Agriculture on the Border


Context

Farming, cultivating crops, and nurturing animals to provide essentials for human life, agriculture allows us to study society through the ways its members worked the land. Known for their large plantations, the Southern United States both before and during the Civil War focused their attention towards cash crops such as cotton, rice, sugar, tobacco, and indigo.

Located in the Ohio River Valley, Kentucky did not support as many large plantations as states in the Deep South. Kentucky farmers raised hemp, working livestock, meat animals, wool, and tobacco for export outside the state and corn and wheat for internal consumption. Kentucky agriculture was deeply tied to and invested in slavery. Although slaveholdings were smaller on average than elsewhere in the South, a larger percentage of Kentucky households participated in the institution than in most of the region. 

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Primary Sources

  1. J. M. MILLS, J. S. HAYES, AND J. H. GARRARD, REPOR
  2. T. J. MCGIBBEN TO J. G. FOSTER
  3. J. B. BOWMAN ET AL. TO THOMAS E. BRAMLETTE

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Big Picture Questions

  • Why were some crops restricted during wartime?
  • Why is there an increase in one crop while there is a decrease in another?
  • How do these agricultural wartime decisions impact Kentucky long-term? 

Activities

  • Close Reading: Have students choose one of the primary sources to complete a close reading activity.
  • Farmville: Select four agricultural crops, design your farm, plan your day and rationalize your choices.

Secondary Resources

  • Food, Farming, and the Domestic Economy in Kentucky
  • Ellen Eslinger. 2009. “Farming on the Kentucky Frontier.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 107 (1): 3–32.
  • Karl B. Raitz and Nancy O'Malley. 2012. Kentucky's Frontier Highway: Historical Landscapes along the Maysville Road. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.