What are some problems that farming on the Great Plains presented to settlers?
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There were many problems faced by farmers on the Great Plains during the 1800s.
Perhaps the most important of these was the fact that the Great Plains were simply not that easy to farm using the technology that was then available. Rain was not very consistent. There were things like locust swarms. Even the ground was hard to plow because of how thick the roots of the prairie grasses were.
A second set of problems was connected to the fact that the Great Plains were far from the populated areas. There was very little wood on the Great Plains and it was hard to get any from the East. This meant people had to do things like living in sod houses. They had to do without much fuel and without many kinds of foods that were available in the East.
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided golden opportunities for the poor to own great tracts of land cheaply. The Act provisioned up to 160 acres of land to anyone who would cultivate it for five years, in return for a small registration fee. This brought thousands of people to the Great Plains.
This was not an easy area for farming as the land was dry and flat. Most of the settlers had no idea about farming dry lands; only the Germans from Russia who had previous experience cultivating similar lands (in the Ukraine) were somewhat more successful. The soil was held together by roots (sod) and this had to be removed for farming. The houses were also made of sod, which though uncomfortable and small, provided the required protection. Weather was harsh as well with long and cold winters and hot and dry summers. Crops with low water demand were grown. The settlers had to deal with events like droughts, locust swarms and extremely harsh winters. Since conditions were tough, farming was a family affair, with everyone contributing to it, leaving little time for children to attend school.
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