Farming on the Frontier

Time Frame: 1800's

Prairie soil was rich, but tough. In the 1800s oxen plowed up the soil dense with roots of native prairie grasses.
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“The Prairie Pioneers,” The Iowa Heritage: Program # 4, Iowa Public Television, 1977.

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While the Iowa frontier had its hardships and disasters, farmers were optimistic about its agricultural potential. Here was a soil rich in minerals and decayed vegetation left by the glaciers.

Hoa, Git up…

Prairie soil had been untouched for thousands of years and it was very tough. A razor-sharp breaking plow had to be pulled through the field by a team of oxen. Only a few acres of land were broken that first season. Crops sewn in the newly broken prairie were called sod crops: corn, potatoes, crops needing little care or cultivation. And while the settlers waited for the first season’s crops to come up, they traded with neighbors for food and supplies. Many of the newcomers work for their neighbors that first few years until they could become self-sufficient.


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