Gardening and Hoe-Farming

Left, A Home Economics instructor giving a
demonstration. Right, "canned" food prepared in
a private home.
      Gardening for beauty is likely nearly as old as farming for food, however for most of history for the majority of people there was no real distinction since the need for food and other useful product trumped other concerns. Small-scale, subsistence agriculture (called hoe-farming) is largely indistinguishable from gardening. A patch of potatoes grown by a Peruvian peasant or an Irish smallholder for personal use could be described as either a garden or a farm. Gardening for average people evolved as a separate discipline, more concerned with esthetics and recreation, under the influence of the pleasure gardens of the wealthy. Meanwhile farming has evolved (in developed countries) in the direction of commercialization, economics of scale, and monocropping.
      In respect to its food producing purpose, gardening is distinguished from farming chiefly by scale and intent. Farming occurs on a larger scale, and with the production of salable goods as a major motivation. Gardening is done on a smaller scale, primarily for pleasure and to produce goods for the gardener's own family or community. There is some overlap between the terms, particularly in that some moderate-sized vegetable growing concerns, often called market gardening, can fit in either category.
      The key distinction between gardening and farming is essentially one of scale; gardening can be a hobby or an income supplement, but farming is generally understood as a full-time or commercial activity, usually involving more land and quite different practices. One distinction is that gardening is labor-intensive and employs very little infrastructural capital, sometimes no more than a few tools, e.g. a spade, hoe, basket and watering can. By contrast, larger-scale farming often involves irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers and harvesters or at least ladders, e.g. to reach up into fruit trees. However, this distinction is becoming blurred with the increasing use of power tools in even small gardens.
Left, "The Harvesters" by Pieter Bruegel, 1565.
Right, Early 20th century image of a tractor ploughing an alfalfa field.
      In part because of labor intensity and aesthetic motivations, gardening is very often much more productive per unit of land than farming. In the Soviet Union, half the food supply came from small peasants' garden plots on the huge government-run collective farms, although they were tiny patches of land. Some argue this as evidence of superiority of capitalism, since the peasants were generally able to sell their produce. Others consider it to be evidence of a tragedy of the commons, since the large collective plots were often neglected, or fertilizers or water redirected to the private gardens.
      The term precision agriculture is sometimes used to describe gardening using intermediate technology (more than tools, less than harvesters), especially of organic varieties. Gardening is effectively scaled up to feed entire villages of over 100 people from specialized plots. A variant is the community garden which offers plots to urban dwellers.
       The video below is an excellent resource by John Kohler. Visitors can read more about him at the Hippocrates Health Institute website.  I will switch out videos under this blog's pages in order to feature a variety of excellent resources for Home Economics teachers to show in their classrooms. To see more videos by Mr. Kohler, simply press the YouTube button on the video screen or follow John's link below.

"John from http://www.growingyourgreens.com/ goes on a field trip to Pine Jog Elementary School in West Palm Beach Florida to learn how they are teaching kids to grow food. In this episode, you will learn about some of the sustainable ways they are using including collecting rain water, composting, and re-using commonly discarded items to grow food. You will also discover the two ways they are growing food in a vertical hydroponic system and using square foot gardening in a raised bed. After watching this episode, you have a better understanding of what they are growing and what crops you can grow sucessfully in South Florida."

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