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Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin

Chapter I: Transition from simple to complex agriculture,   pp. [145]-148 PDF (756.5 KB)

Page 147

time was flax. The first of any importance raised in the county
was in 1851, and had the flattering results of the experiment
proved to be the rule, the distinctively wheat period would, no
doubt, have terminated soon after that date.38 Coming as it did,
at a time when wheat had been for several years a failure, it is no
wonder an innovation of this kind should be taken seriously. At
this time the main plan was to manufacture linseed oil and thus
effect a big saving in freight.-7 There were several reasons why
flax could not gain permanently in favor. In the first place, it
would not flourish on impoverished or foul land, yet this was the
only place there was to put it except on newly broken soil,
which usually did well in wheat. Again, the average yield of flax
was small, and finally it was believed to be peculiarly exhausting
to the soil. On the other hand, the vield and price of wheat were
just on the eve of an advance, and the flax project was soon for-
gotten, until in the '6o's when the high price of cotton cloth
brought it forward again as a possible solution to the question of
cheaper clothing; the amount produced however was insignificant.
  Hemp was another exotic which came in with war-time prices
and in i865 something over eight thousand pounds of fibre were
produced in Dane county.
  AMore important than any of the foregoing changes was the
impetus given to wool production. Before i86o the number of
sheep kept had suffered a decline; now within four years there
was a fourfold increase. In view of the good prices of wool and
mutton, the pastures and meadows required for feeding the
sheep, and the utility of this animal in ridding a farm of weeds
and adding to the fertility of the soil, the increase in sheep raising
may be counted as one of the first permanently helpful incidents
of the wheat period.
  It should also be noticed that the better prices for barley and
oats, the need of corn for feeding the increasing numbers of farm
animals, and the room given to the new crops above enumerated,
though of small significance taken separately, had in the aggre-
gate made a perceptible reduction in the acreage sown to wheat,
and thus perforce introduced a system, though an imperfect one,
of rotation.
361Viseo/nnin Expres#. March 4. 1852.
nWisconsin Express, March 18, 1852.

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