History professor laments the invention of agriculture


Connecting with consumers is a massive challenge for agriculture. The industry has developed several programs and groups to close those gaps, such as the Canadian Center for Food Integrity and Ag More Than Ever. But as we saw in Monday’s federal election, there is an ideological separation between the urban and rural population.

That divide can even include how food is produced, apparently. Just when you think you have seen it all, something like a recent letter to the editor of the Atlantic opens your eyes to just how unbelievably wide that chasm is.

The Atlantic asked its readers, “what is the one that you would change if you could go back in time?

It’s a neat question, because all of us have regrets. Maybe it was buying that quarter ten miles away, selling dairy quota in the 90s, or not going to college. What about going back in time and preventing the invention of agriculture? That was the suggestion by an Atlantic reader who claims to be a history professor at Rutgers.

Samantha Kelly states, as her regret, “The invention of agriculture. Imagine: far less environmental degradation and income inequality, a shorter workday for all, a varied diet and possibly better health outcomes for certain communities, and a profound confidence that the future would provide. A world without industrial agriculture would pretty much be the Eden of the Bible. Hunter-gatherer life isn’t sounding so bad.”


Quite frankly, it’s amazing to witness this level of disconnect, especially from someone that is working at an academic institution. One can only assume that there were Atlantic readers reading this submission and cheering in support.

It’s difficult to grasp where mankind would be if it was still hunting and gathering. As one RealAg audience member says, “the more time you spend hunting for food, the less time you have to find vaccines, cure diseases, create meaningful technologies or enjoy life at all.”

Dr. Cami Ryan, social Sciences lead at Bayer CropScience tweeted, “The reason she [Samantha Kelly] is able to work and live where she does is BECAUSE ag allowed societies to disentangle from the hard work of food production.”

Agriculture is not perfect and must continue to build on its environmental stewardship success while provided high quality products that are affordable to a mass consumer base. This example in The Atlantic is further proof that our communication and outreach work must be better and find effective ways to prevent society from spinning into the illusion that hunting and gathering is somehow a viable alternative.

As Ryan states in a Twitter thread, “This, alone, illustrates just how geographically, generationally, and rationally disconnected we are from farming and food production. We have lost our farming memory.”

It’s far too easy to romanticize the past, and that snowballs to lead you down a path of fantasy instead of reality. That is only going to make the divide worse.

2 thoughts on “History professor laments the invention of agriculture

  1. Ms Kelly should watch naked and afraid on Discovery channel if she thinks hunter gathering is the way to go, never
    Ceases to amaze me how un intelligent the academic really are, just because you are a professor who has passed some courses
    And gets a pice of paper doesn’t mean your not thick.
    Our society as mentioned in your article is under pinned by agricultural, the fact you can have a meaningful job and not spend all your time
    Trying to find food.
    Ms Kelly should go on naked and afraid maybe she may learn we farmers do actually serve society.

  2. Those advocating for hunter-gatherer lifestyles, as romantic as the idea may seem, have to realize all the incredible advances in genetic performance of our crops today. This has lead to many consumer-sought traits. We haven’t told thoese stories nearly well enough to date. All consumers hear about is the chemical tolerance, or disease tolerance, or massive equipment advances. They don’t see the more granular analytics on every farm and how efficient the industry has become at primary production, logistics, and processing, and they almost never get told about health benefits to individuals. We have less disease in our crops, stronger nutrition, enhanced grain size, & improved yields (which can remove the need for deforestation). It’s a anti-GMO radicals have stymied similar advances such as golden rice that could help to minimize blindness in rice-dependent populations of southeast Asia and add to the list of key ways modern agriculture improves people’s food security and overall well-being. Look no further than comparing a cob of corn from the Mayan civilization to a modern cob of corn after being bred for maximal production. To go back to a world of hunting and gathering would be to give up almost every modern day convenience, as well as the basic nutrition and food safety we have come to expect.

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