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The great occupation of farming


By:  Jack Swift

Growing up on a small farm in the Seventh District of Johnson County was a great experience but one of pretty hard work at times. Farming was more labor intensive in those days, but even today, nobody has taken all the work out of it yet. Some of the jobs I couldn’t get out of — although I tried — were chopping the weeds and loosening the soil with hand-held hoes; following behind a horse-drawn cultivator, while trying to get the horse to gee or haw at the proper times and places; hanging tobacco in the top tier in the   barn; feeding wheat into the thrashing machine and picking beans and strawberries. Of course those were only a few of the tasks (or make that jobs — they were a bit more than tasks). Even though it has been many moons since my days on the farm, I look back on that era with nostalgic feelings. Of course I have done farm work a number of times since my younger days but with better and more efficient equipment.

Having experienced those aforementioned farm jobs, I have a great deal of sympathy for the farmer (especially the farmers who farm the smaller farms of America). But fortunately producing food and fiber for the world now is not as labor intensive as it once was.
One of the greatest innovations in farming was the invention of the self-scouring steel plow by a man named John Deere. Deere made business decisions that led him from Vermont to Grand Detour, Illinois, where he worked as a blacksmith. From there he moved to Moline, Illinois where he invented the steel plow and began manufacturing them.  Cast iron plows used in New England were not suited for the sticky prairie soil so Deere invented the improved plow that was needed at the time. I know everyone is familiar with the famous John Deere tractors and farming machinery.
Recently I ran across some interesting information about agriculture from the American Farm Bureau Federation. I will share a bit of it with my readers. There are some 2.2 million farms in America. Farm and ranch families are only two percent of the U. S. population. Compared with 1950, farmers produce 262 percent more food than they did then. Farmers and ranchers receive only 16 cents out of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home. In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents out of each dollar.
So, here’s to the Johnson County farmers for the hard work they do in producing food and fiber for us.