During the late 1800s, dairy farmers in Minnesota and other states faced what they considered a serious and immediate threat to their livelihoods: the growing popularity of a butter substitute called oleomargarine. For nearly a century, the dairy industry and its legislative allies waged a series of campaigns to prohibit or limit the manufacture and sale of margarine. No state retained its anti-margarine laws longer than Minnesota.
Minnesota farmers were active in building the National Farmers Organization (NFO), a populist farm group dedicated to strengthening family farmers’ economic well-being. Unlike other farm groups on both the right (the Farm Bureau) and the left (the Farmers’ Union), the NFO during the 1960s focused on direct economic action.
Exploited by powerful corporate and political interests in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Midwestern farmers banded together in the early twentieth century to fight for their political and economic rights. Farmers formed the Nonpartisan League (NPL) and wrote a significant chapter of Minnesota's progressive-era history.
With its lavishly illustrated seed catalogs and store displays, Northrup, King and Company became a household name at the turn of the twentieth century. The company sold hardy, Northern-grown garden seed before expanding into Northern field seed and plant hybrids.
Patented in 1915, the ensilage harvester improved on standard practices for harvesting and storing crops, and streamlined farm work. Its basic design, largely unmodified, is still used by agricultural implement companies worldwide.
From the time of statehood into the early 1900s, Minnesota's climate discouraged the growing of corn. Many immigrants from Northern Europe disbelieved the skeptics and set out to prove them wrong by developing special varieties of seed capable of growing corn in cold conditions. They were successful, and by the late 1930s, Minnesota had become one of the leading corn-producing states.
For almost 150 years, the State Grange of Minnesota as an organization has thrived, faded, and regrouped in its efforts to provide farmers and their families with a unified voice. As the number of people directly engaged in farming has declined, the State Grange has shifted its focus toward recruiting a new type of member—often younger—interested in safe, healthy, and sustainable food sources.
Before burning to the ground in 2011, the Swany White Flour Mill was the last remaining 19th century mill in use in Minnesota. Located in Freeport, the mill produced white flour, mixes, and other grain products for more than a century. It was a local landmark and was a frequent stop for people interested in the history of milling and bread baking.
Founded in 1882, the Farmer grew from a small publication produced by Edward A. Webb and his wife to a large magazine with a circulation of over 175,000. For over one hundred years, it was published by the Webb Company in St. Paul.
When Congress enacted the Timber Culture Act of 1873, many hoped that giving settlers deed to public lands in return for growing trees would reshape the environment of the West. However, legal loopholes meant that most of the tree claims filed under the Timber Culture Act were never planted with trees. Fraudulent claims and wild speculation meant that the act was repealed less than twenty years after it was enacted.
The University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension Service was the first state agency to respond to the urgent food conservation needs of World War I. Extension director Archie Dell (A. D.) Wilson and other staff worked throughout the war to provide guidance, information, persuasion, and recipes to farmers and homemakers across Minnesota. Their efforts helped preserve the food that would win the “war to end all wars.”
The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the state's largest, most diverse and complete horticultural site. The grounds have more than five thousand types of plants, including fruits, vegetables, bushes and flowers. Located about twenty miles west of the Twin Cities, it is a significant horticultural resource.