Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Timeline of Changes in Vermont Agriculture

Ceres, the Goddess of Agriculture
sits atop the golden dome
of the Vermont Statehouse

Sources:  Migration from Vermont by Prof. Lewis D. Stilwell, published as Vol.V. No 2, N.S., Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, and to Rural Vermont, the report of the Vermont Commission on Country Life 1931.  Information from the Vermont Yearbooks of Agriculture.

Period 1791-1808-Transition from settlement clearings to farms.  Crops and livestock chiefly for family use, with some export of wheat and beef.  Boom days in migration to the state.

1792-The horse Justin Morgan, forebear of the great Morgan breed, brought to Randolph from West Springfield, Massachusetts by the owner whose name he came to bear.

Period 1808-1820-Beginning of commercial sheep raising.  Banner years for wheat crop, with yields running to 40 bushels per acre.

1811-Spanish Merino sheep brought to Weathersfield by William Jarvis, Consul General to Portugal from the United States.

1814-Wheat, $3.00 per bushel.

1816-"Cold Season," "Eighteen-hundred and froze to death"-Practically no crops.

1819-Four county agricultural societies organized.

Period 1820-1845-Great days of sheep industry in Vermont.  Saxony Merinos introduced.  Horse breeding flourishes.  Black Hawk, Messenger, Hambletonian, as well as original Morgan strains, make equine history.  Introduction of iron plow and other improved equipment.  Decline of wheat production.  Potatoes used for starch and whiskey.

1820-Soils begin to show need of rebuilding.

1822-Opening of Champlain canal connecting Lake Champlain with Hudson River provides outlet for Vermont butter, cheese and lumber to New York City and intermediate points.

1824-1825-Hessian fly causes great damage to grain, followed by disastrous grasshopper outbreak.

1840-Sheep number 1,681,819, all time high for the state.  Had increased from 495,000 in 1830.

Period 1845-1870-Heavy decline in sheep raising for wool.  Interest in breeding pedigreed stock.  Blooded animals shipped to Argentine, Australia, and other far points.  General mixed farming.  Building of railroads opens wider markets, cuts transportation costs on products, and raises value of farms along lines.

1846-Removal of protective tariff on fine wood cuts price to 25c per pound.

1849-1849-More than one third of sheep slaughtered or sold out of state.

1850-About ten fold increase in butter and cheese shown by census as compared to 1840 figure.  Beginning of "Butter era."

1845-1870-Dairy cattle displacing cattle raised for beef.

Period 1870-1900-Heyday of butter production in Vermont.  Large potato acreages, and varietal improvements.  Home apple orchards.  Maple sugar rises from status of home use commodity of less cash value than cane sugar to that of marketable delicacy.  Improvements in commercial fertilizers.  Rise of the agricultural fairs and associations.

1871-First Grange in New England organized in St. Johnsbury, July 4th.

1872-State Board of Agriculture established, State Grange organized, and Vermont Dairymen's Association organized (first in U.S.).

1875-1878-Green Mountain potato originated by Alexander at Charlotte.  Other important varieties originated in Vermont during period were the Snowflake, Delaware, Improved Peachblow and Gold Coin.

1877-Peak in Vermont potato production.  47,000 acres.

1880-Rapid development begins in creamery manufacture of butter.  St. Albans great butter center of country.  "Butter trains to Boston."   Note first butter train by Vt. Central Railroad began running with ice, once each week between St. Albans and Boston in 1854.

1886-State law passed creating Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station based upon recommendation of State Board of Agriculture. Note statement from State Board of Agriculture on need for such a Station.  "These Stations have proved of so much value in Europe, and similar institutions have done such satisfactory work in our own country, that is has seemed exceedingly desirable that the State of Vermont having agricultural industries somewhat peculiar to herself, should accept the advantages which such a Station promises."

1892-First four year student in agriculture graduated from University of Vermont and Vermont College of Agriculture which was established as result of Land Grant College Act sponsored by U.S. Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont in 1862.

1899-First farmer cooperative creamery established in Shelburne, Vermont.

Period 1900-1920-Transition from butter and cheese to fluid milk marketing.  Developing of educational and regulatory work in agriculture.  Trend toward specialized farming.  Large commercial apple orchards planted.  Beginning of motorized farming.

1902-Legislature creates Board of Cattle Commissioners; changed in 1906 to one cattle commissioner; in 1912 to Livestock Commissioner.

1908-Office of Commissioner of Agriculture set up in lieu of Board of Agriculture.

1910-Act passed creating Vermont State School of Agriculture, Randolph Center.
Note:  T.G. Bronson of Hardwick, Vermont, and a noted Jersey breeder and Chair of the House Agriculture Committee in 1910 was father of bill creating State School of Agriculture in Randolph.

1913-Extension Service of University of Vermont and State College of Agriculture established, with country agent system.

1914-Certification of seed potatoes begins in Vermont under Commissioner of Agriculture.

1916-"Leased Car" decision of Interstate Commerce Commission gives more favorable freight rates to Vermont dairymen shipping to Boston.  Strong impetus to fluid milk sale.
Note: before this decision rates from Chicago to Boston were cheaper than from Vermont to Boston.

1917-Commissioner of Agriculture made also Livestock Commissioner.

1917-Testing of cattle for bovine tuberculosis begins on basis of cooperation between state and federal governments and owners. 
Smith-Hughes Act increases agricultural teaching in High schools.

Period 1920-1941-Continued expansion of fluid milk industry.  Cooperative dairy organizations as bargaining agencies and many cooperative creameries build.  Improvement in sanitary regulations.  Development of large poultry and turkey farms. With flocks of many thousand birds.  Maple products on high plane.  Improvement in marketing through establishment of grades and standards for farm products.

1920-State Farm Bureau organized.

1927-Division of Markets established.

1927-Great flood, November 3rd, causes tremendous loss to land, buildings and livestock.

1936-Vermont declared modified accredited state by U.S. Department of Agriculture in bovine tuberculosis control program.

1938-Hurricane September 21st, sweeps down thousands of sugar maples and damages buildings.

1 comment:

  1. Roger, nice timeline! I'm glad you mentioned "eighteen-hundred and froze to death" (1816). Most of Vermont suffered killing frosts in every month of that year. Cabot reported a foot of snow in June. Indeed much of the globe suffered cold and unusual weather. The cause is thought to have been a series of volcanic eruptions beginning in 1812 and culminating with the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. It may also be relevant that this was a period of low sunspot activity known as the Dalton Minimum.

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