On the Porch

The history of farming in Minnesota from 1850 to the mid-20th Century can be divided into three periods. From 1850-1870, farmers engaged in subsistence farming, which means that farmers were just getting established on their new land. From about 1870 to 1895, most farmers put nearly all their crop land into wheat. Lastly, from 1895 to the mid-20th Century, farmers engaged in diversified farming when dairying and raising cattle, hogs, and poultry along with feed for them became major activities. Although, farmers engaged in diversified farming from 1895 to the mid-20th Century, wheat was a major cash crop in much of Minnesota during this time. Today, corn and soybeans are prominent in many areas in the state.

Minnesota farmers started planting wheat during the territorial days of the early 1850s. They also cultivated corn, oats, and produce, but wheat was their cash crop. By 1870, small mills scattered around the state supplied flour to local markets. The number of Minnesota mills grew rapidly. Wheat was king in Minnesota from the 1880s to about 1920. It was shipped by train and boat to markets all over the United States and Europe. Minneapolis was known as “Mill City,” producing more flour than any other city in the world. The early mills, General Mills and Pillsbury, evolved into multinational conglomerates.

During the same period that Minneapolis was the “Mill City,” Lyon County farmers were engaged in wheat farming and were producing large yields for the mills. The photograph this week is the Marshall Milling Company, which was located where Turkey Valley Farms is today. The company, which was founded in 1889, was a large shipping and processing point for local farm products in Lyon County. In 1919, the company had 125 employees, and could grind 2,200 barrels of wheat flour a day, and 800 barrels of corn and cereal. Its brands, such as “Best Girl,” were sold throughout the region.

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