Agriculture informs culture.
Without agriculture, we would not have civilizations and would still be roaming around “hunter-gatherer” style.
Across the world, different civilizations began in various geographical locations. Geography determined what crops they could grow, where they could be grown, and who could grow them. Specific practices and challenges began to form around the planting and harvesting of food. Today, international trade and science have greatly advanced what people grow, when they can grow it, and where they can grow it. Even so, you can still see the fascinating differences in local farming and gardening around the globe.
In the country of Kenya in Africa, there is no time for leisurely gardening.
With scarce water, Kenya’s crops are grown strictly for livestock, profit, and community food. Many of the crops that are grown today in Kenya are foreign-introduced crops such as rice, sweet potatoes, corn, and cash crops such as tea and coffee. Vegetables that are native to Kenya are not typically carried in your local grocery store, except for perhaps sukuma wiki (collard greens). Other native crops include likhubi (cowpeas), lisutsa (black nightshade), and miro (sunnhemp).
One problem Kenyan farmers regularly contend with that you will certainly not encounter in the United States is elephant raids. One of the most iconic animals in Africa causes these farmers grief by feasting on crops. In the dead of night, these elephants will sneak into the crop field and have an all-you-can-eat buffet – a catastrophic occurrence for farmers whose livelihoods depend on their crop quantities. Recently, a unique deterrent method is gaining popularity that keeps both the crops and the elephants untouched: honey bees! By utilizing beehives as innovative fencing, the elephants are deterred from entering the crop-fields in a safe and natural manner.
Over in Europe, Ireland’s farming luck has certainly turned around since the great Irish Potato Famine of 1845.
Today the soil in Ireland is fertile, the rain is plentiful, and the overall mild climate gives them an advantage in agriculture. However, the Irish tend to use their land more for livestock than they do crops – currently there are more sheep than people in the country! A 2016 census stated that there were 4.8 million people living in Ireland compared to 5.2 million sheep.
Ireland’s agricultural history is filled with interesting folklore. In any given crop field or garden, you may occasionally see a “fairy tree.” There are many superstitions surrounding fairies and myths in Celtic cultures. It is believed that if you damage or cut down one of these trees, you will be stuck with a lifetime of bad luck. If one of these trees happens to be in the way of a farmer, it is not unusual for them to go around it. Another darker myth surrounding Irish farmers states that if the first lamb of the year is born black, there will be a death in the family!
Heading to India on the Asian continent, the focus here is heavily on organic farming.
India has found great success with organic farming, and their crop yield is continuously steady. The main crop during the Kharif season (summer) is rice, and during the Rabi season (winter) it is wheat. A popular vegetable that we have India to thank for is the delicious eggplant!
In some farming communities, if you ask to borrow milk after dark you may find yourself empty-handed, as there is a superstition that claims your cattle’s milk output will be reduced if you give out milk after dark.
Watch these Indian folk artists pay tribute to Indian farmers and take a look at the visually stunning farming community!
Different cultures have their own advantages, trials, and traditions surrounding farming. With perseverance, and sometimes a little creative thinking, the end will hopefully produce food and prosperity for the local community. Even though these places are thousands of miles apart it is still possible to feel a connection through farming. The next time you have to scare off a deer in your vegetable garden, just imagine if that deer were a six-ton elephant!