction of species of plants and animals. Although this process has been going on since humans began to farm, the pace of change has accelerated since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries because of the industrial and agricultural revolutions. Innovations in machinery and genetics allowed for more crops to be grown with less labor and allowed people to do different kinds of work and move into cities. In the twenty-first century, increasing population, the global economy, and modern farming practices have created additional stresses on the environment.

Twenty-first century farming practices encourage cultivation of large-scale monoculture crops and single breeds of animals. Approximately eighty plant crops provide about 90 percent of the world's food sources. A little over fifty animal species account for most of the domestic animal production used for food and fiber. Many scientists believe that this overdependence on a small number of genetically similar plants and animals could have devastating consequences if weather or pests take a toll on large monocrops. Thousands of other plants could be cultivated to prevent such a scenario. In addition, tens of thousands of plants are known to have edible parts that could be used.

Hundreds of thousands of animal species, many of them insects, are needed for pollination and protection of crops. Tens of thousands of microbial species, most of them living in soil or on plants, provide nutrients, act as agents of decomposition, and contribute to the success of living communities of plants and animals. Without this biodiversity many of the fundamental ecological processes that are necessary for all living things to thrive will have a devastating effect on humankind's ability to feed, house, and sustain itself.

The Future

In spite of all the changes in land use and agricultural practices, farming on the modern scale is productive and holds the promise of solving many of the world's food problems. However, its impact must now be considered alongside maintaining or increasing the natural biodiversity necessary for the maintenance of natural systems that sustain all life on Earth.

Scientists and commercial farmers are realizing that greater diversity leads to greater productivity. Research and experimentation is being conducted in areas such as rotations of grasslands for dairy and beef cattle production, precise matching of soil conditions with specific plant species, and the maintenance of seed banks to help protect genetic diversity and increase the number of plants that can be used.

Genetic diversity has also been lost in animals used for food and fiber. The number of breeds used by humankind has declined by nearly thirty since the mid-twentieth century. Scientists and breeders are working together to protect the genetic diversity of rare endangered breeds along with their wild relatives in hopes of maintaining diversity in the available supply of milk, meat, and fibers that people throughout the world depend on.

In addition, scientists are acknowledging that a significant portion of the world's biodiversity is in the hands of small indigenous farmers throughout the world who practice age-old farming and ecological practices. This body of specialized knowledge is invaluable and in danger of being lost unless these individuals can pass their knowledge on to people who can make use of it.

Along with preserving local knowledge, some scientists believe that rural and agricultural landscapes, if properly designed and managed, can help preserve a significant number of plant and animal species. The conservation of local biodiversity depends on how agricultural lands are used and also on the protection of wild lands. Farmers around the world can help maintain the biodiversity needed to maintain all kinds of life on Earth as well as taking care of our expanding human needs.

see also Apiculture; Aquaculture; Farmer; Hunter-Gatherers.

Leslie Hutchinson


Harlan, Jack. The Living Fields: Our Agricultural Heritage. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Nazarea, Virginia D. Cultural Memory and Biodiversity. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.

Smith, Bruce D. The Emergence of Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Scientific American Library, 1995.

Solbrig, Otto T., and Dorothy J. Solbrig. So Shall You Reap: Farming and Crops in Human Affairs. New York: Island Press and Shearwater Press, 1994.

Tudge, Colin. Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.


views updated May 11 2018


FARMHAND, a term prevalent in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the northern United States, referred to farm wageworkers and generally was equivalent to "hired man." Now, however, the more common designation is "agricultural worker," which includes all who labor on the land manually regardless of region, structure of enterprise, or status.

Early in colonial America, distinctive patterns among agricultural workers emerged. Landowners who wanted workers to help them paid the passage from the British Isles and western Europe for indentured servants, bound on arrival to serve for several years. Upon conclusion of this apprenticeship, servants "out of their time" ascended the agricultural ladder by settling as farmers on land of their own. Indenture, which brought an estimated half of the whites who came to colonial America, faded out by the 1830s. Waves of free immigrants also seeking land of their own, available until World War I, soon followed.

A disadvantage of indentured servitude from the master's viewpoint was the replacement cost of rapid labor turnover. Many grasped at the alternative offered early in the seventeenth century by slavery, which spread mainly southward from Virginia. The imposition of lifelong bondage eliminated workforce turnover and stimulated the spread of plantation agriculture. Prior to the American Revolution, a few Indians became enslaved, but slave laborers were of preponderantly African origin. African Americans numbered 700,000 by 1790 and 4 million by 1860. In the South, masters numbered one-thirtieth of the total population, whereas slaves numbered one-third of it. In 1860 one-quarter of all slaves in the American south were in holdings of less than ten, one-half in holdings between ten and fifty, and one-quarter in holdings of more than fifty.

Following emancipation in 1865, sharecropping, a system that remunerated laborers with a share of the crop, largely replaced slavery. At their peak in 1930, sharecroppers' farms numbered 750,000. By 1964, overwhelmed by mechanization, they had fallen to 112,000. As the decline continued, the 1969 census ceased separate tabulation.

Hired wageworkers, of which there were very few in the South prior to emancipation, date from earliest colonial times in the North. They served either seasonally or year-round. If the latter, they typically received room and board and cash and lived with the farmer's family. Competing opportunities to settle on western land or to enter fishing and shipping industries kept the numbers of wageworkers low and encouraged the exchange of labor

between farmers and labor by the farmer's own family. By 1870 agricultural laborers and farmers were approximately equal in number: 2.9 million and 3 million, respectively. Thirteen percent of the former and 0.8 percent of the latter were women. After increasing in the early twentieth century, the numbers of each fell rapidly from 1940 on, until by 1970 laborers numbered only 1.6 or 1.1 million and farmers only 2.4 or 1.7 million, as reported by the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively. Of these, 24 and 3.7 percent, respectively, were women. Some 19 percent of the laborers and 0.8 percent of the farmers were below twenty years of age. By 1997 hired agricultural laborers accounted for less than 1 percent of the American workforce; about 17 percent of those workers were women. The era of the hired man closed shortly after World War I, with the decline in availability of cheap land and the growing mechanization of agriculture.

Over the second half of the twentieth century, the number of hired workers residing on farms fell dramatically. Advances in mechanization and technology had given an advantage to large-scale agribusiness and put thousands of small family farms out of business. Large-scale corporate farms needed abundant supplies of laborers only at harvest time. In the 1930s drought, depression, and mechanization dislodged large numbers of farmworkers from their homes to follow the crops for a living. During the Dust Bowl disaster that hit parts of Oklahoma and Texas in the 1930s, many sought better soil and higher wages in California. Some labeled them "Okies," a term that has since entered American lore through the photographs of Dorothea Lange and John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

The growing separation between employer and employed on farms engendered attempts at forming trade unions among agricultural wageworkers. Such efforts, which date from before World War I, gained footholds against great odds, mainly in the 1960s. Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers union, using civil protest techniques learned from the black civil rights movement, gained significant concessions from agribusinesses in California and the Southwest.

Formal importation of Mexicans, a major source of the specialty-crop seasonal workers from outside the United States, ended in 1965. By 2002 nearly 10 percent of farmworkers were migratory, up from 8 percent in 1970. Migrant agricultural laborers in the United States face especially difficult working and living conditions. The abundant supply of immigrant laborers, combined with linguistic and cultural barriers, keeps wages artificially low. The workers' ambiguous residency status often

prevents them from taking advantage of basic health and education services. The number of agricultural workers of all classes reached a peak of 13.6 million in 1916. By 1950 the total had fallen to 9.9 million, by 1969 to 4 million, and by 2002 to just over 1 million. Full-time hired farm workers are more likely than other American wage earners to be young, single, male, and Latino. More than half have never finished high school, and over one-third are not citizens of the United States. By 2000 there was a wide gap between owners and well-paid machine operators, on the one hand, and poorly paid illegal aliens and recent immigrants on the other.


Garcia, Matt. A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900–1970. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Griffith, David Craig, et al. Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.

Morgan, Kenneth. Slavery and Servitude in North America: A Short History. Washington Square, N.Y.: New York University Press, 2001.

Murphy, Arthur D., Colleen Blanchard, and Jennifer A. Hill, eds. Latino Workers in the Contemporary South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

Steinfeld, Robert J. The Invention of Free Labor: The Employment Relation in English and American Law and Culture, 1350–1870. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Whayne, Jeannie M. A New Plantation South: Land, Labor, and Federal Favor in Twentieth-Century Arkansas. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.

Paul S.Taylor/a. r.

See alsoAgriculture ; Dust Bowl ; Great Depression ; Indentured Servants ; Labor ; Land Policy ; Mexican Americans ; Migration, African American ; Plantation System of the South ; Rural Life ; Sharecroppers ; Slavery .


views updated Jun 27 2018


The sovkhoz, or state farm, the collective farm (kolkhoz), and the private subsidiary sector, were the three major organizational forms used in Soviet agricultural production after the collectivization of Soviet agriculture, a process begun by Josef Stalin in 1929. Although the concept of the state farm originated earlier under Vladimir Lenin during the period of war communism, the serious development of state farms began during the 1930s as the Soviet state exercised full control over the agricultural sector.

The state farm might be described as a factory in the field in the sense that it was full state property, financed by state budget (revenues flowed into and expenses were paid by the state budget), and subject to the state planning system, and workers (rabochy ) on state farms were paid a contractual wage. All of these major characteristics of the state farm distinguished it from the collective farm.

The sovkhoz was organized in a fashion similar to an industrial enterprise. The farm was headed by a state-appointed director, and the connection between labor force and sovkhoz resembled the structure of the industrial enterprise. Most important, capital investment for the sovkhoz was funded by the state budget. Thus, although prices paid by the state for sovkhoz produce were lower than for compulsory deliveries from collective farms, state farms were in a financially much better position. This was a major reason for the subsequent conversion of weak collective farms into state farms in the postWorld War II years, a process enhanced by the Soviet policy of agro-industrial integration and the ultimate development of the agroindustrial complex comprising collective and state farms and industrial processing capacity.

The role of state farms in Soviet agriculture grew steadily during the Soviet era. The number of state farms grew from less than 1,500 in 1929 to just over 23,000 by the end of the Gorbachev era in the late 1980s. This expansion resulted partly from state policythe amalgamation and conversion of collective farms to state farmsand partly from the use of state farms in special programs expanding the area under cultivation, such as the Virgin Lands Program. State farms were large. During the 1930s, for example, state farms were on average roughly 6,000 acres of sown area. By the 1980s, they averaged more than 11,000 acres of sown area per farm.

There were considerable differences in the output patterns between collective and state farms, and state farms were viewed as more productive and more profitable than collective farms. Generally speaking, the role of the state farms increased over time from modest proportions in the early 1930s. The sovkhoz came to be important in the production of grain, vegetables and eggs, less important for meat products. During the transition era of the 1990s, state farms were reorganized using joint stock arrangements, although the development of land markets remained constrained by opposition to private ownership of land.

See also: agriculture; collective farm; collectivization of agriculture


Davies, R. W.; Harrison, Mark; and Wheatcroft, S. G., eds. (1994). The Economic Transformation of the Soviet Union, 19131945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gregory, Paul R., and Stuart, Robert C. (2001). Russian and Soviet Economic Performance and Structure, 7th ed. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Volin, Lazar. (1970). A Century of Russian Agriculture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Robert C. Stuart


views updated May 14 2018

249. Farming

  1. Aristaeus honored as inventor of beekeeping. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 105]
  2. Ashman goddess of grain. [Sumerian Myth.: Benét, 57]
  3. Barren Ground Dorinda Oakley makes her fathers poor farm prosperous. [Am. Lit.: Glasgow Barren Ground in Magill I, 57]
  4. Bergson, Alexandra proves her ability above brothers to run farm. [Am. Lit.: O Pioneers!, Magill I, 663665]
  5. bread basket an agricultural area, such as the U.S. Midwest, that provides large amounts of food to other areas. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
  6. Ceres goddess of agriculture. [Rom. Myth.: Kravitz, 13]
  7. Chicomecoatl goddess of maize. [Aztec Myth.: Jobes, 322]
  8. cow college an agricultural college. [Pop. Culture: Misc.]
  9. Dea Dia ancient Roman goddess of agriculture. [Rom. Myth.: Howe, 77]
  10. Demeter goddess of corn and agriculture. [Gk. Myth.: Jobes, 429430]
  11. Dionysus god of fertility; sometimes associated with fertility of crops. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 575]
  12. Fiacre, St. extraordinary talent in raising vegetables; patron saint. [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 130]
  13. Freya goddess of agriculture, peace, and plenty. [Norse Myth.: Payton, 257]
  14. Frome, Ethan epitome of struggling New England farmer (1890s). [Am. Lit.: Ethan Frome ]
  15. Gaea goddess of the earth. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 785]
  16. Georgics Roman Vergils poetic statement set in context of agriculture. [Rom. Lit.: Benét, 389]
  17. Giants in the Earth portrayal of mans struggle with the stubborn earth. [Am. Lit.: Giants in the Earth, Magill I, 303304]
  18. Good Earth, The portrayal of land as only sure means of survival. [Am. Lit.: The Good Earth ]
  19. King Cotton term personifying the chief staple of the South. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 445]
  20. Kore name for Persephone as symbol of annual vegetation cycle. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: NCE, 1637]
  21. Odin god of farming. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 728]
  22. Persephone (Roman: Proserpine) goddess of fertility; often associated with crops. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: NCE, 1637]
  23. Shimerda, Antonia like wavering grass, a child of the prairie and farm. [Am. Lit.: My Antonia, Magill I, 630632]
  24. Silvanus god of agriculture. [Rom. Myth.: Kravitz, 13]
  25. Triptolemus an Eleusinian who learns from Demeter the art of growing corn. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 557]
  26. Walstan, St. English patron saint of husbandmen. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewer Dictionary, 1138]
  27. wheat ears, garland of to Demeter, goddess of grain. [Gk. Myth.: Jobes, 374]


views updated May 29 2018

farm / färm/ • n. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager. ∎  a place for breeding a particular type of animal or producing a specified crop: a fish farm. ∎  an establishment at which something is produced or processed: an energy farm.• v. 1. [intr.] make one's living by growing crops or keeping livestock: he has farmed organically for five years. ∎  [tr.] use (land) for growing crops and rearing animals, esp. commercially. ∎  [tr.] breed or grow commercially (a type of livestock or crop, esp. one not normally domesticated or cultivated).2. [tr.] (farm someone/something out) send out or subcontract work to others: it saves time and money to farm out some writing work to specialized companies. ∎  arrange for a child or other dependent person to be looked after by someone, usually for payment. ∎  send a sports player to a farm team.3. [tr.] hist. allow someone to collect and keep the revenues from (a tax) on payment of a fee: the customs had been farmed to the collector for a fixed sum. DERIVATIVES: farm·a·ble / ˈfärməbəl/ adj.


views updated Jun 11 2018


Farmers make a living by managing or operating farms, places where plants (crops) or animals (livestock) are raised to be sold to others. Crops include grains such as wheat, vegetables, fruits; fibers such as cotton; nuts; flowers; and landscaping plants. The type of crop grown on a particular farm depends on the climate, soil, and layout of the land, whether it is low-lying or mountainous, for example. There are livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers, as well as farmers that raise bees and fish.

Farming is financially a risky business, with success depending on weather conditions, plant and animal diseases, insect problems, prices of fuel and other expenses, and market demand. Farmers may work on large commercial farms or on smaller farms which may be family owned. The work is very demanding physically and takes place mostly outdoors. During the growing season, farmers may work almost constantly, seven days a week. Animals must be cared for every day. Farmers must have both labor and management skills. They decide which crops to plant and which fertilizers to use. They need to know how to care for their livestock and keep the barns, pens, and other farm buildings in good condition. Farmers work with tools and machinery and maintain equipment and facilities. They must have good financial skills, including keeping records of expenses, taxes, and loans. Also, farmers must understand the various laws that apply to their business. Computers have become increasingly more important in farming to keep track of finances, manage inventory data, and track schedules for applying pesticides or breeding livestock.

Becoming a farmer does not generally require formal training or education. The enormous knowledge that is necessary for this profession is often acquired by a person raised on a farm. In grade and high school, it is good training to participate in agricultural programs run by organizations such as 4-H. However, even a person raised on a farm can benefit from getting an education at a university. A bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences, which include courses in farming, producing crops, and raising livestock, can be helpful, along with courses in crop, dairy, and animal sciences. Business courses such as economics, accounting, and marketing are also useful.

see also Apiculture; Aquaculture; Farming.

Denise Prendergast


Kircher, Harry B., Donald L. Wallace, and Dorothy J. Gore. Our Natural Resources and Their Conservation, 7th ed. Danville, IL: Interstate Publishers, Inc., 1992.

Internet Resources

Occupational Outlook Handbook 2000-01. U.S. Government. <>.


views updated May 17 2018

farm fixed annual payment as rent, etc. XIII (orig. in to farm, at or in farm); tract of land leased; farm-house XVI. ME. ferme — (O)F. :- medL. firma fixed payment, f. L. firmāre fix, settle, in medL. contract for, f. firmus FIRM1.
Hence vb. †rent XV; let or lease out XVI. So farmer collector of revenue; bailiff, steward XIV; cultivator of a farm XVI. ME. fermour — AN. fermer, (O)F. fermier, which combined the uses of medL. firmārius and firmātor; in the more mod. uses apprehended as f. farm vb. + -ER1.


views updated May 14 2018

farm An arrangement in which several computers cooperate concurrently in the solution of a problem. One of the computers will act as a scheduler while the remainder act as workers. Each worker has the same copy of the code and is able to accept a task from the scheduler, carry out the process, then return the result. A farm could comprise a network of transputers or other similar microprocessors.


views updated May 21 2018

farm·er / ˈfärmər/ • n. 1. a person who owns or manages a farm. 2. hist. a person to whom the collection of taxes was contracted for a fee.

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