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article number 378
article date 09-16-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
You Grew a Big Variety of Crops, Missouri Farming 1904 Part 2
by Walter Williams

EDITORS NOTE: While we certainly give our author kudos for assembling a book which now gives us a very informative history of Missouri, his writing style could turn away modern readers unless they are forewarned. Our author gloats and is repetitive in his book, commissioned by the State of Missouri for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The reader will get though the bragging and find very interesting discoveries about what crops we farmed and where we farmed them.

Corn is the world’s greatest cereal. No other-crop Is to be compared with it in the quantity and quality of feed that may be grown per acre. In cheapness of production and convenience in handling it surpasses all other crops to even a greater extent. A State well adapted to corn will always have a prosperous and progressive agriculture.

Such a State becomes a great feed yard and from it is drawn the world’s supply of high class horses, mules, cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, butter, cheese, milk, etc. These are the highest types of farming and attract the most intelligent classes of people.

Missouri grew last year 314 million bushels of corn on 7.7 million acres. This crop was worth on the farm approximately $100 million. This was practically one-eighth of all the corn produced in the United States and more than one-tenth of the corn produced in the whole world.

The rivalry between the States of Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa for permanent supremacy in corn growing will ultimately result in Missouri’s favor on account of the large area of new land that is being rapidly brought into cultivation.

In no other country can corn be grown more cheaply than on the undulating prairies and the level and extensive river bottoms of Missouri. In portions of the Slate one man with six horses does the work required in planting and cultivating 160 acres of corn.

One man with a two-row lister will plow and plant 20 acres per day. By means of a double-row cultivator the same area may be tilled each day. This reduces the cost of growing corn to a point never before attempted, and marks a new epoch in the application of machinery to modern agricultural practice.


Another advantage in favor of Missouri is the fact that corn is ordinarily mature enough to store in large quantities by the middle of October in southern Missouri and by the first to the tenth of November in the northern part of the State. This gives the farmer the crisp, pleasant Indian Summer months in which to harvest and store his crop, and obviates the necessity of hiring help to garner what he has been able to grow.

As an Illustration of the possibilities in this direction on the deep, rich, loamy soil of Missouri, three boys, aged 9, 16 and 18 years respectively, prepared the ground, planted and cultivated 540 acres in corn in 1902, from which they sold 34,621 bushels of shelled corn.

Under the contract with the owner of the land, they were to receive 12 cents per bushel for their crop and the crop brought $4,154.52. This return for one season’s work was enough to give to each of these boys a University education. This crop at 35 cents per bushel would have brought $12,057.35 or an average of $4,019.11 for each boy.


The largest corn farm in the world is in Missouri. Here an estate covering over forty square miles and containing nearly 30,000 acres is owned and operated by David Rankin, of Atchison county, whose start in life was a yoke of oxen and a rudely-shaped plow. Missouri corn and cattle have made him a millionaire.

On this farm this year more than a million and a half bushels of corn were grown. This equals the combined corn crop of the states of Utah, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Rhode Island, Wyoming and Nevada. This crop is annually augmented by the purchase of from one-half to three-fourths of a million bushels, all of which is fed to live stock on this farm.

Twenty-five hundred bushels are required for seed to plant this great corn field. Here oftentimes more than $100 worth of corn is fed to stock every hour. Four thousand bushels are fed daily to 6,000 cattle and 20,000 hogs. Often ten to fifteen thousand cattle are purchased at a time and made in a single shipment to this farm on which the freight alone amounts to as much as $25,000.

To plant and cultivate this crop requires an investment of nearly $50,000 in machinery. In every operation each man cares for two rows at a time. The lister tinder the operation of one man plows and plants two rows and covers 20 acres per day. The cultivators till two rows at a time and average from 16 to 20 acres daily per man.

On this farm 1,000 acres of land are often plowed and planted to corn in a single day. During the cultivating season from 1,000 to 1,200 acres are cultivated daily. Each man does the work connected with the planting and cultivating of from 160 to 180 acres, even including the shelling of the seed corn.

Here corn is grown cheaper than it can be harvested even with the most modern harvesting machinery. So called “Kings of the corn pit” are made and unmade in a single day, but a modest Missouri farmer is the real Corn King, whether the “Bulls or Bears” are in the ascendency, producing more corn than any other farmer in the world and feeding the largest number of cattle and hogs of any individual.


Henry Senden, of St. Charles, grew last year 132 bushels of shelled corn per acre on 12 acres of land. One third of this crop, the annual rental paid, amounted to $18.24 per acre. This year the same land produced 90 bushels per acre, yielding a rental of $12 per acre to the owner.

Land similar to this and convenient to trunk lines of railways may be purchased at from $40 to $75 per acre in central and northern, and in southeastern Missouri at from $10 to $50 per acre.

R. B. Wright, of Mt. Leonard, Saline county, has made an average of 75 bushels of corn per acre for the last ten years on his entire crop, which ranged from 75 to 200 acres per year.

Frank Stafford, of Tarkio, Atchison county, reports an average of 118 bushels per acre on 50 acres and 142.5 bushels from one acre. This land has been in cultivation for 20 years and no artificial fertilization of any sort was used.

U. M. Randolph, of Eminence, Shannon county, reports a yield of 81 bushels per acre.

Missouri’s wheat crop last year was 61 million bushels, grown on 3.1 million acres—an average of 20 bushels per acre.

Every county in the State grows wheat of high quality and in sufficient quantities to require the use of the modern labor-saving machinery. Missouri’s wheat crop last year exceeded the combined product of the following twenty-two States and Territories: Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia. Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

The above States expend annually for commercial fertilizers with which to grow their crops, according to the United States census, the sum of $44.5 million. In other words, it required practically all the wheat grown by farmers of these States to pay this fertilizer bill.

Missouri’s soil is rich enough to grow as much wheat, and practically as much corn, as all of these States without the use of artificial fertilizer. The land In Missouri is plowed for wheat during the leisure of mid-summer and early fall and the seeding is done before the rush of corn harvesting.

By reason of the friableness of the soil, the work of preparing the land is reduced to minimum.

Another special advantage not offered by the sections farther north is the very satisfactory result from sowing wheat after corn without plowing. This effects a saving of from $2 to $3 per acre, or from eight to twelve cents per bushel. The tillage given the corn provides an ideal seed-bed and the soil is rich enough to grow a maximum crop of wheat even immediately following so exhaustive a crop as corn.

Another advantage over the eastern method of handling wheat is the practice of threshing directly from the shock, thus saving the expense and waste of stacking the wheat. The threshed grain is left in the field in sacks until ready to be delivered to the elevator or railway station, thus avoiding the necessity of expensive granaries and double handling.

In most sections wheat grows rank enough on the rich Missouri soil to furnish valuable pasturage during the fall, winter and early spring without affecting adversely the yield of grain. This pasturage is often worth enough to defray the cost of preparing the land and seeding.


A further advantage which none of the wheat growers north of Missouri enjoy is the opportunity of growing a valuable hay and renovating crop, such as cowpeas. After a crop of wheat has been harvested, the land is plowed and sown to cowpeas. This crop matures in time to permit the land to be again sown to wheat the same season, without plowing. In short, to grow two valuable crops on the land the same season—one of which restores, in a large measure, the fertility removed by the other.

To illustrate the possibilities in this direction, the Missouri Agricultural college, at Columbia, has grown wheat and cowpeas continually in the same field for the past four years, and reports the following yield of wheat:

In 1900, 26.9 bushels; 1901, 40.2 bushels; 1902, 45.3 bushels, and 1903, 30.7 bushels. This makes a total yield per acre of wheat in four years. 143.1 bushels, or an average yield of 35.6 bushels per acre. After each crop of wheat a crop of cowpea hay, varying from one and a half to two and a half tons per acre was grown.

No manure or fertilizer of any sort was used on this land.

Here, two valuable crops were grown each year with but one plowing and at practically the same cost as is ordinarily required for one crop excepting the actual expense of seeding and harvesting the additional crop.

In south Missouri this practice is very common and exceedingly profitable. One man grew this year 1,300 acres In cowpeas after wheat.

B. F. Marshall, of Blodgett, reports from eighty acres of wheat and cowpeas the following financial result: Twenty-four bushels of wheat per acre at 70 cents, $1,344; 725 bushels of cowpeas at $1.50, $1087; 102 tons cowpea hay at $7, $714; average per acre, $39.20; total, $3,136.

W. H. Hagerdorn. of Rhineland, Montgomery county, presents an authenticated report of a yield of 604 bushels of wheat from eight acres, or an average or 75.5 bushels per acre. This wheat, when standing, was so heavy that the binder could cut a swath of only two feet in width and the shocks stood so thick on the ground that a wagon could not be driven through the field without opening a road.

James L. Hammett, of Huntsville, Randolph county, reports an average yield of 49 bushels per acre on 30 acres.

* * *

Practically every valuable grass known to the world grows well in Missouri. The acreage of blue grass patures in Missouri, on a conservative estimate, is placed at 7.5 million acres; the largest of any State in the Union.


In the amount of hay produced from domestic grasses, Missouri is exceeded by only two States. During the last decade, Missouri’s production of hay increased 13.9 per cent, while there was a decline in the hay production of New York of 5.3 per cent, Illinois 19.6 per cent, Iowa 9.1 per cent, Pennsylvania 13 per cent and Ohio 8.8 per cent.

The following grasses, clovers and forage plants are grown successfully in this State:
- Timothy
- Kentucky blue grass
- Canadian (Virginia) blue grass
- blue stem
- orchard grass
- English blue grass
- tall fescue
- brome grass
- tall oat grass
- bermuda grass
- red clover
- white clover
- alfalfa
- alsike clover
- Japan clover
- cowpeas
- soy beans
- winter and spring vetches
- sorghum
- kafir
- corn
- millet
- hungarian
- milo maize
- teosinte
- rape

Blue grass is the peer of all pasture grasses, and is the domestic grass of Missouri. It may be grown successfully in every county, but it reaches its highest development in the northern two-thirds of the State. The moment the land is cleared or grazed closely, the wild grasses yield to blue grass without artificial seeding, without cost, and without effort on the part of the farmer.

Blue grass furnishes the most valuable and nutritious pasturage from the middle of April until the first of January, and may be depended upon to yield a valuable return every year without reseeding and without care or cost. It will support a steer to two acres and produce in the grazing season of six months, three hundred pounds of gain in weight.

When brought to its highest development a steer per acre is possible. In addition to the value of this crop as a feed, in many sections of the State the seed is harvested and yields from 10 to 40 bushels per acre, worth from 60 cents to 75 cents a bushel at home. The only cost involved is that of stripping and curing, for which a return of from $6 to $25 Per acre in addition to the pasturage is secured.

Timothy is the leading hay grass of America and reaches its highest development in Missouri, and grows successfully in every portion of the State. A crop, from one and a half to three tons of hay per acre is cut in July and the aftermath will almost sustain a steer per acre for three months as pasture.

Timothy is in many places harvested for seed, yielding from 6 to 10 bushels per acre, worth from $1.50 to $2.50 per bushel. In addition to this the hay crop is almost as large as if the seed had not been harvested separately. Little or no difficulty is experienced in securing a stand which lasts almost indefinitely under ordinary care.


Red clover is, all things considered, one of the most valuable crops grown in the country and succeeds well in all parts of Missouri, and on all classes of soil. Missouri is excelled at the present time in clover production by only two States and at the present rate of increase will soon rank first. Missouri produced as much clover hay in 1900, according to the censis, as all of the New England States, Iowa, New York and Minnesota, combined.

A soil that grows clover profitably may be kept in a high state of productiveness indefinitely. A soil that will not grow clover or some similar renovating crop will require, in a short time, the purchase of costly commercial fertilizers. No one thing so clearly indicates the intelligence of the farmers or reflects so creditably upon their system of farming as the area devoted to this crop.

The productive value of the corn as a feed, is enhanced fully twenty per cent by combining with it clover, cowpeas, or alfalfa. The State, therefore, that is pre-eminately adapted to both corn and clover is particularly fortunate, indeed, in the distribution of its resources.

The yield in this State varies from two to four tons of hay per acre, and in the ordinary season from three to six bushels of seed worth from $12 to $24 per acre is obtained as a second crop the same season at the cost of cutting and threshing. In portions of the State where clover has been grown the longest, the soil has become so filled with seed that a good stand may be secured without the expense of seeding, in many cases.

Second in importance, as a forage plant, only to clover, is alfalfa. it has already been proven that it succeeds on all the loess soils of the State, and practically all of the alluvial soils, and may be made to thrive, under proper care and management, on the rolling timbered area of the State.

From four to six cuttings off alfalfa are made each year, aggregating from three to six tons of hay.

- In 1901, J. P. Davls, Fortesque, Holt county, sold $80 worth of hay and seed per acre from twelve acres of alfalfa.
- Charles L. Cunningham of Caruthersville, who has more than three hundred acres in alfalfa, reports an average yield of six tons per acre in 1902, for which he received $18 per ton on board cars at the local shipping station: an average of $104 per acre.
- In 1903 S. P. Reynolds, of Caruthersville, paid $100 per acre for a farm seeded to alfalfa and sold from it within six months after its purchase, $50 worth of hay per acre.
- G. H. Sly, of Rockport, reports a yield of five tons of alfalfa hay per acre on nineteen acres from four cuttings.


The rich alluvial soils of southeast Missouri grow alfalfa with greater certainty and with less risk and difficulty in securing the stand than perhaps any other section of the United States. The seeding there is usually done In March or April on growing wheat and after the wheat crop Is removed, a fair crop of hay is cut the same season.

In this district are fields of alfalfa twelve years old that are producing as large yields as ever and show no signs of deterioration. Land that will produce five to six tons of this hay per acre without the usual risks and difficulties of securing a stand, may be purchased at from $20 to $50 per acre.

Owing to its geographical location, this section is peculiarly adapted to profitable hay production inasmuch as it has both river and rail transportation and is at the very southern edge of extensive hay growing and has the benefit of the best hay market in the world, the cotton growing States of the South.

Here the farmer secures St. Louts, Kansas City or Chicago prices, plus freight and commission, whereas the farmers of the northern and western states are obliged to accept these prices with the freight and commission deducted. This makes a difference of from $2 to $5 per ton, and when it is considered that a larger yield may be obtained on land that is less costly than that of the north and west, the advantages of this country for this purpose are apparent.


On the gravelly soils of the Ozark border, particularly in Benton county, alfalfa has shown Itself to be particularly well adapted. There is no reason why it may not be grown with equal success over the whole of this Ozark border, and perhaps on a majority of the Ozark plateau. In this event, land that may be purchased now at from $3 to $7 an acre may be made as productive and valuable as land that in other States is selling at from $50 to $100.

The possibilities of alfalfa-growing in Missouri are just beginning to be appreciated, and there is perhaps greater opportunity for profitable investment in Missouri lands that are adapted to this crop than in any other direction.

In most countries where alfalfa succeeds, corn is not a success, and either the alfalfa must be shipped to the corn or the corn brought to the alfalfa. In Missouri both of these crops are grown on the same farm. If to these be added rich blue grass pastures, the ideal conditions for successful stock raising are realized.

Fortunate indeed is the State that is able to grow on all classes of soil at least two such renovating crops as clover and cowpeas. This insures an abundant supply of material to properly balance and supplement the corn and corn fodder crop; at the same time that the soil is kept in a high state of fertility and in the best possible mechanical condition for the growing of other crops.

The Missouri season is long enough to mature cowpea profitably. From the latitude of Kansas City south, a crop of hay can be grown after wheat harvest or after a crop of early potatoes, or after a crop of timothy hay has been cut.

The pea hay may be removed and the land sown to wheat, timothy, or any other fall crop without further cultivation. The yield is from two to four tons per acre, and in feeding value the hay is about the same as alfalfa or clover. In the southern third of the State, in addition to this hay crop, from 8 to 15 bushels of seed per acre, worth from $1 to $1.50, or from $8 to $22.50 per acre, are harvested.

For pasture purposes in connection with blue grass, white clover is one of the most valuable plants in the State. It Is perennial and does not require to be seeded and grows most luxuriantly on all classes of our soils.

Fortunately its maximum growth occurs the latter part of June and early July, at the time when the blue grass is usually dormant. It is particularly adapted to the gravelly and flinty soils of the Ozark region although it thrives everywhere and on all classes of Missouri soils.

Japan clover is one of the most nutritious of the clovers, and has now spread over practically the whole of the Ozark region. It thrives well in the timber as well as in open land, and furnishes valuable grazing through the latter half of the summer and early winter.

Bermuda grass is rapidly spreading over southeast Missouri, covering all waste places and open fields that are grazed. When it is well established it will live indefinitely, and in value closely rivals blue grass, and in the portions of the State that are adapted to it, will solve satisfactorily the pasture problem. There is no reason why it may not be made to cover the Ozark plateau and convert this region into a rich pasture.


In capacity to produce large yields of valuable forage at a minimum expense, sorghum and kafir corn are second only to corn, and thrive well in every county in the State. The only reason they are not grown more extensively, is that our soils and climate are so well adapted to corn, that it is a more profitable crop.

* * *

Tobacco may be grown successfully in every county in the State. St. Louis is the leading tobacco market in the United States, and there is no reason why this industry should not be developed until Missouri is the leading tobacco producing state in the Union.

The cost of producing an acre of tobacco in Missouri, including rent of land, cultivation, cutting, curing, stripping and delivering to market, is about $32 per acre. The yield varies from 750 to 1,500 pounds per acre. In Platte and Schuyler counties, the farmers often sell their tobacco crop for more than $100 per acre.

Missouri leads all other States in the Union, according to the last census, in the yield of cotton per acre. Twenty-seven counties report cotton as a crop with 67,000 acres and an aggregate yield of 24 million pounds worth at the gin, $1.8 million. The bulk of this cotton is grown in Dunklin, Pemiscot, New Madrid, and Ozark counties. Dunklin county produced last year 13.8 million pounds, worth $1.4 million.

Unimproved land in southeast Missouri that will produce a bale of cotton per acre, and other crops in proportion, may be bought for from $9 to $15 per acre. Improved cotton lands that are commanding an annual cash rental of from $3.50 to $5 per acre, may be bought in this region, convenient to gins and trunk lines of railway at from $25 to $45 per acre.

On account of the ravages of insects in the southern cotton States, it is probable that the cotton industry will be rapidly enlarged in this State.

The leading watermelon county In the United States, according to the last census, is Scott county, Missouri. The second most Important watermelon county is Dunklin county, Missouri. These two counties alone produce more than one-fourth as many watermelons as the entire State of Georgia, and more than either Illinois, Iowa, Kansas. Indiana, Florida, or Arkansas, and as many as are grown by New Jersey and California combined. Scott county reports 7,000 acres devoted to watermelons, from which are shipped over three thousand cars, and 550 acres of cantaloupes, yielding 13,000 baskets.


It is estimated that southeast Missouri ships to the markets of the United States and Canada each year, approximately 10 million melons, representing an aggregate weight of 250 million pounds. This is practically one melon to the head of every family in the United States. Allowing 40 feet to a car, this would make a solid melon train fifty-five miles long.

The melons from southeast Missouri come into market about the middle of July—the season at which they are in the greatest demand—after the Georgia and Texas crops are exhausted, and before the crops of any other section of the country are ready.

The cost of growing melons in southeast Missouri up to the time of harvest is about the same as corn, and the average return per acre is between $25 to $40. Albert Stocks, of Kennett, made a net profit on 100 acres of melons of $2,800, or an average of $28 per acre, after deducting $4 per acre for rental, and all expense of labor, seed, freight and commissions.

This melon crop required his attention from March to July only.

B. F. Marshall, of Blodgett, reports nineteen cars of melons which brought, on track at local shipping point, $1,745 on 38 cars, or $46 per acre.


* * *

To buy Missouri farm lands or engage in farming in this State is in no sense an experiment. The large outlay for drainage, irrigation or artificial fertilizers required in other regions is unnecessary here. The conditions are all favorable for a bountiful harvest and rich returns.

In the older States, the best lands, with good improvements, in the best communities, with good markets, good transportation facilities, good roads, churches and schools, sell for from $125 to $200 per acre.

In Missouri these conditions may be exactly duplicated and land equally productive may be purchased at from $40 to $75 per acre.

Farm lands have advanced more than a third in Missouri during the last three years. In many portions of the State they have doubled in value. Compared with prices in other States, Missouri lands are still too low and are certain to advance.


The Missouri farmer has no lean years. Feast does not alternate with famine.

Hon. James Wilson, United States Secretary of Agriculture, said in a recent address “In my judgment the best investment in the country is Missouri farm land.”

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