While a love of agriculture has remained constant among valley farmers, farming methods continuously change through time. As technology advanced, farming became more profitable and less labor intensive. Farmers could plow extra fields, sell more products, and have more time for other jobs. With newer tractors and farming equipment, the market economy came to the farm. While families earned more money from their crops and livestock, they needed loans from banks to pay for the new technology. The local farm emerged from isolation as nationwide food and supply networks developed and dictated the choices of many farmers.
The Cuyahoga Valley's Western Reserve farmers brought farming methods from New England to the frontier. These methods combined earlier European methods, which probably dated back to the Middle Ages, and the agricultural techniques of American Indians on the eastern seaboard. Pioneer farmers made do with a minimum of farm implements, performing much of their work by hand. They sowed seeds by hand, cut hay with a scythe, and cut grain with a cradle or sickle and then bound it by hand.
In the late 1830s and 1840s, Cyrus McCormick and Obed Hussey introduced improved reapers and mowers. In 1837, John Deere invented the first steel plow. It required only one man and a team of horses to operate. Prior to this, farmers used wooden mold-board plows that required three teams of oxen and two men to pull.
Later in the 19th century, with the advent of the railroad and increasing industrialization, farmers developed scientific farming practices, which used knowledge of modern soil and plant science to increase agricultural productivity. With expanding markets in Cleveland and Akron, the availability of new machinery, and potential for increased production through the use of fertilizers, farming became a more lucrative business.
Click the links below to learn about how technological developments changed the lives of Cuyahoga Valley residents.
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Last updated: August 1, 2017