Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
HOMES ON THE PRAIRIE

HOME
FILM AND MORE
HOMES ON THE PRAIRIE
LITERARY CONNECTION
VIRTUAL FARMHOUSE
A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
RESOURCES

The Prairie Early Settlement The Great Wave Who Came What They Farmed, Dreamed
Trees to the Prairie The Balloon Frame The L Wheat Boom, Bust Death of the Dream

What they farmed/What they dreamed

Family Eating

Piano

Those who came to the prairie were not simply yeoman farmers. They wanted a little more than to merely subsist on the land and be good Jeffersonian citizens. They grew wheat, a cash crop that could be raised quickly, and turn a decent profit if it weren't eaten by plagues of grasshoppers (as it was for four straight summers in the early 1870s); or if the railroads didn't charge exorbitant fees for hauling grain to market; or if hail or drought didn't wreck the fields.

Investors in Europe and the eastern United States also recognized the possibilities for turning the western prairie into a giant breadbasket, and sunk money into huge "bonanza" wheat farms in the Dakotas and the western reaches of Minnesota. These forerunners to modern agribusinesses cultivated thousands acres of wheat in fields that stretched, just as the prairie once had, as far as the eye could see.

For most of the newcomers to the western prairie, however, the farms were modest, and so were the dreams. These immigrants wanted a piece of property. They wanted to grow things. They wanted to make a little extra for a piano or a family Bible or some lace. They were glad to have left old class systems and hoped not to settle into new ones in this country.

NEXT: Trees to the Prairie


---
HOME FILM AND MORE HOMES ON THE PRAIRIE LITERARY CONNECTION VIRTUAL FARMHOUSE A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE RESOURCES
Death of the Dream