Changes in Farming: Contributing factors in farming changes post Civil War After the Civil War there were many factors that contributed the changes that occurred in farming in America. Among them was the drive for the South to renew and regain what had been lost due to the war. Leaders saw it as a time to diversify and turn towards industrialization. The Industrial revolution was underway and with it brought many new inventions that would lead to growth in the farming industry. The wide open space between the East and the West called “The Frontier” was open for homesteading.
New immigrants with their farming knowledge and ability were flooding the East and West gates of the U. S. This was a time in American history when Americans made the “American dream” what it is today. The end of the Civil War in 1865, fought between the North and the South, spurred many changes in farming in the South. The changes occurred rather quickly and started in what was referred to as The New South. The New South, wanting to keep the Union of the North at bay and decided diversification was the key. Before the Civil War Cotton was a thriving crop in the South that gave the region a sense of power.
Many southerners blamed cotton for its losses caused by the Civil War and some might speculate that without this crop, also know as “King Cotton”, the Civil War may not have taken place. After the Civil War the South was left to rebuild and reestablish what had been destroyed. Many leaders also saw this as a time for economic growth. The south had very good soil for other crops to thrive in. First of the many changes in the New South was the resurgence of tobacco. The discovery of two new tobaccos named Bright leaf and Burley helped increase the tobacco production and market.
Other changes to follow were the growth in products such as Louisiana sugar cane, rice, Southern Pine trees, clay, coal, glass and stone products. The introduction of Hydroelectricity which is electricity produced by water served in the process of industrializing The New South. Changes in Farming 3 Before the Civil War slaves worked the fields and did most of the farming work in the South. After the slaves were freed in 1863, the South had to make changes to supply labor for the farming. Many shady practices by the white man occurred because of this. Sharecropping and crop liens were eveloped to keep the black man somewhat under their control. Since freed slaves had no money and no place to live, land holders would allow a tenant to live on their property and worked the land in exchange for a share of the crop produced, also known as sharecropping. The crop lien system was a developed to allow farmers to receive goods such as food, supplies, and seeds to be paid for after the crop was produced. This kept the black man and poor white farmers in a constant form of debt. Cotton still played a big part in the growth of farming in the south.
There was a high demand for textiles and cotton mills increased production of cotton bales up to 1,479,000 bales per year. While these changes were occurring in the South, many changes in farming were also taking place in other parts of the nation. The government wanted to encourage settlement in the vast areas of the country not yet populated. The Homestead Act helped shape the western landscape. This act allowed farmers to claim up to 160 acres of land. Farmers would stake a claim to a parcel of land and by living on it for five years would be free and clear to take title of the land.
Or the farmer could buy the land for $1. 25 per acre after living on it for six months. This opportunity attracted many to move west in the aftermath and destruction the Civil War caused in the South. As settlers moved west towards The Great Plains region they discovered it did not have the water supply and rich soil the South possessed. This area also had other downfalls in contrast to the South. Temperature fluctuations, hail, wind, and swarms of locusts that made farming quite difficult in this area.
The farmers adapted to the conditions of the plains by changing what they farmed, turning to grains such as sorghum and wheat; both crops that did not require much water. The immigrants from Changes in Farming 4 Russia, who were used to this climate, brought valuable knowledge of farming techniques. The Russians also introduced new wheat called Red Turkey to the area. The changes in this area and the crops produced here inspired new farming inventions needed to plow and till the grains which created new business opportunities.
Since much of this area was more suitable for grazing then for farming crops, farmers turned to cattle ranching. There were millions of long horn cattle, left from the old Spanish settlers, which roamed free. Ranchers would hunt these cattle for their hide at first. The job of the cowboy was created to herd up the cattle and drive them to different areas of the country. Many cattle trials were created that ran from central Texas to Kansas, central Texas to New Mexico and to Wyoming to name a few. Abilene, Kansas was one of the first towns that were a center for Cattle shipment.
With the invention of barbed wire in 1874 ranchers began to fence cattle in large areas. And with the building of the transcontinental railroad system the need for the cowboy decreased. The railroad could transport the cattle to the needed destinations. With the invention of the air-cooled train car meat packers began shipping slaughtered meat. Local farms were no longer required to produce perishable foods since these items could arrive by train as well. The Mississippi Valley region, Minnesota, and North Dakota took advantage of the new benefits the railroad system offered, and farmers changed their views of farming.
They no longer had to produce everything they needed on their land and turned their focus to making a business out of their farms. Instead of producing a variety of crops they focus on one cash crop such as cotton, wheat, or corn. They could mass produce their crops to be shipped by rail all over the country and shipped by boat worldwide. Farming became more of a factory and required the purchase of more machinery to Changes in Farming 5 produce their product. America quickly became the world’s largest producer of fruits, vegetables, and meats.
California was busy producing fruits and vegetables of their own as well by farmers and settlers who were attracted West by the gold rush. The promise of the great frontier, the reorganization of the South, and the industrial revolution were all big contributing factors to changes in farming after The Civil War. But I believe the largest contributing factor was the creation of the railroad system that crisscrossed across the country. It transformed the way people farmed, thought, invented, traveled, and lived. By the time it was finished there as many miles of tracks across America as the rest of the world put together.
The visible changes the Railroad system created were remarkable. It contributed to the 19th century being the century of the greatest changes in U. S. history to date. American farmers were very hard-working people with big dreams of a new life and making it on their own. They possessed the right traits to survive in the frontier such as risk taking, self-reliance, and the drive to succeed. I believe Americans still have these traits today and have so many opportunities give more changes to come here in the United States of America.
References This link leads you to a page describing tenant farming and share cropping in depth. http://digital. library. okstate. edu/encyclopedia/entries/T/TE009. html A link to Georgia’s cotton history from the state’s encyclopedia http://www. georgiaencyclopedia. org/nge/Article. jsp? id=h-2087 This link will bring you to information on the gilded age http://www. academicamerican. com/recongildedage/topics/gildedage1. html The text book provided online for unit 1 US History 2 http://www. hippocampus. org/US%20History%20II