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Agriculture and independence linked
Dr. Victor Martin

The six to ten day outlook (July 7 to 11) above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. Not a good outlook with pollinating corn. Looking out eight to 14 days (July 9 to 15) indicates more of the same with well above normal temperatures and little rain. The drought monitor indicates little change from last week. Major deterioration in conditions is occurring in Southwest Kansas with Extreme and Exceptional drought conditions moving eastward. Summer crops have befitted from the rainfall two weeks ago but that is rapidly disappearing. Moisture and lower nighttime temperatures are needed as corn in the area is starting to tassel and silking/pollination aren’t far behind and stress at this stage will quite negatively impact yields. On the bright side, the conditions of the last week allowed wheat harvest to proceed rapidly.  

Yesterday was Independence Day. In honor of July Fourth, let’s take a break from news, both good and bad, and discuss agriculture and its importance to the development of this country. We all know that until into the 20th Century, the majority of the population was rural and lived in small communities and on farms. So from the settling of the colonies until around 1900 how did agriculture help the colonies and then the development of the nation?

• The colonies only very slowly developed a manufacturing base and that continued on through the early years of the nation. To continue to grow and thrive the colonists needed to be able to have goods imported and some way to pay for them. That was provided through raw materials and goods such as timber, tobacco, furs, and other agricultural goods. After the founding of the nation, an industrial infrastructure was slowly developing but we still needed these raw materials to trade for goods and currency.  

• Think about where troops for the Minutemen and then the militias and Continental Army came from.  They were primarily from the rural/agricultural populations. Men who knew how to shoot and live outdoors. This carried through subsequent wars through the Civil War.

• Slowly, throughout the 19th Century, America developed an industrial, educational, and scientific infrastructure. As the century progressed, more and more people moved into towns and cities. More and more people worked outside of agriculture. What made that possible?  Agriculture. Technological advances in agriculture and food preservation along with westward expansion through the Midwest and prairie states allowed increased productivity per acre. Machinery combined with fertile land and millions of acres, allowed fewer people to have to farm which allowed for an increased standard of living. One of America’s greatest assets is the sheer size of our country combined with large swaths of arable land combined with a suitable climate. The two factors, increased agricultural production and industrialization fed off each other.

• The real upshot of all this was that blessed with incredible natural resources, America didn’t have to rely on other countries for food and other natural resources such as minerals.

• So the result, and some would argue not for the better, is a country that uses less than three percent of its population to produce not only feed the nation but a good portion of the world.


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