Life on the Farm

Chickens on a farm photographed by Edward Bronson, 1908. Courtesy of the Defiance Public Library via Ohio Memory.
Chickens on a farm photographed by Edward Bronson, 1908. Courtesy of the Defiance Public Library via Ohio Memory.

If you go back far enough in your family tree – for some of us, that’s a mere generation or two – you’ll most likely find a farmer. For hundreds of years, farming was the most common way to support oneself and one’s family. Today, however, farming is in decline across the United States. Nowhere is this truer than in Ohio where, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, ¼ of our farmland disappeared between 1950 and 2000. This represents a greater rate of loss than in any other state in the country and is a real cause for concern.

Invention from a report on the nineteenth Ohio State Fair included in the Ohio State Board of Agriculture's 23rd Annual Report, 1968. From the State Library of Ohio Historical Document Collection via Ohio Memory.
Invention from a report on the nineteenth Ohio State Fair included in the Ohio State Board of Agriculture’s 23rd Annual Report, 1868. From the State Library of Ohio Historical Document Collection via Ohio Memory.

Efforts are in place to conserve the farmland that remains, such as those of the Office of Farmland Preservation (a division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture), whose annual reports can be found in Ohio Memory.   In addition, select annual reports from the Department of Agriculture itself – including several from the 19th century – can be found there, as well. Together, these provide a glimpse at farming yesterday and today.

Of course, text materials cannot paint a complete picture for curious researchers. Fortunately, Ohio Memory also give you access to, yes, pictures! Pictures of farms in winter, of fields littered with ripe pumpkins, pictures of small backyard gardens and large family farms.

We hope that these reports and pictures spark your interest in the farming practices of the past and present. Maybe you’ll decide to start a small farm – or at least a few potted plants – yourself.

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Thank you to Shannon Kupfer, Digital/Tangible Media Cataloger at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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