Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1913 Vol. 2 | 1916 | Depression |
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History

by Major A. J. Roof. 1913

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter



Page 140

It is good to be a farmer in Missouri. No other state grows so many crops so well. In diversity and quantity of crops and in number and quality of farm animals Missouri's position among the leading combined agricultural and live stock states of the Union is secure. With this true today, how splendid and commanding will be Missouri's place when more millions of her fertile acres are brought under the plow and more pure-bred animals are in her bluegrass pastures.

No other state has within easy reach of great markets so much valuable land as yet almost untouched. These millions of acres are in neither an arid or frigid belt, but in the very center of the agricultural universe, in a district where there is abundant rainfall, genial sunshine, soil of unsurpassed fertility, and where crops are as diversified, as sure and as superior as anywhere in the United States. Well may the few other states that today excel Missouri in this one crop or that "point with pride" and congratulate themselves on their greatness a greatness that is of the present, and passing. Why passing? Let the official figures of the United States Department of Agriculture answer.

Comparing the wheat yield of the last year, 1911, with that of ten years ago, 1901, these are the figures: Kansas, 99,079,304 bushels in 1901, with 51,387,000 bushels in 1911; Iowa, 21,048,101 bushels in 1901, with 10,622,000 bushels in 1911; Nebraska, 42,006,885 bushels in 1901, with 41,574,000 bushels in 1911; Missouri, 31,137,097 bushels in 1901, 36,110,000 bushels in 1911, Kansas loss, almost 50 per cent; Iowa loss, approximately 50 per cent; Nebraska loss, slight; Missouri gain, 15 per cent.

Comparing corn production in the same states and for the same years, 1901 and 1911, the official figures show, in round numbers, gains as follows: Iowa, 35 per cent; Nebraska, 40 per cent; Kansas, 100 per cent; Missouri, 200 per cent. Gains, mark you!

Need one be a prophet to say that Missouri, eighteenth state in land area and seventh in population, is first in possibilities!

Yet performances, not promises nor prophecies, proclaim Missouri's paramount place in agricultural possibilities and permanency.

In corn production last year Missouri was excelled by but two of the forty-eight states - Illinois and Iowa. It should be remembered, also, that the season of 1911 was one of the worst, especially for corn growing, that Missouri has ever experienced. However, for 1912 the production of nearly all farm crops average twenty-six per cent greater for 1911. To grow more corn than any one of forty-five other states is not a bad showing. But keep in mind the increase in ten years' time - Iowa 35 per cent; Illinois, 40 per cent; Missouri, 200 per cent!

Think of the hundreds of thousands of acres - lands "dripping in fatness" - soon to come into cultivation in all portions of the state, in the river bottoms and elsewhere; measure the increase of the next ten years by the increase of the last ten years; then figure, if you can, among the corn states, any place for Missouri, save first.

Even now, the Missouri corn crop for an average season would, if shipped in the ear, load a train of cars filling a track from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Unfavorable as was the year 1911 for corn growing in Missouri, our corn crop was larger than that of Argentina and all other countries of South America combined.

The Missouri corn crop of last year equaled one-sixth of all the corn grown in the world, outside of the United States.

The combined corn production of two Missouri counties in 1911 was greater than the combined output of twelve states - Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. These two counties - there are 114 counties in Missouri - grew one-fourteenth as much corn as the total output of Kansas for the same year, one-tenth that of Texas, and one-fifth of that of Oklahoma.

In the production of winter wheat Missouri ranks fifth among the states. Kansas is first, with Illinois second, Nebraska third, and Ohio fourth. In 1911 the average yield per acre in Missouri, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, was 15.7 bushels, while in Kansas it was only 10.8 bushels. Missouri's wheat crop was harvested from 2,300,000 acres, but in order to get only 14,920,000 more bushels of wheat than was grown in Missouri, Kansas farmers seeded 2,425,000 more acres. The cost of growing an acre of wheat in this section of the United States is placed at $9.74.

Had all the wheat grown in Missouri last year been made into flour and the flour converted into loaves of bread of standard size the output would have been enough loaves, if placed end to end in a single row, to have extended from the earth to the moon. A pretty long and satisfactory "bread line" - more than 240,000 miles! One Missouri county alone produced enough wheat to have provided one loaf of bread for each of the 93,402,151 inhabitants of the United States.

Canada is everywhere looked upon as a wonderful wheat country. Gratifying, then, it is to know that Missouri grows one-sixth as much wheat as all that vast northern country. Hundreds of Missourians, wearing "far glasses," have, during the last decade, gone to Alberta in order to be in "a great wheat country." It is true that Alberta grew 36,143,000 bushels of wheat in 1911 - and Missouri, land of balmy days and bluegrass, grew 36,110,000 bushels!

Missouri is not a leading cotton state, yet no other state growing as much corn or wheat as is grown in Missouri also grows as much cotton. And Missouri cotton is of the finest quality.

Tobacco is another crop more extensively grown in Missouri than in any other leading corn or wheat state. Missouri tobacco, like Missouri cotton, is also a quality product. On December 1st the value of a pound of Missouri tobacco was given as 12 cents, with Virginia "weed" worth 9.6 cents! and the Kentucky product valued at 7.7 cents.

Missouri is a great live stock state, marketing most of her crops "on foot" instead of "mining and marketing" the fertility of her farms.

In number of horses, Missouri ranks fifth, among all of the states of the Union. With her 1,095,000 head of horses she is outnumbered by Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Texas only. But the average Missouri horse is valued at $8.00 more than the Kansas horse, and $28.00 more than the Texas horse.

In Missouri are 333,000 mules. Texas alone has more, but while the Texas mule is valued at but $104, the Missouri mule is rated at $115.

Milch cows in Missouri number 822,000 head - including the wonderful Missouri Chief Josephine. Eight states now have more milch cows, but when the southern section of Missouri becomes the great dairy region that nature designed it to be no other state will own more "milk machines."

Cattle, other than milch cows, number 1,504,000 head in Missouri, the state ranking sixth. Whatever is lacking in mere numbers is fully made up by the pure bred animals, especially of the beef breeds. In Missouri are no plains and no "long horns."

As a sheep state Missouri ranks eleventh, being credited with 1,755,000 head. Here again Missouri quality counts. A Missouri sheep is valued at more than a Montana, Wyoming, Ohio, New Mexico, Idaho, California, Michigan, Texas, or Oregon sheep. These states, with Utah, lead in numbers, in order named. Of the states mainly bordering Missouri, Illinois has 1,068,000 sheep, Iowa 1,201,000, Kansas 326,000 and Arkansas 134,000.

Of the forty-eight states of the Union but two - Iowa an Illinois - lead Missouri in number of hogs. Missouri is credited with 4,491,000 head of swine. Kansas has 2,808,00' head, and Arkansas 1,738,000.

In poultry production Missouri is generally conceded to be first, among all the states. The value of Missouri's poultry products marketed last year is placed at more than $45,000,000.

"Poor old Missouri" is not, never was, and never will be, but a Missouri rich in material resources and in men is more than in the making; this Missouri is on the map.

Attracted by lurid land literature, time was Missouri farmers, unmindful of the advantages offered by their

own state, sometimes mistook a mirage in the desert for the promised land. Worst of all, they too often failed to discover their mistake until no longer able to buy back the old home place. Were statistics available, it would probably be found that more former Missourians had actually died of homesickness in other parts of the country than ever failed to make money here at home.

Happily, the Missourians of today are coming more and more to appreciate the advantages offered in a state in which there are no sandy wind-swept wastes, no abandoned farms, no need of irrigation, no long and rigorous winters, no summers of such excessive heat as to take from the people their energy and enterprise, and where no system of one-crop farming has robbed the fields of their fertility. Go to our own State Fair, any industrial congress or land show within the state, and we note that Missouri farmers no longer crowd the tents or booths in which are shown some exceptional products - and paper profits - of a Garden-of-Eden-that-is-to-be, located perhaps in some sun-scorched or snow-clad country. Instead, we find Missourians "pointing with pride" to the products of a state, their own, whose fields are ever filled with fatness.

Everybody knows of Missouri's high rank in corn, wheat, hay, oats and other important crops, but not everybody likes to stick to these staples. Some prefer the agricultural side lines. Well may these folks stay within the state. Here almost every kind of farming may be successfully followed. True, oranges, for instance, cannot be profitably grown in Missouri, but a case of eggs, produced without a labor problem, is worth more than a box of oranges - and Missouri is the leading poultry state of the Union.

No attempt has here been made to touch upon all the agricultural side lines or minor crops of Missouri. Many, among them some of the most important, have not been mentioned. Sorghum, for instance, is one of our more-than-a-million-dollar crops, yet this, with others of equal value, has been omitted under the crop captions.

Fortunate is the Missouri farmer. Not only may he grow rich from the products of his fields, many of them fabulously fertile, but from his own "vine and fig tree" he may have food and drink such as the money of the millionaire cannot buy. Only a fortunate few, other than Missouri farmers and their friends, really know of the indescribable sweetness and never-to-be-forgotten flavor of a real country-cured ham. Meat is but one of many good things. If the corn grown in one Missouri county were made into meal and cooked into cakes all the maple syrup of New England would not supply sufficient "spread." Then, there is Missouri apple butter, a real appetite agitator and as genuine a "love potion" as ever came from a black kettle stirred by a black "mammy." And what shall be said of Missouri sorghum, which from its golden depths seems to catch the finest of the fall flavors and even the richness of the autumn colors. When the work of the day is done the Missouri farmer may smoke a home-grown "pipe of peace," one of the millions of "Missouri meerschaums" made from the lowly corncob. Later, when he lies down to rest, it matters not whether he chooses to lose himself in the friendly depths of a featherbed or to enjoy the "mellowness" of a mattress he may sleep on a product of his own state - for here is the Missouri goose and here the Missouri cotton patch.

Missouri offers to her farmer citizens choice of many crops, and never fails to reward the laborer. To be a real Missouri farmer is to enjoy a close partnership with "The Master of the Vineyard."

Missouri is a state of wonderfully diversified crops . No other state grows so many crops so well. Nowhere are the returns from labor expended in agricultural pursuits more certain. If occasionally one crop shows a shortage, another always proves more prolific and profitable. No soil-exhausting system of successive seeding to some one crop has robbed our fields of their fertility. It matters not from what state the prospective settler may come or what method of farming he may prefer to pursue, he will find growing in Missouri crops with which he is familiar and conditions conducive to comfort and contentment. Semi-tropical plants or those that require more than an average amount of moisture are successfully grown in one section, while such as demand a higher altitude and a lower temperature and that thrive with only an average amount of moisture do equally well in other parts. Missouri is not a one-crop, a two-crop, nor a three-crop state.

Strawberries to the amount of more than 800 carloads have been shipped in a single season from a group of less than a dozen counties of this state. Ordinarily the strawberry season is short - from about May 15th to June 20th. Shipments are made to Denver, Salt Lake City, Duluth, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Sioux City, Des Moines, Kansas City, Chicago and other points within the United States. Some shipments also go to Canada. Practically all shipments are made in refrigerator cars, which are carefully iced and cooled several hours before being loaded. Entire trainloads of berries are often shipped from Sarcoxie, Neosho, Anderson and other centers. These "strawberries specials" make rapid runs to distant cities, where the berries are delivered in perfect condition. A carload of berries is worth approximately $1,000. Growers get from $1.75 to $2.00 per crate. An ordinary yield is from 100 to 200 crates per acre, but very much larger yields are not uncommon. From one fourteen acre field near Anderson there were harvested in 19o8 berries to the reported value of $5,148. The cost to the grower of a crate is figured at eighty-five cents.

Tobacco growing in Missouri is as old as the history of the state. The pioneer had his patch for home consumption, and later factories were operated at Boonville, Brunswick, Chillicothe, Liberty and many other points. Following the freeing of the slaves, the industry became less important. Only within the last few years has there been any marked revival in tobacco growing in Missouri. This revival is doubtless due in part to the "tobacco war" in Kentucky. Three or four years ago representatives of "Big Business" in the tobacco buying world offered to Missouri farmers free seeds and free advice - and these same farmers took both and got busy. The result was the making of the thousands of new tobacco beds in the early spring and the building of scores of tobacco barns in the early fall.

The peanut is another of the leguminous crops that may be grown in Missouri, for the southern half of the state is in the "peanut belt" of the United States. Botanically, the peanut belongs to the same group of plants as the beans and peas, and is a great soil builder. In common with other plants of this class, it is able to collect the free nitrogen of the atmosphere and store it in the nodules upon its roots.

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter