Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Farmer, Farm, Farming, Food: Trends in book references

I have asked several friends and family members to help me with writing some guest blog posts to offer different perspectives and add voices to the dialogue I hope to create through this blog.

Recently, my husband, Nicholas (check out his blog here!), has taken a significant interest in the data you can pull from the work I am interested in.  He is very intrigued by how the data shows our disconnect from the land, our food and those amazing people who help put said food on our plates - farmers!  While I have been blogging away on my research and activism, Nick has been pulling stats and reveling in all of the data you can find related to food and farming.

I am posting one of his recent search results which shows a disturbing lack of interest in where our food comes from, how it is grown and who grows it.


Farmer, Farm, Farming, Food: Trends in book references since 1820

I happened across a TED talk about a tool that Google built that allows you to search a series of words across the ~15 million books that they have scanned. I was interested to see what people have been saying over time regarding the “farmer”, their “farm”, the act of “farming”, and “food”. I was hoping to find some interesting data but what I found was more interesting than I expected.

Here is the graph from the data:

We can glean a few trends from this data. Food has always been the main topic of discussion. Prior to the early 1850’s the farm and farmer had relatively close ties in terms of reference and no one apparently cared about the act of farming itself. Around 1900 we see references of each word starting to climb with the farm beginning to outpace the farmer and the act of farming becoming referenced more often. By the mid 1950’s we begin to see a decline in food (albeit brief) while the farm continues to decline through the end of the available data. By 1960 we see references to farming equal references to the farmer though both of them decline through the end of the data set.

Obviously this isn't a scientific data set, it is only results based on the number of references of a word in books over time that Google has been allowed to scan, but the graph does seem to mimic the other anecdotal evidence we see today. We seem to care more about the food then we do about the farm, we care more about the farm then we do about the farmer, and we care as much about the farmer as we do about the act of farming (not much by this data-set . I ran some math on the actual values for 2007 and you were ~11 times more likely to read the word “food” rather than the word “farmer”.

It did make me wonder. If we see a word referenced more do we talk about it more? If we see one word without the other word do we create a dissociation in our minds between the two words? If so then according to the data above we are creating a huge gap between food and its source. And if you don’t think that the farm is the source of food, please tell me, what does food become when it exists without the farm, farmer, and farming?

No comments:

Post a Comment