What is: Silos in the field, near Victoriaville, VA
What was: America was built on agriculture, from the colonists’ adoption of Native American methods to the early plantations exporting tobacco to the westward settlements across the land. Economic expansion and growth was rooted in farming.
“In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which granted Americans 160-acre plots of public land in the Western territory. Noted as being one of the most important pieces of American legislation to pass, this new act invited families to settle in the Great Plains and grow what we now call the breadbasket. By 1870, 50% of all Americans worked as agricultural laborers” (Source: https://www.wideopeneats.com/family-farm/)
The United States began as a largely rural nation, with most people living on farms or in small towns and villages. While the rural population continued to grow in the late 1800s, the urban population was growing more rapidly. Still, a majority of Americans lived in rural areas in 1900.
When the Great Depression hit over a million farmers moved to the cities to find work. This was followed by droughts and the dustbowl, declining exports and prices further causing hardships for family farms.
Today, the United States is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products. Over two million farms are found across our nation and 98% of them operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The more than 2 million farms in the U.S. vary greatly in size and characteristics. For example, annual gross revenue can range from as little as $1,000 to more than $5 million. Family farms provide 88% of production. Most farms are small family farms, and they operate almost half of U.S. farm land, while generating 21% of production (Source USDA). Technology, consumer needs, and agricultural productivity has resulted in family farms growing larger and producing more than ever before.