The end of the 1920’s – one of the most prosperous decades in our nation’s history – saw the beginnings of the dark days that would become known as The Great Depression.
Depression. Hoping to get rich quick, people invested heavily in the stock market – often with money they didn’t have. Business owners refused to increase wages, forcing workers to cut personal spending to make ends meet. Ultimately, businesses couldn’t afford to sell their products because people couldn’t afford to buy them. Businesses failed, including many banks. Many people lost everything. It was a vicious cycle. And when it rained … it poured. Except that it didn’t.
Drought. The economic depression that culminated with the crash of the stock market in 1929, was made even worse because it was followed by one of the longest and hardest droughts in recorded history.
Disaster. With no rain, farmers couldn’t grow any crops. Without crops to prevent soil erosion, the wind blew bare soil high into the air creating dust storms in the Plains states – known as the Dust Bowl. Farmers, already struggling due to a depressed economy, were forced to give up and move away from their family farms.
Dealing. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was convinced that the return of national prosperity was linked to the recovery of our country’s farming community, so many of the “alphabet agencies” created by the New Deal were directed at farmers. Programs were developed to teach farmers about irrigation and how to conserve the soil. Other programs paid farmers to plant less of certain crops or not to plant at all. Scientists developed seed varieties designed specifically to grow in dry weather. And, throughout the 1930’s, new machinery was developed that revolutionized the industry. Finally, in 1940 – following a decade of darkness – our country began to see the dawn of a new day – a rebirth that signaled the start of a new era of ideology and technology that forever changed the face of agriculture.