We often talk here about ‘The Good Old Days’ but you know, for those of us who have been around a few years, we often look back through our rose tinted rear view mirrors. In many ways, things are much better than they ever have been.
I’m an electrician, mostly. I can hold my own in a few other trades, mostly those that serve farmers, what we usually call millwrights. These are the guys that put together the grain (and occasionally livestock) handling equipment used in agriculture today. It’s come a long way in my lifetime, from storing ear corn in a crib to dumping wet corn in a pit and automatically storing (and maintaining) corn at about 14% moisture until the market is right.
It’s always good to talk about farming because for almost all of us, our ancestor’s were farmers, some here and some like mine in other countries (Norway, in my case). But my family came here in the late nineteenth century and got in on a small scale bit of the Bonanza farms up in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. That land, the old bed of lake Agassiz) was so flat that you could see a water tower about forty miles away.
This came up because I ran across a post (actually a series) from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom, where she talks about the changes in farming. The link above takes you to the series from her label #TBT for Throwback Thursday, I think. The articles are all excellent, and will explain a lot about how our farmers feed the world, and how it has changed.
The article I want to highlight today is called The Changing Face of Farming, and like reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, it will give you good insight on why and how specialization occurs.
So learn and enjoy, I think you should subscribe yourself but don’t be surprised if I feature her here every once in a while as well!
200 years ago my family was farming, but the farm looked much different from our family farm today.
Chickens scoured the yards and fields for something to eat and when a chicken was needed for dinner one was butchered.
A milk cow grazed the pasture during the day and was milked both morning and night to provide milk and butter for the family.
Pigs wallowed in mud outside the barn and provided pork, bacon and lard to cook with.
My great-great grandfather worked in the fields of Illinois raising crops to feed and sell to make a living for his family.
My ancestors did their own banking…in a mason jar in the back yard.
They did their own milling of their wheat and oats for flour on the table.
They did their own taxes, made their own clothes, probably built their own house,
Over the years our family farm has evolved. In the early 1900’s my family moved to Kansas. Somewhere along the line someone decided they were tired of milking a cow two times every day and that one of my farm mom’s before me could buy the milk and probably it was delivered to their doorstep.
Chickens are not found on our farm today. The coyotes and raccoons really like the taste of them. I am guessing my ancestors also found it hard to keep a small flock of chickens. Neighbors could raise bigger groups in open barns even back in the 1950’s. The butchering process is often messy (I have heard and not witnessed). It was easier to have the neighbor with all the right equipment take care of that job, so time could be freed up to go to the lake.
My family from my great grandfather to my father all raised pigs outside on dirt and in the weather. Pigs were never my favorite. I remember watching my dad’s fingernail grow back oh so slowly after a pig bit it off. It is much easier to go to the store to buy the cuts of pork I do wish to eat when I want pork.
My farmer ancestors before me probably did their own taxes. Today, things are so complicated that I am thankful for an accountant to take care of those matters for me.
My grandmothers made most of the clothes my mom and aunts wore growing up. I have a quilt that used the scraps of those dresses and I used to love it when they would sit around and point at the patches telling me whose dress that was and how old they remember they were when they wore it. I am guessing that your family history is much the same. You may have to go back a few more generations than I did, but at one point in your family’s history it is highly likely that your family had a farmer.
Farms today did not become bigger overnight. It has been an evolution since the beginning of farming. Michael is better at growing pigs than Raymond. Raymond doesn’t like growing pigs so sells the family farm and moves to town. Michael raises a few more pigs to make up for the ones that Raymond no longer grows. Raymond follows his dream of being an accountant.
Keep reading The Changing Face of Farming, and do follow the other link and subscribe. It’s good stuff.