Farm Progress

Looking Back: Within a decade of settlement, farmers discovered that Kansas was good wheat-growing country.

Jacky Goerzen

June 7, 2017

2 Min Read
STILL WHEAT COUNTRY: The experts urging Kansas farmers to plant more wheat in the 19th century would be amazed at a scene like this one from harvest in 2016. And they would be astonished to learn the variety other crops grown in the "wheat state" where corn, soybeans, milo, cotton, sunflowers and canola all flourish.

Kansas had been settled for some 12 or 13 years back in May of 1867, when Kansas Farmer magazine celebrated its fourth birthday and ran a feature article encouraging farmers to plant more wheat since "it has been clearly proved by history of the past that Kansas is good wheat growing country."

The magazine urged a "four- to fivefold increase" in wheat acres and advised that drilling the seed rather than broadcast seeding would produce a more winter-hardy crop. The article also advised washing the seed before planting and this interesting observation: "It is said that the smut can be cured by soaking the seed in a brine or solution of copperas or several other salts."

It would be another four years before the agronomic answer to the best wheat for Kansas arrived with the Russian Mennonites, who brought the seed for Turkey hard red winter wheat with them.

70 years ago
Back in 1947, dairy farmers typically sold their milk directly to consumers, and Olathe View Dairy owner Arthur Jensen had noted a demand from one particular group of his consumers — soldiers returning from World War II. They wanted homogenized milk.

Jensen added a homogenizer with a capacity of 100 to 150 gallons per hour to his operation to meet the demand. His equipment also included two pasteurizing vats, an aerator and an automatic bottling machine.

60 years ago
The latest idea in oil transport back in 1957 was giant "sausages." The idea was to build a "sausage casing" of nylon or plastic and fill it with 58,000 barrels of petroleum. The "sausages" would then be pulled to world markets by tugboats. No word on how that worked out.

50 years ago
The latest in home appliances was the "frost-free" refrigerator, and Cloud County homemaker Judy Doyen was a fan. Judy and her family were featured in a Kansas Electric Co. advertisement. She said that defrosting her old refrigerator was a messy and disagreeable task, and she loved her new frost-free unit. Since rural electric cooperatives had brought power to almost every farm by 1967, more and more farm families could enjoy electric appliances.

30 years ago
Kansas farmers were lining up to use the Conservation Reserve Program back in 1987. The program guidelines showed Kansas having about 6.5 million acres eligible for the program. By the fourth sign-up, Morton and Hamilton counties had already exceeded the maximum limit of 25% of the total acres in the county, and Stanton and Comanche counties were coming close. As of July 1987, Kansas had a total of about 1.43 million acres enrolled in CRP.

Goerzen is executive director of Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, where she lives with her husband, Matt; their four children, three cats and a dog.

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