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A History Of Dedicated Service To Michigan Farm Families

For more than 160 years farmers in Michigan have counted on Michigan Farmer for information to make their farms more profitable, their families happier and their communities better places to live.

D.D.T. Moore bought the subscription list of The Western Farmer in 1843. He changed the name to Michigan Farmer and moved the offices from Detroit to Jackson. As the owner and editor, Moore laid out his plans in that first issue. "The primary objects to which the columns of the Farmer will be devoted are to introduce useful Improvements to the Practice and Science of Agriculture in all its various departments - to improve the cultivation of the rich and fertile soil of the West and to elevate the standing and ennoble the character of Western Agriculturalists."

Even at this time when about 65% of the state's population were farmers, many of the challenges were similar to those agriculture faces today. Market fluctuations, over production, alternative crops and changing technology were all subjects Michigan farmers readers wanted to read about. The state's diverse climate and special weather effects enabled farmers to grow a wide variety of crops, from fruit orchards and vineyards to beans, vegetables and grains. Livestock flourished thanks to markets in nearby population centers.

The earliest issues show that innovation and technology would be the driving forces in publishing for agriculture. Advertisements for equipment like plows, reapers and wagons are featured in the first issues. Later implements such as harrows, cultivators, horse rakes, stump pullers, headers and mowers were described. One ad displayed a milking machine that could "imitate the action of calf." Not long after came ads for sheep shearing machines, steam plows and devices for making drain tiles. The magazine pushed for a warehouse in Detroit to supply implements and seed.

The publication was a casualty of the Civil War and was not published from 1864-1869. However, the high commodity prices that followed the war period served to drive Michigan agriculture into high gear. In 1860 there was about $6 million worth of farm equipment in the state. By 1870 that number had grown to $14 million. Ads in the magazine featured all types of new farm equipment.

As steam-powered equipment made its way onto the farm, the state's equipment inventory grew to a total of $50 million by 1910. J.I. Case was among the most popular and when the switch was made to gasoline tractors at the time of the Great Depression, Case was the only steam manufacturer to survive as with a gasoline engine.

World War II also took a toll on the magazine. Although publication continued, it was limited by rationing. A special centennial issue of the magazine was canceled in June 1943 because the War effort forced editors to cut down on the number of pages in the publication to save paper.

In 1993 the magazine held nothing back in celebrating its 150th birthday. In addition to a full history of the publication, it contained woodcut prints of the earliest farm implements, diagrams of insect pests and crop disease, and photos of plowing and corn husking competitions. Articles about the lure of the Oregon territory and controversy over "deep plowing" were reprinted. Letters from Michigan farmers fighting the Civil War were included. More than 120 Michigan farm families were recognized for having farmed their land for the 150 years that the Michigan Farmer had been a service to agriculture.

Today the magazine strives to continue to provide its farm family readership with the kind of practical information that will help them prosper. As new challenges are posed and new products are created, Michigan Farmer reports the developments and analyzes the impact. In every monthly issue, everything from politics to prices to production to family living is fair game for the writers of the Michigan Farmer. After more than 160 years of service, the state's diverse agriculture is still in good hands.