Farming Then and Now
Abraham Lincoln created the U.S.
Department of Agriculture in 1862. At that time about 90 out of every
100 Americans were farmers. Today, that number has shrunk to just 2 out
of every 100 Americans.
Still the motto of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the same today
as it was nearly 150 years ago. Across the bottom of the official USDA
seal, are the words
"Agriculture is the foundation of manufacture and commerce."
it doesn't take as many people to work on farms as it once did. In the
1830s, 40s and 50s when pioneers first settled Iowa's rich prairie lands,
most farms were just 80 acres. That was as much land as most pioneer farmers
could take care of. By 1900 many Iowa farms were larger than 80 acres,
and most farming was done with simple machines and horses.
In the early 20th century, farms were more diverse than today. Most farmers
raised lots of different
crops and cared for many varied animals. Farmers planted corn, oats, wheat
and barley, and raised cattle and hogs. Women planted large gardens of
potatoes, carrots, lettuce, pumpkins, beans and radishes. They also cared
for chickens and sold eggs.
Throughout the 20th century, as machinery developed, farms
began to grow bigger. As they got bigger, they also tended to become less
diverse. Many Iowa farmers raised just corn and soybeans. Others raised
hogs or cattle with some field crops.
As farms grew larger, many farmers moved off the farms their grandparents
once occupied. Today, the Iowa countryside is dotted with abandoned
farm buildings that once held crops and provided shelter for animals.
Where farmhouses once
stood, the land is now cultivated for crops.
a successful farmer today requires knowledge of advanced technology, educational
preparation and business skills. Many farmers learn about the business
and practice of agriculture through a training program at a college or
Meet Two Farmers
and Learn about Life on the Farm
- Meet the Condons
Life - Meet the Pendletons
Email questions and find out
more about farm life.
View the following 4-H Virtual Farm video presentations.
a Cattle Farmer
Meet Alan Graybeal, cattle producer, and learn what he does on his cow/calf
farm to produce the kind of cattle that provide steaks and hamburger
for you to eat.
a Dairy Farmer
Visit Donna Kerr's dairy farm as she describes a typical day.
a Poultry Farmer
Neal Martin, poultry producer, shows how his operation produces baby
chicks that become egg type laying chickens.
a Horse Farmer
Visit Mark Dean's horse farm and watch videos describing a typical day.
out about Fish Farming
Tour an aquaculture farm with Albert Reid, research specialist.
Iowa Farmer Today's
A Day in the Life of a Dairy Farmer
Your favorite ice cream in the grocery store freezer begins with milk
from a dairy farm. A typical day in the life of a dairy farmer involves
a lot of hard work. The day usually starts early and ends late. Dairy
farmers work both indoors and outdoors.
- What kinds of farms are found in your community?
- What crops are grown?
- What animals are raised on farms in your area?
A Day in the Life of a Farmer Continued…
Photos used by permission from the USDA
Online Photography Center.