I LOVE the 1900 farm at Living History Farms. In many ways, it doesn’t seem so different from our own farm or those around us. The house is actually quite similar to mine, as mine was built in 1907, and the barn is like those that dot the countryside where I live.
But there’s no way I’d want to live (or farm) in 1900. Besides the obvious amenities we enjoy now, like electricity, indoor plumbing and central heat, there are many other things that keep me from really wanting to turn back the clock.
For example, in 1900, 1 in 10 infants died before age 1. Epidemics threatened the lives of early Iowa settlers. Highly contagious diseases like cholera, smallpox, diphtheria and typhoid fever spread quickly from person to person. The average life expectancy of a pioneer man, woman or child ranged from 30 to 40 years, if they were fortunate enough to survive childhood.
Farming wasn’t much better. Much of the work was done by hand, or with the help of horses. Tractors had not yet been invented, although the iron plow was used. (This plow, coincidentally, contributed to a loss of 50% of Iowa’s topsoil before the DustBowl in the 1930s. Many farmers today use conservation tilling to reduce erosion of our fertile topsoil.)
However, things were improving. Scientists were doing “extensive experimental work to breed disease-resistant varieties of plants, to improve plant yield and quality, and to increase the productivity of farm animal strains”. Hybridized corn was produced in 1881 and a hog cholera serum was developed in 1903. Farmers were becoming business-men, and had begun making the improvements we benefit from today.
It’s romantic to imagine what 1900 was like in Iowa. But we often look at the past through rose colored glasses. The reality was much more bleak. Life was hard without the many modern conveniences we enjoy. And farming was even harder – harder on the farmers, and in some ways, harder on the land and the animals.
Farming and life have changed over the past 100 years, but one thing has remained the same – farmers are still trying to do things better than before. New equipment, new discoveries in animal health, new conservation and animal care practices…farmers realize the global impact they have and are doing their best to make that impact a positive one.
Now, who’s ready for a rose-colored view of Iowa’s history? Wendy Tse is the lucky winner of 4 tickets to Living History Farms! I’ll be emailing you, Wendy! Congrats!a Rafflecopter giveaway