Monday, March 24, 2014

Dear friends and neighbors,

I come from a family of Midwestern farmers. When I joined the team at Historic Wagner Farm, I felt at home in many ways. The culture, the personalities, the people - it was all familiar to me in the way an old friend you haven't seen in many years is familiar. Growing up surrounded by farm culture, it was a surprise to me how much my work at the Farm has taught me about the impact agriculture has had in developing our local communities.

Take the Golden Age of Agriculture as an example. The first two decades of the twentieth century were a period of incredible growth and prosperity for farmers and rural communities in America. Over this 20-year time period, the value of an average farm more than tripled and farmer incomes increased by 40 percent.

Between 1900 and 1920, the American population was growing faster than agricultural production, which drove prices up for farm-fresh goods. This explains a portion of the increase in agricultural prosperity, but this trend in population growth was not true in America alone. While exports during this time period did not change significantly in volume, their value more than quadrupled in the world market.

With this boost of prosperity came a boost in consumerism and community development. Farmers and their families invested in new machinery and new decor and entertainment for the home. They bought cars and telephones and tractors. They invested money back into their local infrastructure, building roads, schools and churches.

Glenview saw prosperity and growth during the early twentieth century, transforming from a crossroad to a town. Gasoline street lamps were installed, holding just enough gas to burn overnight. The roadways, once muddy trails, became gravel then pavement in 1913. Sewer systems were installed in 1916, bringing a public utility water system and increased access to indoor plumbing for local residents. A volunteer fire company was established, a fire house was built and equipment was procured to protect local citizens. Resources were poured into the local schools, which soon saw additions and improvements to their classrooms.

It's hard to imagine Glenview at the turn of the century, with its gaslight street lamps and dirt roads. But it is amazing to think about the ways in which agriculture and our local famers played a role in building the Glenview we know and love today.

Until next time,