altI’m kind of a history buff. No, I can’t recite exact dates of every historical event, but I know the “biggies,” like July 4, 1776; Dec. 7, 1941; Nov. 22, 1963; and Sept. 11, 2001. I like the history of old things, buildings and communities. I like old things such as butter churns, coffee grinders and I love certain vintage art glass. I have the coolest eggbeater that was patented about a hundred years ago, as well as some other gadgets. And to me, a little rust just adds to the character of each and every item.

I enjoy watching old documentaries and I can spend hours going through old photos, even if I don’t know any of the people pictured.

We have an old Shapleigh’s Keen Kutter catalog from the 1920s or 30s. It’s huge and filled with just about anything one would need to build a barn or house, cut down a tree, cook a meal or get a close shave. It’s fascinating to go through the tattered pages and see at how things have changed. I can just see folks standing at a counter at an old store somewhere, browsing through the catalog and placing their order with the storekeeper. They would count down the days until their order arrived, and with no such thing as a tracking number, I’m sure there were plenty of things that never arrived at the correct destination.

While some might call the previous decades a “simpler time,” farming wasn’t really so simple. People sometimes simply worked themselves into an early grave. Less than 100 years ago, many folks in the Ozarks were still plowing fields with teams of horses or mules, milking cows by hand, and most chores were backbreaking work.

Decades ago, family farms were literally intended to feed a family – then came World War I. Historical information states that during the war, American farmers increased their production to almost entirely sustain the Allied effort, showing the importance of a strong agricultural economy.

President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to head up the Food Administration, and Hoover introduced many measures, including rationing and surplus purchasing, to help keep farmer’s in business because he understood the impact of farming during the war.

City folks were also encouraged to do their part by planting their own gardens, dubbed Victory Gardens, to have backyard chickens and to even raise a few sheep so their wool  could be used to make uniforms. The White House also got into the farming movement when President Wilson and his family, wanting to be a model American family helping the war effort, brought sheep to the lawn of the White House.

Farmers today are still the hardest working people on the planet and there have been tremendous advancements in technology here in the U.S. that have advanced agriculture. I don’t think our forefathers ever imagined self-driving tractors, robotic milking systems, drones, planting by GPS or farming apps on a smart phone.

The advancements in livestock production and genetics are impressive as well. Artificial insemination was just a whisper in Europe a century ago, but now we have genetic testing for animals, embryo transferring, sexed semen, estrus detectors and devices you can place on a heifer or cow’s tail that will call or text you to let you know that animal is about to calve.

The last 20 years have been called a “pioneering time in agriculture precision agriculture” by many in the field with the introduction of new technology and agriculture practices. Thanks to these advances, an American farmer produces enough food to feed about 155 people. Not bad, not bad at all.

It’s exciting to see what might be on the horizon for agriculture in the next 20, 30 or even 100 years. So here’s to 2018! May it be one of our best years ever.



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