How has farming changed in the United States?

In the 1700s, English farmers settled in New England villages; Dutch, German, Swedish, Scotch-Irish, and English farmers settled on Middle Colony farmsteads; English and some French farmers settled on plantations in tidewater and on isolated Southern Colony farmsteads in Piedmont; Spanish immigrants, mostly indentured servants, settled the Southwest and California. Farmers endured a rough pioneer life while adapting to their new environments, and by the 1800s small family farms grew and sold crops such as wheat, cotton, corn, and rice. But the work was hard and slow going: In 1830, it took 250 to 300 hours of labor to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with very basic tools. The growth of farming brought many labor-saving devices to nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century farm life, including reaping and threshing machines, which replaced work done by hand. Today, with modern methods of agriculture that include complex machinery, scientific breeding, and chemical pesticides, farms require far fewer workers.

Before the Industrial Revolution (beginning in the 1800s in the United States), most people lived and worked on farms. In 1935, there were 6.8 million farms in the United States, and the average farmer produced enough food each year to feed about 20 people. In 2007, the number of farms was down to about 2.2 million, yet the average U.S. farmer produced enough food to feed almost 130 people. Average farm size in 1935 was smaller than it is today, about 155 acres (63 hectares) compared to about 446 acres (180 hectares) today.


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