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Lesson Plan 13 - Agriculture
download lesson13.pdf

This lesson introduces students to the life on a family farm. In Lesson 13, students use the Sacramento History Online database at

1. Describe how life on a farm without electricity and refrigeration differs from modern farm or city life.
2. Identify how farm families obtained their food and how they preserved it.
3. Use the SHO database to find specific historical information.

4.1 Physical and human geographic features that define places and regions in California
4.4 California's rise as an agricultural and industrial power

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DOCUMENTS TO DISCUSS (view online or print screen)
The documents below are related to life on a family farm.
CLICK on an image to view or print the document.

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1. Buildings on the G.F. Simpson Ranch
[ca. 1924]
Buildings on the G.F.Simpson Ranch in Natomas District No. 1000. There are two adults and a teenage boy, presumably the Simpsons. A windmill and truck are shown.

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2. Prize calf and children in alfalfa field
[ca. 1924]
F.W. Kiesel Ranch. The photo shows F.W. Kiesel's son and two daughters along with a prize-winning calf in a field of mown alfalfa.

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3. Our turkeys
[ca. 1893]
McFarland ranch in Galt, flock of turkeys being tended by 3 women and 3 children.

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4. Pump on McFarland Ranch
[ca. 1893]
Galt, CA. View of McFarland ranch barns, corrals and outbuildings. Pump in foreground is labeled "Fulton#1.

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5. Wiseman family ranch
[ca. 1900]
Dairy farm corral with cows on Wiseman family ranch in Sacramento. Also shows barn, milk cans, and Wiseman family members.

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6. Boy driving tractor
Taking peaches to market.

download PDF file
7. Seed catalog
Catalog contains the description of the W.R. Strong Company's inventory, prices, and ordering information for seeds, trees, and nursery stock. Also contains illustrations of fruits, vegetables, and growing regions.

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8. Home garden headquarters
John Swanson's garden. Jim Olson standing in cabbage patch. Farm house in the background, unidentified child in the foreground.

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9. Picking corn
Picking corn in J.V. Parks garden in Oroville.

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10. School garden
[ca. 1915-16]
View of teenage boys and girls working in a flower and vegetable garden in Highland Park, Sacramento.
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1. Print any of the images and PDF files shown above that you will use in your discussion, as well as Student Activity Sheet 13 and Key. (Label the documents by their number to identify them in the instructions).

2. Read Background Article 13. You may wish to read it to your students or have them read it by themselves. Discuss any questions that they may have.

3. Show and discuss Document 1, Buildings on the G.F. Simpson Ranch. Ask students to describe what they think it might have been like to live in this farmhouse. Do they think the family had electricity? If not, what things would they have had to do differently in preparing and preserving food?

4. Document 2, Prize calf and children in alfalfa field. Ask students what they think daily life would have been like for children on this ranch? What kinds of activities would the children in the photograph have enjoyed? Has anyone in the class had a livestock animal as a pet or responsibility?

5. Document 3, Our turkeys and Document 4, Pump on McFarland Ranch. The McFarland Ranch was established by John McFarland, the founder of Galt and is being developed as a living history center. The SHO collection database includes several photos of this ranch that were taken in the 1880s.

6. Document 5, Wiseman family ranch and Document 6, Boy driving tractor. Children had many chores on a farm. Discuss what some of these chores might have been. Ask students why they think that the boy was allowed to drive the tractor.

7. Document 7, Seed catalog. Examine the catalog to see what kinds of things could have been planted in an 1891 garden. Are there any fruits or vegetables that the children have never heard of? (e.g. salsify) If so, find out what type of plant it was and how it was used. (for example, a root vegetable that was boiled and mashed)

8. Document 8, Home Garden Headquarters and Document 9, Picking corn. Ask children what is being grown in these gardens. (cabbages and corn) Can they find the child in the cabbage patch?

9. Document 10, School garden. Some schools had their own gardens. Other gardens were sponsored by industrial and 4-H clubs. During World War I, some children grew and canned food for the war effort. To learn more about Victory Gardens in World War II, you can see a film on this site about the Sacramento gardens, which were celebrated in Harvest Festivals. To download and play the film clips, you must have a current QuickTime Player (6.0 or higher).

10. Give students Activity Sheet 13: Life on a Family Farm (printed from PDF file). After they have finished the activity, discuss their answers as a group. (More information on Levi Painter and John Sutter’s Hock Farm is available in Lesson 11).

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1. Imagine that the year is 1900 and that you live on a farm in the Sacramento Valley. Write a letter to a friend in the city and tell them about your daily life.

2. Draw a map for a vegetable garden using plants from the 1891 Strong Catalog. Calculate the cost of the garden. Compare the Strong Catalog to a modern catalog, in terms of text and graphic style, plants offered, and prices.

3. Create a menu for a meal that you would serve in 1900 if you lived on a farm. Which ingredients could you grow, and which would you buy at a store?

4. Interview someone in your community who lived on a farm as a child at least 70 years ago. How was their childhood different from yours? How was it different from that of their own parents or grandparents? Make a book that illustrates your interviewee's life on the farm.

5. Make your own butter, with the help of an adult.

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Christian, E. and Roth-Singer, L. Let's make butter.
  Mankato, MN: Yellow Umbrella Books, 2000. (young juvenile)

Gunderson, M. Pioneer farm cooking: Exploring history through simple recipes.
  Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2000. (juvenile)

Gunderson, M. Oregon Trail cooking: Exploring history through simple recipes.
  Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2000. (juvenile)

Kalman, B. Food for the settler. Toronto, New York: Crabtree Publishing Co., 1992. (juvenile)

Kalman, B. Hooray for dairy farming! New York: Crabtree Publishing Co., 1998. (juvenile)

Kalman, B. and Hale, L. Pioneer recipes. New York: Crabtree Publishing Co., 2000. (juvenile)

King, D.C. Pioneer days: Discover the past with fun projects, games, activities, and recipes.
  New York: Wiley, 1997. (juvenile)

Luchetti, C. Children of the West: Family life on the frontier. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. (juvenile)

Peavy, L.S. and Smith, U. Pioneer children. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

Peavy, L.S. and Smith, U. Pioneer women: The lives of women on the frontier.
  Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Saunders-Smith G. Fall harvest. Mankato, MN: Pebble Books, 1998. (juvenile)

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Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont, CA

Discovery Museum, Sacramento, CA
includes agricultural exhibits, such as a 1928 kitchen and a crate label collection

Heidrick Ag History Center, Woodland, CA

Yolo Land and Cattle Company
a working ranch offering guided tours

Country Kitchens

The Daily Routine of a Kansas Farm Wife in the Last Quarter of the Nineteenth Century

Explore the History and Making of Butter, Online Exhibit

History Corner 12- 23-99
memories of milking cows

Milking and Making Butter in the 1800s

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