The History of American Agriculture

by: Haley Zynda, OSU Extension – Wayne County

Happy Independence Day, U.S.A! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating our great nation’s independence with a good, old-fashioned cookout. To me, one of the best summer meals is a cheeseburger with all the fixings, pasta salad loaded with fresh veggies, and sweet, sun-ripened watermelon. In the midst of the thanks for our country, it’s important to also understand and give thanks for the farmers that keep food on our table and our bellies full. As my dad likes to say, “Farming is everybody’s bread and butter.” With that, let’s take a look at the history and statistics of American agriculture. The following is summarized from USDA’s “Growing a Nation.”

In 1790, 14 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the U.S.A was largely an agrarian society, with 90% of the workforce being farmers. The year 1790 is also significant because it is the year that potash was patented for creation by Samuel Hopkins. The formulation hasn’t changed but has certainly changed how farmers can deliver nutrients to their crops.

In 1796, the Public Land Act was created to encourage settlers to move west. Plots of a minimum of 640 acres were sold to the public at a whopping price of $2 per acre. Continue reading