Abstract

Drawn from a plenary discussion at the 2013 Agricultural History Society's annual meeting in Banff, five scholars examine the relationships of specific crops to their surrounding cultures. The question “does crop determine culture?” provided opportunities to explore crop determinism and interrogate the relationships between particular crops and their production methods. The question intended to avoid the narrow association of “culture” with cultivation techniques, and each scholar discussed agricultural production methods in ways that included elements of their wider contexts. As usually happens in the history of technology, these historians spoke of cultivation methods that both reflect and shape those phenomena more often classified as social, cultural, political, or economic, rather than narrowly technological. The plenary ends with a call for readers to answer the organizing question for themselves, in their own studies of agriculture and its environments.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.

NOTES

1. The program committee did most of the work and with a great deal of care, good humor, and bonhomie. I am grateful to its members, who were: Megan Birk, Jacqueline Cannata McIsaac, Jeffrey Charles, and Cynthia Prescott.
2. Tiago Saraiva,
“Fascist Pigs: Genetics, Industrialized Organisms, and the Building of Fascism”
(in preparation); Saraiva and M. Norton Wise,
“Autarky/Autarchy: Genetics, Food Production, and the Building of Fascism,”
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
40
(Fall
2010
):
419
28
; Saraiva,
“Laboratories and Landscapes: The Colonization of Portugal and Mozambique and the Building of the New State,”
HoST Journal of History of Science and Technology
3
(Fall
2009
), http://johost.eu/vol3_fall_2009/vol3_ts2.htm (accessed Mar. 15, 2014); Peter A. Coclanis,
The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670–1920
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
1989
); Coclanis,
“Distant Thunder: The Creation of a World Market in Rice and the Transformations It Wrought,”
American Historical Review
98
(
Oct.
1993
):
1050
78
; Paul W. Rhode and Alan L. Olmstead,
Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development
(
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2008
); Rhode and Olmstead,
“Beyond the Threshold: An Analysis of the Characteristics and Behavior of Early Reaper Adopters,”
Journal of Economic History
55
(
Mar.
1995
):
25
57
; Claire Strom,
Making Catfish Bait Out of Government Boys: The Fight Against Cattle Ticks and the Transformation of the Yeoman South
(
Athens
:
University of Georgia Press
,
2009
); Strom,
Profiting from the Plains: The Great Northern Railway and the Corporate Development of the American West
(
Seattle
:
University of Washington Press
,
2003
).
3. Luigi Guarino,
“We Are What We Crop?”
June
15
,
2009
, Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog, http://agro.biodiver.se/2009/06/we-are-what-we-crop/ (accessed Oct. 18, 2013); Jared Diamond,
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
(
New York
:
W. W. Norton
,
1999
); Ted Steinberg,
Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2009
),
73
74
; Pete Daniel,
Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures Since 1880
(
Champaign
:
University of Illinois Press
,
1985
),
23
; Jennifer L. Anderson,
Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America
(
Cambridge
:
Harvard University Press
,
2012
),
157
.
4. M. Norton Wise,
“Science as History,”
in
Positioning the History of Science
, ed. Kostas Gavroglu et al. (
Dordrecht
:
Springer
,
2007
),
177
83
; Hans-Jörg Rheinberger,
An Epistemology of the Concrete: Twentieth-Century Histories of Life
(
Durham
:
Duke University Press
,
2010
),
7
. The most famous account of the role of model organisms in the biological sciences is probably Robert E. Kohler,
Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1994
). Angela N. H. Creager et al., eds.,
Science Without Laws: Model Systems, Cases, Exemplary Narratives
(
Chapel Hill
:
Duke University Press
,
2007
).
5. Douglas C. Sackman,
Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden
(
Oakland
:
University of California Press
,
2005
); Matt Garcia,
A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900–1970
(
Durham
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
2001
). For an overview of scientific research in citrus in southern California, see, Harry W. Lawton and Lewis G. Weathers,
“The Origins of Citrus Research in California,”
in
The Citrus Industry, Vol. V
, ed. Walter Reuther et al.,
5
vols. (
Oakland
:
University of California Press
,
1989
),
5
:
281
35
. Saraiva,
“Cloning and Democracy: Standardized Oranges and the Southern Californian Experiment with Cooperation,” in “New Materials: Their Social and Cultural Meanings,”
ed. Amy Slaton (
Philadelphia
:
University of Pennsylvania Press
, forthcoming); Sackman,
“‘Nature's Workshop’: The Work Environment and Workers' Bodies in California's Citrus Industry, 1900–1940,”
Environmental History
5
(
Jan.
2000
):
27
53
; H. Vincent Moses,
“‘The Orange-Grower Is Not a Farmer’: G. Harold Powell, Riverside Orchardists, and the Coming of Industrial Agriculture, 1893– 1930,”
California History
74
(Spring
1995
):
22
37
; Powell,
The Decay of Oranges while in Transit from California
(
Washington, DC
:
USDA
,
1908
); A. D. Shamel,
Cooperative Improvement of Citrus Varieties
(
Washington, DC
:
USDA
,
1919
); H. J. Webber,
“The Improvement of Root-Stocks used in Fruit Propagation,”
Journal of Heredity
11
:
7
(
1920
):
291
99
.
6. For Sunkist, see, for example, Moses,
“G. Harold Powell and the Corporate Consolidation of the Modern Citrus Enterprise, 1904–1922,”
Business History Review
69
(Summer
1995
):
119
55
; Rhode,
“Learning, Capital Accumulation, and the Transformation of California Agriculture,”
Journal of Economic History
55
:
4
(
1995
):
773
800
; Steven Stoll,
The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California
(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
1998
); Henry E. Erdman,
“The Development and Significance of California Cooperatives, 1900–1915,”
Agricultural History
32
(
July
1958
):
179
84
; Ben A. Minteer,
Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America
(
Cambridge
:
MIT Press
,
2006
),
17
50
.
7. Webber,
A Comparative Study of the Citrus Industry of South Africa
(
Pretoria
:
Union of South Africa Department of Agriculture
,
1925
);
“Dr. Webber's Advice,”
Citrus Grower
(Port Elizabeth),
July
1925
,
13
15
.
8. Shamel,
“Cooperative Improvement of Citrus Varieties,”
in
Yearbook of the USDA
(
Washington, DC
:
USDA
,
1919
),
249
75
.
9. Travel Notes,
Jan.
1925
, pp.
298
99
, folder 6, box 2, H. J. Webber Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California Archives, Berkeley, Calif.
10. Mark Mazower,
No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations
(
Princeton
:
Princeton University Press
,
2009
),
28
65
; H. C. Powell,
The Culture of the Orange and Allied Fruits
(
Johannesburg
:
South Africa Central News Agency
,
1925
).
11. Nahum Karlinski,
California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890–1939
(
Albany
:
State University of New York Press
,
2005
); Samer Alatout,
“Bringing Abundance into Environmental Politics: Constructing a Zionist Network of Water Abundance, Immigration, and Colonization,”
Social Studies of Science
39
:
3
(
2009
):
363
94
.
12. Antoine Bernard de Raymond,
“Une ‘Algérie californienne’? L'économie politique de la standardisation dans l'agriculture coloniale (1930–1962),”
Politix
95
:
3
(
2011
):
23
46
; David Macey,
Frantz Fanon, A Biography
(
New York
:
Verso
,
2000
),
240
.
13. Frantz Fanon,
Les Damnés de la Terre
(
Paris
:
Maspero
,
1961
),
32
; Macey,
Frantz Fanon
,
228
31
.
14. Marvin W. Towne and Wayne D. Rasmussen,
“Farm Gross Product and Gross Investment in the Nineteenth Century,”
in
Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century
, ed. William Parker (
Princeton
:
Princeton University Press
,
1960
),
255
316
.
15. X. Stuart Bruchey,
Cotton and the Growth of the American Economy: 1790–1860, Sources and Readings
(
New York
:
Harcourt, Brace & World
,
1967
),
67
71
; Gavin Wright,
Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil War
(
New York
:
Basic
,
1986
),
21
24
.
16. Olmstead and Rhode,
“Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy,”
Journal of Economic History
68
(
Dec.
2008
):
1123
71
; E. D. Domar,
“The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis,”
Journal of Economic History
30
(
Mar.
1970
):
18
32
.
17. See, Carville V. Earle,
“A Staple Interpretation of Slavery and Free Labor,”
Geographical Review
68
(
Jan.
1978
):
51
65
for the distinction between “few-day” and “multiple-day” crops. David F. Weiman,
“Staple Crops and Slave Plantations: Alternative Perspectives on Regional Development in the Antebellum Cotton South,”
in
Agriculture and National Development: Views on the Nineteenth Century
, ed. Louis Ferleger (
Ames
:
Iowa State University Press
,
1990
),
119
61
, offers a critique of the “staples thesis” to explain southern development. The explanation is further clouded because in Virginia slaves grew wheat. James Irwin,
“Exploring the Affinity of Wheat and Slavery in the Virginia Piedmont,”
Explorations in Economic History
25
(Fall
1988
):
295
322
; Wright,
“Slavery and American Economic History,”
Agricultural History
77
(Winter
2003
):
527
52
.
18. James H. Street,
The New Revolution in the Cotton Economy: Mechanization and Its Consequences
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
1957
),
9
,
112
17
.
19. Sam Bowers Hilliard,
Hog Meat and Hoecake: Food Supply in the Old South, 1840–1860
(
Carbondale
:
Southern Illinois University Press
,
1972
),
40
44
; Penne L. Restad,
Christmas in America: A History
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
1995
),
75
90
.
20. Susan Carter et al.,
Historical Statistics of the United States
,
5
vols. (
New York
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2006
),
4
:
209
. The basis of these numbers is unknown. John M. Brewster,
“The Machine Process in Agriculture and Industry,”
Journal of Farm Economy
32
(
Feb.
1950
):
69
81
.
21. Claudia Goldin and Kenneth Sokoloff,
“Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses,”
Journal of Economic History
42
(
Dec.
1982
):
741
74
.
22. Alberto Alesina et al.,
“On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough,”
Quarterly Journal of Economics
128
(
May
2013
):
469
530
; Ester Boserup,
Women's Role in Economic Development
(
London
:
George Allen
,
1970
),
15
36
.
23. Susan Eva O'Donovan,
Becoming Free in the Cotton South
(
Cambridge
:
Harvard University Press
,
2007
),
35
40
,
289
90
; Olmstead and Rhode,
“Slave Productivity in Cotton Production by Gender, Age, Season, and Scale,”
working paper.
24. Judith K. Brown,
“A Note of the Division of Labor by Sex,”
American Anthropologist
72
(
Oct.
1970
):
1073
78
.
25. Stanley Lebergott,
The Americans: An Economic Record
(
New York
:
Norton
,
1984
),
192
93
.
26. Malcolm Gladwell,
Outliers: The Story of Success
(
New York
:
Little, Brown
,
2008
),
224
49
.
27.
“‘Outliers’ Puts Self-Made Success to the Test,”
Nov.
18
,
2008
, NPR, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97117414 (accessed Mar. 15, 2014).
28. Coclanis,
“Paddy Whacked,”
Apr.
2009
, Open Letters Monthly, http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/book-review-outliers-malcolm-gladwell/ (accessed Mar. 15, 2014).
29. Karl A. Wittfogel,
Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power
(
New Haven
:
Yale University Press
,
1957
); Julian Haynes Stewart,
“Cultural Causality and Law: A Trial Formulation of the Development of Early Civilizations,”
American Anthropologist
51
(
Jan.–Mar.
1949
):
1
27
; Stewart et al.,
Irrigation Civilizations: A Comparative Study …
(
Washington, DC
:
Pan American Union, Social Science Section
,
1955
); Max Weber,
The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations
, trans. R. I. Frank (
Highlands
:
Humanities
,
1976
); Kimio Shiozawa,
“Marx's View of Asian Society and his ‘Asiatic Mode of Production,’”
Developing Economies
4
(
Mar.
2007
), http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1746-1049.1966.tb00480.x/pdf; Stephen P. Dunn,
The Fall and Rise of the Asiatic Mode of Production
(1982; repr.,
New York
:
Routledge
,
2011
).
30. Donald Worster,
“Hydraulic Society in California: An Ecological Interpretation,”
Agricultural History
56
(
July
1982
):
503
15
; Coclanis,
Shadow of a Dream
; Dale Evans Swan,
The Structure and Profitability of the Antebellum Rice Industry: 1859
(
New York
:
Arno
,
1975
),
15
.
31. See, for example, J. L. Maclean et al., eds.,
Rice Almanac: Source Book for the Most Important Economic Activity on Earth
,3rd ed. (
Los Baños
:
International Rice Research Institute
,
2002
),
4
29
; D. H. Grist,
Rice
,3rd ed. (
London
:
Longmans, Green
,
1959
),
113
84
; S. D. Sharma, ed.,
Rice: Origin, Antiquity and History
(
Enfield
:
Science Publishers
,
2010
). Raymond E. Crist,
“Rice Culture in Spain,”
Scientific Monthly
84
(
Feb.
1957
):
66
74
; Coclanis,
Shadow of a Dream
; Coclanis,
“Distant Thunder,”
1050
78
; Judith A. Carney,
“‘With Grains in Her Hair’: Rice in Colonial Brazil,”
Slavery and Abolition
25
(
Apr.
2004
):
1
27
; J. A. Pereira and E. P. Guimarães,
“History of Rice in Latin America,”
in
Rice
,
432
51
; Walter Hawthorne,
From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600–1830
(
New York
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2010
),
137
72
.
32. Coclanis,
“The Poetics of American Agriculture: The US Rice Industry in International Perspective,”
Agricultural History
69
(Spring
1995
):
140
62
; Coclanis,
“White Rice: The Midwestern Origins of the Modern Rice Industry in the United States,” in “Rice: A Global History,”
ed. Francesca Bray et al. (
New York
:
Cambridge University Press
, forthcoming).
33. Maclean et al.,
Rice Almanac
,
4
9
; World Rice Statistics Online Query Facility, International Rice Research Institute (yields per hectare by country, 2012), http://ricestat.irri.org:8080/wrs2/entrypoint.htm (accessed Mar. 16, 2014); Clifford Geertz,
Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia
(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
1963
).
34. See, for example, Matt Ridley,
“Getting Crops Ready for a Warmer Tomorrow,”
July
7
,
2012
, Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052702304708604577503190953767780.html (accessed Mar. 16, 2014).
35. Coclanis,
“The Rice Industry of the United States,”
in
Rice
,
411
31
; Sameer C. Mohindru and Warangkana Chomchuen,
“In Asia, Higher Rice Prices Despite Glut,”
Wall Street Journal
(European edition),
Aug.
1
,
2013
,
21
; Katherine Baldwin et al.,
Consolidation and Structural Change in the US Rice Sector
(
Washington, DC
:
USDA
,
2011
),
5
;
USDA, Economic Research Service
,
Rice Yearbook, 2013
(
Washington, DC
:
USDA
,
2013
), Appendix Table 1, Appendix Table 23.
36. Norah Dooley,
Everybody Cooks Rice
(
Minneapolis
:
Carolrhoda
,
1991
).
38. Jeremy Rifkin,
Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture
(
London
:
Penguin
,
1992
),
16
23
; Jeremy McInerney,
The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks
(
Princeton
:
Princeton University Press
,
2010
),
9
.
39. Adam Kuper,
Wives for Cattle: Brideweath and Marriage in South Africa
(
London
:
Routledge & Kegan Paul
,
1982
),
10
; George J. Klima,
The Barbaig East African Cattle-Herders
(
New York
:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
,
1970
),
11
12
; McInerney,
Cattle of the Sun
,
7
; Rifkin,
Beyond Beef
,
36
38
.
40. Klima,
Barbaig
,
32
; Walter L. Brenneman,
“Serpents, Cows, and Ladies: Contrasting Symbolism in Irish and Indo-European Cattle-Raiding Myths,”
History of Religions
28
(
May
1989
):
340
54
; Michael L. Fleisher,
Kuria Cattle Raiders: Violence and Vigilantism on the Tanzania/Kenya Frontier
(
Ann Arbor
:
University of Michigan Press
,
2000
); McInerney,
Cattle of the Sun
,
10
.
41. McInerney,
Cattle of the Sun
,
119
; Kuper,
Wives for Cattle
,
21
; Rifkin,
Beyond Beef
,
18
19
.
42. Fernand Braudel,
The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible
(1979; repr.,
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
1992
),
190
; Rifkin,
Beyond Beef
,
42
,
60
,
58
; Ian Blanchard,
“The Continental European Cattle Trades, 1400–1600,”
Economic History Review
39
(
Aug.
1986
):
455
.
43. For more on cattle trailers across time and space, see, for example, Blanchard,
“Continental European Cattle Trades,”
427
60
; Thomas Wigham,
“Cattle Raising in the Argentine Northeast: Corrientes, c. 1750–1870,”
Journal of Latin American Studies
20
(
Nov.
1988
):
313
35
; Caroline Skeel,
“The Cattle Trade between Wales and England from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries,”
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
4th series,
9
(
1926
):
135
58
; Richard W. Slatta,
Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier
(
Lincoln
:
University of Nebraska Press
,
1983
); Ernest Staples Osgood,
The Day of the Cattleman
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1929
).
44. Skeel,
“Cattle Trade,”
154
; Richard White,
“It's your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West
(
Norman
:
University of Oklahoma Press
,
1991
),
304
; Slatta,
Gauchos
,
62
.
45. For children's lack of knowledge about food origins, see, for example,
“Survey Reveals Children's Food Knowledge Worrying,”
BBC News,
Feb.
2
,
2010
, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/8492477.stm (accessed May 10, 2013);
“Where do Milk, Eggs and Bacon Come From? One in Three Youths Don't Know,”
Telegraph
,
June
14
,
2012
, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/9330894/Where-do-milkeggs-and-bacon-come-from-One-in-three-youths-dont-know.html (accessed May 10, 2013);
“Introducing Children to the Sources of Food,”
New York Times
,
May
11
,
2012
, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/nyregion/farm-camps-teach-children-where-food-comes-from.html?_r=0 (accessed May 10, 2013); Rifkin,
Beyond Beef
,
12
13
.
47. Jacob Silverman,
“Do Cows Pollute as Much as Cars?”
How Stuff Works
, http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/mammals/methane-cow.htm (accessed May 18, 2013);
“Rearing Cattle Produces More Greenhouse Gases than Driving Cars, UN Report Warns,”
UN News Centre
,
Nov.
29
,
2006
, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?newsID=20772&CR1=warning#.UY05qaU4qYk (accessed May 10, 2013);
“Greenhouse Gases Emissions from the Dairy Sector: A Life Cycle Assessment,”
2010
,
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
, http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/k7930e/k7930e00.pdf (accessed May 18, 2013); Geoffrey Lean,
“Cow ‘Emissions’ More Damaging to Planet than CO2 from Cars,”
Dec.
10
,
2006
,
Independent
, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissionsmore-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html (accessed May 18, 2013).
48. The rise of social history out of the postwar liberal consensus caused some scholars to bemoan the shattering quality of subdisciplinary profusion. See, David Oshinsky,
“The Humpty-Dumpty of Scholarship: American History Has Broken Into Pieces. Can it be Put Together Again?”
New York Times
,
Aug.
26
,
2000
. For a less negative view, see, Daniel Wickberg,
“Heterosexual White Male: Some Recent Inversions in American Cultural History,”
Journal of American History
92
(
June
2005
):
136
57
.
49. Gladwell,
Outliers
, chpt. 8; Bruno Latour,
Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society
(
Cambridge
:
Harvard University Press
,
1987
),
1
16
.
50. Lynn White Jr.,
Medieval Technology and Social Change
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
1962
).
51. John M. Staudenmaier,
Technology's Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric
(
Cambridge
:
MIT Press
,
1985
); Alex Roland,
“Technology,”
in
The Reader's Companion to Military History
, ed. Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker (
New York
:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
,
1996
).