Freshmen Experience ‘Agricultural Revolution’ Firsthand
On September 21, the freshmen class took a trip to Zingerman’s Cornman Farm as part of the Foundations of Civilization curriculum. As 9th grader Francesca Lupia relates, the class experienced more than just the usual farm fare:
“The ninth grade trip to Cornman Farm was intriguing, thought-provoking, vivid, and fun,” she says. “It was a learning experience, but we learned about more than cows and carrots. We examined our role in nature, our role in the society, and how our actions and changes affect ourselves and the world.”
Francesca’s entire essay follows:
Zingerman’s Cornman Farm – A Reflection
by Francesca Lupia ’14
The Class of 2014 came to Zingerman’s Cornman Farm expecting to find grime, manure, and possibly some boring lectures. Our actual experience, though, was entirely different. We learned about peppers and pigs, sampled radishes and played with kittens, and managed to come away from the trip with a renewed sense of agriculture’s role in civilization and how it changes over time. The September 21 field trip incorporated some of the subject matter we were studying in biology (compost piles, relationships between organisms, etc.), but it also related to our discussions of the Neolithic Revolution in Foundations of Civilization. During our visit, we noted many trends and technologies that illustrate the changes in agriculture over time.
The Neolithic Revolution was the period of time during which humans first began to domesticate plants and animals- that is, to manipulate these organisms in order to make them most convenient for humans to use. The process of domestication led to the world’s first permanent settlements, and thus to the first civilizations. This then led to the invention of new technologies (such as the plow) and time-keeping systems (such as calendars). Over the millennia, trends in agriculture changed, becoming more and more reliant upon factories and machines. Now, a new “agricultural revolution” appears to be taking place. The purpose of the organic/sustainable movement is to bring agriculture “back to the basics,” so to speak– to lessen our reliance upon conventional farming methods in order to make our way of life more sustainable. Since Cornman Farm uses organic methods, we noticed many instances where this revolution took effect.
One example of this concept was crop rotation. At Cornman, different crops are planted in the same area each year, thus enriching the variety and health of the soil. On a conventional farm, the same crop would be planted on the same plot of land each year, depleting the soil of essential chemicals. Also, all-natural compost is used to enrich the soil, rather than artificial chemicals and pesticides (which could end up damaging the soil or the groundwater supply). The animals are nourished with feed that is optimal for their health, rather than the typical unhealthy-but-economical grain diet fed to livestock on conventional farms; and a special focus is given to heirloom (non-genetically-modified) varieties of plants. These practices are somewhat less sophisticated than conventional farming methods- in fact, they are closer to the primitive farming happening directly after the Neolithic Revolution. However, they are representative of a change in our civilization: a desire to help care for our planet and be responsible for the world in which we live. We are taking control of nature once again, but this time we are manipulating it for the good of the planet rather than our own.
The ninth grade trip to Cornman Farm was intriguing, thought-provoking, vivid, and fun. It was a learning experience, but we learned about more than cows and carrots. We examined our role in nature, our role in the society, and how our actions and changes affect ourselves and the world.