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Industrialization of Agriculture

BACKGROUND

stock yard
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

In the early 1900s, more than half of Americans were either farmers or lived in rural communities.1 Most U.S. farms were diversified, meaning they produced a variety of crops and animal species together on the same farm, in complementary ways.2 Farmers were skilled in a wide range of trades and had autonomy over how to manage their crops and animals. Animals were typically raised with access to the outdoors. Most of the work on the farm was done by human or animal labor.

Although conditions like these still exist, the industrialization of agriculture radically transformed how the vast majority of food is produced in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Over the brief span of the 20th century, agriculture underwent greater change than it had since it was first adopted some 13,000 years ago. Modern U.S. agriculture has been described as “the most efficient in the world, at least in terms of the dollar and cent costs of production.”1 The public health and ecological costs of industrialization, however, are not reflected in the prices of food. 

SPECIALIZATION

wheat harvest
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
cigar workers
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Specialization aims to increase efficiency by narrowing the range of tasks and roles involved in production. A diversified farmer, for example, might need to manage and care for many different vegetable crops, a composting operation, a flock of egg-laying hens, a sow, and her litter of piglets. Specialized farmers, by contrast, can focus all their knowledge, skills, and equipment on one or two enterprises, such as growing corn and soy, or fattening beef cattle. Over the course of industrialization, specialization was applied to nearly all facets of food production.

Diversified farms gave way to genetically uniform monocultures—fields planted with just one crop species at a time, such as corn, wheat, or soy, over a very large area. Meat, milk, and egg production became largely separated from crop production and involved facilities that housed a single breed of animal, during a particular period of its lifespan, for a single purpose (e.g., breeding, feeding, or slaughter). Farmers, once skilled in a breadth of trades, fell into more specialized roles.

Specialization was also applied to animal genetics, as selective breeding produced animals designed for a single outcome—large breast meat, for example, or increased milk production. Compared to chickens of the 1930s, today’s chickens bred for meat (“broilers”) grow to almost twice the weight, in less than half the time, using less than half as much feed.5 Genetic selection for these exaggerated traits has often come at the expense of the animals’ health, including increased risks for heart failure in broilers and udder infections in dairy cows bred for higher milk production.6

MECHANIZATION

wheat harvest
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Threshing
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Like work on an assembly line, specialized labor often involves repetitive tasks that can be performed by machines. This meant routine jobs like sowing seeds, harvesting crops, milking cows, and feeding and slaughtering animals could be mechanized, reducing (and in some cases eliminating) the need for human and animal labor. Between 1900 and 2000, the share of the U.S. workforce involved in agriculture declined from 41 percent to 2 percent.7

In some cases, mechanization brought tremendous gains in efficiency. Grain and bean crops, such as corn, wheat, rice, and soy, must be cut from the fields (reaped) and removed from the inedible parts of the plant (threshed). Doing this by hand involves an enormous amount of time and effort. By hand, a person can thresh roughly 15 to 40 kg of grain per hour, usually by beating the harvested crop against a hard surface to shake the grain loose from the inedible chaff that surrounds it. In the same amount of time, a mechanized thresher can process 450 to 600 kg of rice, sorghum, or beans, or 1,500 to 2,000 kg of corn.8

CHEMICAL AND PHARMACEUTICAL INPUTS

graph
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
pesticide
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The early 1900s saw the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, innovations that have become a hallmark of industrial crop production. In just 12 years, between 1964 and 1976, synthetic and mineral fertilizer applications on U.S. crops nearly doubled, while pesticide use on major U.S. crops increased by 143 percent.10 The shift to specialized monocultures increased farmers’ reliance on these chemicals, in part because crop diversity can help suppress weeds and other pests.11,12

Chemical and pharmaceutical use also became commonplace in newly industrialized models of meat, milk, and egg production. Antibiotics, for example, were introduced to swine, poultry, and cattle feed after a series of experiments in the 1940s and 1950s found that feeding the drugs to animals caused them to gain weight faster and on less feed.13 By 2009, 80 percent of the antibiotic drugs sold in the U.S. were used not for human medicine but for livestock production.14

As with other trends in industrialization, the use of chemical and pharmaceutical inputs in agriculture offered gains in productivity, but not without health and ecological consequences.

CONSOLIDATION

graph
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
graph
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Consolidation in agriculture is the shift toward fewer and larger farms, usually as a result of large farms getting larger and smaller farms going out of business. In the late 1950s, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson exemplified government pressure to consolidate when he called on farmers to “get big or get out.”15

Between 1950 and 1997, the average U.S. farm more than doubled in size, and less than half the farms remained.16 In meat, dairy, and egg production, the number of animals on each farm rose dramatically, while the number of small farms declined. Many other industries in the food system, including animal slaughtering and processing, also underwent major consolidation.

What drove the push to consolidate? New technology, including chemicals and larger tractors, allowed farmers to work larger areas of land with less labor.2 Government policies encouraged farmers to scale up their operations. Farmers were also motivated by economies of scale—the economic advantage of producing larger numbers of products. A chicken farmer, for example, might turn a greater profit on each bird by housing a larger number of birds (up to a point).

Largely as a result of consolidation, most food production in the U.S. now takes place on massive-scale operations. Half of all U.S. cropland is on farms with at least 1,000 acres (over 1.5 square miles).2 The vast majority of U.S. poultry and pork products comes from facilities that each produce over 200,000 chickens or 5,000 pigs in a single year, while most egg-laying hens are confined in facilities that house over 100,000 birds at a time.17

MARKET CONCENTRATION

concentration
Source: John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Decisions about who produces our food, what food is produced, how it is produced, and who gets to eat that food have been steadily moving from … households and governments to … corporation boardrooms.

– Mary Hendrickson and Harvey S. James Jr.18

Market share is the proportion of an industry’s sales earned by one company. In the U.S. market for salty snacks, for example, 64 percent of sales are earned by PepsiCo.19

When a small number of companies have a large market share of an industry, the market for that industry is said to be concentrated. Markets become more concentrated when companies take over, or merge with, their competitors.

Over the course of industrialization, markets for food and agricultural products have become increasingly concentrated. In the U.S. beef slaughtering and processing industry, for example, the four largest companies earn 82 percent of the sales.20 In the supermarket industry, four companies earn at least 42 percent of the sales.21

Vertical integration is a type of market concentration that occurs when companies gain control of multiple industries involved in the same products. Smithfield Foods, for example, is involved in the breeding, production, slaughter, processing, and marketing of hogs and pork products.22 A small number of powerful corporations have similar control over poultry industries.

What does market concentration mean for farmers and consumers? In some cases, market concentration can lower prices for consumers and increase sales.23 On the other hand, with fewer competitors in a concentrated market, dominant companies may gain greater power to influence prices in their favor.23 They may also dictate how foods are produced, leaving farmers with little choice over how to grow crops or raise animals.18 Many highly concentrated corporations also have a strong presence in government agencies, where they can influence policies in their favor.24

There has been a trend toward farm monopolies that are industrial corporate farms designed to produce foods that typically are lower quality, less humane and farms that are high polluters. Poor quality foods lead to poor quality nutrition and health outcomes. These industrial farmers often use chemical pesticides and questionably sanitary methods pushing out the traditional mom and pop / smaller farms, which typically have a stronger biological, organic, natural and expert knowledge of successful farming practices that are not nearly as focused on the bottom line. How do you think these corporate industrial farms impact your foods? Do you think food production should be more transparent? What information would you like to see on your food and produce labels?

RESOURCES

The following list of suggested resources is intended as a starting point for further exploration, and is not in any way comprehensive. Some materials may not reflect the views of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

REFERENCES

1. Ikerd JE. Sustaining the profitability of agriculture. In: Economist’s Role in the Agricultural Sustainability Paradigm. San Antonio, TX: University of Missouri; 1996.
2. MacDonald J, Korb P, Hoppe R. Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming. 2013.
3. Rifkin J. Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture. New York, New York: Plume; 1993.
4. Ikerd JE. Sustaining the Profitability of Agriculture. In: Economist’s Role in the Agricultural Sustainability Paradigm. San Antonio, TX: University of Missouri; 1996.
5. Striffler S. Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America`s Favorite Food. New Haven: Yale University Press; 2005.
6. Rauw WM, Kanis E, Noordhuizen-Stassen E., Grommers F. Undesirable side effects of selection for high production efficiency in farm animals: a review. Livest Prod Sci. 1998;56(1):15-33.
7. Dimitri C, Effland A, Conklin N. The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy. USDA ERS. 2006.
8. M. de Lucia, Assennato D. Agricultural Engineering in Development: Post-Harvest Operations and Management of Foodgrains. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 1994.
9. USDA Economic Research Service. Agricultural Productivity in the United States. 2014.
10. Lin B-H, Padgitt M, Bull L, Delvo H, Shank D, Taylor H. Pesticide and Fertilizer Use and Trends in U.S. Agriculture. 1995.
11. Liebman M, Davis AS. Integration of soil, crop and weed management in low-external-input farming systems. Weed Res. 2000;40:27-47.
12. Kirschenmann FL. Potential for a new generation of biodiversity in agroecosystems of the future. Agron J. 2007;99(2):373-376.
13. Gustafson RH, Bowen RE. Antibiotic use in animal agriculture. J Appl Microbiol. 1997;83(5):531-41.
14. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Letter to The Honorable Louise M. Slaughter: Sales of Antibacterial Drugs in Kilograms. Washington D.C.; 2010.
15. Zimdahl RR. Agriculture’s Ethical Horizon. 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2012.
16. Hoppe RA, Banker DE. Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: 2005 Family Farm Report. Vol Economic I. USDA Economic Research Service; 2006.
17. USDA. 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture. 2014.
18. Hendrickson MK, James HS. The Ethics of Constrained Choice: How the Industrialization of Agriculture Impacts Farming and Farmer Behavior. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2005;18(3):269-291.
19. Cooper T. This Company Seeks to Dominate Snacks. The Motley Fool. 2013.
20. James HS, Hendrickson MK, Howard PH. Networks, Power, and Dependency in the Agrifood Industry. In: James HS, ed. The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition. Dordrecht: Springer Science-Business Media Press; 2013:99-126.
21. Hendrickson M, Heffernan W. Concentration of Agricultural Markets. 2007.
22. Martinez SW. Vertical Coordination in the Pork and Broiler Industries: Implications for Pork and Chicken Products. 1999.
23. Shields DA. Consolidation and Concentration in the U.S. Dairy Industry. 2010.
24. Ikerd JE. Crisis & Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press; 2008.
25. Heffernan WD, Douglas HC. Concentration of Agricultural Markets. 1990.

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The Affordability of Organic

Making Organic Food Affordable

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

It has been reported that a single person will spend on average about $30 more a month buying organic. How much could one spend a month on one medication? How much more a month could one spend on one dietary supplement? Not all farmers agree that the USDA standards are strict enough. Some farmers argue that the standards have been eroding to compensate for corporate industrial farmers who want to use the organic label. But, we know, as informed consumers who read Shidonna Raven Garden & Cook regularly, that not all ingredients have to be organic just because the label says organic. Some of the ingredients can be non organic. The next time you go to the grocery store read the label of 3 items you buy carefully. What did you learn about the food you buy? Is the label transparent enough about the production of the food you buy?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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So what about Soy

Beware! A whopping 95% of soy in the US is genetically modified. Soy is marketed as a health food in baby formulas, soy milk, and processed foods. But the actual science shows a surprisingly different pattern of indigestion, cognitive decline, malnutrition, cancer, and infertility. Thousands of studies also link soy to immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, reproductive disorders and infertility, and heart disease. 

Here are a Few Downsides of Soy:

  1. High in Phytic Acid (Phytates): Reduces assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
  2. Trypsin inhibitors: Interferes with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders.
  3. Heavily sprayed: with chemical herbicides, such as Monsanto’s glyphosate, called a carcinogen by WHO.
  4. Indigestible: Asian cultures did not consume soy unless fermented, such as miso, tempeh, and natto. Even soya sauce and tofu were once consumed only fermented, to make them digestible.
  5. Contains Goitrogens: that block synthesis of thyroid hormones causing hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer.
  6. Contains Phytoestrogens/Isoflavones: Plant compounds resembling human hormones can block normal  function in men and women, cause infertility and increase risk of breast cancer.
  7. Hemagglutinin: A clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump, makes them unable to properly absorb and carry oxygen to your tissues.
  8. Synthetic Vitamin D: Soy foods increase your body’s vitamin D requirement, which is why companies add synthetic vitamin D2 to soymilk (a toxic form of vitamin D).
  9. Vitamin B12: Soy contains a compound resembling vitamin B12 that cannot be used by your body, so soy foods can actually contribute to B12 deficiency, especially among vegans.
  10. Protein Denaturing: Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein (TVP). Chemical processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  11. MSG: Free glutamic acid or MSG, is a potent neurotoxin. MSG is formed during soy food processing, plus additional MSG is often added to mask soy’s unpleasant taste.
  12. Aluminum and Manganese: Soy foods contain high levels of heavy metals, such as aluminum which is toxic to your nervous system and kidneys, and manganese which wreaks havoc on your baby’s immature metabolic system.

Source: Janes Healthy Kitchen and
By Sally Fallon & Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
Source: https://www.mercola.com/article/soy/avoid_soy.htm

Did you know the many effects of soy on the body? Do you eat soy? Is soy in your food? Check your food labels. Are you sure you don’t eat soy? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Mahatma Gandhi & Saving Seeds

mahatma gandhi and seed saving shidonna raven garden and cook

If you know even a little bit about Gandhi, then one can easily understand what Gandhi means to seed saving or what seed saving would have meant to Gandhi. Gandhi was very much a promoter of the freedom of man and his country man. Like King he saw freedom in both simple and profound ways. A seed in itself is simple. Yet seed saving is a revolutionary concept even today. Where there is industry and money to be made, there is always controversy. More specifically where the industry is not truly needed is where the controversy seems to begin. Gandhi believed that people should have the right, yes right to grow their own food rather than being subject to purchasing food at prevailing prices. To this day there are many industries that surround the growth of food. Even farmers struggle against this industrial corporate complexes.

So in the midst of a pandemic when many people have begun to start their own gardens, seed saving is more important than ever. Understanding the profound yet simple practice of seed saving is important. Knowing and being able to save seeds gives one freedom to contentiously produce their own food sources. One might say, I buy food out of convenience and to save time. During a time when money is short for many but time is long, one might say, like many have, I will grow my own food. Exercising the right to grow ones own food has become important to many in the midst of COVID 19. Jim Ulager “Beginning Seed Saving for the Home Gardener” helps one to understand the background of seed saving as well as the application of seed saving.

We have saved several seeds of our own such as pumpkin, green beans, lentil beans, pinto beans, cantaloupe and more. A few of these seeds are in our garden and did sprout. Pumpkin is our largest saved seed. How has COVID 19 impacted you and yours? How could you and yours benefit from saving your own seeds? How has this article helped you? How could this article help your friends and family especially during these times? “Beginning Seed Saving for the Home Gardener” can be found below or by clicking the link. Share your experience with seed saving with the community by posting your comments below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Harvesting, Cooking & Eating Swiss Chard

Growing and harvesting Swiss Chard is a tremendous joy. But, eating the fruit of one’s labor must be the best part. Today we clipped some Swiss Chard fresh from the garden and made a lamb and swiss chard warp with it the same day. It does not get fresher than that! We harvested Swiss Chard by clipping a third of its leaves and clipping from the outside. Plants such as lettuces tend to grow from the inside leaving the mature leaves on the outside. Also one should leave leaves on the plant such as these (also herbs) so they can continue to photosynthesize and grow more leaves.

I harvested these leaves which were used in a lamb, salmon and vegetable wrap. We hear that the harvest was delicious. What are the benefits of eating fresh foods? What are the benefits of growing your foods organically? How can you and yours benefit from growing and harvesting your own foods? Share your comments with the community. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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How to buy food

vitamin d sun shidonna raven garden and cook

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman has been essential to us in understanding how to buy food. It also helped us understand what our food should look, how it should be produced, processed and labeled. It also left us with concerns regarding transparency in the food industry and how our foods are labeled. In this day in age where scientists seem to be making more contributions to food production and processing than farmers, Eliot’s book reminds us that the growth, not production, of food is a biological process that begins in the soil not a scientific process that begins in a lab. When we look at many of our foods and the additives as well as preservatives in them, we can see there is a reason to be concerned about the things we are knowingly or unknowingly consuming. Eliot’s book is the beginning of understanding and knowledge of food and how science has taken food production away from this biological process.

To understand how to buy food appropriately we must first begin by reading our food labels and asking questions regarding the foods we buy. How were they grown and processed? Where do they come from? How far do they come? Coleman helps us understand what organically grown food means, looks like and how it is processed. It was one of our most helpful reads and can be found below. Where do you buy your foods? Are they organic? Are they locally grown? Share your comments below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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AgriLife Today: Rain Harvesting

RainwaterHarvesting-YouTube.mov

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Harvesting Rainwater AgriLife Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

This is an excellent demonstration on how one can begin to conserve and create simple water systems at home in their gardens. Its interesting how much time even a simple water system can save you in the garden. What are some ways you can conserve water? Want to learn more about water conservation and water harvesting? Just post your comment here and we will get back to you. What else did you learn from this video?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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Dr Greene’s Organic RX

Dr. Greene's Organic Rx – Intro

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Dr Greene’s Organic RX
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Dr Greene along with many other doctors are increasingly giving Organic foods as a prescription for health. What does your doctor think about Organic foods as apart of your diet and over all health? Would eating more organic foods reduce your need to take medications? What does your doctor think about exercise as apart of your over all health?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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National Black Growers Council

Bridging the Information Gap for African-American Farmers

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National Black Growers Council
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

What is the importance of African American farmers? What is the importance of farmers vs industrial corporate farmers? How would you feel if all of your food came from an industrial corporate farm?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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The Farmer & His Prince (Charles)

The Farmer and his Prince TRAILER

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
The Farmer and His Prince
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

It is good to know that we are not the only ones on an Organic Journey, Prince Charles has been on his Organic Journey for a longer time and on a larger scale. What do small farmers mean to you? How can you support your community gardens and small farms? You can make a donation to our community garden by clicking here. Why are these gardens, farms and Organic Food Production important to you? Support of Organic efforts is huge to all of us and very appreciated by all of us here as always. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.