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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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What is agriculture?


Agriculture is the science of farming, which is raising crops like corn, beans, peas, potatoes, sugar beets, pumpkins, sunflowers, soybeans, wheat, and raising animals like cows, sheep, pigs, goats and chickens.


How does farming affect me?

Look below at what is used to make a lot of the food and products that you use everyday!


 

 Agriculture
 
 
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Wheat

Wheat is the main food that we eat everyday and it is the most important crop in the world!  If you studied all of your food long enough, you might just realize that almost everything contains wheat in one form or another.  Think about these examples: breakfast cereals, breads, all pastas, and even cookies.   Flour is actually in almost everything that we eat except for fruits, vegetables, and meat!  Wheat can also be used in place of petroleum in plastics, which can then be made into just about anything from toys to the inside of a car.

 

 

Corn
Corn is a popular crop all over the world.  It will grow in hot climates and also cooler, mild ones as long as there is lots of sunshine.  Do you recognize some of these things that are made with corn: breakfast cereals, baby foods, almost ALL candy has corn starch in it to add that sweet flavor, carbonated beverages or what is also known as pop contains a high frutose corn syrup, cornmeal is used in breads, muffins and as the breading on meats like fried chicken, instant coffee and soup mixes as well as a lot of other things in packages contain maltodextrins which comes from corn and helps to keep the dry mix from clumping together, pyrodextrin another agent from corn is used to help make tape and other things sticky, and lastly something in corn called sorbitol is even found in your toothpaste.


Rice

Rice is another very important crop just like wheat and corn.  It is a main food for over half of the world's population and 99% of all rice is grown in Asia.  Some of the things made out of rice are cereals like Rice Krispies along with those "YUMMY" Rice Krispy Treats, some noodles, rice pudding, rice milk for people who can't drink regular cow's milk, some crackers, and you can even buy cinnamon raisin rolls, bagels, buns and bread that is free of wheat, gluten and lactose, which means that it is instead made from rice flour!  There is even such a thing as paper that is made from rice.


Peas, beans & lentils

Peas, beans & lentils are edible seeds that grow in a pod on a plant and they contain lots of protein and vitamins.  You have more than likely eaten a variety of beans fresh or dried in soups, but one bean that when processed and added to other ingredients becomes very useful is soybeans. Soybeans turn up in soap, paper, paint, video tapes, ink, baby food, tofu, cereals, bread, cookies, frozen dinners, and even in pizza.  In fact, Illinois is the second largest producer and they grow enough soybeans in one year to fill 118,000 school buses.  Here is a picture of soymilk, which is the only kind of milk that lactose intolerant people can drink because regular cow's milk makes them sick.


Sugar

Sugar comes from sugarcane and sugar beets.  Sugarcane grows best where it is warm, whereas sugar beets grow best in places like Montana and North Dakota where it is warm in the summer and cold in the winter.  The beets are pulled in the fall when it starts to get cold and taken to the local Sidney Sugars factory, where they are cleans and boiled.  All that is left then are brown sugar crystals, which go through yet another process to make the white sugar used in cookies and candy.  Here is a picture of some sugar that came from the the local factory in Sidney.


Vegetables oils

Vegetable oils are made from seeds and fruits like tiny sesame seeds or big, juicy coconuts.  Oils such as peanut oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and olive oil are used for such things as cooking, as dressings on a salad, and in margarine and cooking fats.  Like wheat, vegetable oils are in a lot more things than you might think.  Olive oil has been for a long time the best oil for you because even though it contains fat it is the monounsaturated or "good" fat. But now olive oil is having to step aside because of research done in Eastern Montana showing that new safflower oils developed at the MSU Eastern Montana Agricultural Research Center in Sidney, MT may be even better for you. That’s good news both for consumers and local farmers, since safflower is a common crop grown in the region.


Cattle

Cattle are very popular animals cause they provide us with meat and milk.  Milk contains necessary nutrients such as calcium and protein and it is used to make foods called dairy products like cheese, cottage cheese, butter, yogurt, and cream.  Some other foods that are made with dairy products are: almost all desserts like cookies, cakes, chocolate, and ice cream, most hot dishes have either some milk or cheese in them along with some soups like tomato soup, bread has milk in it even though you can't see it like the milk in your cereal.  Probably most of the meat that you eat comes from cattle, too, like your hamburger and steaks.  Try this: for one day before you eat something think about whether it contains milk or meat from cattle.  You will more than likely be really surprised because there are so many foods that are made possible by cattle.


Sheep

Sheep are raised for their meat and for the foods and other products that can be made from their milk and wool.  Just like with cow's milk, such things like cheese and yogurt are made from sheep milk. Clothing is made from their wool, as well as ointment and hand creams from the oil in the wool.  Are you wearing anything that is made out of wool?  If so, then you're wearing a sheep!


Pigs

Pigs are used mainly for their meat, especially in China were most of the pigs in the world are kept.  Meats that you've probably eaten which come from pigs are: ham, sausage, bacon, and pork chops.


Chickens

Chickens are raised by farmers for their eggs and meat.  Hens, which are female chickens, can produce between 250-300 eggs a year.  The eggs that we eat are gathered soon after the chickens lay them so there are no baby chickens inside.  Eggs are used in a lot of baked goods like cookies, cakes, breads, and brownies, but when most people think of eggs they think of breakfast foods like omelets and scrambled eggs.



What are underground and hothouse vegetables?

 

Underground vegetables are plants that we grow for the part that is beneath the soil.  Carrots, turnips, radishes, and parsnips are the "fat" roots of plants and these are called root vegetables.  Potatoes are the "swollen" part of the underground stem of a potato plant, which is known as tubers.
 

Hothouse vegetables are vegetables that have to be grown in hot climates like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and zucchini.  A farmer grows them inside a special building with glass or clear plastic walls and by doing this they can even grow them year around. 



 

What are tree fruits, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits?
 

Tree fruits are fruits that grow on trees, and they come in many different forms from apples and peaches to nuts.  In moderate climates, apples are the most widely grown. 


Citrus fruits
are different than tree fruits, because they have to be grown in tropical and subtropical climates.  Some examples are oranges, grapefruits, and lemons.


Tropical fruits
are only grown in climates that are hot and wet.  Bananas and pineapple are the most familiar with, but kiwifruit, passion fruit, star fruit, mangos and papayas are also examples of tropical fruits.



 

 


Last Modified: 5/20/2010