What methods did farmers use to solve their problems in the late 1800s?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Farmers were facing many problems in the late 1800s. These problems included overproduction, low crop prices, high interest rates, high transportation costs, and growing debt.  Farmers worked to alleviate these problems.  However, they faced a lot of opposition.

To deal with problems which could be solved politically, farmers organized groups and eventually a political party. Groups like the Grange worked to help farmers deal with high railroad shipping costs and high interest rates. Farmers formed cooperatives to try to encourage railroad companies to give farmers preferred shipping rates. The cooperatives also served the purpose of having the farmers pool their crops to try to help raise prices they got for their crops.  However, farmers had very limited success in accomplishing their goals through the actions of these groups.  Thus, farmers turned to a political party called the Populist Party.

The Populist Party worked to try to help farmers. In their party platform, they ran on several issues that included increasing the money supply by having a gold and silver based money supply.  They also wanted more government control over the railroads and the elimination of the national banking system.  Farmers believed banks and railroads were their enemies.  Farmers wanted the government to store crops so there would be a constant supply of crops available.  This would help to deal with the issues of overproduction and lower prices for crops.  Finally, farmers wanted the government to offer farmers low interest rates on loans. Some farmers tried to mortgage their farmers because they were in debt.  They were trying to save their farms.  However, this wasn’t always a success.

The Grange also served as a way for farmers to gather socially and learn about new farming methods.  Classes or lectures would be offered to teach farmers about the latest ideas in growing crops and using machinery.  Dances and dinners would be held so farmers could socialize and try to alleviate the isolation they sometimes felt.

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