You Are Here:   Home » Landowner Resources » Farm & Food Facts

List of barns built prior to 1960 - (CLICK HERE to view .pdf)

Through a cooperative project with the Department of ACES at the University of Illinois, Moore & Warner Farm Management is pleased to present this external link specifically addressing landowner issues. This information provides farmland owners current information and references in a number of key areas related to renting and buying farmland, managing farms, commodity marketing, as well as government commodity programs.

For Farmland Owners

In early 12th century Europe merchants bought and sold by the gross; dealing in smaller quantities allowed too little chance for profit, and too great a quantity risked being left with odds and ends of merchandise. Hence, the merchants were known as grossers, a word that eventually came to be spelled grocer.
Aftermath – Once upon a time, a math was a mowing of hay or grain, and the aftermath, the grass that sprang up afterward, which might provide either pasturage or a second hay crop. Today, of course the "aftermath" means the events that "spring up" after some notable occurrence.
Forests in America were first looked upon as enemies to agriculture. The ax was a weapon instead of a tool. Very few first trees remain but when one is beheld and you can visualize the original countryside covered with such giant growth the effect is almost overwhelming. It is indeed a world beyond present-day comprehension. Eric Sloane
Through the 1600s, any land more than 100 miles from the eastern seaboard was the "West." William C. Davis

Facts for the Arid and Semi-Arid Regions of the Western U.S.*

The Reclamation Act of 1902 was passed by Congress to focus a government bureau to assist in the irrigation of arid and semi-arid regions of the west. The Bureau of Reclamation was created from this act and proceeded to build dams, reservoirs, as well as irrigation systems, allowing the population of the west to grow.

Growing enough food to feed one adult for one day requires 1,700 gallons of water. For one week, one person requires four gallons of drinking water. To produce one gallon of milk, a dairy cow must drink four gallons of water. Eight gallons of water are required to grow one tomato. In the U.S., 80 percent of the annual water supply is being used for irrigated agriculture. Over 3.5 million people in the cities and farms east of the Continental Divide rely on water from trans-mountain diversions. Agriculture invested in more efficient irrigation technologies. As a result, the amount of water applied through irrigation dropped by 5.4 percent even though the number of irrigated acres increased by 2.9 percent between 1988 and 1994. The reduction in the amount of water applied each year by agriculture adopting more efficient irrigation practices equals the water needed for personal use of every man, woman and child in the nation’s 29 largest cities. One acre-foot of water is sufficient to meet the needs of a family of five for one year.  
Colorado Even though water is inexpensive, we must never take it for granted.  For example, one penny will buy a typical U.S. community 96 more 8-ounce glasses of water than the same penny spent in Colorado. The average precipitation in Colorado is 17 inches.  Alfalfa requires 21 inches and Kentucky Bluegrass requires 39 inches to retain its green color. Twenty-five percent of the water used by the state of Colorado from the Colorado River is diverted to the Front Range from the Colorado River Basin through trans-mountain diversions.  Currently, Colorado does not use between 700,000 and 1 million acre feet of the Colorado River entitlement annually. Denver gets 55 percent of its water from the Colorado River.  Annually, more than 10 million acre-feet of water flows out of Colorado. The Colorado River drains 244,000 square miles, bringing life to 27 million people and irrigates 4 million acres in seven states and two countries.  It is also said that every molecule of water in the Colorado River Basin is used three times before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Riparian (streamside) habitat makes up less then 3 percent of the land in Colorado, but it is used by over 90 percent of the wildlife in the state. Nearly two-thirds of the annual water flow in streams and rivers occurs during the late spring/early summer runoff.  Only three percent occurs during December through February.  The greatest demand for water occurs during the summer months when flows are low. Approximately 30 percent of U.S. groundwater used for irrigation is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer. *Informational source: Water Wheel – Your Guide to Water Conservation, which is a courtesy publication by the Center Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Bureau of Reclamation.
Here is an account from Forestville, New York, written in 1841: "Walnut Creek in this town has its name from a black walnut tree, which formerly stood a mile above its mouth, and was 36 feet in circumference at its base, gradually and gracefully tapering 80 feet to the first limb. Its entire height was nearly 200 feet, and it was estimated to contain 150 cords of wood, or 50,000 feet of inch boards. The bark was a foot thick. The tree was entirely sound when blown down in 1822. The butt, 9 feet in length, was transported to Buffalo, having been excavated, and was there occupied as a grocery store. It was subsequently carried by canal to the Atlantic cities, and, splendidly adorned, was exhibited for money to thousands of admirers." Gordon’s Gazette
Even into the early 1800s, men still spoke of the sparsely settled regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Mississippi, as "the West", and men born there, like Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, would be known all their lives as "western" men. William C. Davis
Without learning it in school or by book, it was perfectly natural for any American to know that black gum was for plowshares, oak for framing and pegs, apple for saw handles, chestnut for barrel hoops, cedar for pails, pine for kindling and oak for heat. Eric Sloane
Once white men crossed the Mississippi, all definitions of "the West" changed. Beyond it lay two and one-half million square miles of wilderness, and European eyes had never seen more than a speck of it. This West was a West of the mind and imagination, one whose impact upon those who set forth into it was so forceful that it precluded any further refinement of the meaning of mere words. This was THE West, and so it would remain. William C. Davis
It is feared that few among the younger generations of trees now springing up will ever attain the dignity of the old-forest trees. Very large portions of these woods are already of a second growth and original forest trees are becoming every year more rare. It is often said as an excuse for leaving none standing, that these trees of old forest growth would not live after their companions have been felled; they miss the protection which one gives to another, and exposed to the winds, would soon fall to the ground. As a general rule, this may be true; but the experiment of leaving a few, might have proved successful. James Fenimore Cooper
The 1841 Preemption Act first opened the door to the tillers of the soil. It granted people title to a quarter section of land, if they improved and lived on it, with payment ($1.25 per acre) deferred, and sometimes entirely forgiven. Under such an act were Kansas and Nebraska, Iowa, and more settled, eventually to become territories, and then states. William C. Davis
The oldest farmsteads were often graced with one big first-growth tree. Often the farm home site itself was chosen by the location of such a tree. Into that tree went the memories of all the forests of great trees that had disappeared around it. The farmer might have said that he left it for shade or to please his wife’s decorative sense; more truly it was a deep felt emblem that tied his efforts to the past, so that he might never forget the time when all pioneer man’s needs came from our forest. Eric Sloane
In 1854 the $1.25 per acre purchase price of the Preemption Act was reduced on a scale according to the quality of the land being purchased, allowing poorer farmers to buy the land, even if not of the best. William C. Davis
Farmers are so certain of their future that they spend a lifetime building barns for future generations. Isaac Weld, 1798
Then came the land bonus or "bounty" for all veterans of any of America’s wars. A bona fide veteran could apply for a claim of a full quarter section – 160 acres – often absolutely free. William C. Davis
In the beginning all civilized America was farms and all Americans were farmers who believed that farmers were the founders of civilization. Eric Sloane
Washington offered half sections in the Oregon Donation Law to families who would settle and farm for at least four years, and thereby more than 8,000 new settlers put over 3 million acres into cultivation. William C. Davis
If digging was the first step towards farming, it also proved to be one of the first agricultural methods. This was pure chance: where ground has been dug, the soil, which has been moved, aerated and mixed, becomes more fertile. The plant of the next generation will be more fruitful if something has been allowed to remain in the soil to reconstruct it. Gatherers observed this piece of agricultural wisdom. Similarly, hunters selected their game by allowing animals to go on reproducing. Ecology and respect for nature are lessons of the Paleolithic period.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
The 1862 Homestead Act allowed any head of a family to stake a claim to a quarter section in the United States territory, farm it for five years, build a house, and thereafter obtain legal title at no cost. William C. Davis
Farm life offers the complete satisfaction of knowing that each day’s work has been truly productive. Eric Sloane
In the twenty years after the Civil war, 1865 – 1885, more land became cultivated than in the previous 250 years, 1615 – 1865. William C. Davis
The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970, in large part because of the concerns and consciousness that Rachel Carson had raised. Pesticide regulation and the Food Safety Inspection Service were moved to the new agency from the Agriculture Department, which naturally tended to see the advantages and not the dangers of using chemicals in crops.

Al Gore
Barbed wire was invented in 1874 by Illinois farmer Joseph F. Glidden. William C. Davis
The early American farmer’s greatest satisfaction came not from his daily chores, but in his ability to make provisions for the future and in an awareness of his part in fashioning the nation to come. He equipped his home with far heavier foundations than were necessary. He built his barn to last for centuries and he laid a rail fence to survive ten generations. He built stonewalls that have lasted so long that they are now a permanent part of the landscape. Eric Sloane
Beside the sod-busting plow, the invention of barbed wire was the other major factor that greatly hastened the closing of the open range. By 1873, wheat and alfalfa crops began to evidence greater profitability than ranching and these ranchers were astute enough to see that growing fruit and vegetables for the east, now that railroads made these markets more accessible, was even more lucrative. William C. Davis
All America is farms and all Americans are farmers, a brotherhood of husbandry that knows neither politics or class. George Washington
By 1899, California was the largest producer of grapes in the country. William C. Davis
A hundred or more years ago, whether you were a blacksmith, a butcher, a carpenter, a politician, or a banker, you were also a farmer. If you were retired, you were a "gentleman farmer." Even the earliest silk-hatted and powdered-wigged American had gnarled hands that knew the plow and the tricks of building a good stonewall. Eric Sloane
Farmer, plow, and ox teams worked from just before dawn until last twilight to break the sod, tear up the tangle of roots, and expose the untapped earth beneath. Almost to a man, they brought the seed for the crops they had known in the past, chiefly corn and wheat, with a scattering of several other grains depending on the soil and the farmer’s needs. William C. Davis
A farm consists of a creek for swimming, a hayloft for sleeping, outbuildings for exploring and an assortment of haystacks to relax in. Mark Twain
The steady breezes of the prairies made windmills ideal, and as the decades went on, more and more refinements were made in commercially manufactured machines so that tens of thousands of them could be sent west, sold through mail order catalogs, for sums as little as $25. With nothing more important than water, it was money well spent. William C. Davis
Early America might have been united by the feeling for independence that our schoolbooks emphasize, but we were also held together by the common bonds of farm life. Nowadays the average man in the street would be at a loss chatting with a statesman: a bootblack would wonder what to talk about with a banker. But a while back, we all would have been farmers, with a great many interests in common. Eric Sloane
The farmer learned to send his water where he needed it, either into troughs for the animals, or through irrigation ditches to the periphery and interior of his crop lands, even to the wife’s vegetable garden. William C. Davis
"The Farmer’s Almanac" or "Old Farmer’s Almanac" was first published by Robert B. Thomas in 1792 for the year 1793 and has been in continuous publication ever since. It is a survival of the traditional American ALMANACS, which were repositories of folk wisdom, folklore, folk medicine and folk humor. As always, the current "Farmer’s Almanac" includes weather prognostication, planting schedules, astronomical tables, astrological material, sundry recipes and rural-oriented anecdotes and lore. Alan Axelrod and Harry Oster
The toil of being a prairie and plains farmer was little different from that known back in the East, with chiefly the added danger of sporadic Indian raids, and the drawback of isolation and a less friendly environment. William C. Davis
After the house and the big barn, there was always a smaller barn, a springhouse, icehouse, milk house, woodshed and blacksmith shop. These, with the carriage shed and privy and chicken houses, all made up a composition of geometric shapes that delighted the eye with its ability to blend with the contours of rolling land. Eric Sloane
Men and women performed reasonably well-defined roles on the frontier, though definitions were often blurred by the simple necessity to get things done regardless of whether or not it was "man’s" or "woman’s" work. William C. Davis
The Soil Conservation Service estimates that topsoil regenerates at five tons per acre per year.

Ronald Bailey
It is no wonder that religious revivals and temperance meetings had such a profound effect on the frontier community. Those who attended came far more for the excuse of an entertainment – any entertainment – than from deep sympathy with the cause at hand, but repeated attendance eventually swayed their convictions, giving fundamental ideals their deepest rooting in the sparsely settled regions of the Midwest. William C. Davis
The modern interpretation of the early American farmhouse has strayed far from the truth. Such ornamentation as imitation split shingles, old-style hardware and decorative shutters will satisfy the average person, but the breathtaking beauty of the original design is usually missing. The secret is not in the decoration but in the body and outline of old farmhouses. Eric Sloane
Farm or country women often wore coarse homemade garments or whatever was available: hardly glamorous. William C. Davis
In Britain Before Romans There were domesticated sheep in Britain even before the Romans arrived, but they probably brought along some sheep of their own to improve the native stock. History records that they established a factory for the production of wool cloth so they would not need to import clothing for their soldiers. Weaving with wool no doubt flourished in most parts of the civilized world from the time of Christ on. The earliest fibers to be used were flax and cotton. Flemish weavers of wool were famous all through the Middle Ages, but it remained for the British to establish themselves as a kingdom built on wool, its production, trading, and weaving. Since the climate and terrain of the British Isles was suited to sheep growing, and the development of the industrial revolution in England was founded largely on its textile mills, it was natural that the skill and ingenuity of English livestock breeders should center on breeding superior sheep as well as cattle. Nevertheless, the breed of sheep that has most influenced world development and trade was not British but Spanish. The decline of sheep growing in America has been cause for concern among livestock people who know sheep and realize that they can be a profitable enterprise. The rise of the synthetic fibers to replace cotton, linen, and wool has no doubt contributed to this decline. There is now a revival of interest in both cotton and wool. This trend stands a good chance of continuing. Since petroleum from which most synthetics are made is bound to be scarcer and higher priced in the future. We hear more being said today about the qualities of natural fibers that somehow obscured during the stampede to the synthetics.
Wallpapered and curtained, discreetly embowered at a considerable distance from the back of the house, was the privy. It was not regarded with the petty humor that surrounds it today, but was taken as seriously as the design of a bathroom is today. The familiar crescent shape cut into these doors originally designated the building as being one reserved for ladies, for the moon was always regarded as being female. The sun being regarded as male, it was once used as the design on the doors for gentlemen. Eric Sloane
Consumer Allowed To Forget Another thing that happened was that the American consumer got out of the habit of using lamb and mutton on the table. Such a trend tends to be cumulative, with disastrous results in the marketplace. When the sheep raisers slugged it out with the cattlemen on the western range in the 1880’s, both industries seemed to thrive. Although at no time were sheep considered unprofitable, good sheep herders became hard to find. Now that both the sheepherder and the cowboy have taken to the Jeep and the airplane it is even more difficult to find the skills and the patience to deal with sheep on a large scale. On smaller farms in the East and Midwest, sheep somehow developed into a nuisance enterprise and suffered accordingly. The mechanization of farms, the disappearance of fences, and the advent of the corn-soybean-Miami rotation spelled doom for smaller auxiliary farm enterprises. Much feed is going to waste on our modern farms with their tendency toward confined livestock or no livestock at all.
Yesterday’s forests and swamps and farms gave the land a natural sponge-like quality for the storing of water. Today’s drained and cleared land accepts rainfall like the wrong side of a blotter. Despite milder weather, floods are now more widespread because water flows over city streets, denuded forests, and "developed" or drained valleys, without soaking deeply into the earth as it used to. Eric Sloane
Breeds in Trouble The British have never ceased to breed good sheep. In recent decades they have broken away from the pure breeds to the extent that it is difficult to relate their sheep to pedigrees. The recent flurry of cross-breeding has turned up some excellent types which are still finding their way to other countries to improve the quality of sheep in general. It should be mentioned here that losses from roaming dogs have been one of the principal reasons why the small farm flock was largely abandoned. The urbanization of the countryside in more heavily populated areas, with the old farmsteads and many new country homes occupied by commuters, has greatly increased the number of dogs. Many of these are permitted to run wild where they are jointed by abandoned dogs loosed in the countryside by city people. These half-wild dogs have wrecked many a farm flock and discouraged many an otherwise ambitious young entrepreneur. Somehow this menace must be brought under control if sheep growing is to be revived.
Farm Animals in the Making of America by Paul C. Johnson, 1975, pp. 107-112
Any eighteenth-century farmer had the knack of making wooden hinges, locks, nails and spikes, hooks, plows, rakes; almost all his needs around the farm were satisfied with nothing more than a sharp tool and the right kind of wood. Eric Sloane
One hectare equals 2.47 acres

Ronald Bailey
Large tree roots were found too difficult to burn and almost impossible to dispose of, so the "root fence" was devised. A stretch of roots with their tentacles turned upward made a menacing enclosure for cattle or for protection from Indian attacks. Eric Sloane
An acre was originally as much as a yoke of oxen could plow in a day, but the size of the acre varied according to the nature of the terrain.

Dorothy Harley
A sound fence or stone wall became the rural signpost of a good farm and any farmer insisted that he could glance at one and tell the character of the man who built it. Eric Sloane
On December 4th, 1867, in Washington, DC, the "Order of the Patrons of Husbandry" - more commonly known as the Grange — was established.

Lorrie Baird
Another farm industry was the making of charcoal. Charcoal does give much heat with little smoke and it is, therefore, an ideal fuel. Charcoal is wood that has been heated under cover, leaving just enough air to burn off the gases. Eric Sloane
It is believed that the mediaeval "murrain" was our foot and mouth disease.

Dorothy Hartley
CEDAR was used as fence posts by all farmers because of its resistance to rot.
CHESTNUT was first used for its bark which was cut in large squares and used as shingles on early barn roofs.
HICKORY was used for the "summer beam" in early barns; this beam was the horizontal beam taking the main burden of the whole structure and its name was originally "sumpter beam," so called from the sumpter or burden horse.
PINE is light in weight and does not decay easily, even when wet. Pine was the standard covering for barns.
SPRUCE was abundant in the north and it was used in framing barns. Because it was the lightest yet strongest wood, spruce was reserved for long spans.
OAK was the heaviest native wood and chosen first for framing barns. Timber fastening pins, treenails or "trunnels" were made of oak.
ASH has much of the quality of oak and, being a fast growing tree, it was considered a cash crop for the early farmer who sold the young ash trees for splint and barrel-hoop material. Many barns are framed entirely with ash although the fastening pins were made of oak. Eric Sloane
In Montana in 1931 thousands of acres of wheat went uncut because they would not pay for the price of harvesting.

Piers Brendon
The foundations of the American nation were laid with the building of its first barns. The hewn rafters of the first Plymouth barn were put in place and, with a prayer of thanksgiving, a small tree was lashed to the peak as part of the ceremony. Builders still put that symbolic tree on the rooftree of a new house without any particular reverence for wood itself, but just for "the luck of the house." Eric Sloane
The Green Revolution was born in a network of agricultural research laboratories in the 1960's. After World War II, plant breeders, led by Nobelist Norman Borlaug, developed new high-yielding fertilizer—responsive dwarf varieties of cereal grains. Wheat yields in Europe that used to be 9 bushels per acre are now 100 bushels and rice yields of 2 tons per hectare are now up to 13 tons in Japan. The Green Revolution enabled India to double its wheat yields within a few years, and China now supports 22 percent of the world’s population on 7 percent of its arable land. China’s farmers also increased food production by more than 50 percent in only six years once the Communist government began allowing them to grow crops on private plots. In the past forty years, corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum yields per acre in the United States have increased 220 percent, 107 percent, 60 percent and 275 percent, respectively. Since the 1970s, world wheat yields are up 36 percent, rice up 38 percent, and coarse grains, e.g., corn and sorghum, are up 30 percent. Wheat and rice production in the developing world doubled, with rice production tripling in Indonesia. And the Green Revolution rolls on - Third World grain and oilseed yields continue to grow at a remarkable 3 percent annual rate.

Ronald Bailey
The age of some old houses is uncertain but the history of a farmer’s barn is a matter of business record, uncluttered by sentimental recollections. The date painted at the peak of a barn roof may just be an attractive touch to the antique lover, but it was put there in the same manner that a business house adds "established 1800" after its title. Eric Sloane
In Iowa in 1931 a bushel of corn was worth less than a packet of chewing gum.

Piers Brendon
Most Midwest barns are faced with their sides facing the cardinal points while many New England and Southern barns had their corners, instead, pointing to east, west, north and south. Eric Sloane
For many years the Grange was cloaked in secret ritual.

Lorrie Baird
The early farmer kept weather records in his diary. He regarded his weather almanac highly and watched the skies frequently because his every move was either helped or hindered by weather. The weathervane on the barn was a more important instrument than a clock is on the farm today. Eric Sloane
In Kansas in 1931 farmers burned wheat to keep warm - a bushel only fetched around $0.30, as compared to $3.00 in 1930

Piers Brendon
Before the 1700s the barn, generally speaking, had no glass windows. There were merely wooden doors that swung open for light and air, or slatted louvers that were left open permanently. Eric Sloane
In the event of hoof and mouth disease in medieval times, the law enforced all infected animals to be burnt, and infected heads were to be placed high on stakes around the infected district; travelers seeing such a warning must avoid the land, and no dealings were allowed with the unhappy owners. The animals on the land had to be impenned in their sheds and, when dead, burnt on the spot.

Dorothy Harley
Many of the old barns were ventilated by pigeon holes, which were scattered decoratively about the upper reaches of the sidewalls. Although we now think of pigeons as being city birds, many of the early farmers preferred to keep pigeons rather than chickens. When he wanted a heavier bird for eating, he’d choose a duck or a wild turkey; but the children were given pigeon as a regular diet and pigeon pie was for the whole family. Eric Sloane
In 1920 wheat sold for $3.00 a bushel. In 2001 wheat sells for $2.80 a bushel.

John Warner
At one time the farmer wore a red stocking or a piece of red in his hat for the same reason that a hunter wears a bright red hat – to distinguish him from game and to protect him from hunters. Eric Sloane
In England in the 1750s Jethro Tull invented the mechanical seed drill.

Reay Tannhill
Although we hang a Christmas wreath on the door of our house now, it was once hung on the barn door, and the cattle were dressed in garlands and fancy ribbons for Christmas day. Eric Sloane
The Pilgrim Fathers in seventeenth-century North America first learned of it from local Indians; then, as now, ‘corn' was a catch-all English word for any kind of grain, so they called it ‘Indian corn'

Reay Tannahill
The first Western barns were cattle shelters made of nothing but poles and straw. Eric Sloane
A bag of hybrid seed corn contains 80,000 kernels of seed.

Joe Peterson
Although we think of a silo as being something tall, the word "silo" is from the French and its meaning is "a pit." The trench silo has been with us longer than the stack idea; either on the surface or in a trench, the silage was packed in a pile running north and south. Eric Sloane
One bag of hybrid seed corn will plant approximately 2 1/2 - 3 acres.

Joe Peterson
What the barn lost by way of carpentry in its trip westward, it made up for in simplicity and size. As delightful as the eastern barn is by being a part of the landscape, the western barn is impressive by breaking away from the flatness. Sudden, massive, like a ship at sea, the western barn is distinctive. Eric Sloane
Carolina rice dates from the seventeenth century when a ship was wrecked on a beach in South Carolina, then a British colony. Once the vessel, which was from Madagascar, had been made seaworthy again, her grateful captain gave the local colonists several sacks of untreated rice, which they immediately planted. They harvested rice of a quality never before attained, much better even than that of the countries where long-grain rice originally grew. Rice is not grown in Carolina anymore, but it has spread to other parts of the United States: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Florida and in particular the Mississippi...
  The United States has been the sixth largest world producer and the leading exporter of rice over the last 20 years...

Maguelone Toussaint-Samat
In 1932, farmers composed 25.1% of the U.S. population; in 1972 farmers composed only 5.2% of the U.S. population.

U.S. agricultural statistic
Since the publication of SILENT SPRING, pesticide use on farms alone has doubled to 1.1 billion tons a year, and production of these dangerous chemicals has increased by 400 percent.

Al Gore
In July 1868, in railroad boomtown Sheridan, Kansas, one hundred pounds of winter-wheat flour sold for $14.00. A bushel of corn cost $2.50, butter was 75 cents per pound and eggs were 60 cents per dozen. Milk cost 25 cents a quart.

David Dary
In 1932 farmers were getting less than twenty-five cents for a bushel of wheat, seven cents for a bushel of corn, a dime for a bushel of oats, a nickel for a pound of cotton or wool. Sugar was bringing three cents a pound, hogs and beef two and a half cents and apples forty cents for a box of two hundred. A wagon of oats wouldn’t buy a pair of four-dollar shoes. A wagon of wheat would just do it, but with mortgage interest running at $3.60 an acre, plus another $1.90 in taxes, the wheat farmer was losing $1.50 per acre. In cotton fields, the strongest and most agile man would toil from can see to can’t see - fourteen hours of daylight - and receive sixty cents for the 300 pounds he had picked. It was cheaper to burn corn than to sell it and buy coal.

William Manchester
Average age of the U.S. farmer: 47

U.S. agricultural statistic
The term wheat (Triticum) is applied to two ancestral species:
einkorn and emmer. Einkorn is thought to be the older, being hardier and less particular about where it grows... We now distinguish between hard or durum wheats and soft wheats. The hard wheats, sown in autumn, are also known as "winter wheat". They are not used much in bread-making, and their main use is for pasta. They contain less starch but more proteins. The soft or spring wheats, generally grown in temperate climates, are not so rich in protein. They are particularly suitable for making bread, biscuits and cakes, and for fermentation to produce alcohol. Ninety percent of the world production is soft wheat. More than 30,000 varieties of wheat have been recorded worldwide, and almost every day botanists are creating new and even better varieties.

Maguelone Toussaint-Samat
In the 1930s the largest category of Americans untouched by progress was the farm bloc - over 30 million people. In those days they lacked knowledge of even the fundamentals of conservation, which was one of the reasons for the devastating dust storms. Without rural electrification, farmers read by lamplight. Without electric power the typical farm wife had to carry as much as 28 tons of water each year from the pump or spring. Her butter churn was operated by hand. She did her laundry in a zinc tub and preserved meat in a brine barrel. Her husband’s chores were even more backbreaking. After the morning milking he had two hours’ work with the horses before he could set about whatever he had planned for the day. Horses and mules were his major source of locomotion - there were over 20 million of them in the country — and when he went to town he drove over dirt roads. Later his life would be sentimentalized by those who had no idea what it had really been like. If the farmer’s son was still living on the land a generation later, his world was entirely different. Trees planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) held the soil firm; strip-cropping and contour plowing made for greater yields and sturdier crops. Fifteen billion dollars in farm machinery had ended the tyranny of sweat and drudgery, and the 65 million acres once set aside for raising animal fodder were now used for produce. The development of hybrid corn had increased the nation’s corn harvest 20 percent without boosting the acreage needed. Driven to abandon cotton by the boll weevil threat of the 1930s, southern farmers had learned to plant other crops - and had tripled their income. The new farmer in the new rural prosperity drove to market on macadam. And his wife, in a kitchen glittering with appliances, the brine barrel having been replaced by a commodius freezer, fed her family properly. Afternoons she had time to run into town herself. She went to the hairdresser regularly and wore the same synthetic fabrics as her city sisters instead of the gingham dresses and cotton stockings of her mother.

William Manchester
For six thousand years the strength of nations depended on their stocks of wheat; the significance of the slang term bread for money is obvious.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
For years conservationists had warned that ecological catastrophe hovered over the Great Plains. The so-called short-grass country west of the hundredth meridian was favored by less than twenty inches of rain a year. Early explorers had labeled the frontier beyond the Missouri the great American desert, and then it was relatively stable, hammered flat by millions of bison and untilled by the Indians. Then the settlers arrived with their John Deere plows. Before the Depression they had been blessed by extraordinarily heavy rains, but as they pushed their luck by overgrazing and overplowing, the ineludeable drew nearer. Even in the 1920s a hundred counties in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma had been called the "dust bowl" bowl. In 1934 the National Resources Board estimated that 35 million acres of arable land had been completely destroyed, the soil of another 125 million acres had been nearly or entirely removed, and another 100 million acres were doomed. Abruptly the bowl grew to 756 counties in nineteen states. Like Ireland and the Ukraine in the nineteenth century, the Plains were threatened with famine. The first of the great storms had blustered out of the sky on Armistice Day, 1933. In South Dakota the farms began blowing away that morning. By noon the sky was darker than night. Men were literally vomiting dirt, and when the sun reappeared, fields had been replaced by sand, while roads, trees, sheds, fences and machinery had disappeared beneath great hanging dunes of soil. By then the wind was headed for Texas. A towering pall darkened Chicago, and then was visible as far east as Albany, New York. The drought continued through 1934 and 1935. In 1934 winter did the damage; light snows had left the land too hard to absorb what rain there was. The first storms of 1934 struck the Texas panhandle. Wives packed every windowsill, door frame, and keyhole with oiled cloth and gummed paper, yet the fine silt found its way in and lay in beach-like ripples on their floors.

William Manchester
In May 1933 the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) was set up and it at once began a programme of paying farmers to reduce their output of staple crops such as cotton, corn, wheat, hogs and tobacco. Subsidies to farmers were paid by a tax levied on food processors, which ultimately came out of the consumer’s pocket, and the policy was not without its critics. They became especially vociferous when ten million acres of cotton (a quarter of the nation’s crop) was ploughed up and six million piglets were destroyed... (L)arge farmers benefited most from the scheme, receiving handouts or abandoning their poorer land, spending it on machines which produced more from their better fields and dismissing their tenant sharecroppers, many of them Southern blacks already living at subsistence level... (The) programme was generally reckoned a success, especially when it was augmented, in June, with a measure to re-finance farm mortgages at low rates of interest. Farm incomes increased by a third between 1933 and 1935. The President of the Farm Bureau Federation described the AAA as the "magna Carta of American Agriculture".

Piers Brendon
The Department of Agriculture inadvertently increased the human disaster of the Dust Bowl; under the AAA acreage reduction programs, wealthy farmers were discovering that they needed less help. Their tenants, turned out, took to the road in rattletrap 1925 Dodges, 1927 La Salles and 1923 Model Ts, looking for a greener land. They were joined by small farmers whose For Sale signs marked the start of the dust-bowlers’ migrations.

William Manchester
In 1940, 25 percent of Americans lived on farms; average annual farm income was $1,000.00. Three out of every four farms were lit by kerosene lamps.

U.S. agriculture statistic
Throughout the 1950s over a million farmers were leaving their farms each year - 17 million for the postwar era by the 1960s.

William Manchester
In 1963 American agriculture produced 60 percent more food than in 1940, while the number of hours required to do the nation’s farming dropped from twenty million to nine million.

William Manchester
From the arrival of the first settlers west of St. Louis, farming was the chief occupation, but profits were limited because there was no system for selling and shipping produce to other markets. Transportation was a major problem. .. The poor economic conditions west of St. Louis produced a constant shortage of money and reinforced the barter system, but money was necessary to purchase new lands. Missourians seeking money turned to other businesses to supplement their meager agricultural incomes. Some became hunters and trappers. Others entered the fur trade, a business that annually totaled thousands of dollars. Still others opened general stores and other businesses to serve the settlers. (P)eople were reared in simplicity, lived in simplicity and were happy in simplicity. Ruffles, fine laces, kid gloves, false curls, rings, combs, and jewels were nearly unknown. Wild meat was plentiful. Many settlers had small patches of corn, which during the early days was beaten in a mortar. The meal was made into a coarse but wholesome bread, though it contained much grit. Johnnycake and pones were served at the midday meal, and mush and milk was the favorite dish for supper. Many kinds of greens, such as dock and poke, were eaten. In season, the settlers enjoyed roasting ears of corn, pumpkins, beans, squash and potatoes. Coffee and tea were used sparingly because they were scarce ... maple sugar was used, as was honey, which was only five cents a pound. Butter was the same price, while eggs cost only three cents a dozen.

David Dary
The Homestead Act of 1862 permitted any person to file for 160 acres of federal land if he or she was an American citizen or had filed his or her intention papers. To file, one had to be at least twenty-one years old or the head of a family or have served fourteen days in the U.S. Army or navy, and he or she could never have fought against the United States.

David Dary
One of the useful qualities of the onion, a bulb, is that it can be eaten raw. It grows wild along the Palestinian coast to the Gulf of Bengal, and quickly became a cultivated plant. Its powerful odour bears witness to its fortifying qualities. First the Chaldeans (2000 B.C.) and then the frugal Egyptian peasants adopted it to relieve the monotony of their staple diet of dates and fish. The Pharaoh Cheops paid for labour on the Great Pyramid in onions, garlic and parsley. Egyptian mummies set out for the afterlife with a stock of onions carefully wrapped in bandages, looking like another little mummy. The onion is very rich in vitamin C, mineral salts, sulphur and other trace elements.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
The Jerusalem artichoke crossed the Atlantic in the seventeenth century. It grew wild in the great prairies of the northern United States and southern Canada. . . The Jerusalem artichoke is almost the only food plant we get from North America...

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
It may be accepted that over the last fifty years the threat of erosion to permanent losses of soil productivity was never as great as many people claimed.

Pierre Crosson
One of the most extensive studies of pesticide use ever conducted, by Cornell University, concluded in 1991 that farmers who used natural alternatives to chemical control of pests (such as integrated pest management and crop rotation) could abandon many pesticides and herbicides without reducing yields at all and without significant increases in the price of food.

Al Gore
It was while searching for roots in the soil that the human race took the first steps toward farming. The only tool you need to pick plants is the hand, but you had to scratch the earth to find its buried treasures. People soon began using pointed sticks or stones if the soil was dry and hard. The digging stick was the ancestor of the hoe and the plough. It may not be too farfetched to suppose that if agriculture, the cultivation of the field (Latin ager, agri) first developed in the countries of the Middle East, it was because digging required a certain amount of effort in those parts.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
The philosophy of farming has left the more lasting and profound mark on our national landscape and it has made an enduring cradle for the things we now accept as Americana. Eric Sloane
It may be surprising to realize that the soya plant is eaten more widely than any other in the world - and as a food it comes in many other forms... (W)e have to go back to the sixth century B.C. to find the first written mention of soya in the court poems of the Book of Odes... It states that the wild soya plant came from northern China, and began to be cultivated in the Chang period, around the fifteenth century ....... (T)he roots of the soya, even more than those of other leguminous plants, are able to feed the soil: the nodules they bear are storehouses of nitrogenous bacteria which disperse as the roots rot. Growing soya is therefore a way of replenishing soil impoverished by such greedy plants as wheat or maize, and it can be regarded as a green manure crop. It was not until after the Second World War that soya really took off, influenced not by Asia but by North America. The Americans were initially interested in its ability to regenerate the soil when grown in rotation with maize. Soya beans were used as animal feed, and in particular in the oil manufacturing industry. The Ford factories made plastics for car accessories from the residue of oilcake left after the oil had been pressed out. Suddenly American farmers reacted: growing soya began in the Central West of the United States, spread fast, and soon covered some 20 states. The USA, which had been the biggest importer of fats before 1940, now became their biggest exporter. There was a large concentration of soya fields on the banks of the Mississippi; the beans could easily be sent down the river on their way to seaports on the Gulf of Mexico. For some years now, the United States has been responsible for approximately two-thirds of world soya production, followed by China, Brazil and Argentina, which between them more or less account for remaining productivity.

Maguelonne Toussaint—Samat
In the United States approximately 3 million acres of cropland are converted each year to other uses.

Ronald Bailey
There are still many ancient farms in America but the informal grouping of barns and outbuildings which once made each farmstead look like a tiny community, is missing because obsolete structures have been destroyed. The remaining buildings look stark and alone because they were once one of a rambling group. Eric Sloane
(H)umanity has made enormous strides in feeding the world’s hungry since the Second World War. While the world’s population doubled, food production tripled and the real price of wheat and corn fell steeply from $365 and $281 per ton to only $144 and $105 in 1989, a drop of more than 60 percent.

D. Gale Johnson
The lessons that a farm teaches are, after all, not reserved for rural life. The evidences of farm living are more that just calluses. The strong individuality of our forefathers was largely the result of an independence that evolved from their isolated farm existences. Eric Sloane
The Grange was the nation’s first agricultural fraternity.

Lorrie Baird
All the old farms "scattered" or "rambled" except the Maine and New Hampshire farms, which were "jined" or joined into a continuous group of buildings. This "joined architecture" enabled the farmer to do his complete chores during a bad snow, without ever having to leave the shelter of his buildings. Eric Sloane
The Grange was a secret fraternal organization intended to bring the agricultural community together after the devastation of the Civil War, in which southern farms had been particularly hard hit.

Lorrie Baird
The modern interpretation of the early American farmhouse has strayed far from the truth. Such ornamentation as imitation split shingles, old-style hardware and decorative shutters will satisfy the average person, but the breathtaking beauty of the original design is usually missing. The secret is not in the decoration but in the body and outline of old farmhouses. Eric Sloane
Crop rotation was practiced in England in the 1500's.

Dorothy Hartley
The earliest pigs taken to America worked well as land cultivators; the woods approximated to their wild habitats.

Dorothy Hartley
The word ‘hovel’ now means a poor dwelling or hut; originally it meant a useful shed’

Dorothy Harley
The complete meeting of the Grange has been open to non-members only in the last few years.

Lorrie Baird
CORD A unit of wood cut for fuel equal to a stack 4x4x8 feet or 128 cubic feet

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
Maize is so much the archetypical American cereal that from north to south of the United States it is known simply as 'corn', the word used by English speakers on the other side of the Atlantic for all the major western cereals, particularly wheat.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
Of all the new foodstuffs Columbus found in the Caribbean, maize was to be the most important in later history.

Reay Tannahill
In some of the farm states, you live there because you farm and you farm because you live there.

John Warner
One American farmer feeds 283 people.

1990 US Agricultural statistic
Contact Us

Rainfall Reports

Looking for Lincoln