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Lesson Plan 14 - Agriculture
download lesson14.pdf

This lesson introduces students to a few of the advances in technology that have had an impact on agriculture in California. In Lesson 14, students use the Sacramento History Online database at

1. Explain how technological improvements made growing, harvesting, and preserving crops easier.
2. Identify some of the problems farmers encountered in using steam-powered equipment.
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 relate to technological advances in agriculture.
CLICK on an image to view or print the document.

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1. Asparagus cannery
Interior of an asparagus cannery.

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2. Drying peaches
Peaches drying on racks.

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3. Sorting almonds
[ca. 1920]
Six women sort and inspect almonds. Large machines shown are dryers. After being sorted, the almonds continued through another machine.
view large image 4. Almond processing
[ca. 1920s]
Interior of Almond Grower's plant showing two men standing next to sorting and cleaning machinery.
download PDF file 5. Steam Power of California [unknown]
This booklet illustrates some early steam-powered equipment that was developed by Californians.
view large image 6. Steam harvesters
[ca. 1924]
Seven steam harvesters with 54 horse teams hauling five tons of hay each. The hay was cut, loaded on barges and on its way 100 miles down stream to the Sperry Flour Mills, all on the same day.
download PDF file 7. Best's traction engine
This engraving shows Best's Engine pulling seven carts of gravel in Sacramento.
view large image 8. Holt tractor and harvester
[ca. 1910]
Side view of a Holt-built tractor towing a harvester. Four men (possibly the Sieferman Brothers) and a dog pose on the equipment near Woodland.

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9. Mowing tules
[ca. 1917]
Men operate a mowing tractor in preparation for plowing. The tractor is pulling a large wooden barrel which flattens the tules. One man is on the roof to look out for hazards and holes.

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10. Steam tractor
[ca. 1880s]
Ten people pose in front of a steam tractor.

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11. Refrigerator car
Pacific Fruit Express refrigeration car No. 50187.

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12. Icing a refrigerator car
Men load ice into Fruit Growers Express refrigerator car.
view large image 13. Icing a refrigerator car
Fruit Growers Express car No. 35832 restored to its 1938 appearance, on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
download PDF file 14. Southern Pacific Bulletin
This bulletin includes The story of a half-million cakes of ice, an article describing how ice was cut at the Pacific Fruit Express' natural ice plant at Carlin, Nevada, a re-icing station for perishable shipments.

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1. Print any of the images shown above that you will use in your discussion, as well as Student Activity Sheet 14 and Key. (Label the images by their number to identify them in the instructions).

2. Read Background Article 14. 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, Asparagus cannery and Document 2, Drying peaches. Tell students that this image shows different ways that people learned to preserve food. What canned and dried fruits and vegetables have they eaten? Have any of their relatives dried or canned fruits or vegetables? If so, what steps did they have to take to do so? What foods would not be available in their community if canning had not been invented?

4. Document 3, Sorting almonds and Document 4, Almond processing. These images show how processing of almonds began to involve machines and assembly lines. However, some of the processing still required tedious hand labor, such as the sorting shown in Document 3. Have your class investigate how almonds are harvested and processed today.

5. Document 5, Steam Power of California. This document illustrates some of the early steam equipment used for harvesting. Identify the purpose of each machine shown. Discuss how farm equipment has changed since 1911.

6. Document 6, Steam harvesters. This image provides a good illustration of the size, horsepower requirements, and weight of steam-powered equipment, as well as the scope of the harvest on a large tract of land. It also illustrates how equipment owners would combine labor and machines to harvest one farm at a time. Have students calculate how many tons of hay the seven harvesters hauled. (35 tons) How many pounds? (70,000)

7. Document 7, Best's traction engine and Document 8, Holt tractor and harvester. Ask students to describe the differences between the traction engines shown. They may note that Best's engine had a distinctive tall boiler, and the example shown for Holt is a track-type crawler. Discuss the pros and cons of different steam engine and tractor designs. Have students suggest other approaches or come up with their own designs that would help keep tractors from sinking in the Delta mud. Compare these tractors to modern tractors. Are any of the features of the modern machines similar to the older equipment? How have they been improved?

8. Document 9, Mowing tules. This image depicts a specialized machine designed to help farmers in the Delta area. Ask students if they have seen tules. Why would these plants grow in the Delta area? (grow in wet areas)

9. Document 10, Steam tractor. This image is another example of a steam tractor showing its size and wide wheels. Based on the students' knowledge of Holt and Best, whose machines do they think this tractor most resembles. (probably those of Best)

10. Document 11, Refrigerator car and Documents 12 and 13, Icing a refrigerator car show refrigeration cars and how they were filled or iced. Read the article The story of a half-million cakes of ice in Document 14, Southern Pacific Bulletin to students or have them read it independently. Assign several students to find out how modern foods are kept cool for shipping and report to the class.

11. Give students Activity Sheet 14: Advances in Agriculture (printed from the PDF file). After they have completed the activity, discuss their answers as a group.

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1. Search the SHO collection together, using the keyword and advanced searches. Find additional examples of mechanical harvesting and processing equipment.

2. Print Document 5, Steam Power of California. Create additional illustrations showing later inventions and bind all the pages into a booklet for the class.

3. Play the role of Best or Holt to sell one of your engine designs to your class..

4. Identify at least five other sources that might help you identify the specific builder and date of the tractor shown in Document 10, and use the sources to search for the information.

5. In Sacramento, visit the California State Railroad Museum to see a railroad refrigeration car or the Discovery Museum to see Holt and Best steam tractors.

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Blandford, P.W. Old farm tools and machinery: An illustrated history.
  Fort Lauderdale, FL: Gale Research Co., 1976.

Martin, G.A. Farm equipment and hand tools.
  Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1980. (facsimile of a book printed in 1887)

Murphy, J. Tractors: From yesterday's steam wagons to today's turbocharged giants.
  New York: Lippincott, 1984. (juvenile)

Sloane, E. A museum of early American tools. New York: Ballantine Books, 1964.

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California State Railroad Museum
Sacramento, CA

Canning industry history

Coast to coast
description of shipping oranges in a refrigerated railroad car in 1947

Discovery Museum
Sacramento, CA

The Holt family business history

Heidrick Ag Center Antique Ag Collection
Woodland, CA

Monterey County agriculture history
includes description of wheat harvest

The Northern Great Plains: Implements Used on the Farm

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