Monday, March 21, 2011

AgBC's: J is for John Deere

I know...not all tractors and farm equipment are John Deeres....but I was struggling coming up with a J word! No matter what particular brand of tractor farmers use, there's little doubt that production practices, technology and equipment have undergone a massive transformation in the last 100 years!

In the decades before the Civil War—a period sometimes dubbed the First Industrial Revolution—a significant number of inventions and innovations appeared, transforming American life. A telegraph system allowed information to flow from place to place more quickly than the speed of a horse. A transportation system based largely on steam power allowed goods to be shipped great distances at reduced expense. Also of great consequence was the development of the “American system of manufactures”; this system, in which individual workers were responsible for only part of a finished product, helped make store-bought goods more affordable. As a result, people began to buy goods from stores rather than making them—the American consumer was born. 

I recently stumbled across a very cool, in-depth lesson plan looking at the question of whether this time period could be dubbed an industrial revolution or a more gradual change over time.  But the part of this lesson that was most interesting to me looked at the changes in agriculture at that time. Here are some great investigations you and your students can explore together as you learn about this important time period in our nation's history:

Working as a group, ask students to indentify both the essential similarities and differences between the technology of the pre-Civil War period and that of the height of the Industrial Age. The groups can summarize their findings on this chart:

Here are some starting points for them to explore:
These changes have allowed Americans to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world! And these technologies continue to grow and develop today, helping farmers produce more food while protecting the environment as well. In fact, click here to learn more about John Deere's precision farming practices.

This series is inspired by the book The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.

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