History

Study Notes

Farming on the Great Plains

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

The majority of migrants who travelled across the Oregon Trail settled as farmers. Those who settled in Oregon or California experienced excellent farming conditions with mild climates and fertile soils. However, by the 1850’s, migrants also began to settle on the Great Plains. 

The majority of migrants who travelled across the Oregon Trail settled as farmers. Those who settled in Oregon or California experienced excellent farming conditions with mild climates and fertile soils. However, by the 1850’s, migrants also began to settle on the Great Plains. This was the first time white people had attempted to farm on the Great Plains and they found it very difficult. The following is a list of some of the problems famers on the Great Plains faced:

 

  • Water shortages – low rainfall and few rivers and streams meant there was not enough water for crops or livestock.
  • Few building materials – there were not many trees on the Great Plains so there was little timber to use for building houses or fences. Many had to build houses out of earth.
  • Extreme temperatures – freezing cold winters and boiling hot summers meant crops would freeze in winter and shrivel in the summer. Hailstorms and thunderstorms also destroyed crops. Hot summers could cause Prairie Fires that destroyed crops, livestock and people.
  • Ploughing the land – the Great Plains had never been farmed before, so ploughing the land was backbreaking work.
  • Disease – It was difficult to keep the earth-built houses clean. This meant lots of pests such as mice, snakes and bed bugs were able to spread disease.
  • Grasshoppers – some years huge plagues of grasshoppers would sweep across the Plains, destroying everything in their path and polluting water sources. 

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