It was in the 1880s when farming started shifting from old pioneer techniques that relied on hand tools to new-fangled machines like the steel plow, two-row cultivator and thresher.
It’s also the time new scientific research recommended a crazy idea — using fertilizer to restore soil fertility.
The following decades ushered in a revolution in how farmers thought about agriculture and food production. Helping lead the revolution was Miami County.
“Sometimes people think of Miami County as a small, dying area,” said Elise Kordis, director and curator of the Miami County Museum. “But in those days, we were at the forefront of what was happening on the national stage.”
It was a time of rapid change in the agricultural world, and a new exhibit called “Miami County Agriculture 1880s to 1930s” takes a look at the role the county played in the country’s move to industrialized farming.
It was a Miami County farmer named Ira Gilbreath who bought the first rubber-wheeled tractor in the state in 1935.
It was John Miller in Jefferson Township who took home more than 30 awards at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago for his herd of Polled Durham cattle.
Miller ended up selling his cattle to breeders in the U.S. and South America.
Joseph Cunningham, a hog farmer in Washington Township, also took home some awards at the World’s Fair the same year for his Poland China pigs. He ended up serving as a member of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, and was inducted into the Indiana Livestock Breeders Association Hall of Fame.
Clem Graves, who raised cattle near Bunker Hill, was known for his Herford herd among breeders around the country. He sold his cow Carnation for a record-setting $3,700 in 1901 at the Kansas City Hereford sale. It was big enough achievement to make headlines in the El Paso Daily Herald.