Wessels Living History Farm - York Nebraska Farming in the 1930s
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‘Hard Times’ ‘The Dirty 30s’
‘The Great Depression’
These are some of the phrases
we use to describe the period from 1930 through 1939.

Farming in the 1930s on the Great Plains was perhaps the most difficult occupation in the world. Farmers not only faced a global economic slow down of historic proportions, but they also faced one of the worst and longest droughts in America's history. People around the world had no money to buy the crops and animals that farmers produced, and the drought made it almost impossible to plant and harvest the crops in the first place. As a result, many farmers lost their farms. Many moved west out of the Great Plains of the United States, looking for any kind of work they could find. Many became migrant farm laborers on the West Coast.

There have been depressions and economic slow downs in other times in history, but this is the only one known as the "Great" Depression, and it changed history.

Hanging On
Despite some of the worst times in history, farmers hung on with everything they had. They fought to stay on the land and to make a living. And what’s even more remarkable is that they fought to find the money to invest in some of the most revolutionary new agricultural technologies to come along.

  • Bigger and better tractors with new rubber wheels.
  • Combines that ended the era of threshing.
  • Hybrid seed corn.
  • The first modern pesticides.
  • Electricity and indoor plumbing that revolutionized farm life.

All of these new technologies cost money. Money was in short supply, but farmers found a way to not only survive but to adopt new ways of farming that changed their lives and livelihoods. Why all this effort? As Carla Due says, there is something deep in the soul of a farmer that connects him or her to the land. "I think they were born farmers. The land was part of them."

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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