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Kansas as the Breadbasket

Volga-German immigrants used a steam powered threshing machine to harvest wheat near Munjor in Ellis County.Farmers in Kansas had grown wheat long before the territory was opened in 1854. From early American Indian gardeners to settlers from the East, farmers experimented with varieties of soft and hard wheat, along with other crops.

They learned that summer wheat was more susceptible to drought than winter wheat, which took advantage of the winter moisture. The year 1874 proved especially challenging for farmers who faced both drought and locusts. Some decided to leave Kansas in search of better opportunities; many stayed and varied their crops and improved their farming techniques.

During the mid-19th century, the State Board of Agriculture and the Santa Fe Railway vigorously promoted settlement to people in the East and to countries in Europe. Germans who had fled to Russia a century before to escape military service and taxes were now experiencing the same pressures in their adopted country. On the Russian plains they had become skilled wheat growers. Thousands of these farmers agreed to bring their agricultural skills and move to the central part of the state in the mid-1870s.

Kansas surpassed other states in the production of winter wheat in 1876. On October 12, 1888, the Topeka Daily Capital claimed “In wheat, Kansas can beat the world.” Farming communities emerged in rural areas and mills, elevators, bread companies, and bakeries were established. Updates in technology helped farmers plant larger areas and improve their yields. During the early 20th century Kansas adopted a new nickname, the “Wheat State.” Our state continues to be known as the breadbasket of the world, the nation’s leading wheat producer.

Entry: Kansas as the Breadbasket

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2012

Date Modified: March 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.