Read Sesquicentennial Ag History Timeline text version

A Condensed History Of Minnesota Agriculture 1858-2008

Prepared in Celebration of the Sesquicentennial. On May 11, 2008, Minnesota reaches its 150th anniversary as the 32nd state in the United States of America.


1858 May 11: Minnesota is admitted as 32nd state to the Union. Wheat becomes major crop in MN. MN Farm Stats: Team of horses -$200; Wagon-$100; 4 cows - $49; 1 pig - $1.50; 15 bushels corn-$15. Machinery: Inventions make farming easier and more efficient-corn picker, grain binder, check row planter, two-horse straddle cultivator. 1859 First Minnesota State Fair is held. MN's first shipment of spring wheat reaches Chicago. Production grows as railroads connect more markets. 1861 Civil War. 1000 MN men volunteer. 1862 Dakota Conflict. Indians and settlers clash over land treaties and trade. Thousands of ox carts carry goods along the Red River Trails from Canada and Dakotas to St. Paul. MN Farm Stats: 18,000 farms; 40,344 milk cows; 100,000+ hogs. Homestead Act passes. 160 acres granted to settlers who work the land for 5 years. 1867 Oliver Kelley forms National Grange organization advocating sound agricultural practices. 1868 Machinery: First steam operated tractor is demonstrated.


1858 2008





1880 Silos and deep-well drilling are growing in use; refrigerator train cars are introduced. 1873 Grasshoppers darken the sky across the state and for the next five years they strip the land bare. 1875-1890 Booming wheat market leads to huge farms, especially in the Red River Valley. 1879 Machinery: Horses replace oxen with 2-wheeled sulky plow; hand-cranked broadcast seeder; milking machine is patented.


1890 Minneapolis becomes flour milling capital of the nation. One year later, Pillsbury's new "A" mill is largest flour mill in the world. 1885 Minnesota State Dairy Commission, a forerunner for the Department of Agriculture, is created. 1885 Grain Inspection Law enacted. 1889 Machinery: First gas powered traction engines or "tractors" are introduced.


1900 MN Farm Stats: 117,000 farms; 3.4 million acres of wheat grown with average yields of 16 bu/A. Meat Inspection Law enacted. 1891 George Hormel opens his meatpacking company. Farmers begin planting more corn. 1898 Butter sculpting is demonstrated at the MN State Fair. 4-H clubs spring up around the country.


1914 Minneapolis is sawmilling capital of the world. Machinery: Farmers consider cars and tractors their top necessities. 1902 Grassroots farmers concerned with stability and farm income organize the National Farmers Union. Agriculture is the mainstay of rural economy as new technologies and practices are being developed. Farmers consider planting soybeans as a crop. 1913 The first county Farm Bureau on record in Minnesota is organized. By 1918 nearly every county has a Farm Bureau to bolster Extension Education efforts.


1920 World War I. U.S. government asks farmers to produce more food to feed the armies fighting in Europe-resulting in higher crop prices. 1919 The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is created. Machinery: The first commercial PTO (power takeoff) is developed. Twin City "40" Farm Tractor developed by Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co.


MN Farm Stats: A total of 311 acres of soybeans grown with a yield of 9 bu/A. Electricity is still too expensive for rural residents. End of World War I brings down demand for food ­ as a result many farmers struggle with debt. 1921 MDA Commissioner receives authority to enforce all food laws. 1923 Crop Reporting Service is created as a cooperative effort with USDA. 1929 Machinery: Three companies merge to form the Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Company. 1929 U.S. Stock market crashes.


1930 Great Depression ruins many farm families. Corn sells for 6 cents per bushel. Dust storms strip millions of tons of top soil from fields. 1932 The Farmer-Labor political party is growing. Floyd B. Olson becomes MN's first Farmer-Labor Governor. The Farmers' Holiday Association movement endorses withholding farm products from markets to get price guarantees. 1935 Rural Electrification Administration brings electricity to farming communities. Farmers dramatize desperate conditions by bringing starving livestock to the State Capitol. Six years of drought has ruined crops and exhausted the land. 1938 Minnesota resident Frederick Jones invents a refrigeration unit for trucks and trains. Machinery: Allis-Chalmers shows 75 pieces of machinery on Machinery Hill at the State Fair. 1939 World War II brings demand for agricultural products. 1940


1950 MN Farm Stats: MN farm numbers reach the apex at over 197,000. Also at the apex is the number of milking cows at 1.7 million. Farmers rotate crops, use contour plowing, and plant trees to protect against wind damage. Suburbs are born as builders convert thousands of acres of farmland into neighborhoods of homes. 1949 Turkey farmer Earl Olson purchases a processing plant in Willmar that he names Jennie-O Foods after his daughter Jennifer. Machinery: The 2-3 bottom plow is popular.


1960 MN Farm Stats: For the first time in state history, more Minnesotans live in cities than in the country. 1955 State Fair tops one million attendance mark. National Farmers Organization (NFO) formed to fight for better farm prices. 1956 Nationwide interstate highway system created - eventually links urban and rural Minnesota. 1959 MN Farm Stats: Corn yields 39 bu/A while soybeans yield 19 bu/A and wheat produces 23bu/A. Duluth becomes a world port with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.


1970 Machinery: There are 4.7 million tractors in the U.S. according to the USDA. Chisel plow is widely used to prevent wind erosion. 1961 Minnesota Governor Orville Freemen appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Seeks to cut production, increase farm incomes, and distribute surpluses to the hungry. 1967 Farmers in 25 states dump milk to bring attention to poor dairy prices. 1969 The Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act passes allowing the state's farmers to act separately or jointly in cooperation with handlers, dealers, and processors to promote and stimulate the use, sale, and consumption of commodities.


1980 Norman Borlaug, a graduate of the U of M, wins the Nobel Peace Prize for developing a high-yield, disease-resistant strain of wheat and for being a leader in the fight against world hunger. 1975 U of M geneticists are first to regenerate corn from tissue culture. 1978 30,000 farmers descend on Washington D.C. as part of the American Agriculture Movement's effort to keep family farms in business. A year later, AAM sponsors a "tractorcade" with 6000 family farmers driving tractors to D.C. to protest American farm policy. Farmamerica, the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center at Waseca is commissioned by the 1978 legislature to preserve and promote the strong heritage of Minnesota agriculture. 1984


1992 Conservation Reserve Program begins. Farmers face high inflation, while land values, crop prices and export values are declining. Farmers organize and protest as part of such groups as Groundswell, the Family Farmer Survival Association, and the American Agriculture Movement. Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Reagan Admits Policies Hurt Farmers." 1985 80,000 people attend the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Ill. 1986 Farm Credit issues 760 mediation notices monthly to financially strapped farmers. Minnesota Ag in the Classroom program curriculum becomes available to schools to promote the importance of agriculture. 1989 The Minnesota Groundwater Protection Act passes - strengthening pesticide and fertilizer laws and greatly expanding MDA's role in water quality protection.


2000 MN Farm Stats: 75,000 farms; 609,000 milking cows; 6.1 million corn acres; 5.1 million soybean acres; 2.6 million wheat acres. 1997 The Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) is formed to improve agricultural education in Minnesota. 1999 Minnesota farmers raise more turkeys than any other state. Minnesota's agriculture sector plays significant role in renewable energy development. Minnesota's use of renewable energy increases between 1990 and 1999 at the same time the United States' use of renewable energy declines.


Machinery: Manufacturers develop cleaner burning engines and advanced computer technology. 2002 Farm Stats: 93 percent of farm households in America have off-farm income. 2005 MDA moves to new Orville L. Freeman Building in St. Paul. 2007 Survey of 2,600 farms finds median farm incomes up more than 70-percent, the most profitable year for Minnesota farmers since 1973. MN Farm Stats: 79,000 farms; 8.4 million corn acres (146 bu/A); 6.25 million soybeans acres (41 bu/A); 1.76 million wheat acres (47 bu/A). 2008 MDA estimates 560 organic farms in MN. 17 Minnesota plants produce more than 600 million gallons of ethanol. MDA Mission Statement: "Our mission is to enhance Minnesotans' quality of life by ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength of our agricultural economy."


Sesquicentennial Ag History Timeline

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