This article will provide an overview of horticulture societies. The article describes the emergence of horticulture societies from hunting and foraging societies and the impact horticulture has had on human development. An overview of horticulturalists in the modern era is also provided. This article also explores the social organization of horticulture societies, examining such factors as population and kinship, the division of labor and power, and social equality. In addition, the economies of horticulture societies are examined. Horticulture societies are generally marked by smaller communities, interdependence, and moderate economic means. In order to flourish, horticulture societies are dependent upon ideal climate conditions for raising plants and supplement their economies with trade and commerce. When necessary, horticulture societies will initiate conflict and warfare to defend or obtain ideal land or necessary resources. In addition, horticulture societies have often developed advanced planting techniques and specific tools to aid the extensive labor that is required to plant, tend, and harvest gardens and crops. Finally, this article discusses some of the applications of horticulture to modern life. In the twenty-first century, horticulture is often practiced as a hobby or even used as a therapeutic technique for promoting important human developmental processes and life skills. The practice of horticulture is supported throughout the world by organized horticultural societies, which are devoted to the study and culture of cultivated plants.
Keywords: Agriculture; Agroecosystem; Crop Domesticating; Cultivation; Deforestation; Foraging; Harvesting; Horticulture; Human Ecology; Hunter-Gatherers; Irrigation; Plant Reeds; Sedentism; Sewing; Tillage; Vegetation
Horticulture is the practice of farming in small regions without the use of heavy machinery or equipment used by large-scale agricultural operations. These farming cycles include the planting and tending of domesticated plants for food and raising small farm animals such as pigs and chickens for food or to sell or trade. Some horticultural societies enhance their dietary needs by hunting wild animals and/or foraging uncultivated plants between growing seasons. Because of the wider range of food and trade options, horticulturalist societies tended to grow larger than other early groups such as foragers and pastoralists. Usually, horticulture populations have at least one to ten people per square mile, although communities can develop to a few dozen people or even a few hundred people per square mile (Lenski, G., Lenski, J., & Nolan, 1999). With the exception of aquatic foraging, horticulture is generally more productive than foraging. While many horticulture populations are essentially subsistence farmers, some of these communities stock surpluses of produce to sell or trade in order to obtain items that cannot be made by hand.
Although horticulture societies are on the decline, the practice is still evident in lush or tropical forest areas such as the Amazon Basin, the mountainous regions of South and Central America, and in some regions of Central Africa and Southeast Asia (O'Neil, 2008). Before population densities rose to higher levels and societies developed more intensive farming methods, horticulture was a common practice throughout the world.
Emergence of Horticulture Societies
The movement from hunting and gathering to horticulture was an important change in the development of civilization. This shift was facilitated by the invention of basic tools, the discovery of fire, and the development of agriculture. The rise of horticulture societies is significant because crop cultivation and animal domestication allowed for food surpluses, which enabled the populations of these societies to flourish, and facilitated the development of organized communities, division of labor, and the abilities to engage in selling and trading and even to form central systems of governance.
Horticulture, which is based upon the intensive use of plants for human purposes, is inextricably linked to the beginnings of agriculture. While horticulturalists raise plants for food, they also cultivate plants for artistic, medicinal, ornamental, and even technological purposes. Early horticulturalists were often members or servants of the wealthy, as most societies were still largely focused on plant cultivation for purposes of food consumption rather than for decorative or artistic purposes. However, the most developed ancient civilizations are known to have cultivated lush, beautiful gardens that were watered by complex irrigation systems.
Impact of Horticulture on Human Population
Human populations have been rapidly growing for millennia. This growth has resulted in a higher demand for food. To support this growth, early foraging societies had to develop farming practices that could sustain their need for a steady supply of food. In the earliest organized societies, horticulture and pastoralism enabled communities to develop plant and animal food supplies that were sufficient to sustain their populations. However, as the human population continued to grow, intensive agriculture became a necessity. As horticulture and plant cultivation became increasingly sophisticated, there was a corollary rise in the development of towns and cities and trade and commerce.
As cities and urban populations developed, people steadily became less dependent on the environment. In addition, as demand grew for housing, roads, and transportation routes, land that was once used for horticulture was transformed. Farmland was developed to support growing societies, and waterways were used to irrigate land to provide water for people and crops. Some plant species were considered undesirable and eradicated, while others were adapted through genetic selective breeding to be more nutritious or practical for human use. Over time, many of these plants have become the domesticated food plants that we recognize today.
Horticulturalists in the Modern Era
Horticultural practices became less common during the Dark Ages. During this era, these practices survived largely in monastic gardens and communities. However, with the rise of feudalism, horticulture began to flourish once again. The nobility and wealthiest members of society had the means to procure extensive and exotic plant species, which were tended to by serfs and forms of forced labor. Over time, emerging working and middle classes adopted some of these horticulture practices, and plant cultivation became a pleasant pastime rather than a form of subsistence agriculture.
The rise of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century led to the industrialization of agriculture through machines and tools as well as through fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides (Relf, 1992). During this same era, the human population began increasing exponentially, putting massive food production and transportation in ever greater demand. At the same time, plant breeding and biotechnology enabled the production of novel and heartier plant species. In the twenty-first century, plant cultivation is studied in many government and academic programs. In addition, scientists continue to examine how modified foods from plant breeding experiments can affect the nutritional needs of the human population.
The demographics of horticulture societies are influenced by many factors. The size of the population, the degree of each household's self-sufficiency, and the purchasing power of the members of the society have a significant impact on a horticulture society's ability to flourish or remain at a level of basic subsistence. In addition, the physical environment can affect the ease with which plant products can be sold or traded, and the diet of these societies can be affected by the social, cultural, and ethnic characteristics of the community. Generally, horticulture societies are dominated by females and are fairly closely knit. Gender, age, and economic self-sufficiency are also important factors in the social structure of these societies.
Historically, horticultural societies tended to be small farming communities. Over time, they developed in population density, and their increased numbers provided them an advantage over hunting-and-gathering societies when competing for territory and arable land, and this was one of the factors that led to the decline of hunting-and-gathering societies.
Horticulture societies have larger populations than hunting-and-gathering societies primarily because of their ability to cultivate food to supplement animals and game brought in from hunting expeditions. Even small horticultural societies are generally able to provide enough food resources to be self-sufficient, while larger communities often engage in trade and commerce to obtain a wider variety of food and household goods.
The work of women is extremely important in horticulture societies. Women do most of the cultivation of crops and plants. In addition, kinship ties are generally extremely important in horticultural societies because they maintain a solid basis for the community's social structure. Many of...
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