Wessels Living History Farm - York Nebraska Farming in the 1930s
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REA Changes Farm Work

  Light on the farm  
When lights went on in the barn for the first time at the end of the 1930s and into the 1940s, Nebraska farmers' daily life changed. With electricity in the barn, farmers no longer milked cows by dim, flammable kerosene lamps. Electricity powered coolers to keep milk fresh for market and machines that separated cream from fresh milk – no more hand cranking! Electric brooder houses kept baby chickens warm and made it easier to check ("candle") eggs for freshness.

With electricity now in the farmer's workplace, there was an explosion of farm equipment (large and small) powered by electric motors, from augers and pumps for water and irrigation to electric welders and clippers for shearing sheep.

Herbert Heine says his "tools in the shed all went to electric – power saw, drills. Yeah, that didn't take long to catch on." Stan Jensen remembers when his family put an electric motor on their well. They didn't have to rely on the unpredictable wind to turn the windmill to pump water. "Wind power was free, but we had to pay for the electricity," he laughs. Farmers who had electricity in their barns began to set up their own repair shops with electric welders and other tools to fix their own machinery instead of hauling it into town for repairs.

Elroy HoffmanAlbert Friesen

Electricity powered big things like yard lights that lit up the barnyard at night and small things like the machine that separated cream from milk. Elroy Hoffman (left) remembers when they got an electric cream separator. That made a big job easier. Albert Friesen says that electricity allowed farmers to repair their own machines, rather than having to hire a blacksmith to use a forge to weld metal.

Electricity made work easier for farmers and produced fresher, higher quality food for consumers.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

 

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Farming in the 1930s