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A Dreadful Disaster: The Dust Bowl

Throughout the course of history, farming and agriculture have always been a huge part of our daily lives. They’re a source of food, a field that provides jobs to many, and a resource that can be unlimited if taken care of. In the year 1931, agriculture was at its peak, providing great opportunities for a farmer in the Southern Plains. This was also known as wheat country, one of the most prosperous regions around. It was not till that summer and later on when the fate of agriculture took a turn, not only creating problems for the land, but for the farmers as well. This period of dreadful change known as the Dust Bowl, not only changed how agricultural techniques are used today, but also the general attitudes of people towards the environment as well.

Before what became known as the Dust Bowl, wheat country was the place to be for a farmer. While the rest of the nation was suffering from the Great Depression, farming was at its height, bringing in a record-breaking amount of crops. Tractors were brought in, plowing millions and millions of prairie grass for the very first time. Things seemed to be going good for the farmers until the summer of 1931. The rain suddenly stopped and whirlwinds swirled around the soil, getting thicker, bigger, and faster each time. The Red Cross had to issue dusts masks due to difficulty in breathing and as times worsened, more and more people moved due to the challenging conditions. The hard times did not get any better as the drought persisted, leaving the fields dry and giving back nothing to the farmers who worked so hard for it. What took thousands of years to build an inch of topsoil was blown away in a matter of a few minutes. The government didn’t do much to help the situation, only handing out relief checks and food handouts to the coping farmers.

The days were tough, but nothing compared to April 14, 1935, a day also known as “Black Sunday” that no dust bowler would ever forget. As the dark skies approached, an ominous silence settled and in a few minutes, came an avalanche of dirt. The dust blinded the roads as one Kansas driver drove off the road, suffocating from the dust. By 1935, the drought seemed to continue as people scrambled to survive. The father of soil conservation, Hugh Bennett attempted to find a solution and brought his case to Capitol Hill. At the time, the federal government didn’t think too much of the situation until on that day, a dark gloom fell over as Easterners experienced dust from the Southern Plains for the first time.

The government changed their stand and put their whole weight behind the solution of soil conservation. In 1937, Washington began an aggressive campaign urging farmers to use planting and plowing techniques to conserve the soil. Their efforts were proven to work when the blowing of soil was down by 65% in 1938. The rain finally fell six months after the spring of 1934, bringing an end to nearly a decade of dirt and dust. Farming was able to prosper again, but not without leaving a lesson learned to the farmers. What they had suffered was something that they would try to prevent from happening again. Farmers now knew the limits of the land and also that it needed better care than what was provided before. Though they understand this reality now, some are still doubtful, as the wisdom would soon be tested once the Southern Planes flourish again. One replied, “you can’t convince me we’ve learned a lesson. It’s just not in our blood to play a safe game.”

Farming and agriculture have become a big part of our lives throughout the years. Due to events like the Dust Bowl, we learn how important it is to take care of our environment. Farmers who before thought only about what they would get now have something else to think about, how their decisions in farming will affect the land around them. The Dust Bowl changed the attitude of many people, showing them that if not taken care of properly, the environment may create more extensive obstacle than it’s solving.





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