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)
- 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.
- Palm oil and cottonseed oil are oil crops.
- Cotton is a fiber crop.
- Are any of the hand-harvested crops described in the NPR article staple foods?
- Nope. According to our encyclopedic entry, “A food staple is a food that makes up the dominant part of a population’s diet. Food staples are eaten regularly—even daily—and supply a major proportion of a person’s energy and nutritional needs.” The three food crops described in the NPR article—saffron, vanilla, and chocolate—do not fit this description.
- Our media spotlight reminds readers that “crops don’t always serve people near where they are grown. Crops grown in one place might be exported to another.” Do you think any of the hand-harvested crops described in the NPR article are consumed where they are produced?
- Palm oil is both heavily produced and consumed in West Africa.
- On the other hand, many cocoa farmers in West Africa have never even tasted the chocolate they harvest. Fast-forward to about 0:56 in this video to see an Ivory Coast cocoa farmer taste processed chocolate for the first time.
- 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.