The agrarian imperative

J Agromedicine. 2010 Apr;15(2):71-5. doi: 10.1080/10599241003630585.


The most recent National Occupational Research Agenda includes, as a goal, conducting research that enhances the understanding of psychological factors that affect the well-being of people engaged in farming. The author proposes a construct, the agrarian imperative, as an explanation for why people engage in agriculture. Several lines of evidence are offered as validation of the agrarian imperative. Historical evidence suggests that domesticating animals and cultivating land to produce food, fiber, and shelter allowed humans to proliferate. In other words, agriculture yielded survival advantages for the human species. Genetic and anthropological evidence is accruing that suggests that acquiring territories of land to produce these necessities has an inherited basis that is encoded into our genetic material. Feedback from the environment influences and modifies the genetic memory pertaining to the agrarian imperative. Psychological evidence, particularly personality research, suggests behavioral traits that are characteristic of persons who are engaged in agriculture. Inability to farm successfully, however, is also associated with an increased probability of suicide. The agrarian imperative could be an important avenue of behavioral research that elucidates motives and risk-taking of people engaged in agriculture.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Anthropology
  • Behavior
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Personality
  • Psychology
  • Suicide