Farming is one of the oldest trades in existence, with a great many centuries being dedicated to growing crops and rearing livestock.

As time has moved forward, so have the skills, tools and environmental surroundings that all have an impact on how farming is conducted. In this month’s blog we take a look at 3 of the ways in which farming has progressed and hopefully improved, over the last 50 years.

Have global changes been an influence?

In a nutshell, yes. The last 50 years have seen a sharp increase in the size of the population across the world, meaning that we rely on farms for producing more meat and crop produce than ever before. Food is often imported and exported to try and keep up with the demand.

Over the past 50 years, climate change has been more of an issue for farmers, with flash floods and scorching hot summers resulting in damaged crops. Small holdings and larger farms have had to learn how to adapt and try to find ways of preventing damage to their fields, finding alternative sources of light for the long, dark winters and coming up with solutions to keep their priceless land drained when peak growing seasons are interrupted by extreme summer storms.

There is more understanding of how crops and animals can thrive in certain environmental conditions, which can change from country to country. With better medication and health care for animals, as well as a better understanding of soil and how best to let things grow, there is a higher yield for the farmers which has the potential to increase year on year.

Advances in farming technology

50 years ago farming involved much more manual labour than farms of today. Horses would be used to pull ploughs for instance, meaning slow progress and a tired farmer and animal at the end of a long day. Horses would need lots of recovery time, whereas in farming today, the farmer can have a quick break and jump straight back into their vehicle to pick up where they left off. Although tractors are still used as they were back then, they are now of a higher specification and have more durable parts, which are easier to repair if damaged.

In 1962 it was estimated that one farmer could feed 25.8 people, whereas now, one farmer can feed 155. This proves how farming is now more productive with the assistance of motorised agricultural machinery.

Has public opinion made a difference to farming?

Sustainable farming is currently a popular discussion in the public domain and has led to key changes in the way that fields are cultivated and animals are reared. Farmers are encouraged to work their lands with a better understanding of the ecosystem, to increase their yields without taking more from the environment around it. This is not an easy goal to achieve, as farmers could work to minimise impact on the planet, but may have a result with less yield, of which a knock on effect would be felt by consumers. 

Recent years have seen much research into the way that we eat and the way that we cultivate those foods. Organic farming is certainly a different take on 50 years ago, with a large number of the population choosing to eat crops that have not been treated with any kind of pesticide or chemical and which have not been genetically modified in any way. With the popularity of healthy eating and the food nutritionist trend on the rise, consumers want to be sure that they are eating only the purest form of foods, with many people giving up wheat and meat altogether.

As a knock on effect from consumers changing the way they eat, some farmers have been forced to change their farms speciality towards something more popular, or even branch out into other areas of business altogether to keep afloat. For instance, they can sometimes tap into the popular tourism sector and run farming holidays, where guests can enjoy time in a picturesque farming cottage with fresh milk and eggs readily available

The world is constantly changing, so it will be no surprise if the way we farm has completely altered in another 50 years. Technology will continue to improve, the public will have more demands concerning the food that is produced and the climate....well who knows? But it is safe to say that farmers will need to rethink, rework and reinvent the way that they go about their business.

Post By Kimberley Roderick