The Living History Of Iowa

In Urbandale, Iowa, just outside Des Moines, visitors are taking a trip back in time to the roots of farming.

At Living History Farms, three farm sites trace 300 years of Iowa's agricultural history.

The first stop on the journey is the 1700 Ioway Indian Village. The Ioway were already farming the Plains when they first encountered European settlers around 1676. The 1700 village shows the mix of traditional Indian wood and bone tools with the hatchets, iron skillets, and knives that the Ioway acquired through trade.

Viewer Recommended
The Living History Farms diversion was recommended by Des Moines resident Barbara Mack, a regular Sunday Morning viewer. According to Mack, "Living History Farms shows you pieces of our heritage that we have too often taken for granted."
The site is made up of a dozen wood lodges covered with tree bark. The rich black soil is planted with squash, maize, beans and pumpkins, the crops of choice for the early inhabitants.

Not far down the road, visitors find out what life was like on a farm of the 1850s. On the Pioneer Farm, a lumbering pair of oxen plows the fenced-in fields of corn, wheat and potatoes.

In a cabin made of local timber, women cook in cast iron cookware over an open hearth.

Almost all the work is done by hand, including spinning wool into yarn, quilting, making lye soap, dipping candles and tending the garden.

Moving on to the farm of 1900, there's change in the air. With better plows and equipment, farmers are now using horses to work a field three times as large. Steel, produced in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, is now a common site in the field and in the home. Buildings are made of cut lumber, not logs, and are brightly painted.

The characteristics of today's farm can be seen. A cash crop of corn or wheat is grown to be sold at market. The house is filled with china, machine-made clothes and quilts and trinkets, bought with the money earned from last year's harvest.

The farms feel so real that it is the visitors in their modern drss who seem unreal. However, it is a living farm and the inhabitants are more than happy to drop what they're doing and mingle with guests.

Despite all the advances in agriculture in this past century, when it comes to history, these farms produce a bumper crop.