Agriculture and Aesthetics

The animal only fashions things according to the standards and needs of the species it belongs to, whereas man knows how to produce according to the measure of every species and knows everywhere how to apply its inherent standard to the object: thus man also fashions things according to the laws of beauty.

Karl Marx

Aesthetics has practical applications that are not only related to making or appreciating art. In a short paper, David E. Cooper presents some thoughts on the relationship between aesthetics and agriculture. I will summarize a few key ideas here (with a link to the full paper).

Cooper mentions some initial objections, but the largest one is that a farmer has no need to be concerned with aesthetics. The farmer’s concern is confined solely with the practical. When the farmer is gazing upon the land to gauge the amount of crop (and therefore money) the land will yield, then the farmer is not having ‘aesthetic’ concern in that moment.

Cooper, however, presents a few reasons why farmers should consider the aesthetic in the farming practices. First, some studies have shown aesthetic discrimination plays a significant role in some of the practical skills and decisions exercised by farmers. Their awareness of the beauty and balance of their land and animals can ultimately help their farms thrive.

Second, not only can aesthetic considerations of the farm be helpful to the goodness of the farm itself, the well-being of the farmers and their families will also be affected. A beautiful farm will give greater emotional satisfaction and a sense of pride in the labor. This idea has been confirmed in a 2008 report on Family Business Gardens, cited by Cooper.

These are the two main impacts Cooper examines with more detail in his paper. I’ve only presented them here, but you can read the full paper here.

Aesthetics can impact many areas of our lives, despite us pretending that it is inessential. Cooper has given a great analysis of how aesthetics can impact farming, which is one area that many might not consider as benefitting from aesthetics considerations.


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