Pivot is a drawing system, created in the coding environment Processing, that can be used to represent American farmland as we see it from above, grids of circles within squares created by pivot irrigation systems. The program uses two variables, water supply and crop homogenization, to visually alter its randomly generated landscapes. By modifying these variables, the landscape can range from lush and diverse to dry and distorted by large dominant plots. The image above is a matrix of these two variables, water supply along the x-axis and crop homogenization along the y-axis, showing the ranges of the programs output. It can be seen representing the possible states of the American agricultural landscape. All the code from this project can be found here.

I created a system where a square plot of land is populated by pivot sprinklers. I chose two variables that I would then control to create my system of drawing: the amount of water at each plot (plot color), and the decreasing diversity of America’s agricultural landscape (plot size). For largely economic reasons the American agriculture industry has become much more specialized, causing areas of the country to be more fully devoted to corn or to soy. The production of wheat and small grains have suffered, as has the nutritional value of the crops produced. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-crop-shift/

The program randomizes the colors of the plots, and a recursive function chooses the plots that increase in size. These functions combine to create small plots that are random and unique, but only random within a range defined by the two variables. These individual squares then can be arranged into a matrix of plots, where the the color variable is on the x-axis and the size variable is on the y-axis. The matrix represents a map of possible states, or futures, of the agricultural landscape.

Instructor: Tim Durfee