Describe the challenges and opportunities facing Minnesota farmers during the 19th century, exploring the ways in which people sought to adapt to conditions.

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Describethe challenges and opportunities facing Minnesota farmers during the19th century, exploring the ways in which people sought to adapt toconditions.

Earlysettlement process in Minnesota occurred in the early 1800s whereambitious farmers occupied land along Mississippi River. Theestablishment of farms was restricted due to basic technology, lackof proper transport system, and government policies. The developmentof agriculture took a slow pace as technology advanced. The paperseeks to elucidate on the various hurdles and opportunities faced byMinnesota farmers, and how they adjusted to the changing conditions.


Minnesotafarmers experienced numerous hardships during the 19th century as aresult of the social, economic, and political unrest[CITATION Ken131 p 82 l 1033 ].The Civil War had a paramount impact on farmers as it caused apersistent political disturbance in the region. Farmers expresseddifferent concerns, though the major issue was deteriorating farmproduction. Besides, farmers’ dilemma heightened due to factorssuch as soil exhaustion, lack of sufficient legislative protection,and over production of stable crops among others.

However,farmers joined hands to fight against the widespread farm unrest byforming interest groups, cooperatives, and political parties aimed atprotecting and defending their rights[CITATION Tsa11 p 127 l 1033 ].In the 1860s, The Grange was set up to address issues regarding therailroad and air out farmers’ grievances. Later in the 1870s, theGreenback Party was formed with a core aim of increasing money supplywithin the region hence reducing the cost of credit facilities tofarmers[CITATION Har13 p 92 l 1033 ].The Farmers’ Alliance was set up in the 1880s to engage thegovernment in various agricultural, business, and bankingregulations. Later in the 1890s, the Independent People’s Party wasformed to counteract the supremacy of insensitive Republican andDemocratic political parties.


Ethnicenclaves after the Civil War were a major setback to Minnesotafarmers as over a million of immigrants moved to Minnesota. Increasedpopulation in the area put pressure on farming land, resulting inland disputes. As a result of inefficient technology, Minnesotaagricultural methods and techniques progressed slowly. Before the1860s, Minnesota had no virtual roads or rail connections in most ofthe arable areas[CITATION Ken131 p 85 l 1033 ].Therefore,transportation of farm products would only be possible throughrivers. The lack of transport system posed a great challenge to thedissemination of goods to the market. Later in the 1860s, theconstruction of railroad improved efficiency in transporting farmers’products.


Agriculturalhardships were experienced in every region, though some areasexperienced extreme unrests such as the Northern Prairie and Plainsstates. There was a series of droughts and famine in the Midwesternregion between 1870 and 1900 that led to consistent hardships[CITATION Tsa11 p 69 l 1033 ].The south region of the country experienced a widespread racism thatexcluded most blacks in farm groups hence revolt in the region wasmuted. Racism in the area created a rift between differentethnicities and communities. Adverse impacts of racism were evidencedthrough the formation of farmers unions and organizations to themarketing of produce in the market.


Complaintsfrom farmers were inclined towards the drop in farm prices, resultingin low-income levels. The decline in farm prices was attributed tooverproduction of farm produces. Increased population in the areapushed every household into farming as a means of livelihood[CITATION Har13 p 106 l 1033 ].Increased food production in the market forced prices down hence lowprices. On the other hand, railroads and grain elevators tookadvantage of the farmers through their monopolistic services. Farmersbelieved that government regulations were the solution tomonopolistic carriage services. Improved transport system in the1870s provided farmers a means to disseminate their produce. However,the only efficient available mode of transport took advantage offarmers by charging exorbitant prices.

Increasedinterest rates posed a great challenge to farmers as the cost ofcredit facilities skyrocketed, resulting in a shortage of money. Theprimary cause of money shortage in the economy was the monopolisticfinancial institutions and high deflation rates. As a result, farmersdemanded stable interest rates by proposing a ceiling to theincreased borrowing rates[CITATION Tsa11 p 28 l 1033 ].Lack of money in the market implied that farmers did not have thenecessary resources to start farming.

Harsheconomic conditions experienced in the 1870s put farmers at a risk ofone crop, wheat farming. Failure of the crop would have caused agreat economic panic to the increasing population. As a result,farmers decided to diversify into other farming practices such asdairying, horticulture, poultry, and beef production among others[CITATION Ken131 p 143 l 1033 ].Diversification helped farmers from being wiped out of the market.There were a variety of products in the market and the commodityprices stabilized. The advancement of dairying and diversificationinto other farming practices was facilitated by the government andthe rapid construction of railroads.


Asa result of the heightened hardships and challenges in agriculture,Minnesota farmers had to take initiatives. Farmers formedorganizations and groups to address their issues to the respectivegovernment authorities. For instance, unfavorable agriculturalpolicies and increased interest rates in the country were directedthrough lobbying the government to reconsider a flat borrowing rate.Despite slowed agricultural development in the early 1800s, improvedtechnology in the 1870s resulted in a drastic agriculturalimprovement.


Hareven, Tamara K and Maris A Vinovskis. Family and Population in 19th Century America. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013.

Kennedy, David M and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2013.

Tsakok, Isabelle . Success in Agricultural Transformation: What It Means and What Makes It Happen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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