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Agriculture and Independence Day
Dr. Victor Martin

The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, June 28 indicated no real change for our area as we continue in moderate drought. The extreme drought in Southwest Kansas is almost back to Pawnee County again. The eastern half of the state is in pretty good shape with only a few areas of abnormally dry conditions. The six to ten-day outlook (July 5 to 9) indicates a 70 to 80% chance of above normal temperatures and normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (July 7 to 13) indicates a 60 to 70% chance of above normal temperatures and a 33 to 40% chance of above normal precipitation. In fact, almost the entire continental U.S. is forecasted for above normal temperatures during this time. Wheat harvest in the area is essentially wrapped up and as expected, yields range from under 20 bushels per acre to over 50 and even a report or two of 70 bushels per acre.  Test weights and proteins overall look pretty good. Today, as we celebrate Independence Day, how does agriculture factor into the country’s independence?

How is agriculture linked to this country’s independence? Let’s go back about 245 years. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were farmers and if not farmers, gardeners. Even an “urbanite” like Benjamin Franklin had an interest in agriculture advocating for gypsum as fertilizer and for crop insurance for farmers. And don’t forget Poor Richard’s Almanac. We often think of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities during colonial times. However, with an estimated population of 2.5 million people, the largest city in the colonies was Philadelphia with about 40,000 people followed by New York with 21,000 and Boston with 17,000. Most colonists were rural and farmed as only around five percent of the population lived in cities. Why bring this up? Most of the Continental Army and militias were comprised of farmers. Not only since they were the bulk of the population but also as they were the most likely to be trained in using firearms.  

During and after the end of the Revolutionary War, the leadership of the newly formed United States valued agriculture for economic, societal, and moral reasons. They saw it as the foundation of their democratic republic. Indeed, it was the production and export of agricultural commodities and value-added products that helped keep the country solvent and able to trade with other nations, primarily Europe.

During the Civil War, again men working the land made up a majority of union forces. Before, during, and after the war, a demographic change had started. While in 1776, only five percent of the population lived in cities by the time 1900 arrived, that had decreased to less than two-thirds being rural. This was due to advances both scientific and through technology that allowed production to increase with fewer people having to farm.

Today, less than three percent of the population is directly tied to agriculture, yet our independence is still tied in great part too that three percent. We are able to not only feed our country but help feed much of the world, political turmoil aside, creating a more stable world. One of the major reasons this country has endured this long and has as much influence as it does in the world, are all the factors that allow us to be an agricultural juggernaut with only a fraction of our total population. Happy Fourth of July.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or