"Well, the improvement in the seeds is one [big change in agriculture]. And REA is one. That sure changed the farm life. And the improvement in the seeds. And of course, some of this farm machinery now is just massive. It's so different than what it used to be. This multi-row – 12-row, 16-row – when I first started working in the shop, they used to list corn one row at a time with a hard ground lister behind three head of horses. One row at a time! And that was just the way a horse would plod. Now, they have these big tractors, what, maybe eight miles an hour, maybe even more. Yeah, 12-rows, 16 – however many rows they have. That is why the farms have become bigger in acreage, too. They can handle it. But there's another reason for that. Just in recent weeks, there's been an article in the State Journal about the trouble that some farmers are getting into. Young farmers, they've spent maybe 20 years farming, they're in their 40s, and they have to give it up. Because when they go to their banker their banker says, 'Well, you're not big enough.' If you're not farming a thousand acres and see the possibility of farming 12- or 13-hundred acres five years down the road, the banker frowns on that. He wants to see that expansion. He wants to see that increase in size.
     "That's one of the changes that takes place. You know, there was a time when the farmer, when he went to town behind horses with a buggy or wagon, he was almost compelled to go to his nearest small town, his nearest town. Now, he goes out and he sits down in his car. He can go any distance he wants to, in any direction of the compass that he wants to, 20, 30 miles. That's one of the things that's contributed to the decline of the small town. They have a wider choice. And the larger businesses are competition that the small town just can't meet. It's difficult for them to meet it. Only the exception ever meets it.
     "In Gresham, our main street in Gresham was pretty well filled with buildings at that time. And there was a business in each building. And at that time, the people that lived in Gresham, most of the people that lived in Gresham, in the morning they'd get up and go downtown into their business in the main street of Gresham. Now, of course, that Gresham main street has dried up. There isn't much there anymore. There's a bank and a post office and a beer tavern and an insurance agency. And that just about winds it up. So, the people that live in Gresham now, they live in Gresham, it's a bedroom community, but they work elsewhere."

Walter Schmitt on the Decline in Farms


Other Excerpts from Walter Schmitt's Interview:

Dealing with Grasshoppers
Fertilizing & Crop Rotation
Small World
The Crash & Leaving for California
Losing Your Farm
Free Dances & Movies
Closing Banks
Getting Paid with Potatoes
Hoover and Roosevelt
Railroads & Trucks
Movies in Gresham