Hand-Harvesting is Hard Work

FOOD

Mechanization has made the farming of many crops—lettuce and tomatoes among them—a lot less labor intensive. But some crops are still tended and harvested by hand, and it can be painstaking work. (NPR)

Take a look through our new map layers on the world’s leading food crops.

Cereals, such as wheat, are the world's leading food crops. Sophisticated and often expensive equipment (such as combines) account for most of the 2.3 billion tons of cereals produced every year. Hand-harvesting wheat, as this man is doing in Lebanon, is largely done by subsistence farmers. Map by National Geographic Education. Photograph by George F. Mobley, National Geographic

Cereals, such as wheat, are the world’s leading food crops. Sophisticated and often expensive equipment (such as combines) account for most of the 2.3 billion tons of cereals produced every year. Hand-harvesting wheat, as this man is doing in Lebanon, is largely done by subsistence farmers.
Map by National Geographic Education. Photograph by George F. Mobley, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through the NPR article, then read the Background Info in our media spotlight on mapping the world’s staple food crops. What are the the main categories of crops? What are the categories of the hand-harvested crops described in the NPR article? (Saffron, vanilla, chocolate, palm oil, cotton, cottonseed oil)
    • Crops fall into six categories: food crops, feed crops, fiber crops, oil crops, ornamental crops, and industrial crops.
    • Saffron, vanilla, and chocolate are all food crops.
    • This spectacular image captures workers harvesting saffron in Torbat-e Heydarieh, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran. Iran is one of the leading producers of saffron, a spice that must be extracted from the pistils of crocus flowers. Photograph by Safa Daneshvar, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

      This spectacular image captures workers harvesting saffron in Torbat-e Heydarieh, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran. Iran is one of the leading producers of saffron, a spice that must be extracted from the pistils of crocus flowers.
      Photograph by Safa Daneshvar, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

    • Palm oil and cottonseed oil are oil crops.
    • Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of palm nuts like these, harvested in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic

      Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of palm fruits like these, harvested in Sumatra, Indonesia.
      Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic

    • Cotton is a fiber crop.
    • A harvester examines a boll of cotton, harvested for fiber as well as oil, in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Photograph by Michael E. Long, National Geographic

      A harvester examines a boll of cotton, harvested for fiber as well as oil, in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.
      Photograph by Michael E. Long, National Geographic

 

 

 

  • Browse through our maps of the world leading food crops. What leading food crops are harvested in areas where hand-harvesting is done for the specialized crops described in the NPR article?
    • Italy (which hand-harvests saffron) also produces rice, maize, soy, potatoes, and wheat.
    • Madagascar (which hand-harvests vanilla) also produces sweet potatoes, rice, and cassava.
    • Ivory Coast (which hand-harvests chocolate) also produces cassava, yams, plantains, and wheat.
    • Philippines (which hand-harvests palm nuts for palm oil) also produces wheat, yams, sweet potatoes, and rice.
    • India (which hand harvests cotton) produces all major staple food crops except yams and plantains.

One response to “Hand-Harvesting is Hard Work

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s