At one point, Vermont was considered the breadbasket of the nation. Based on data from the census of agriculture, production peaked around 1850, at roughly 536 thousand bushels.
In the early 188′s canals, then railroads pushed west, providing cheap transportation, access to virgin prairie soils. This, combined with the general trend of intensive, rather than extensive production, of farming for the market economy, led to a decline in production as Vermont hill farmers working the rocky New England soil hill found themselves unable to compete on price. Kansas replaced the Champlain Valley as the “Granary of New England”. By the end of the 19th century, western wheat had become so cheap that even growing for home production was unprofitable.
The chart below, based on production data from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Vermont/index.asp) illustrate this. We see a steady decline from 1882 on, to below 50K bushels by 1897. But for a peak during the years of the first world war*, this decline continued until 1931, when this data series was discontinued.
The most current data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture reports 9 farms producing 13,722 bushels of wheat from 379 acres, with five of these producing winter wheat.
So, we’ve got a handful of farms left – grain production has not died out completely. And with the recent work by the Northern Grain Growers Association a small, but dedicated group, it looks like we are posed for a comeback; at least big enough to bake for the state.
[Originally posted at insevenyears.wordpress.com]