For generations farmers have been the back bone of our society, supplying the crops, meat and vegetables we need to survive. A thankless job, they are weary victims of fire, drought, floods and economic fluctuations, showing resilience and strength of spirit in the face of even the toughest obstacles.
But what would our world look like without the farming industry?
It’s difficult to imagine a world without farming, with tracts of land as far as the eye can see overgrown and ravaged by the elements. No cattle or sheep quietly grazing on lush pastures, leisurely lifting their heads as you pass by, searching and inquisitive. Farmhouses and sheds deserted, shadowy and forlorn, without the hustle and bustle of busy households, noisy machinery and creased, sun bronzed farmers barking orders to sons, daughters or farm hands, who dash erratically from task to task trying to keep up with heavy workloads.
How would this affect our diet?
Farmers develop such a broad range of skill-sets on the land to produce sheep, cattle and crops able to feed vast numbers of people, that losing the farming industry would result in this in-depth knowledge being lost, as well as our ability to sustain our diets. If you consider how many years are involved with acquiring these skill-sets, only then can you grasp how cataclysmic this would be on a global scale, especially in regions where farming requires tireless efforts with minimal rewards, due to poor soil quality, water limitations and the extreme impact of the elements.
Without the farming industry, if we were reliant on feeding ourselves, our diets would be severely limited in the varieties of food we could produce. An understanding of soil management in agriculture, such as what fertilisers and crops are needed for replenishment, is crucial even for the production of basic varieties of fruit and vegetables are not sustainable. As many countries import fruit, vegetables and crops such as wheat, rice and barley when these are out of season or because of the area in which they are globally located, this would no longer be an option without the farming industry, so there would be far less variety to our diets.
Would many native species become extinct?
Producing sheep and cattle in sufficient numbers to support a large population requires knowledge of diseases, mating, labour, health supplements and feed, as well as a complex range of other factors. This is no easy feat, which is why if the farming industry no longer existed then it’s very likely that many would turn to supplementing their diets with native species. The problem with this is these native species could rapidly become extinct, upsetting the delicate balance of the eco system. An example of this is if honeybees disappeared fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables would also die out.
If this occurs there’s a chance that other species would have a population explosion which would result in the environment being harmed.
What impact would pests have on the environment without farmers keeping numbers down?
It’s often farmers that keep many of the rodents and other pests at bay, to avoid their crops being eaten and ensuring there is enough feed for their sheep and cattle. Without the farming industry these pests could grow in record numbers, eating crops and spreading disease.
How would this affect our ability to clothe ourselves?
Without farming we would struggle to be able to clothe ourselves. While natural fibres such as hemp, linen and cotton can be used to make a wide range of clothing, growing these successfully requires detailed knowledge of crop production, an integral aspect of farming. Wool and mohair from sheep and goats and leather from cow hide are also essential for clothing, especially in the cooler weather, so if these can’t be farmed there would be little protection from the elements available.
Would a new system of agriculture arise?
With the recent introduction of the urban farm concept, where fruits and vegetables are grown in shipping containers, it highlights there are alternatives to large-scale commercial farms. But as these are more designed to feed local communities, it’s difficult to imagine this type of farming being able to support whole populations. Also, as this farming model relies on energy for fans, heating and watering, in place of the natural elements, whether it is cost-effective long-term to replace traditional farming would also need to be taken into consideration.
While there are alternatives to traditional farming available, the loss of the farming industry would have a ripple affect that would be felt on a global scale. It could easily result in disease, starvation and death, especially in countries that lack the funds, equipment and knowledge to be able to introduce other forms of food and natural fibre production for clothing.
The tireless efforts of farmers in producing the food and clothing that we take for granted should be recognised and appreciated. If the broad skill-sets and knowledge of those involved in the farming industry ceased to be in existence, it’s very likely that years of evolution in food and clothing production would be lost.