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Agricultural patterns:
traditional vs. conventional


 A comparison of traditional and conventional agricultural models Traditional
craft horticultural production
subsistence agriculture
Conventional
intensive industrial agriculture mass production agribusiness

 ultimate goal
Survival of the local community is the goal.
Risk aversion: don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Provide a constant supply of basic food needs first, then "luxuries."
Maximization of production and profit based on economic rationality & efficiency.

tillage
A belief that the earth is alive, a more gentle manipulation - by hand. The soil is considered to be dead, intensive mechanized tillage with heavy machinery.

 water
 naturally variable rainfall, some irrigation  irrigation

 fertilization
 natural organic, fallow time, nutrient cycling, polyculture symbiosis  synthetic petrochemical fertilizer

seeds
Diverse seeds are locally developed. Crossbreeding and diversity for risk aversion requires diverse management practices. Mass produced hybrid seeds are imported. Genetic manipulation and uniformity for maximum yields and standardization of management practices.

  pest control
natural predators and polyculture resilience petrochemical pesticides, genetic manipulation

 weed control
hand weeding, polyculture resilience petrochemical herbicides, genetic manipulation

 labor
Intimate knowledge of the local ecosystem passed down. Skillful but gentle manipulation of the ecosystem. Very labor intensive work at a variety of tasks. Little specific local knowledge wholesale transfer of "technology" devised and diffused from central point - just read the label, mechanization with fossil fuels replaces most human and animal labor

 pattern
 agroecology: a diverse and complex mixture of plants in balance with the natural environment. resilient, automatically corrects for annual fluctuations, imitation of the environment's flora and fauna makes for a sustainable living system conventional monoculture: "food production is treated like an industrial process in which individual plants assume the role of miniature factories"
the individual plant grows in a sterile, stable environment created with massive artificial inputs and energy


Sources:
Plant illustrations by Mary Frances Jackson

Gliessman, Stephen, 1998, Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture Chelsea, MI; Sleeping Bear Press