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 Hog FarmAgriculture


Hoosiers began farming in the early 1800s, soon after discovering how rich the soil was for planting. Forests were cleared and farmers sought profit by planting corn and wheat and eventually raising cattle, oxen, horses and swine.

Farming was the major cause of deforestation in Indiana in the 1800s, as the land was cleared one tree at a time. Out of the twenty-three million acres of natural land, six million acres were destroyed for farmland. Pioneers farmers used axes to cut down trees three feet or more in diameter, but for very large trees—up to ten feet in diameter—they used a technique called "girdling." That is, they removed a ring of bark, causing the tree to die. With no leaves blocking the sun, the soil could be planted.

Cropland in Indiana is increasing but farmers are fighting to keep the growth steady. Because of urban sprawl, farmers are facing the problem of people wanting to move from the city to the county. This causes farmland to be used for subdivisions, shopping centers, and other industrial uses. By 2002, the rapid population growth and need for more housing developments had created a huge problem for farmers who are trying to plant and raise livestock. Although urban sprawl is not a new problem, farmers are still suffering from this predicament.

In addition to urban sprawl, farmers face the difficulty of keeping their farmland when soil erosion happens. Soil erosion causes the soil to lose its nutrients and makes the land unfit to farm on. To avoid this problem, most farmers transform the land with heavy slopes, which are in danger of soil erosion, into pasture for their livestock. Additionally they rotate crops, to keep the nutrients in the soil and make sure the land will always be useful for crops.

At present, Indiana remains a major producer of crops. Indiana is the fifth largest producer of corn in the United States. Corn is still used primarily for feeding livestock, as it was during the 1800s. Wheat also continues to be a major source of income. In pioneer times, wheat was much easier to farm because it did not require as much intense cultivation as corn. Presently, wheat has dropped to the number three slot in crop production and soybeans have taken its place as the second largest produced crop in Indiana.

Some of the environmental issues that farmers face in 2002 are biological, chemical, and nutrient runoff. E. coli contamination, a result of biological runoff, arises from poor manure management planning and is most often associated with large "factory" farms. When manure from farms pollutes lakes and rivers, little can be done once the water is polluted with E. coli. Water treatment can be a partial solution, but a very expensive one.

When farmers treat their crops with pesticides to prevent insects from destroying their crops, chemical runoff becomes an issue. Although DDT, perhaps the most notorious of all pesticides to be used in the United States, was outlawed in 1972, other pesticides even more toxic have come onto the market. In 1995, according to the National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform, 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides were used in U.S. agriculture. The good news is that new pesticides are becoming available that lose their toxicity over time, but newer pesticides tend to be more expensive as well. Ultimately, the potential danger of pesticide runoff is determined by the farmer who controls the land.

Although crops are a primary focus in Indiana, livestock is also a very important part of Indiana’s agriculture. Around the 1850s, farmers discovered the profit swine could bring them. Pigs were an excellent source of meat and provided lard. Swine are a large part of farming because their white meat is healthier than beef. However, cattle remain a major part of farming, not only because of their beef, but also because of their milk.

Indiana’s agriculture has come a long way from the nineteenth century, but farmers continue to have the same worries and values as farmers from the past. The worry of floods, the right seeds to plant and the health of both the land and their animals are constant worries to farmers.


Brunswick, Kenneth. Telephone interview. 21 November 2002.

Conner Praire. "Indiana Farming: Yesterday and Today.” 21 October 2002 <http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/indag.html>.

Gore, Al. Introduction. Silent Spring. Rachel Carson. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994: xv-xxvi.

Madison, James. H. The Indiana Way: A State History. Bloomington: IU Press, 1986.

State of Indiana. Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture. “Indiana Agriculture.” 13 October 2002 <http://www.in.gov/oca>.