Tag Archives: Field Crops

The Homesteading Bucket List Part 2: 25 More Practical Country Living Projects

The Country Living Bucket List Part 2

Ready for 25 more skills to build on the ones you mastered previously? This set is considerably more advanced than the first, so take your time and be prepared for the learning curve.

26. Prune a Fruit Tree

Although more involved than pruning cane fruits, pruning fruit trees is still quite essential to keeping your trees productive and healthy. Be sure to study some diagrams carefully before you tackle this one. Every cut you make will affect your harvest for better or worse for years to come.

Helpful Resource

Pruning Fruit Trees
Handy free document with illustrations from K-State.

27. Build a Fence

Good fences make good farms. Fencing the garden is a must to keep animal pests at bay. Fencing the yard is highly recommended if you have pets. Fencing the perimeter of the property discourages trespassers. One type of fencing that is better avoided at first, however, is permanent fencing subdividing pastures. Most grazing management experts recommend that beginners use only portable fencing to break up pastures for the first three years or so, as there is a strong tendency to overdo it when starting out, creating logistical mayhem in the long run.

Helpful Resource

How to Make Osage Orange Fence Posts
Making your own fence posts can be surprisingly easy.

28. Learn an Intensive Gardening Technique

Intensive gardening methods seek to maximize the yields of produce per square foot of growing space. These methods were usually created in response to the inefficiencies of traditional row gardening, which was developed based on commercial horticultural implements. For making the most of small areas, intensive gardening techniques cannot be beat. Consider some of these possibilities:

  • Biointensive gardening.
  • Container gardening.
  • Interplanting.
  • Lasagna gardening.
  • Mittlieder method.
  • No-work gardening.
  • Raised bed gardening.
  • Square foot gardening.
  • Soil bag gardening.
  • Straw bale gardening.
  • Succession planting.
  • Tire gardening.
  • Vertical gardening.

29. Work with a Team of Draft Animals

What can draft animals do for you? Plenty. Two areas where draft animals still excel today are in small-scale grain growing and in sustainable logging. For farms with an agritourism bent, draft animals have considerable educational and entertainment value, as well.

Helpful Resource

Draft Animal Power for Farming
Important information to know before you get started, conveniently available in a free PDF download.

30. Grow Grain

You would be surprised at how little space it takes to meet a family’s annual grain needs! Furthermore, raising your own grain can be a way to avoid pesticides and GMOs while taking advantage of the impressive nutrient profiles of traditional grains that may be hard to find at the grocery store.

31. Freeze Eggs

Once your layer flock hits its stride, you will probably start wondering what to do with all those eggs. Freezing them is an incredibly simple way to save them for the winter, when your chickens will be taking a holiday. Frozen eggs are quite satisfactory when used for baking or scrambling.

Helpful Resource

How to Freeze Eggs
Step-by-step instructions.

32. Sell Homegrown Food

This is not an easy task, but fortunately it doesn’t have to be done on a large scale. If starting a full-fledged food business is not for you, sell a dozen eggs to some close friends. If you are more ambitious, set up a produce stand or sell grassfed beef to a restaurant.

Helpful Resources

Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm BusinessStarting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business
A 10-step overview covering everything from business plans to product pricing to sale venues. Read our full review.

Farm Fresh
Plenty of ideas for marketing grassfed meat and milk. Read our full review.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing Guides
Important information to know before making your first sale. (If you are not in Kansas, check your state’s department of agriculture for a similar resource.)

33. Make Homemade Bread

Making bread does not have to be complicated! While some home bread bakers are true artisans, working with carefully crafted recipes and doing every step by hand, those who are pressed for time or inclination can use a bread machine.

34. Plant a Cover Crop

Whether you grow vegetables or grains, a cover crop is a great way to improve your soil—naturally! Cover crops can offer numerous benefits in the way of nitrogen fixation, weed suppression, and organic matter building.

Helpful Resources

Cover Crop Decision Tool
A superb online tool that factors in your objectives, climate, and soil conditions. Highly recommended for growers of both grains and vegetables.

Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers
Useful site from Cornell that profiles 17 cover crops that work well in the garden.

35. Sew an Entire Garment

Again, keep it simple, especially to start. Make it easy on yourself by starting with a purchased pattern. Also, invest in some internet tutorials and how-to books before you pick up the thread. As a final time-saving tip, consider buying a sewing machine, particularly if you think you are likely to sew regularly in the future. A sewing machine can make garment repair and creation quick and easy.

36. Learn to Quilt

This time-honored tradition can be a great creative outlet! Furthermore, there are plenty of kits and books to get you off to a good start these days. If an entire quilt seems like a daunting first project, consider a pillow instead.

37. Build a Root Cellar

It seems like nearly every homesteader’s dream involves a root cellar. And it’s a great way to keep your produce fresh throughout the long winter months when you can’t garden as much!

Helpful Resource

HomeMadeHomeMade
This handy project book includes tips and plans for building your own root cellar. Read our full review.

38. Shear a Sheep

Shearing is something of a lost art, with few professional shearers left. Fortunately, thanks to a growing interest in country living across America, the skill of shearing still has a bright future among hobby farmers.

39. Learn How to Spin

Once you’ve sheared your first sheep, it is only logical to learn how spin the fleece into yarn. Unfortunately, spinning wheels can be very expensive these days. However, the drop spindle is an affordable alternative, especially if you want to test your level of interest before making a considerable investment.

40. Hatch a Batch of Chicks Yourself

There’s nothing like raising your own chicks from eggs. This is an area where you have quite a few options, too. You may want to purchase fertile eggs from a hatchery, or you can let your own rooster and hens do the work. You can bring the hatching process indoors with an incubator, or you can opt to let a broody hen provide a more natural experience.

Helpful Resource

The Broody Hen Versus the Incubator
A comparison of the advantages of each option.

41. Make Ice Cream

Even if you don’t have farm-fresh milk available, you can still make some mighty tasty ice cream with cream from the store. Many gadgets for making ice cream exist these days, and most come with recipes to get you started.

Helpful Resource

Ice Cream Ball
This is a fun way to make ice cream, but it does involve some exercise and some patience.

Stocking UpStocking Up
The third edition of this classic includes tips on making ice cream. Read our full review.

42. Make Cheese

Again, even if you don’t raise dairy cows or goats, you can still make cheese at home. If you are completely new to the process, consider starting with a beginner’s kit.

Helpful Resource

Stocking Up
The third edition includes quite a bit of cheesemaking information, including specifics on cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese, semi-hard cheese, and cheddar. Read our full review.

43. Learn How to Dehydrate Fruit

Many fruits can be dehydrated at home, and often without much investment in equipment. If you are new to food dehydration, consider starting out with your tried-and-true home oven. Other dehydrating options include solar drying, freeze drying, and using a special electric food dehydrator.

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
The third edition of this old classic includes a considerable amount of information on your many dehydrating options. Read our full review.

Drying
This part of K-State’s Food Preservation site offers links to information on equipment, methods, storage, and more.

44. Make Jam or Jelly

Making homemade jam or jelly is not only a way to preserve fruit, it is also a way to achieve unique flavor. However, food safety considerations are crucial when making jam or jelly, so be sure to read up before you start!

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
Includes very practical information on making jam or jelly. Read our full review.

Jams & Jellies
This part of K-State’s Food Preservation site has information on working with apples, cherries, peaches, and a variety of berries, along with general information on the various steps of the jelly-making process.

45. Learn to Knit

This is an easy and rewarding skill to pick up, and a natural next step after learning to spin. Start with something really simple, such as a washcloth or scarf, and before you know it you’ll be making everything from socks to sweaters.

Helpful Resource

Kids KnittingKids Knitting
Not only is this inviting, easy-to-understand book a great way to introduce children to a productive craft, it is a superb way for an adult to get started, too! Read our full review.

46. Learn to Crochet

And if you’re going to learn how to knit, learning how to crochet is also a natural choice!

47. Sell a Handmade Craft

Already selling food? Selling crafts is even easier. Considering adding your handmade items to your farm product lineup or setting up shop online.

48. Make an Entire Meal with Only Homegrown Ingredients

This is the ultimate goal for many homesteaders, and it is one that will require some planning. You will likely need a homegrown grain and some homemade butter to make bread or some other baked good. For a dinner, you will also want home-raised meat and a sampling of produce from the garden. For a breakfast, you might consider farm-fresh eggs and some homemade jelly.

49. Learn to Ride a Horse

While not absolutely essential on many homesteads, horseback riding can be excellent recreation, and it can be useful if you raise a larger herd of cattle. Consider this one a reward for a lifetime of homesteading well done.

Helpful Resource

The Basics of Western RidingThe Basics of Western Riding
While you will definitely need a more advanced guide at some point, this should get you started. Read our full review.

50. Teach a Country Living Skill to Someone Younger Than You

Here’s your chance to give back. Whether you pass your knowledge along to your children, to an apprentice, or to a blog reader, sharing your expertise will help ensure that country living skills are handed down through the years.

USDA Releases 2017 Ag Census Results

The average American farmer is still getting older, and his net farm income is still declining.

But the number of young farmers is increasing, the value of their production is above average, and the number of farms consisting of nine acres or less is on the rise.

Here are the highlights from the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture.

National

2 million farms, 900 million acres, and 3.4 million producers. That’s a snapshot of the current American agricultural scene.

It is important to note that in the 2017 census, the USDA changed the way some of the questions were asked. The most noteworthy change was redefining producer to refer to anyone involved in making farm decisions.

Key facts from the latest Census of Agriculture include:

  • The number of farms in the U.S. dropped 3.2% to about 2.04 million in 2017.
  • Of America’s 900 million acres in farmland, about 401 million are permanent pasture, 396 million are cropland, 73 million are woodland, and 30 million are used for other purposes.
  • The number of farms consisting of 9 acres or less rose to 273 thousand in 2017 from 224 thousand in 2012, the only acreage category that increased in numbers other than farms consisting of 2,000 or more acres.
  • The average producer is now 57.5 years old, compared to 56.3 in 2012 (partially reflective of terminology changes in the census).
  • The number of female producers has increased by 26.6% since 2012 (primarily reflective of terminology changes in the census).
  • 58% of all farmers have their primary occupation outside of farming.
  • 75% of all farms across the nation have Internet access.
  • In 2017, U.S. farms produced $388.5 billion in agricultural products, down from $394.6 billion in 2012.
  • The largest farms ranked by sales (those selling $5 million or more in agricultural products) accounted for less than 1% of all farms, but over 35% of all sales.
  • Producers under 35 years old had a total value of production of $273,522, compared to $190,245 for all producers.
  • Total U.S. production expenses have decreased 1% since 2012.
  • Total U.S. net farm income has decreased 5% since 2012, despite an 11% increase in government payments.
  • The average net income per farm has decreased 2% to $43,053.

The top 10 states attracting beginning farmers (those with 10 or fewer years of experience) were:

  1. Alaska (46% of total number of producers statewide).
  2. Georgia (33%).
  3. Maine (33%).
  4. Hawaii (32%).
  5. Florida (31%).
  6. Rhode Island (31%).
  7. West Virginia (31%).
  8. New Hampshire (31%).
  9. Colorado (31%).
  10. Vermont (30%).

The top 10 agricultural states by sales were:

  1. California ($45.2 billion).
  2. Iowa ($29.0 billion).
  3. Texas ($24.9 billion).
  4. Nebraska ($22.0 billion).
  5. Kansas ($18.8 billion).
  6. Minnesota ($18.4 billion).
  7. Illinois ($17.0 billion).
  8. North Carolina ($12.9 billion).
  9. Wisconsin ($11.4 billion).
  10. Indiana ($11.1 billion).

The top seven agricultural counties by sales nationwide were all located in California.

The top five commodities nationwide, ranked by sales, were as follows:

  1. Cattle and calves ($77.2 billion; the leading state was Texas).
  2. Corn ($51.2 billion; the leading state was Iowa).
  3. Poultry and eggs ($49.2 billion; the leading state was Georgia).
  4. Soybeans ($40.3 billion; the leading state was Illinois).
  5. Milk ($36.7 billion; the leading state was California).

Kansas

On the Kansas scene, key facts from the census include:

  • The number of farms fell to 58,569 in 2017 from 61,773 in 2012 owning to a decline in numbers of medium-sized farms.
  • Farms of 1 to 9 acres increased to 2,665 in 2017 compared to 1,975 in 2012.
  • Farms of 10 to 49 acres also increased to 10,101 in 2017 from 9,776 in 2012.
  • The average farm increased in size to 781 acres in 2017 from 747 acres in 2012.
  • The estimated market value of land and buildings climbed to an average of about $1.4 million per farm in 2017 from $1.2 million in 2012.

The top five agricultural products in Kansas in 2017, ranked by market value, were:

  1. Cattle and calves (58.1% of total sales).
  2. Grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas (32.3%).
  3. Hogs and pigs (3.8%).
  4. Milk from cows (3.1%).
  5. Other crops and hay (1.4%).

More documents related to the ag census will continue to be released over the next few months and years.

The next census of agriculture will be in 2022.

Helpful Resource

List of Reports and Publications
All the data currently available for the 2017 census, plus release dates for upcoming publications.

What is Permaculture?

What is Permaculture?As you enter the field of sustainable agriculture, one term you will come into frequent contact with is permaculture. Permaculture is a very complex, systems-oriented topic and is thus difficult to summarize without leaving out any pertinent information. This discussion is intended to be merely an introduction.

In short, permaculture seeks to imitate natural systems and take a holistic approach to sustainable living and growing food. This emphasis on natural design results in a system that can be modified and applied anywhere around the globe (thus its appeal to urban gardeners). No design element is emphasized more than another because the key lies in the interaction of elements. In other words, the whole is larger than the sum of the parts.

The word permaculture was originally a portmanteau word combining permanent and agriculture. It is now considered a combination of permanent and culture, reflecting an expansion of the system into all aspects of society.

Note that, while permaculture is usually organic in nature, it is much more than simply growing things without chemicals. What is typically regarded as “organic farming” is often a prime example of a focus on one part of the system to the exclusion of all others.

A Little Background

The roots of permaculture go back as far as interest in sustainable farming practices. The term itself, however, originated from the subtitle of a 1929 book by Joseph Russell Smith, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. The concept of forestry agriculture sparked interest among those seeking ways of making farming sustainable.

Besides forestry agriculture, other ideas and systems from the early and mid-1900s that may have influenced the various renditions of permaculture include:

In the late 1960s, Australian scientist Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren began their observations of the rise of industrial agriculture and its consequences. A brief examination of the loss of biodiversity, topsoil, and water quality associated with commercial farming convinced them that a more sustainable system needed to be developed. As a wildlife biologist, Mollison was particularly disturbed by the effect farming was having on natural ecosystems. However, he quickly came to the conclusion that he wanted to respond with a positive solution rather than impotent rage. The result was the term permaculture (coined in the mid-1970s by the scientific duo) and the system it represented.

Permaculture has continued to evolve since its creation. One of the earliest changes came in the 1980s, when the focus shifted from farming specifically to society as a whole.

Permaculture is now popular among sustainable farmers across the world. Elements of permaculture design have influenced many more farmers who do not adhere dogmatically to any particular theory (e.g., Joel Salatin).

The Three Core Tenets or Ethics

  1. Earth care. This implies provision for all forms of life. The idea is that a healthier earth will better enable humans to thrive. This first tenet of permaculture trickles down into all aspects of the system. While permaculture recognizes that not everyone is in a position to grow all of their own food, it does require that all choose to make purchases that are compatible with a healthy environment.
  2. People care. This implies that all people should have access to the resources necessary for life. Enjoyable lifestyles free from tedium are also a priority. Permaculture emphasizes that all people have value and should be treated with respect. It also encourages strong community ties, fostered by local trade.
  3. Fair share. This implies that no one should take more than they need from the system and that all should return what they do not need back to the system. Permaculturists tend to view the third tenet as the antithesis of the industrial model.

The 12 Principles of Design

  1. Observe and interact. Food systems truly customized to our unique circumstances cannot be achieved without observing how nature works. This demands that the farmer slow down and take time to think, rather than constantly rush from one to-do to the next.
  2. Catch and store energy. Surplus energy should be harvested and stored for times of need, whatever form it takes. Solar energy can be captured in a cold frame or greenhouse. Water energy running out the downspout can be stored in barrels or cisterns. Nutrient energy in the form of surplus animal manure can be conserved in the form of compost.
  3. Obtain a yield. Work without an adequate return is a waste. Permaculturists fully expect to eat the fruits of their labor. They may even trade or sell the surplus. They also tend to expect a harvest of intangibles, such as satisfaction with their work.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback. No one escapes responsibility for their own actions.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services. Examples of this principle include saving seeds, growing mostly perennial plants, and building a house out of local natural materials.
  6. Produce no waste. Permaculturists are often advocates of recycling and composting everything from paper to dinner scraps to household wastewater. They are also big fans of labor efficiency—the system is typically designed with a view to letting ecosystems sustain themselves with as little effort as possible.
  7. Design from patterns to details. Stepping back and observing patterns and interactions comes first in permaculture. The details can be filled in as necessary.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate. Permitting interactions between different parts of the system promotes sustainability. Permaculture seeks to build “guilds” of symbiotic plants and animals rather than a patchwork of “vegetables here, chickens there, and corn field over yonder.”
  9. Use small and slow solutions. The bigger the design, the more inputs it will require to keep it running. This principle precludes allowing huge multinational corporations to handle the world’s food supply (even the world’s organic food supply).
  10. Use and value diversity. Diverse food systems are less likely to collapse under pressure than monocultures. Furthermore, diversity within the system maximizes efficiency. Diversity is reflected in the emphasis of permaculture on layers of food production. For example, a tree canopy will be supplemented with an understory layer of smaller shade-loving trees followed by a layer of shrubs such as berry bushes. No permaculture system can ever be labeled “cash crop farm,” “poultry farm,” “pig farm,” etc.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal. Permaculture practitioners believe that the transition zone from one ecosystem to another is often the most productive part of either ecosystem. This principle is utilized by maximizing the area devoted to edges and borders. For example, a pond might be constructed with a meandering shoreline to increase the amount of area devoted to the transition zone between land and water.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change. In fact, despite its emphasis on “permanent,” permaculture allows for relatively little permanence, mimicking nature’s pattern of ecological succession. Livestock is rotated, crops are rotated, etc. Even fruit tree plantings are mixed up, with different species and varieties intermingled.

The Benefits

Permaculture advocates often list the following benefits of their system:

  • Innovation.
  • Better quality of life for the farmer due to increased variety and lowered risk of crop failure.
  • Beautiful natural landscapes.
  • Adaptability to any environment, even an urban backyard.
  • Inexpensive production.
  • Reduced labor requirements.

The Challenges

It has been noted that a permaculture system is only as good as the designer. Because permaculture is inexorably founded on ethics and observation, the whole system breaks down in the hands of the unethical and the unobservant. The permaculturist must be willing to continually learn, grow, and plan.

Permaculture and agroforestry are not inherently synonymous (although one might think so reading some descriptions of permaculture systems). Permaculture is, by design, adaptable to any ecosystem. But the heavy emphasis on creating forests may present a challenge to those seeking knowledge on practicing permaculture in native grassland environments. Building a grass-based permaculture system will require particularly close attention to nature and some dedicated research.

And, of course, conventional agriculturalists argue that permaculture cannot match the yields of modern farming methods. But they are not the only ones. Some biologists also note that the natural forests permaculturists seek to mimic are not capable of feeding the world—in fact, that is why humans developed agriculture.

Again, this post is merely an introduction to a complex topic. Permaculture is an involved subject in and of itself; plus it takes on a variety of forms as it is adapted to varying circumstances. Farmers of all stripes and beliefs use permaculture, and the system tends to reflect their different values. If you are interested in permaculture, take the time to search for a presentation that will fit with your values, as well as your natural ecosystem.

Helpful Resource

You Can FarmYou Can Farm
This book from Joel Salatin is an excellent demonstration of permaculture-influenced agripreneurship. Read our full review.

Green Foxtail

Green Foxtail

Green foxtail (Setaria viridis) is also known as “green bristle grass,” and little wonder. This common grass has a peculiar upright or nodding cylindric inflorescence covered in bristly hairs. The inflorescence is green on the whole, but often has a purplish tint. It varies from one to five inches in length and can be up to an inch wide. Because of the unusual shape of the inflorescence, it is tempting to classify it as a spike, but it is actually a panicle with many branches—the branches are just very short and hard to find without dissecting the plant. Mutant green foxtail plants with forked inflorescences have been seen in west-central Kansas.

Continue reading Green Foxtail

Water For Every Farm

Water for Every FarmMany sustainable farmers are fascinated by the concept of allowing the land and its contours to dictate the best practices for every acre. For those of you who are looking for some grist to add to the mill on this subject, give Water For Every Farm: Yeomans Keyline Plan by P.A. Yeomans a try.

After a brief explanation of what keyline is (a plan of irrigation custom-tailored to the lay of the land), the book launches into an examination of land contours and how they should be treated when tilling and irrigating. These contours then become the basis of choosing the best sites for dams, roads, trees, fences, and more.

While the book is heavy on theory (e.g., the chapter on city planning), it is backed by practical experience. Yeomans implemented his ideas in the challenging landscape of Australia and by all appearances made highly efficient use of his water resources for irrigation.

Water For Every Farm is not exactly a resource for beginners. It’s rather technical and not always easy to follow. However, if irrigation is a topic of interest to you, you will probably find the time spent studying keyline principles to be valuable. Even if you are simply interested in making the best possible use of your land, there is still information here you can use.

Perhaps for the average reader, the best way to make use of this book would be to read the first four chapters to gain an understanding of what keyline is, why landscape geometry is so important, and how to identify the contours of the land. After that, the reader may choose to skip to any relevant chapters, such as those on cultivation, development of water resources, planting contour strip forests, or soil fertility.

Water for Every Farm is rather heavy reading, but it does present some information well worth considering on adapting farming practices to the land.

K-State Entomology Newsletter

K-State Entomology NewsletterWhat bad bugs are invading your area? The K-State entomology newsletter may have the answer.

This newsletter keeps Kansans informed about the comings and goings of a wide range of insects of economic importance, particularly those that impact field crops. Pests of corn, soy, wheat, sorghum, sunflower, and alfalfa are regularly discussed.

However, this newsletter also can assist you in the garden or even around the house. Topics of interest from past issues include:

  • Cabbageworms on cole crops.
  • Japanese beetles on roses.
  • Sawflies on pines.
  • Scales on landscape trees and shrubs.
  • Clover mites in dwellings.
  • And even desirable insects, such as painted lady butterflies.

As you might expect, chemical control methods are the emphasis in the K-State entomology newsletter. But no matter what practices you rely on, you will find valuable assistance in insect identification in each issue.

You can subscribe to the K-State entomology newsletter via email, or you can regularly check their website for PDF versions of new issues. The newsletter comes out roughly weekly, but the schedule is dependent on insect activity across the state.

Foxtail Barley

Foxtail Barley

Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) receives its common name from its unique bushy inflorescence, or flower, which is similar in shape to the tail of a fox. This flower averages about two to five inches long and is soft and greenish or purplish. Its fluffy appearance comes from the awns, which can measure up to three inches long. Each yellowish-brown seed typically has four to eight awns, and it is also armed with tiny barbs along the edges.

Continue reading Foxtail Barley

Kansas Ag Connection

Kansas Ag ConnectionLooking for a good way to keep up with daily agriculture-related headlines? Give Kansas Ag Connection a try!

Subscribers to On the Range, our weekly country living update (read more), may already be familiar with this site as a source for some of our headlines. There’s a reason for that. Kansas Ag Connection is a clutter-free aggregator of news stories and press releases of interest to farmers small and large across the state.

Kansas Ag Connection offers a way to keep up with the latest stories on:

  • USDA news.
  • Updates from the governor and state legislature.
  • Health issues currently affecting Kansans.
  • KU and K-State research on health, nature, and agricultural topics.
  • Press releases from Kansas-based companies.
  • State and regional crop and weather reports.
  • Conferences and workshops coming to Kansas.
  • Ron Wilson’s Kansas Profile column, featuring Kansas entrepreneurs with rural roots.

Links are also provided to more headlines from neighboring states, across the nation, and around the world.

Highly recommended!

Cover Crop Decision Tool

Cover Crop Decision ToolLooking for the right cover crop? Give this Cover Crop Decision Tool from the Midwest Cover Crop Council a try.

First select from one of the following states:

  • Iowa.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Kansas.
  • Michigan.
  • Minnesota.
  • Missouri.
  • Ohio.
  • Ontario.
  • Wisconsin.

Then choose options that take into account your growing conditions:

  • County (for frost/freeze date estimate).
  • Planting and harvest dates.
  • Drainage situation.

Finally, fine-tune your choices by noting your goals:

  • Increasing nitrogen levels.
  • Building soil.
  • Fighting erosion.
  • Fighting weeds.
  • Creating a new source of forage for grazing or harvest.
  • And more!

Once you’ve found a cover crop or two that meets your needs, click on the name of the crop to learn more about about its pros and cons, as well as its planting and termination requirements.

An easy-to-use way to choose the right cover crop for your unique growing conditions!

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2Adjusting Livestock Production

In an effort to reduce hog numbers, payments were also distributed to farmers who would destroy their piglets and pregnant sows. About 6 million piglets were slaughtered under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).

A cattle-purchasing program was similarly implemented under the Drought Relief Service in areas where the Dust Bowl had hit the hardest. The federal government purchased approximately 7 million cattle, most of which had been in imminent danger of starvation.

At first, surplus livestock were typically shot and buried. However, a tremendous public outcry arose over the waste at a time when many people were starving. In October 1933, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was established to placate Americans and put the livestock to better use. From then on, most salvageable meat was purchased by the government and distributed through various relief programs. Because many slaughterhouses were not equipped to process the massive numbers of small pigs sent through their doors, however, they often took the easier route of processing young pigs for grease and fertilizer. Meanwhile, enough cattle hides entered the market that newspapers reported a price crisis among tanners.

 

The Economic Results

Many Great Plains farmers welcomed the subsidies. In some areas, as many as 90% of the local farmers came to rely on the AAA. By the end of 1935, the AAA had shelled out about $1.1 billion, about half of which went to farmers in the Great Plains. According to the USDA, farm income increased by 50% between 1932 and 1935, 25% of the increase coming from federal payments.

Commodity prices did indeed rise between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the prices for corn, wheat, and cotton doubled. However, prices remained well below 1929 levels and the parity goal set by the New Deal. Of course, higher prices only benefited farmers who had crops to harvest in spite of the drought.

The AAA payments were rarely enough to help small-scale farmers subsist. Families with small acreages generally failed, abandoned their farms, and left agriculture to the major players. An estimated 2.5 million people had evacuated the Great Plains by 1940. A large number of these former farmers moved to California to seek jobs picking seasonal produce for low wages.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2
Former Oklahoma farm family in California to pick lettuce

The situation was particularly bad for tenant farmers. While tenant farmers were not as conspicuous in the Great Plains as in the South, they did exist, and they, too, suffered. Under the initial provisions of the AAA, the landowner was to share the money with any tenant farmers he had working for him. Unfortunately, this part of the contract was poorly enforced, and some landlords resorted to fraud to keep the money for themselves. More honest landlords often used their rightful share of the subsidy to purchase modern machinery to reduce their labor needs, setting their tenant farmers adrift. In Oklahoma alone, the number of tenant farmers was nearly cut in half between 1935 and 1945.

The end result was a decided trend toward the consolidation of agriculture. Farm numbers declined in droughty areas, while farm sizes increased. In southwestern Kansas, for instance, the average farm had more than doubled in acreage by 1950.

 

A New Act

In the 1936 case United States v. Butler, the Supreme Court declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act to be unconstitutional:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government.…

From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.…

The Congress cannot invade state jurisdiction to compel individual action; no more can it purchase such action.

However, the AAA was replaced by a new farm relief act. This act did not overtly pay farmers to reduce agricultural production, but instead set up a soil conservation program. Landowners were now paid to implement cover-cropping and similar practices. The money came out of the federal treasury, instead of the tax on food processing. The new program was popular while the drought continued, but most farmers resumed their former cropping practices as soon as the rainfall returned.

But the original AAA had left a lasting legacy. By 1940, 6 million farmers were receiving subsidies. Farm commodities have been subsidized ever since.