How Did We Get Here?
The Development of the “Modern” Food System

Session 5

What are the origins of today’s agricultural system? Learners map the geographic origins of common foods and evaluate how changes in food-related technologies impact their eating habits. Then, learners read short selections about historic points in agriculture and create a timeline of significant global “food events” such as Columbus' voyage, the introduction of synthetic fertilizers, and the “green” revolution.

Guiding Questions

  • How did today’s food system develop?
  • What are the key historical events?
  • How are these historical events related?
  • What is technology? How has it developed in relation to agriculture?

Big Ideas

  • Technology related to food has changed over time, and this has impacted the overall food system.
  • Key points in “food history” include the agricultural revolution, Columbus’ voyage, the Scientific Revolution, the “green revolution,” the development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and the “gene revolution.”
  • Each of these developments created changes in how food was produced and consumed.  Each development was also driven by specific assumptions about the meaning of “progress.”

Session 5 Materials:

FFC Logo

"I don't see any future for the farm. I have to wonder about what's going to happen. I don't want to sell, and then sometimes I think we should, but I don't know. I don't think my father would want us to sell, I feel it's special to us because it came down from my grandfather to my father to us."

Opal Ragsdale, Jacksonville, Texas - Cherokee County from People Sustaining the Land by Cynthia Vagnetti, 2002.