PICA and a Very Brief History of Agriculture

There is no denying the great effects that agriculture has had in the evolution of human beings. Allowing for a domestic lifestyle, agriculture has given humans the opportunity to develop complex societies with advanced and expansive technologies. Domestic lifestyles dividing humans into separate populations ultimately allows for both cultural and biological human variation. When people are presented with problems they work to find solutions and these fixes whether internal or external are either convergent or unique. Human evolution occurs within environments that they both inhabit and distort affecting the process of adaptation.

Agriculture is the one of the very first examples of humans drastically altering their environment. This led to the development of cities and with that a removal of the interaction with nature and the environment. When food production can be removed from the human experience, the understanding of where food comes from, what it is for, and the process of nature cultivation is nonexistent or distorted. This is one of the main reasons PICA exists.

Program in Community Agroecology is a good scope through which to view the production of agriculture within human society. It is a group of people that exist in conjunction with the environment, and cultivate the land in order to sustain it. PICA is a place at our university that allows for students to become connected with the production of their food. A process that is often far removed from the table is now right in the backyard. With knowledge of gardening practicum, PICA community members are given the chance to understand the effects of a thirteen thousand year old practice.

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When people are close to the creation of their sustenance, a great appreciation for the Earth can take place. An understanding of what it takes to be human and a better idea of hard work can be generated. PICA produces a very close knit community by creating an environment in which students spend a large portion of their time working together. This community takes patience and emphasizes group collaboration to organize community efforts in the garden and group meals.

Agriculture developed independently around the world exemplifying the human tenacity for cultivation technology. Archaeologists find evidence dating the beginning of agriculture in Egypt to be as early as 12,000 BC and in Asia in 10,000 BC. The Fertile Crescent began cultivation of wheat, barley, and legumes in 7,000 BC to 5,000 BC. The inhabitors of the “New World” produced crops of maize, beans, squashes, and potatoes in 5,000 to 3,000 BC. [i] About 88% of all humans alive today speak some language belonging to one or another of a mere seven language families confined in the early Holocene to two small areas of Eurasia that happened to become the earliest centers of domestication — the Fertile Crescent and parts of China.[ii] Agriculture allowed for the advanced development of these societies.

Like the development of farming practice around the world, UCSC has pockets of garden and farming communities on its campus. Some of these gardens were developed in partnership with each other, but many came about independently. This pattern of production exists on large scale and on the small scale, as seen here on our campus. Each community is unique in design but all function as systems of food production and are valued for their educational experience. PICA provides students with the opportunity to learn gardening skills as well as functions as an agroecology community, developed and continued by a dedicated and diverse group of students.


[i] Hughes, J. Donald. An Environmental History of the World: Humankind’s Changing Role in the Community of Life. 2nd ed. only. New York: Routledge, 2009.

[ii] Diamond, Jarod. “Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 08 Aug. 2002. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

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About the author: Zoe Manoguerra is the Residential Assistant for PICA at the Village for the 2013-2014 year.

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