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

Session 5

Summary
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:

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"It's really a learning process, using controlled grazing. It's not like planting a crop and then leaving it for the summer. It takes a lot of management to watch how the grasses grow. I like to watch the cows eat in the pastures to see which forages they eat first and which ones they prefer. I learn a lot from them in how to manage the grasses, so the cows can teach me a lot too."

Francies Thicke, Fairfield, Iowa - Jefferson County. from People Sustaining the Land by Cynthia Vagnetti. 2002.