Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

++__________Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):

The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the soy-bean plant
Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the soy-bean plant

As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota.  (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.)   Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation.  Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919.  As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked a Holstein dairy herd, raised pigs and had a chicken flock.  They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income.  Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer.  In the fields, they raised oats and hay.  Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.

Diversified farming in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota.

 

Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm.  Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year.  The largest crop on the farm was corn.  Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green.  This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn.  The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd.  The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib.  Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market.  The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter.  Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.

Image result for Cattle eating silage in a trough 1940s
A Holstein dairy herd being fed corn silage from a silo.

 

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen.  Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics.  Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring.  Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942.  The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect.  Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops.  Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels.  Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income.  As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.

The gray Farmall with red-colored wheels.

 

After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank.  As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production.  This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H.  However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics.  He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.

Wartime advertisement of the Farmall Model H.

 

In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans.  He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts.  By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester  p. 71.)  Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more.  Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year.  Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942.  However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis.  (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.)  Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part I of 2 Parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 1 of 2 parts)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.
Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, the rank growth of a mature crop of soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.

 

Although officially organized May of 1858, settlement in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, was still quite new in 1900.  As previously noted, the first settlers in Butternut Valley Township raised wheat.  (See the article called “Case Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers” in the March/April 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Wheat was the predominate crop in Butternut Valley Township and the neighboring townships of Cambria, Judson, Garden City and Lincoln Townships.  However, as the twentieth century progressed wheat production declined as corn replaced wheat on farms.  By 1921, more that 109,778 acres of corn were planted and harvested in the whole of Blue Earth County while wheat acreage had decreased to 43,520 acres for the county as a whole.  With the coming of the Second World War, production of corn continued dominate the agricultural landscape of Blue Earth County reaching 136,900 acres of corn harvested in 1943.  Meanwhile, wheat production in Blue Earth County fell to a miniscule 7,600 acres in 1943.

 

Butternut Valley Towhship is located on the western boundary of Blue Earth County second from the top below Cambria Township. The Honeymead plant is in South Bend Township on the border with Mankato Township.

 

During the same period of time, other changes were occurring on Blue Earth County farms that were reflected in the crops that were raised in the county.  Acreage allotted to the raising of hay in Blue Earth County fell from 59,505 acres harvested in 1921 to 41,100 acres harvested in 1943.  This reflected the fact that farmers were purchasing more farm tractors and selling off their horses.  Consequently, they no longer needed to feed the horses all year long.  Thus, the average farm could reduced the amount of hay raised each year.  As a result, the average farm in Blue Earth County had acreage that could now be devoted to some other crop.

For a time in the 1920s barley production rose to fill this gap in production acreage on the average farm in Blue Earth County.  In 1921, only 7,134 acres of Blue Earth County’s arable land was planted to barley.  However, in 1927 barley acreage shot up to 12,300 acres.  In 1928 barley acreage in the county doubled to 25,200 acres.  Eventually, the dramatic growth of acreage planted to barley in Blue Earth County reached a total of 33,800 acres in 1938.  However, barley production in Blue Earth County fell as dramatically as it had grown.  By 1943, the acreage devoted to barley in the county fell to only 5,400 acres and in the following year (1944) barley acreage fell to a mere 700 acres in the county.

Coinciding with the decline in the production of in barley was a rise in the production of flax in Blue Earth County.  In 1938 only 2,300 acres of flax had been raised in Blue Earth County.  However, in 1939 flax acreage shot up to 11,900 acres.  Blue Earth County production of flax continued to climb and in 1943, 20,300 acres in the county was planted to flax.  However, in 1944, acreage planted to flax was cut in half—down to only 9,500 acres in the county as a whole.  As suddenly as it had appeared, flax production fell to nothing.  Farmers in Blue Earth County were turning to production of something else apart from wheat, apart from barley and apart from flax.  The crop to which they turned was the lowly soy bean.

Native to the orient, where it was a staple of human consumption, the soybean was introduced in the United States in 1804.  In 1879, two agricultural stations in New Jersey started growing and working with the soybean.  Ten years later, in 1889, several more agricultural experiment stations were actively researching the soybean.  In 1896, famous botanist George Washington Carver, from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, discovered and refined over 300 by-products derived from the soybean.  The two most important marketable products of soybeans were edible oil and meal.  In 1922, the first soybean processing plant in the United States was opened.

However the soybean lacked a lucrative market for itself or any of its many by-products.  Henry Ford set out, in the 1930s, to develop a market for the soybean.  First he sought to make a bio-fuel from soybeans which would power the growing number of automobiles that were starting to populate the nation.  (Robert Lacey, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 231.)  Only later, did he and his Ford Company engineers create a plastic from soybeans that could be used in the Ford car.  (Ibid. p. 233.)  In 1937, Ford built a soybean processing plant right on the grounds of the Ford Company Rouge Works factory located on the banks of the Rouge River in Detroit Michigan.  (Ibid.)  Soon, plastics comprised about two pounds of the weight of every Ford car manufactured.  However, the two pounds of plastics in Ford cars were limited to small parts like insulated casings and knobs and buttons on the interior of the car.  (Ibid.)  This was still did not represent a major market for soybeans and their products.

Despite all this early attention and product research, the potential of soybeans remained unrealized—a promising product without a real market.  Accordingly, soybeans remained a side line venture in agriculture until the Second World War.  With the United States’ sudden entry into the war, there arose a real demand for clear lightweight plastics products—especially, for windshields and cowlings on military aircraft.

 

Soybean prices in World War II rose because of the plastics used in combat airplane windscreens. Although a direct shot would pierce the safety glass of these safety glass windscreens the safety glass would not shatter and cause injury to the air crew just as a result of flying glass.

 

Stimulated by military purchases of airplanes fitted with plastic cowlings and windshields, the price of soybeans soared.  Farmers began planting soybeans in a big way.  The farmers of Blue Earth County followed this trend.  In 1941, the last year before the war, only 3,400 acres of the arable land in the whole of Blue Earth County had been planted to soybeans.  However, in 1942, soybean acreage in the county tripled—reaching 11,100 acres.  By 1945, the acreage devoted to soybeans in Blue Earth County would nearly triple again—up 31,000 acres. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part I of 2 Parts)