Iowa February 25, 2017
These 27 Rare Photos Show Iowa’s Farming History Like Never Before
“There’s nothing in Iowa but corn.” Yeah, we’ve heard it. If you live in Iowa and have out-of-state friends, you’ve heard it too. We hear plenty of corny jokes (like that one), but anyone who lives here knows that there is far more to do in Iowa than wander through cornfields (although an evening walk through the countryside is both beautiful and relaxing).
Iowa is way more than just cornfields, and while we can’t deny that there certainly are a lot of them, we’re proud of our farming history! Agriculture is an extremely important part – if not the most important part – of our nation’s history, and Iowa has been at the heart of this enormous industry since day one. We rounded up some amazing old photos of life on the farm because we think it’s important to look back on where we come from and how much we’ve grown. Farming isn’t for the weak, so let’s celebrate our strength!
1. Most people, especially those who don't live in the Midwest, take their food for granted. It's just right there in the grocery store, waiting to be purchased... but it's not that simple. It's nowhere NEAR that simple.
2. Farming is hard work, and it always has been. Early farmers had nothing but two hands, a few tools, and a creative mind to work with.
3. Country life had its perks; you lived away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, and there's a comforting pace to staying one step removed from all of the hubbub.
4. In the early 1940s, which is when most of these photos were taken, you were a little more than a single step removed from city life... homesteads dotted the landscape miles and miles apart.
5. Without the modern infrastructure we enjoy today, it took some serious effort to get together in a social group. It wasn't everyday that you saw friends and neighbors, but when you did, you spent solid time appreciating their company.
6. Before modern technology and innovation made it possible to manage agricultural lands on a massive scale, farms were smaller out of necessity. But this didn't mean the workload was less... or any easier.
7. There simply wasn't the large machinery available to do jobs that are now much more automated. If you needed your harvest moved, you scooped it up and hauled it yourself.
8. Everything, from planting the seeds to tending the fields to harvesting the crops required time, effort, and sheer strength.
9. Early innovations allowed farmers to increase efficiency and tend to larger plots of land, but by today's standards, it's still amazing how much was accomplished by such basic machinery.
10. Simple plows, tills, and other equipment looked nothing like it does today, but it got the job done.
11. These days, when you hear the word "horsepower," it's usually on a TV commercial for a truck dealership, but let's remember exactly where that term came from: plow horses working the fields. It was far from a standardized measurement back then, but this "two horsepower" team is nothing to scoff at.
12. In fact, it's unlikely that we would have even progressed at all without the help of our equine "employees!"
13. Also, their manure made for an excellent natural fertilizer! It's a dirty job, but someone had to do it.
14. It's amazing to look back at some of these photos and realize how impressive of a feat it was to run a farm without the tools we have today. We're pretty sure we can't even draw a line as straight as this farmer turned over his land!
15. Buying seeds and supplies wasn't done in enormous bulk like it is today. When it came around to planting season, you went on down to the seed store to pick out the best looking varieties from the options right in front of you.
16. This selection looks like something you might find in a modern hobby gardening shop, but at one point, this was the foundation for everything grown on the farm!
17. While many people (especially those who aren't from around here) think of farmers, they imagine a stereotypical denim-clad man with sun-worn skin and strong, dirt-coated hands. While yes, it was mostly men out working the fields, but running a farm was definitely not just a male-only occupation. It took a whole family to keep a farm up and running!
18. They may not have been riding tractors, but women had a huge role in farm life! Household operations were a much different lifestyle than what we have today. Have you ever churned butter? It's hard work!
19. Women often tended to the animals as well. Here, Mrs. Fred Maschman is keeping watch over one seriously impressive brood of chickens!
20. Even children helped out with important jobs on the farm. It was a whole-family business!
21. 4-H Clubs blossomed as a way for younger generations to engage in and learn about farm operations. Showing off your animals at the county fair was a big deal!
22. Speaking of county fairs... back then, they weren't full of sparkling midway rides and deep-fried-everything-on-a-stick. The fairs were both a social event and a business event, with more of a focus on the animals and plants that were central to everyday life on the farm.
23. Showing animals like cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens was a way to proudly display your hard work, while also bringing in business if you were truly outstanding in your field (no pun intended).
24. Auctions were one of the central highlights and you had to be on your toes to keep up with the fast-talking auctioneers in order to place your bids.
25. Beyond the fields and fairs, the agriculture business was also a huge focus in higher education. This photo shows a group of Iowa State University students enrolled in an animal husbandry class watching a demonstration right here on a working farm. Hands-on learning at its finest!
26. The farms structured all aspects of life, from business to entertainment. Here, a crowd has gathered to watch a corn shucking contest. It's way more fun to watch than it sounds!
27. While it was fun at times, the strength and fortitude of our farmers should never be underestimated. It certainly could get lonely out there in the open field, but the rewards of a hard day's work and a bountiful harvest were definitely worth it.
Hats off to our farmers! Whether or not you are in the business, we have farmers to thank for both the food on our plates and the rich culture we enjoy in our beautiful state to this day!