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Texas Plains Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Agriculture


LBJ State Park & Historic Site, Uvalde
LBJ State Park & Historic Site, Uvalde

DOWN ON THE FARM

How many times a week do you think you could eat beans, corn, and squash? Once? Twice? How about every day, several times a day. Sounds like a foodie's worst nightmare. But if you lived in Texas before the advent of European settlement, these staples, along with whatever meat you could capture, would be part of your routine meal plan. Crop diversity and the introduction of livestock to our food supply, courtesy of the rest of the world, helped make an industry in Texas out of growing things to eat. Prior to the Civil War, a typical farm in Texas consisted of an average 150-acres where livestock, crops, and garden foods were raised, usually by non-slaveholding families. Over the course of the last century, industry and commerce replaced the family farm with large commercial farms and an agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton, sorghum, and other mass-produced crops. Economic forces transformed "living off the land" from a necessity to a novelty in a little over 100 years. Oddly, a back-to-the-land movement is on the rise, capturing advocates-and restaurateurs-who believe that composing an entire meal from locally available products might not be such a bad idea. Beans and cornbread anyone?

COTTON CULTURE

Check your shirt or pant tag and cotton will likely be a factor in your clothing content. Cotton fibers are used in twill, seersucker, corduroy, cambric, denim, terrycloth, and blended with rayon, polyester, and other synthetic fibers. You can find cotton in coffee filters, paper, nitrocellulose (it explodes!), livestock feed, and vegetable oil. Spanish missionaries were the first to grow cotton in Texas, and the first recorded production, thousands of pounds that year, dates to 1745. Barbed wire fencing and the removal of Native American populations stimulated an increase in cotton growing, but it was a change in plow design, making it easier to break apart the prairie soil, that gave cotton growing in the state a real boost. Since then, Texas has grown and processed cotton across the state, from the Rio Grande Valley to the High Plains, where the flat landscape breaks with silver towers of cotton ginneries. Today, the United States is one among the world's top 10 exporters of cotton, and Texas leads the country, contributing to the 18 million bales of cotton shipped overall.

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Read more about agriculture in the Handbook of Texas Online.