American made: Woodside's Adolph Rosekrans restores farming implements from the days of the horse-drawn plow | March 13, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - March 13, 2013

American made: Woodside's Adolph Rosekrans restores farming implements from the days of the horse-drawn plow

by Dave Boyce

It requires a leap of imagination to visualize it now, but there was a time when growing crops commercially in the United States meant entering the domain of draft horses and the iron, steel and hardwood tracery of the American-made farming implements they pulled. Pastures under cultivation felt the heavy tread of nodding, plodding teams of big, muscular animals and the slow churn of the delving metal blades of plows, cultivators and harrows.

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Posted by Borut Prah, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Not the book, not even the computer, but the plow is the most important invention of all times. Here is why. To eat, early humans had to hunt or gather berries, a way of life not much different from that of animals.
The discovery that one seed planted in soil could produce many seeds that can be harvested and used as food was a major scientific breakthrough, but to plant a lot of seeds one still has to do a lot of digging. But how?
Economist Milton Friedman's story of his visit to China has the answer. A high Party official was showing him a public works project where workers, like ants, moved dirt with wheelbarrows and shovels. But why don't you use tractors, inquired Friedman. Because we have too many people who need work, was the answer. Replied Friedman: then give them spoons and you will employ even more people. In that China, the wheel barrow would still wait to be invented.

Inventions do not happen when there are enough resources to solve the problem or to fill the demand.

Thus, according to some twisted modern thinking, early humans would never have needed a plow if they had enough Mexicans who would dig for them. But they did not, and the plow was invented -- and with it the concept of productivity.

More food brought better life. Dangers of hunting diminished. Slash-and-burn nomadic life was no longer needed for survival. Land could be recycled by plowing it over and over again. People could now live in permanent houses. They could consider planting crops and develop cultures that needed longer than one year to yield fruit. Vineyards, for example.

The plow has now been given the place of honor it deserves, by Adolph Rosekrans at the Runnymede Farm Equipment Collections, which includes many immaculately restored plows.