Rediscovering American Agriculture

Frederick Kirschenmann

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 7/1/1993

Issue: Faith, Science, Technology (Vol. 13, No 3, Summer, 1993)

Since the quincentennial of Columbus’ voyage produced many provocative reevaluations of American history, this seems also a good time to take a fresh look at what has happened to agriculture in this part of the world since 1492. Doing so, I think, will reveal that the interpretation of our agricultural history has also been flawed. Most of us grew up with the notion that nothing was happening here agriculturally until the Europeans arrived—stories of Indians teaching Puritans how to plant corn notwithstanding. The popular interpretation sees Indians living almost exclusively on bison and going hungry a lot. Agriculture, as such, it is often assumed, didn’t begin here until the Europeans arrived to clear the forests and introduce the plow.

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