An Introduction to Human Geography
The Cultural Landscape, 8e
James M. Rubenstein
PPT by Abe Goldman
Economic Issues of Agriculture- Issue 4
• Economic issues of commercial farmers
– Access to markets
– Sustainable agriculture
• Economic issues of subsistence farmers
– Population growth
– International trade
• Increasing food supply
Von Thünen Model
Von Thünen’s model shows how distance from a city or market affects the choice of
agricultural activity in (a) a uniform landscape and (b) one with a river. It’s outdated, but it
illustrates the important role that the market plays in the distribution of different agricultural
Von Thünen Model
Von Thünen’s model shows how distance from a city or
market affects the choice of agricultural activity in (a) a
uniform landscape and (b) one with a river. It’s outdated, but
it illustrates the important role that distance to market plays in
the distribution of different agricultural activities.
A commercial farmer initially considers which crops to
cultivate and which animals to raise based on market location.
He compares two costs: the cost of the land versus the cost of
transporting goods to market.
Distance to market is critical because the cost of transporting
each product is different.
Calculations show that farms located closer to market tend to
select crops with higher transport costs, whereas more distant
farms are more likely to select crops that can be transported
In criticism, he did not figure site factors like labor or
Von Thünen Model
Products in the first ring are expensive to deliver and must reach the
market quickly because they are perishable. In the second ring, wood for
construction on fuel was expensive to transport. In the third ring, various
crops and pasture existed. Animal grazing was left for the outer most ring.
Issues for Farmers-Issue 4
In addition to access to markets, overproduction is an issue
for commercial farmers.
If too much is produced, then prices drop and farmers lose
Governments, like the U.S., create policies to avoid
They discourage overproduction of crops and
encourage fallow crops.
They pay farmers when prices go too low so they don’t
The government buys excess production and sells it
Issues afor Farmers-Issue 4
Sustainable agriculture is practice that preserves and enhances
Farmers who practice sustainable agriculture usually generate lower profits, but
they have lower costs. Characteristics include:
Sensitive Land ManagementSustainable agriculture protects soil through ridge tillage and the limited
use of chemicals. Ridge tillage creates small ridges in the soil which are used
annually. This requires less commitment to heavy machinery and protects the
soil elsewhere in the field rather than plowing every part of it because it disturbs
less soil. It also minimizes the use of herbicide.
Better Integration of Crops & LivestockWithout integration of crops and livestock, farmers tend to specialize. A
farmer who specializes and grows a single crop, tends to deplete the soil. If he
raises a single animal in a pen, it strains the land, too. With a better integration
of crops and livestock, farms conserve the soil and land. Instead of purchasing
feed for animals, the process of raising animals and growing crops works
symbiotically on a single farm, which protects the soil.
Issues for Subsistence Farmers-Issue 4
1. Subsistence farmers must feed an increasing number of people because
populations are growing rapidly in LDCs
According to Esther Boserup, population growth compels subsistence
farmers to consider new farming approaches to take care of additional
1. First, they can leave land fallow for less time, which would increase
production. They should move through the process of Forest fallow,
bush fallow, short fallow, annual cropping, and multicropping.
2. Second, they can adopt new farming methods. Ploughs should
replace hand tools. More weeding should be done, terracing, and
irrigation. The growing population supplies the labor.
2. With international trade as the method of choice for LDCs to develop,
subsistence farmers must balance growing food for export along with direct
LDCs must find a way to export goods through specialized farming, like
plantation farming, or through manufacturing. Then, they need to reinvest trade
profits into improving agricultural techniques to expand production.
Subsistence farmers need higher yield seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and
machinery. Unfortunately, drug crops like Coca in Latin America and Opium in
the Middle East.
Grain Importers and Exporters
Fig. 10-15: Most countries are net importers of grain. The U.S. is the largest net exporter.
Increasingarea used for agriculture.
the Food Supply-Issue 4
1. Expand the land
1. Desertification, Salinization, and Urbanization challenge
2. Increase the productivity of land now used for agriculture.
1. 3rd Agricultural Revolution/Green Revolution
1. The invention and rapid diffusion of more productive
agricultural techniques during the 1970s and 80s is
called the Green Revolution.
2. The Green Revolution is characterized by higher-yield
seeds (through genetic modification at times) and the
expanded use of fertilizers.
3. The expanded use of fertilizers, however, requires
machines like tractors and water pumps to apply it and
it is expensive to produce because it requires the use of
fossil fuels. It also creates dependency issues.
4. The Green Revolution has increased productivity and
agricultural production is now growing faster than global
Increasing the Food Supply-Issue 4
1. Identify new food sources.
1. Cultivate the Oceans- The sea actually provides a
small percentage of the human diet, but overfishing is
2. High-Protein Cereals- This can expand the availability
of needed proteins, but most people grow their own
food in LDCs.
3. Improve the Palatability of Rare Foods- Eat more
soybeans. Krill (a small crustacean) is available for
2. Increase exports from other countries. North America is a
major exporter of grains, but questions about GM foods
have caused some countries to reject donations.
The most severe desertification hazards are in northern Africa, central
Australia, and the southwestern parts of Africa, Asia, North America, and
South America. Sensitive land management can decrease desertification,
but excessive planting, animal grazing, and tree cutting exhaust the soil’s
nutrients and preclude agriculture.