In the 20th century, Oklahoma farming went through several transitions.
These transitions were primarily due to agricultural innovation & technology, forcing family farms to expand significantly to remain profitable.
First, with the invention of the tractor, farming became big business and it grew harder and harder for the little guys to compete in the marketplace. Then the harvester and combine came along as innovation progressed. These were not (and still aren’t) cheap farm tools by any means. However, these tools became a necessity for an Oklahoma farmer who was going to provide for his family by cultivating his land and selling the yield.
By the 1960s, if a farmer didn’t have 1,000 acres they were considered a “hobby farmer.” Regulations grew stiffer, and larger players took more market share than at any time in the past. The larger, or corporate, farms could afford the fancy technology that made the work more efficient, procedural, and the resultant yield, more consistent than ever before. The small farm owners had to work a second job to protect their family’s farm and way of life.
In the past, Oklahoma’s population was dead set against corporate farming. However, that has changed a bit – mostly based on necessity. As a result of technological advancement in the farming sector, most family farms have to expand, unfortunately.
Present Farming in OK
Farming is not an easy life, it’s a stressful life. But it’s a good life. To an Oklahoma farmer, there’s no greater accomplishment than to have a son that one day returns and takes over the family farm. Today, most Oklahoma farms are much larger family farms, while there are a few corporate farming operations across the state as well.
Today, running a successful farming operation involves less physical labor and more business savvy than ever before. For example, replacing the tires on one tractor can cost upwards of $28,000. It is simply impossible to survive on what your grandparents survived on 50 years ago. Consequently, family farms are having to expand to remain competitive in the modern market.
The Future of Farming
Today, agricultural change seems to have been impacted by a few major things:
- Technology – there’s no denying that technology has changed the culture of agriculture. It’s increased prices, changed the way we care for animals and produce food, improved consistency, and altered every sector of every industry modern day.
- The newfound focus on ethical foods – people don’t just want healthy & affordable food, they also want to feel guilt-free. Today farmers have to consider how food production affects the environment, the animals, etc.
- Re-creating the subsistent style of farming – Today, we’re reconnecting to the spiritual side of farming that was lost when it became a corporate-dominated sector of the economy. A market has been created where people are willing to pay more for high quality, free-range, grass-fed, production. Most of Oklahoma’s population can look at their family tree 2-3 generations back and locate a farmer. This reconnecting with the roots of our modern privilege seems to be where Oklahoma farming is going, and the market is willing to pay for it.
Oklahoma is one of the top sources of beef in the country.
Consequently, the production of beef cattle is the primary source of farming revenue in the entire state. Other important livestock products include hogs, young chickens, dairy milk, and eggs. Sheep, lambs, turkey, and fish, specifically farm-raised catfish, are all major contributors to the state’s farming income. Needless to say, agriculture plays a huge and important role in the domestic economy.
In OK, the most valuable crop by far is wheat. Oklahoma ranks #4 of the legal producers of wheat in America. Further, Oklahoma is the second largest producer of domestic greenhouse and nursery products in the United States. Additional exports from OK entail hay, cotton, soybeans, corn for grain (not for livestock), pecans, sorghum, peanuts, watermelons, and rye. Peaches and oats also grow organically in Oklahoma.
Climate & Geography
If you’re considering starting a farm in Oklahoma, or anywhere for that matter, it’s a good idea to research the climate and seasonal changes before investing in a specific crop.
Oklahoma’s terrain ranges from arid to subtropical forests and mountains. It has more ecological diversity per square mile than in any other state. The state’s primary mountain ranges include the Arbuckle Mountains, the Wichita Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, and the Ouachita Mountains. As you probably gathered, there are a lot of mountains surrounding Oklahoma farmland. Oklahoma is bordered by six states in total. Those states are Texas on the southwest, Arkansas and Missouri on the east, Kansas on the northern border, and Colorado and New Mexico on the northwestern Oklahoma panhandle.
Unfortunately, these unique atmospheric conditions make Oklahoma ripe for tornadoes and natural disasters. In Ponca City, there once was a tornado that carried a man and his wife inside their house before the tornado glided the house downward. The walls and roof were blown off, but the couple was unharmed.
The Oklahoman reported 41 tornadoes in the state in 2018. Surprisingly, this number was lower than the state’s average of 56 tornadoes per year. Since 1950, there have only been three times when the state went longer than 2 years without a tornado.
This video was shared 5 weeks ago of a wild tornado tearing through an Oklahoma family farm.