Turkey, a country of 77 million inhabitants (almost 15 million of them living in Istanbul) with a land mass of 780.000 km2 and surrounded by sea on three sides: the Black Sea in the North, the Aegean Sea in the West and the Mediterranean Sea in the South . This large peninsula is known as Anatolia or Asia Minor. The Pontic Alps rise along the Black Sea coast in the North and the Taurus Mountains stretch along the Mediterranean coast all the way to Eastern Anatolia, where Mt. Ararat is our highest peak with over 5.000 m. And between these two main mountain chains is the high plain of Central Anatolia.
Mesopotamia, the so-called “fertile crescent” an area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers is widely considered as the area where the early hunters and gatherers evolved into settlers that cultivated plants, raised livestock and where agriculture was born.
Göbeklitepe, a recently discovered temple district in Mesopotamia is located just a few km away from Urfa, this discovery has turned history upside down, as it was built 12.000 years ago; the stone masonry on the pillars having been made long before iron tools are known to have existed.
Apparently due to the ideal climate conditions, early civilizations advanced faster in this geographical area. Because of prosperity, settlements grew fast, script had developed, the invention of the wheel revolutionized farming.
In ancient Mesopotamia, clay tablets indicate that brewing was a fairly well respected occupation during the time, and that the majority of brewers were probably women. Because it contained plenty of nutrients, every indication is given in the tablets that beer was a staple of the Sumerian diet—even laborers were given beer as part of their rations when on the job, and was consumed with… a straw.
The Assurians were one of the most important and early civilizations in Mesopotamia and ruled from 2.500 BC for almost 2.000 years. The Assyrians ruled powerful empires several times over the course of history, the last of which grew to be the largest and most powerful empire the world had yet seen at that time. Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea to Persia, and from the Caucasus Mountains to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
The remains of early Sumerian irrigation systems can still be seen in eastern Anatolia and some parts are still in use today.
The Hittites arrived in Anatolia around 1.800 BC. They had no other choice but to settle near Cappadocia in Central Anatolia. They were the first civilization to successfully melt iron, but had also developed a high standard in pottery. The Hittite economy was based on agriculture. The main crops were emmer, wheat and barley. It took at least 22,000 hectares of arable land to meet the annual needs of Hattusas. Honey was also a significant item in their diet. Their domestic livestock consisted of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and perhaps water buffalo. Donkeys were used as pack animals and dogs were even their ‘best friends’. Hittites used cuneiform script in their inscriptions and used simple hieroglyphics so ‘ordinary’ people could understand the inscriptions.
Trade and export had become an important income for people of this time. As cotton grew in the valleys, cloth soon became one of the most sought after products in ancient times. Grapes, cherries, hazelnuts and pomegranates all originated from Anatolia and olives have been produced mainly on the western coast of Turkey throughout history.
Agricultural statistics have been recorded even in ancient times, as there were laws concerning the use of water. During the Ottoman reign, agricultural data was recorded thoroughly, which proves the importance that the Sultans ascribed to this subject.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern republic, was very well aware, that the country could only prosper with agriculture. He installed research institutes, showpieces for farmers to learn about modern farming technology and took necessary steps to boost production.
Some fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits, are also considered agricultural products of Turkey although they have been introduced only a short while ago. The tomato was brought to Turkey as a decorative plant in the 19th century, while the orange was first introduced to the research institute in Antalya in 1945. Today, Turkey ranks 4th in worldwide tomato production, and over 2.6 million tons of citrus fruits are harvested yearly.
As of March 2007, Turkey is the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts, cherries, figs, apricots, quinces and pomegranates; the second largest producer of honey, watermelons, cucumbers, chickpeas and honey; the third largest producer of tomatoes, eggplants, green peppers, lentils and pistachios. Some of the other important products are ;
• Grain legumes
• Oil seeds
• Sugar beet
Livestock farming takes a supportive role in Turkey’s agriculture and is responsible for only 30% of the overall production. One of the main reasons for its slow growth is that in many parts of the country, farmers still grow animals for personal use and a large percentage of fodder is imported, which makes it too expensive for some farmers.
Actually, the terrain and varied climate in Anatolia offers ideal conditions for livestock farming. Until recently, mainly domestic livestock were used for breeding but that has begun to change in the last couple of years. This helped to improve the outcome for meat and dairy production and made it more cost effective for the farmers. It can be also seen as a positive development that the number of buffalo has increased again.
A census from 2009 shows that from the total of 10.8 million cattle counted, 35% were pure bred cattle, while 41% was a mixed breed of cattle and 24% were domestic breeds. In 2012, that number increased to approximately 14 million.
Although strongly anchored in tradition, sheep and goat breeding had begun to diminish in favor of beef stock, however these figures are increasing again. Some of the domestic sheep races are:
• Ak Karaman
• Mor Karaman
Poultry farming has increased remarkably in the last few years, not only because poultry consumption is seen as being healthier when compared to beef and lamb, but also as a more affordable choice than beef and lamb as well as an easy source of nutrition. The consumption has more than doubled in recent years. Poultry farming can be seen in large numbers around the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean coast and Central Anatolia.