We have come a long way from Thomas Jefferson’s concept of the idealized yeoman farmer. It is almost laughable to think a small, independent farmer could survive, let alone thrive today. Industrialization and nation building dramatically impacted farming in America. As people moved westward in the mid to late 19th century, fulfilling the country’s quest for manifest destiny, the Great Plains were opened up for homesteading. Throughout the center of the country, homesteaders cultivated acres upon acres of rich farmland by busting up the sod that covered the Plains as fast as they could.
Industrialization brought new machines and methods to increase farming efficiency and production of crops, which we farmers paid for by taking out mortgages. Increasingly, the once independent American farmers developed dependent relationships with numerous banks, suppliers, and middle men to get their products to the market, an unstable industrial economy, and the national and international markets themselves.
The whole system of agriculture that developed fundamentally clashes with our ideals of independence and control and we want a new approach to agricultural policy that could give us that power back. We want higher prices, cheaper credit and minimum governmental interference, which ultimately resulted in an us against them mentality in which we farmers tried to either organize in cooperatives or win political backing for legislative/regulatory controls to alter the marketplace.
The crash in ’29 was not the beginning of the Depression for us, since the early 20s, following the Great War we have been struggling with drought, surplus and devastatingly low prices for our crops. Just due to the nature of farming, being at the mercy of the weather and the non-agricultural economy, we are extremely vulnerable. It also didn’t help that around the turn of the century in what might be considered a “golden age of American agriculture” we tripled the output of goods. Too much sod was busted and land cultivated, so now there is too much product. But there is a new president in office today and I’m optimistic things will change; I’m a farmer after all, it’s in our nature. How else could we survive the inherent ups and downs of farming?