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"Down on the farm...." Topic

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Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2017 7:00 a.m. PST

Recent posts regarding ACW period scenery got me wondering exactly what would you plant "down on the farm".

Period research indicates that unless you were planting a specialty crop (cotton, tobacco, etc) the typical planting mixture would be as follows:

Meadow/pasture – 35%
Wheat – 22%
corn – 18%
oats – 15%
remainder in barley, potatoes, rye

Meadow/pasture is used for grazing cattle, horses, sheep and other livestock.
Wheat was grown for market. Wheat was typically much taller than today(round 5') because the stalk of the wheat was used for straw for bedding.
Corn (the wargamers favorite) was shorter that today (5'-6' in height) and was planted much more widely spaced so the field could be cultivated form several directions(N-S and E-W). It was harvested by hand and the stalks were used for straw and bedding. Corn was grown for market and livestock feed. Very little was used directly by the farm family.

So, we can have a lot of open pasture, tall wheat and widely spaced corn plants.


Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2017 7:27 a.m. PST

thanks good information

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

When I was a kid (age 12-ish) there was grown a variety
of corn which the farm folks called 'mule corn' because
it was fed to the mules/horses which provided the muscle
to move various farm implements.

The kernels were about the size of the first joint of the
thumb of a man with large hands. Not people fodder by
any means….

donlowry06 Aug 2017 9:35 a.m. PST

It would vary by climate, etc. And there'd probably be a pig pen, a chicken coop (with a bit of fenced space around it) and a vegetable garden. Also some woods where you could gather firewood and maybe do some hunting for small game, at least, such as squirrels and rabbits. Oh, and don't forget a pond where the animals can get water.

Bill N06 Aug 2017 9:49 a.m. PST

I think this would depend heavily on where the farm was located. If you were relatively close to a major city truck farming where you grow fruit and vegetables to be sold at the city market would be profitable. Same with dairy farming. Another profitable farming activity near major cities was to buy livestock, usually cattle, fatten them up and then sell them to the slaughterhouse in town.

"Meadow" is not necessarily synonymous with land being left fallow. Before the automobile revolution there was a large demand for hay for horses in cities.

Also don't forget wood products. Through the ACW wood was in great demand not just as timber but also for fuel for both industrial and residential uses. Most locomotives during the ACW were wood burners as were many riverboat steamships.

muggins07 Aug 2017 5:53 a.m. PST

From the primary sources I've read, obviously plantations in the south grew cotton and tobacco, but the southern soldier mostly ate fat pork and corn pones – that would lead me to believe many southern farms are raising pigs and corn. Obviously not statistical, but I thought worth mentioning.

T Corret Supporting Member of TMP08 Aug 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

Also, in almost all the south, open grazing was the norm. Fences were used to protect crops and small structures from loose animals, not to enclose large areas of pasture. My home town in SC only passed enclosure laws in the 1930's.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

Two quick points:

1.) Some of the largest plantations, with the most slaves, were Rice plantations, especially in Georgia and South Carolina.

2.) Corn was planted in groups of 3-5 stalks per small cluster, and these clusters were spaced about 2-3' apart, depending on the soil and size of the field, plus irrigation used. Here's a period image showing the clusters of stalks and the sort of checkerboard pattern they were planted in.


1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2017 4:56 a.m. PST

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