West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVI
A Changing Agriculture

WITH AN AVERAGE ANNUAL RAINFALL of about 43 inches, a temperature range from 30 degrees below to 100 degrees above zero, a mean annual temperature of about 56 degrees, and an elevation range of 247 to 4,860 feet, West Virginia was adapted to a variety of crops, and accessibility to good markets made it profitable to produce them. In their natural state, enveloping forests retained moisture and soil fertility, even on hill and mountain sides, and the intervening valleys were "inexhaustibly fertile." In the course of fifty years scientific research taught valuable lessons in soil and moisture conservation. In 1950, agriculture was providing employment for about 85,000 West Virginians, and their products ranked fourth in value in the annual state production total.

In 1950 West Virginia contained 81,434 farms with a total acreage of 8,214,626, or 53.3 per cent of the grand total acreage. Farms averaged 100.9 acres in size, as compared with 194.8 for the United States, and their average value, including buildings, was $5,852, or $57.90 per acre, as compared with $7,917 and $40.63, respectively, for the country at large. There were 67,583 farms operated by their owners, 5,280 by part owners, 218 by managers, and 8,353, or 10.3 per cent, by tenants. Negroes owned 368 farms, and four were owned by other non-whites. A back-to-the-farm movement in 1930-1935 increased the total number of farms to 104,747 and the total farm population by about 114,000. Meanwhile the average farm was reduced in size to 90 acres.1 As the state became industrialized workers tended to divide their time between industry and farming, thus developing a part-time type of farmer.


CROP AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, 1870-1900

Indian corn was the chief crop in 1870 but the yield per acre was tending to decrease due to excessive cropping and unscientific methods. Wheat,

____________________
1
U. S. Census ( 1950), Agriculture, Virginia and West Virginia, pp. 376-379.

-346-

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