Green Acres: A History of Farming in America


“Gift for the Grangers” [Detail], c1873. From the Library of Congress.

“Gift for the Grangers” [Detail], c1873. From the Library of Congress.

With the fate of the mighty “Farm Bill” still unclear, the American History Guys take a look at how farmers became such powerful players in American politics, and American life.

In the 18th Century, Thomas Jefferson saw farmers as ideal citizens, whose agricultural lifestyle would uphold a virtuous republic. Just 2% of Americans live on farms today, however, yet the republic persists – however virtuous – and farmers still loom large in the national consciousness.

In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Brian, and Ed consider why the ideal of the self-sufficient, independent American farmer is still so powerful – even as the reality has changed dramatically – and who has invoked that ideal over time. From railroad companies to anti-imperialists, the image of the “yeoman farmer” has served many different ends over the years, and served to anchor one of the most successful government lobbies in history.

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