Kelley, Oliver Hudson (1826–1913)

Oliver Hudson Kelley was a "book farmer," a man who had learned what he knew about agriculture from reading rather than from direct experience. In 1867, he helped found the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the nation's largest agricultural fraternity.

King Wheat in Southeastern Minnesota

Minnesota's southeastern counties held a commanding position during the second half of the nineteenth century, considered the state's King Wheat era. In these decades, many farmers throughout the state grew wheat in preference to all other crops.

How Agriculture Has Shaped the State

Land, Labor, the Market, and Politics

Expert Essay: Associate professor of history Jeff Kolnick looks at agriculture through several lenses and offers his view on its overall impact on Minnesota, past and present.

Liberty Gardens, 1917–1919

On April 12, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called upon Americans on the home front to help fight what would become known as World War I. In response, many Minnesotans turned to backyard gardening to increase their food supply. Homegrown vegetables filled pantries and stomachs and allowed “citizen soldiers” to conserve wheat, meat, sugar, and fats that were essential for U.S. troops and their European allies.

Lincoln Mill, Anoka

In 1880, two Minneapolis businessmen built the Lincoln Flouring Mill in Anoka, Minnesota. The Lincoln Mill became one the largest country flour mills in the state, surviving until 1939 in spite of catastrophes like the Anoka fire of 1884.

Minnesota Machinery Museum

When Hanley Falls School closed in the late 1970s, a few local residents saw an opportunity. Committed to sharing the history of their community, they transformed the white, two-story building on the town square into the Minnesota Machinery Museum. Since 1980, the museum has collected vintage farm equipment and created exhibits celebrating the history and agricultural tradition of Yellow Medicine County.

Minnesota State Fair, 1917

Since its founding in 1859, the Minnesota State Fair had been an essential yearly tradition in the agricultural state. However, after the United States entered World War I in 1917, the fair took on an entirely new significance. Organizers reframed the event as a “Food Training Camp” that showed Minnesotans how to produce and conserve resources vital to the Allied war effort.

Minnesota State Fair: Origins and Traditions

The Minnesota State Fair is a yearly celebration of agriculture, crafts, food, and community. In the twenty-first century, nearly 1.8 million people attend the twelve-day event every year, making it the second-largest state fair in the nation. The gathering is a Minnesota tradition that has more than earned its nickname, "The Great Minnesota Get-Together."

Minnesota State Horticultural Society

The year 2016 marked the 150th anniversary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. In its early years, the society was a small, male-dominated organization focused on fruit production. Its mission shifted to become more educational as members taught each other, and the public, how to use plants to enhance their environments.

Minnesota’s Margarine Battles, 1885–1975

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.

Murray County Fair

The first Murray County Fair was held in 1880. From 1884 through 1898 there were rival fairs, one in Currie and one in Slayton. Each claimed to be the official county fair, but both were discontinued at the turn of the century. In 1912 the Murray County Fair returned and has been held annually (with two exceptions) since that year.

NFO Holding Actions in 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.

Nonpartisan League

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.

Northrup, King and Company

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.

Northwest Experiment Station

In 1895, on land provided by James J. Hill, the Northwest Experiment Station was founded to maximize the agricultural potential of the Red River Valley. Through many changes in the business of farming, the experimental farm continued to provide data on the most effective and efficient crops, livestock, and farming methods in the fertile land around Crookston. The facility was renamed Northwest Research and Outreach Center in 1999.

Origins of the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA), 1905–1940

By the late 1890s, bonanza farming had stopped bringing good incomes to large landowners. Immigrants who arrived in northwestern Minnesota learned quickly that the Red River Valley soil was some of the richest in the state. An experiment station was started in 1895 that led to the founding of a boarding high school to train young people to work on farms as farmers and homemakers.

Origins of the University of Minnesota Extension Service

The Agricultural Extension Service of the United States (AES) began as an educational component of land-grant universities. In Minnesota as in other states, the federally funded and organized services of AES provide practical agricultural training to people outside of a university setting.

Parkin, Arthur W. (1872–1963)

Cheese making in Minnesota took a backseat to milk and butter production during the nineteenth century. In the early 1900s, Arthur Parkin of Pine Island changed that picture.

Pest Management in Minnesota Agriculture

Insect pests have harmed harvests in Minnesota country since European immigrants first arrived in the area. Most local farmers, however, did not actively manage pests. Instead, they planned for the risk of losing some of their crop. It took both huge losses from the late 1800s grasshopper plagues and the industrialization of agriculture for Minnesota’s government to invest in pest management methods.

Peterson, Andrew (1818–1898)

Andrew Peterson was born Anders Petterson on October 20, 1818, on a farm in Sjöarp, Västra Ryd, Östergötland, Sweden. His family had financial ties to the church, so he and his brother received a better education than many farmers of the time. He had interests in music, and experimental agricultural and farm techniques.

Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture is a farming method that uses the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), sensors on the ground, and drones in the air to study individual farm fields. With these tools, farmers can fine-tune their approaches to planting, harvesting, and maintaining crops to save themselves time and money. Minnesota farmers have used the technology since the early 1990s to improve crop yields while protecting the health of their soil.

Ronning Ensilage Harvester

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.

Rural Electrification Administration in Minnesota

On May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 to create the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a New Deal public relief program. The program provided $1 million for federal loans to bring electric service to rural areas. It revolutionized life in rural Minnesota and across the country.

Seed Corn

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.

State Grange of Minnesota

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.