Image of wheat


Excerpt from: The Family Farm and the Economy in the Late 1800s — A Learning Experience Using Document-Based Questions

Written by: Beth Dunn, Black River Elementary School, Black River, NY and Kay Staplin, Somers Intermediate School, Mt. Kisco, NY, July 2000 with assistance from: David Lewis and Stacy Ward, Manager State Wide Programs New York State Historical Association and Patrick Peterson, Director Holland Patent Teaching and Learning Center

Historical Context
Throughout the 1800s the Wedderspoon family were farmers in Otsego County, New York. The typical farm family consisted of parents, grandparents, children, and hired workers such as farm laborers and domestic laborers. Everyone had a job in the running of the farm.

Most farmers at this time had large farms consisting of many acres. Some of the New York crops were corn, wheat, maple syrup, apples, potatoes, and hops. The average farmer raised animals such as beef cattle, milking cows, sheep, oxen, and pigs.

A major cash crop on farms during the nineteenth century was hops. Hops are a major ingredient in the production of beer. By 1880, 80% of the United States production of hops was grown in New York. The farmer hired local people to harvest (pick) the crop. The farm family spent the money from hops on goods at the local store such as medicine, candy, and fancy clothes.

Using information from the documents, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Consider how the late 1800s farm family contributed to the local and national economy.
  • Identify and explain the makeup of the farm household (family members and other people who live on the farm).
  • Explain how hops provided a cash crop for farmers.