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7+ Interesting facts about agriculture

Updated: May 5, 2023

Agriculture or farming is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock, typically for the purpose of human consumption. Agriculture was the key advancement that helped to lead to the rise of modern human civilizations and allowed people to move from migratory hunter/gather societies to more sedentary existences.

Agriculture and managed farm cultivation has been in practice for thousands of years. Even if we don't work in agriculture it impacts our daily lives. Here are some fun and interesting facts about agriculture!

Keep reading to learn some amazing and interesting facts about farmers and farming.

Half the habitable land on earth is used for farming

Today almost half of world’s habitable land used for farming, with more than 3/4 of this is used for livestock production. If we looked at all the land used for grazing or to grow crops for animal fodder - land use for livestock accounts for about 77% of total global farming land use. However, while the production of livestock occupies the majority of world farm land it only generates about 20% of the calories and about 40% of the protein for the global food supply.

About 1/4 of the worlds population work in agriculture.

Food is essential to our livelihoods. On average over the last few decades about 40% of the world's population was employed in some agricultural related industry. However, according to data from the World Bank, the percentage of people working in food production has declined steadily over the past 2 decades. This is primarily driven by the development of infrastructure, technology and improvements in farm yields, which lead to the need for fewer people to labor as farm workers. Globally, about 1 billion people work in agricultural, about 27% of the population. This is down from 44% in 1991.

According the USDA, in 2020 there were about 19 million full and part time jobs in the food and agriculture sector, which represents about 10% of the US labor market.

The world raises and eats a lot of cows

According to the USDA, in 2021, the number of cattle worldwide was just over 1 billion head, up 13.2 million head from the prior year. Meaning that cattle represents about 60% of the total livestock production world-wide with the US being the largest beef producer at over 12.6 million metric tons of beef per year.

While cattle are the largest percentage of livestock raised, not surprisingly cows are also are the largest livestock producer of greenhouse gas emissions, representing 62% of emissions produced by livestock.

It takes about 1.5 to 2 acres to feed a cow/calf pair for 12 months with cows consuming about 2% percent of their body weight or 24 pounds per day. Today, about 80% of the world's habitable land is used for the grazing of livestock (including cattle) and production of animal feed.

In terms of production, a 1,200 pound steer results in about 490 pounds of beef. And a dairy cow can produce between 6-7 gallons of milk per day (or about 2,500 gallons per year).

Learn about different breeds of cows.

2.9 million organic farmers world wide

Organic certification is currently the “gold standard” in food production when it comes to assuring consumers that the farm products they are purchasing were grown and processed using methods healthy for humans and the environment.

The organic foods market in the U.S. was worth $55.1 billion in 2019. Consumers are looking for healthy foods and while there are many other “food labels” in the retail marketplace, “organic” is by far the most familiar one. Learn more about the steps to organic certification.

Some plants need cold weather to flower.

Cold stratification on seeds and plants signals the plant to be dormant and then once it warms up again the plant is ready to reproduce. 

Crayons are grown - from soybeans

The soybean oil from one bushel of soybeans will make 2,112 crayons. One acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons! Wow that's a lot of crayons!

30% of farmers are women.

Over a third of the 3.3 million farm operators world-wide are women. Women farm operators have increased 20% from 2002, and more than 75% of women farm operators are owners of their land. Globally, 70% of all farmers are women. Check out these amazing women farmer innovators.

Fungus helps trees grow

Fungi are amazing! They are an integrate partner in a health ecosystem and work to protect roots and help plants find water and nutrients. These white threads of mycelium that you find in a handful of healthy soil are part of fungus. These threads act as a sort of web to distribute and share food and water and are essential to the health of trees. Amazingly plants have evolved to have symbiotic relationships with fungi. The fungi help plants and in return, the plant roots give the fungi carbon, energy through carbohydrates and other nutrients.

Over 30% of all food grown is never eaten

Did you know 1 in 8 People in the US are food insecure. Yet more than 30% of food grown is wasted and never consumed. And of the food the reaches American homes, about 25% of it is thrown away. Check out these tips to reduce food waste and compost.

Infographic showing 7 facts about agriculture

Additional References:

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