Welcome to the self-guided tour of The Farm at Prophetstown! Through this online tour, you will get to explore a farmer’s way of life in the 1920’s Wabash Valley.
The Farm at Prophetstown offers a unique experience on all aspects of farm life. Programs revolve around the 1920s farms as they began their transition from animal to tractor power. The Farm is a training farm for sustainable agriculture, homesteading, gardening, canning, as well as farm-to-table cooking, sewing and quilting. It draws on a wide range of resources such as beekeepers, master gardeners, farm experts, and home economics experts. The Farm is a non-profit organization operating 100 acres of land leased from Prophetstown State Park.
Programs and activities of The Farm are targeted towards young families and explore what farm life was like in the 1920s.
The Wabash Valley is the valley area along the Wabash River that spans Indiana and Illinois. The Wabash Valley falls in a larger area called the Grand Prairie. Lafayette is located on the end of the Grand Prairie and spans across Illinois into Iowa. This area has very rich soil because of the glacier recession and the centuries of decaying vegetation. The rich soil has attracted farmers to this area.
The Wabash Valley area also falls in what is known as the Corn Belt. Corn thrives in this area and was the most important crop. The location of The Farm made it easy for farmers to take wagons of grain and livestock to Ohio and Chicago to trade and sell. The addition of the Wabash and Erie Canals made selling and trading much easier since farmers could just unload their crops on a barge and get back to farming.
In the 1920s there were about 200,000 farm families in Indiana each having about 160-240 acres of land. All members of the family were expected to help with maintaining the farmstead. Daily chores included milking, gathering eggs, taking care of the livestock, maintaining buildings and machines, food preparations, and housekeeping. Community and neighbors were important because families relied on other families for help on their farms and for entertainment.
There were several chores that occurred daily but many farm jobs were done seasonally. The four seasons in this area provided a variety of work for a farm family to do.
Spring was a time for getting ready for the new farming season. Plowing and planting of crops were done. Getting the horses back into the work routine was a slow process so they wouldn’t get sore or hurt. Animal breeding took place and even the youngest members of the family helped care for the baby animals. This was also the time to get the farm looking orderly again. Mending fences, repairing machinery, and repainting buildings were common tasks. Children were getting out of school at this point and could help out more on the farm.
Summer was the prime time for cultivating crops. Boys and their fathers spent long hours in the fields. Girls would help their mothers with preserving food that was collected from the garden. End of summer was harvest time and families and their neighbors held threshing parties as it was a long process. Children were never too young to learn about how to do chores such as weeding in the gardens.
Fall was spent preparing for winter. Preparation included harvesting what was left in the fields and garden and getting them preserved for winter. It took several weeks to harvest the corn. Meat animals were slaughtered. The farm family smoked what meat they needed to get through the winter and the rest of the livestock was sent to market. Children were headed back to school at this time and therefore would not be able to help out as much on the farm.
Winter still required a lot of work on the farm even if there were no crops to take care of. Checking and maintaining feed was important to ensure it wouldn’t go bad over winter. Keeping the animals fed, warm, and protected for the winter was crucial. The winter was also holiday time where families and neighbors got together to enjoy the preserved harvests they worked so hard to provide.
The 1920s was a period of several transitions on the farmstead. Electricity and natural gas had not reached all rural farmsteads. Corncobs, coal, and wood were used to heat the house. Kerosene lamps were used for indoor lighting. Some farmsteads had generators to power lights and appliances inside. Plumbing was also available in the more urban areas but an outhouse was still used on the farm even though their houses might have room for a bathroom.
Automotive vehicles and farm equipment were becoming popular during this time. Farm families would buy a new car before they bought a new tractor. The idea of “getting away” sounded great to families so they could take a break from the rough farm life. Many families still had horses they could use for plowing the fields and therefore didn’t feel like they needed a new tractor right away.
Feel free to pick a tour and explore the different parts of The Farm at your own pace.
After completing a tour, we would ask that you take a couple of minutes to fill out a short survey about your thoughts on the online tour(s). Thank you for visiting us at The Farm and we hope to see you again soon!