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

Chapter V: The size of farms and estates,   pp. 185-191 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 187

but not so much can be said of the larger ones. Here we have a
group from one to five hundred acres inclusive, and in 1890
nearly three-fifths of the farms in Dane county fell within these
lhmits, but it signifies next to nothing beyond the bare fact that
farms had on the average increased in size. Within these wide
limits are comprised the hundred-acre farms which are by no
means few, the hundred-twenty-acre, the hundred-sixty, the two-
hundred, and the two-hundred-forty acre farms all of which
are commonly met with, not to mention the half-sections
which appear in every township. All of these are dumped
promiscuously together as though it were of but slight conse-
quence what changes happened so long as the acreage remained
above the hundred mark, yet the average for the year i890 was
one hundred twenty-four acres; thus the major part of all farms
are, so far as classification is concerned, within this wholesale
grouping. However, there are a few above and below these
limits that reveal some general tendencies. For example, there
were four farms above five hundred acres in I86o; in i870 these
had disappeared; in I88o there were forty-three of the size men-
tioned, while in i890 they had dropped to twenty-eight. Turn-
ing to the other end of the list we find the number of farms of
twenty acres and less decreasing until i88o and then increasing
some twenty-five per cent. by i890. These results are not beyond
explanation. The small farms were not suitable to wheat culture
and especially when that crop began to fail these little farmers got
rid of their few acres as best they could and went farther west or
gave up farming altogether. With the advent of the tobacco
industrv the small farm was given a new lease of life, and odd
scraps, or even portions of large farms were brought up and
turned into tobacco farms. It is not so easy to speak definitely
regarding the unusually large tracts.
  As stated, there were four farms of over five hundred acres in
i86o. The number is small at most, and part of these consisted
of poor, undesirable land which had hardly advanced beyond gov-
ernment price. The lack of any further tendency toward con-
centration in ownership is of more consequence than the mere dis-
appearance of these four large pieces by i870.
  As explained in another connection the value of land failed to
respond to the general rise in prices during the period of green-
back inflation, and hence was not a favorite object of investment,

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