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50 fascinating facts about farming in America

  • The Dust Bowl swept away more than 100 million acres of soil

    The Dust Bowl lasted for about a decade and left hundreds of thousands of people destitute. It was caused by intense drought and negligent farming practices that left land susceptible to wind erosion.

  • Early settlers learned to grow maize from indigenous tribes

    Farming began around 10,000 B.C. when nomadic tribes started growing crops. Among the earliest crops were wheat, barley, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and flax. In the U.S. early settlers grew barley, peas, and maize, which native American tribes taught the settlers how to grow.

  • Tractors overtook horses and mules by 1954

    In 1954, the number of tractors on farms surpassed the number of horses and mules for the first time. Technology and the use of tractors over animals marked the Second American Agricultural Revolution.

  • Jethro Tull’s seed drill

    English agricultural engineer Jethro Tull invented the seed drill in 1701. Before that, seeds were scattered by hand. Tull’s drill allowed seeds to be planted efficiently in rows and helped American agriculture flourish.

     

  • Farming provides millions of American jobs

    Some 40% of the world’s population works in agriculture, making it the largest employer on the planet. Farming in the United States directly employs more than 2.6 million people.

  • Goats are a growing enterprise in the U.S.

    Goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated, and they are raised for their wool, milk, and meat. Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have the most meat goats, while Texas, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, and New York have the largest dairy goat herds.

  • Organic profits throughout the U.S. are on the climb

    Organic farming typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming. But organic products typically command higher prices and produce 10 times more profit.

  • CSAs across the US are waning in popularity

    Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, was popular in the 1990s and early 2010s. With a CSA, a consumer subscribes to buy a farm’s produce directly, typically in weekly deliveries. But CSAs are declining as large grocery chains carry more organic food and online meal kit subscriptions have proliferated.

  • Most farmers’ markets source products within 50 miles

    Nearly all U.S. farmers who sell at farmers' markets work within 50 miles of where they sell their produce. Farmers who supply supermarkets typically live 1,500 miles away. On average, farmers get about 17 cents of every dollar that store shoppers spend on food; those at farmers' markets take home more than 90% of food dollars.

  • Farm output has soared in the last 70 years

    Technological innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization continued, even as the amount of land and labor in farming fell. Still, total U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015.

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