The Dirt On Conservation: A bicentennial tribute to agriculture


Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was called the “farmer president?” He was an avid gardener and kept a detailed diary and recorded his planting of broccoli May 24, 1767.

It is said that he was the first person to grow broccoli in the United States. Americans have grown broccoli in their gardens for around 200 years, but it was not popular until the 1920s. I am not a history buff, but I found this information while doing research for our community’s bicentennial celebration.

200 years ago

With all the technology and conveniences of today, it’s certainly hard to imagine what life would have been like 200 years ago. The 1800s provided the inventions and improvements in farm machinery that changed farming from an extremely labor intensive industry to technology driven.

I’m sure my great-grandfather would not believe the harvesting or planting equipment of today. Two hundred years ago, 90 percent of the population farmed while today less than 2 percent are a part of this important industry.


A farmer today supplies enough food and fiber for 155 people while in 1940 that number was only 19. The American farmer, the most productive in the world, continues to grow more food for an ever expanding U.S. population and those abroad.

It is with this appreciation that the Coshocton Soil and Water Conservation District partnered with the Pomerene Center for the Arts and the farming community for a special project this summer. This project was done in honor of Coshocton’s bicentennial and agriculture’s prominent and enduring place in our county history.

Art and Ag

The Arts Center invited the Ag community to a meeting and facilitated a process to design an unused area along a state highway that is highly visible in our community. We call this area the cloverleaf. It was decided that the area would be planted with large “C”s of corn surrounded by soybeans.

This untraditional agricultural space acknowledges that farmers are in a sense artists who contour the formations of our hills and valleys with fields of corn, soybeans, and hay, adding significantly to the economic well being and beauty of our county and state.

Community support

The community support for this project has been unbelievable. The area was sprayed with roundup in May, corn was planted on June 6, with fertilizer spread on the corn June 9, and the soybeans also planted June 9. The area was sprayed again for weeds in early July.

All of the labor, equipment, material, and supplies were donated to this project; no public monies have been used. The willingness of our community to support this project shows what can happen when we work together.

City and county officials opened doors to allow the project to happen and communicated with the public to understand what was happening in this highly visible space. The agricultural community took time away from their own farms and businesses to get this project completed during a very wet spring when everyone was running behind.


The area will be harvested this fall with proceeds held by our local grain company to use for another project in 2012. We held our bicentennial celebration in August and the “Ag as Art” project has contributed to the success of this event.

I would encourage you to look for events in your community and invite the agricultural community to become involved. Working together in our communities we can help others understand that farmers work the land with respect and pride to provide a safe, plentiful food supply.

As we walk the aisles of our grocery store, we need to remember how important this industry is to all of us.

(Deb Bigelow was raised on a grain farm in Morrow County. She moved to the position of district administrator for the Coshocton SWCD in 2008 and has been working for the Knox SWCD as education coordinator since 1989. )


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