Americans are Worried About the Food Chain - Here is How it was Built

Harper’s Weekly depiction of pork processing in Cincinnati in 1873. Library of Congress

2. American farms became self-supporting mini-industries

The small American farm, operated by the family occupying it, became the rule in the decades following the Revolution. Farmers grew crops which fed their family first, selling the remainder to consumers. Grain often went to market in the form of alcoholic beverages; corn became food for hogs, which were driven to slaughter on the hoof. The transportation industry did not have the technology necessary for large shipments to the eastern cities. Reliance on animals for motive power made the shipping of fresh food over distances impossible. Farmers’ markets grew in American cities, where seasonal vegetables arrived from local farms.

American farms became small industrial sites, though most employed few permanently, seeking help during the planting and harvesting seasons. Springhouses, root cellars, and smokehouses became common. America’s emerging farms planted grains for consumption by humans and animals, and corn became the most planted crop in America, a distinction it retains in the 21st century. Corn could be dried and ground into meal, converted to pork or alcohol, or eaten fresh in season. Dried, cracked corn became a staple in rural American larders, and favored by trappers and woodsmen during long hunts.

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