Today’s farmers monitor crop and livestock prices on a computer. Agricultural corporations market products ranging from grain to frozen foods to people world wide. Government programs and commodity traders in big cities influence what Nebraska farmers grow and the prices they are paid. In the 1920s, marketing farm products was a very different process. During World War I (1914-1918) the U.S. was Europe’s major source of food. Nebraska farmers took out bank loans to buy or rent more farmland to help meet this demand. After the war, as farming in war torn countries returned to normal, European demand for U.S. food dropped. York County farmers tried to find new markets for their crops and livestock. As tractors began replacing horse-drawn machines across Nebraska, farmers found they could plant and harvest more acres with fewer workers.
Agriculture requires transportation, and most Nebraska crops and livestock were shipped to market by railroads in the 1920s. Steam engines chugged across the plains stopping every 20 to 40 miles to take on more water. In fact, towns along the railroads were located fairly close together because, in the 1800’s when the railroads were built, they needed the water towers close together.
Written by Claudia Reinhardt.