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Educate>Agricultural Education at Horn Farm Center


Horn Farm Center For Agricultural Education


General Information

Agriculture History


Buying and Selling Goods

End of an Era

Farming Equipment

Dairy Industry

New Modern Era

More Information

General Information

Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education is a nonprofit organization that is located in Hellam Township, York County. The center is dedicated completely to preserving the counties rich agricultural heritage, as well as showing the surrounding community new and exciting agricultural methods being used.

The center is located on 186 acres of farm land with a rich agricultural history. A good portion of the acreage is used by a local farmer family, the Flinchbaugh's, who farm the land for high production agriculture and accord to the best farming practices. The remaining property is home to many different public events and projects.

Agriculture History

The Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education is dedicated to showcasing and interpreting the rich heritage of York County's agriculture. You might be asking yourself why this is important. Well agriculture is Pennsylvania's number one industry. York County's agriculture alone generates more than $100 million annually for the counties economy. Since the 1750's southeastern Pennsylvania has been an exceptionally prosperous farming area. Yet few people know the rich heritage or the importance of this agricultural history. To better understand the problems farmers face today, as well as understand the new directions agriculture is taking in the future, it is important to understand its history.

The first farmers in the area that is now called Pennsylvania were Native Americans. They were primarily Hunter Gathering colonies but still had agricultural methods and strengths. Their life style reflected a Stone Age background. Their tools, weapons, and household utensils were made from stone, wood and bark. Transportation and traveling was done on foot, or if you were near water ways you could use a canoe. These people showed many basic rudiments of a more complex civilization such as weaving, pottery, and agriculture techniques. A variety of different Native American Tribes considered Pennsylvania home.

The Delawares- Called themselves Leni-Lanape, which when translated means "real men," originated in the Delaware River basin. Under pressure from settlers these people eventually traveled westward to the Allegheny and finally into eastern Ohio. The main crop of choice for these Native Americans was corn or which they called maze. (Pennsylvania History, 2011)

The Susquehannocks- This powerful Iroquoian-speaking tribe lived along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and Maryland. These people were considered to be very energetic and engaged themselves in many wars. They were wiped out however by new diseases brought by Europeans settlers. (Pennsylvania History, 2011)

The Shawnees- These people were a very important Algonkian- speaking tribe who came to Pennsylvania from the west. Some groups settled in the lower Susquehanna and others settled in what is now present day Easton. (Pennsylvania History, 2011)

The Iroquois Confederacy- This group of Iroquoian-speaking tribes was first known as the Five Nations. It included members of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas Indians. This group of tribes acted as middle men in the fur trade with Native Americans further west. Also they acted as intermediaries when dealing with settlers and pioneers. This confederacy was considered to be the largest single group of Indians in northeastern America at the time. (Pennsylvania History, 2011)

Depending on the area in the state depends on the particular tribe and varied what crops they grew. The landscape and amount of native food and plants helped to dictate their agricultural practices. Many of the crops settlers grew were borrowed from the Native Americans. These crops include maize or corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, gourds, squashes, Watermelons, beans, grapes, berries, nuts, maple sugar, cotton, and what goes on to become one of Americas biggest cash crops- tobacco. Recently archaeologists who excavated many of these Native American sites have found storage pits for preserving and drying corn and other foods.

At the Horn Farm Center one way they are trying to honor the great history and contribution to these people is by constructing a 17th century Indian Hunting camp. The camp will consist of a bark shanty that is typical of the time and area. The site will showcase native plants present when Native Americans used this area to hunt, gather, and grow different crops. (The Horn Farm Center, 2011)


From Pennsylvania's beginnings it has always been ranked as a leading agricultural area and produced a vast amount of surpluses that were able to than be exported. Many of the farmers who lived closer to water ways and had a better means of transportation were able to focus more on exporting particular crops. Farmers that lived further inland had to focus more on sustainable practices until technology advances made it easier to transport. By the 1750's southeastern Pennsylvania has developed an extremely prosperous farming area with wheat and corn being the leading crops, although rye, hemp, and flax were also important. (Smith, 2011)

Pioneers to the state of Pennsylvania also brought their own unique farming techniques and traditions that were very different from the Native Americans. In the rich farm land areas of York and Lancaster Counties, many German immigrants settled. These settlers took up farming and created the Pennsylvania style barn. This iconic building has come to be quite a familiar landmark throughout the state.

There were different constructions for different barns. One popular structure was the Holstein Barn. This barn style originated in northern Germany and is constructed of wood and stone with a rather large front roof. Another popular type of barn construction was the Swiss barn. This also was constructed out of wood and stone but does not have a basement and it much smaller in size when compared to the Holstein Barn.

The Horn Farm Center features the foundation of a Bank Barn. The Barn that used to stand there dates back to the 1860's but was sadly destroyed by fire in April of 2006. The foundation is the proposed site for a future Agricultural Education Center. (The Horn Farm Center, 2011)

This style of barn was first built by German settlers, but quickly caught on, and became one of the most popular styles of barn in the Pennsylvania during the colonial era. Sometimes people refer to these barns as "Basement Barns." This particular structure was typically built into the side of a slope to allow for easy access to both levels. The upper level often served as a loft where farmers could store their grain or feed. The lower level would often serve as a stable for the animals.

In addition to the barn construction another exciting new technology was the design and use of ovens and/or stoves. One such design is the German Squirrel Tail Oven. The design of this oven is what makes it truly unique. Before 1750 many ovens were usually built into the back of big cooking fireplaces. The "squirrel tail" refers to the design of the passageway over the top of the oven. This passageway is used for ventilation and helps the oven to heat up faster and more evenly, as well as providing better draw for the flames. This was a traditional style oven for much of America during the colonial period. (Cook, 2011)

The Horn Farm Center has a replicated model of a German Squirrel Tail oven at its location on display for any curious visitors.

Besides the building technology and concepts that the new settlers brought with them, they also brought innovations to farming when they introduced new techniques such as crop rotation and sowing a different crop- either corn, oats, wheat, and clover- on each field every four year period. Also it was not uncommon for many families or townspeople to keep a cow or two and to plant their own gardens so their families would have fresh vegetables.
During the time period that many refer to as the pioneer era, over half of all people living in Pennsylvania lived on farms. The families also doubled as the workers. This included anyone who was capable (children and the elderly). There were very few hired laborers during the colonial times but apprentices and indentured laborers were common. Indentured laborers were people who would work to pay off debts, usually associated with the cost of their passage to Pennsylvania from their home countries. Apprenticeships were looked upon as not merely free labor, but as a form of education. Many political figures and leaders at the time encouraged such practices for anyone who was at least twelve years old.

Buying and Selling Goods

Many of the farmers needed a place to sell their produce and livestock. This is where your local farmers market came from. Local farmers sold their fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats to the local townspeople from within the market area itself, as well as from wagons and curbside stands. These market places were often primitive and crude. Some of the chief crops produced during the pioneer era were wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, potatoes, fruits, and hay.

Agents were hired to participate in these markets. These hired peoples would ride through the country on horseback and buy flocks and herds of livestock from different farmers. This livestock was then taken to the towns' farmers market to be sold for a profit. The first farmers market in Philadelphia was started in 1693 and was located at a shed on the corner of First and Market Streets. Many towns were soon to follow. The first farmers' market in Harrisburg was built shortly after the town was laid out in 1785.

America's oldest agricultural fair was started in 1765 when a man named Thomas Penn, (who is the son of William Penn) signed a charter that granted York County the privilege of "forever hereafter" they would be able to hold a fair twice a year. At this time in history the fair was a two day agricultural market in the area that is now known as Penn Park. During the Revolutionary War and The War of 1812 soldiers would have camped in the area the same time as the fair.

End of an Era

After 1880, the idea of farming more acreage and a larger area ended. This pattern had started in the colonial period and has been on the decline ever since. This trend however has been outweighed by improved farming methods. Local farmers and agricultural experts got together to form groups and committees.

Many groups were formed in the States Commonwealth to advocate farming and horticulture. A few of these groups, such as the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, was started as far back as 1785. These groups had a common goal and objective between them. That goal was to inform farmers, provide practical advice about problems such as insect control and to provide information on the latest farming equipment.
In 1876 a State Board of Agriculture was created which was made a department in 1895 and in 1887 the federal government established an agricultural experiment station at the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania in Centre County (This was the predecessor of the Pennsylvania State University). The cooperation between the college's faculty and working farmers became so important, not only in building relationships and educating each other, but also was extremely important for improving overall farming production.

In 1862 the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania was founded. This college, currently known as Pennsylvania State University, was founded with Evan Pugh as the first president. With Pugh as head of the college, Penn State led the movement toward public education in the scientific methodology in agriculture. (Smith, 2011)

As Technology and equipment became more advanced and more readily available to the everyday farmer, the need for more educational resources was apparent. Frederick Watts, in 1857, built a 116 acre model farm to promote his ideas about farm efficiency. Watts went on to become the first president of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society which was founded in 1851. (Smith, 2011) (Stories From PA History, 2011)

Another man concerned about problems facing farmers and wanting to educate them was John Beale Bordley. He also like Frederick Watts formed organizations for the scientific study of agriculture, and built experimental farms where each tested their latest theories in farming.

Farming Equipment

It is important to talk about some of the equipment that the farmers were using. Much of the machinery and technology that farmers were using was considered meager at best. Much of the work was done by hand and was the truly back breaking.

The only source of power to pull equipment was livestock. Most often either horses or oxen were the animals of choice. The plows were crude wooden utensils. Cultivating fields was done with a hoe, as well as hay and grain cutting being done with a sickle. By 1797 however Charles Newbold patents the first cast iron plow.

Farm work was extremely demanding and required an enormous amount of physical stamina. Prior to the 1840's many of the tools used had changed very little since the times of ancient Romans. Since the only tools available to the farmers were simple hand instruments, obviously things took much longer. In the nineteenth century however industrial revolutions changed farming from a small family enterprise based on time honored traditions into a highly specialized, mechanized, and scientific industry. (Stories From PA History, 2011)

During the period of 1820-1920 people began to apply science to farming which led to a revolution in farming equipment and advances. Around the 1820's Joesph and Robert Smith of Bucks County invented a practical cast iron plow that was considered to be an immediate success with farmers. Another great advancement was a machine known as a thresher. This machine was patented by Andrew Ralston in 1842 and had the job of cleaning and threshing (or separating) grain in a single operation. Advances in other agricultural equipment such as harvesters and binders all reduced work, increased labor productivity, and increased yields in some circumstances.

Transportation of produce and goods to local markets proved to be quite a challenge. To bring the different agricultural products to market in the central part of the state, the Pennsylvania legislature helped to fund the construction of an aggressive network of roads and canals. Wagons and canals were both good methods of transportation however, during the mid-1800's the rail roads changed the way people travel forever. This also revolutionized the way that farmers could transport their goods and livestock. Many of the good from the western part of the state were moved by boats or barges down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. While many of the products from the eastern part of the state made their way to the Philadelphia or Baltimore area.

In 1876 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania formed a Board of Agriculture in 1876 to oversee the proper use of scientific methods in farming practices. The State legislation followed close behind by enlarging the work the board had to complete. The commercial Fertilizer Law, The Butter and Cheese Act, and the Animal disease Control Law were all passed between 1879 and 1887. Yet in 1895 the same legislation that created the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture transferred to it, the three basic functions that the Board of Agriculture previously held, which were education, law enforcement, and the prevention of plant and animal disease. Throughout the Commonwealth the Department of Agriculture established agricultural extension stations with the intent for farmers to learn more profitable methods of raising crops and produce. One example of this is seen in turkey production. Pennsylvania increased its production from 150,000 in 1920 to more than 500,000 in 1940.

People also changed their trends in eating habits which had a great effect on Pennsylvania farms. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in 1914 stated that "they have seen a great change in the dairy business of this State, instead of producing butter and cheese; we furnish now much more whole milk for city consumption." These observations were seen on many farms, rather than raising pigs and young cattle farmers only raised cows.

Dairy Industry

The dairy and livestock have always been prominent in Pennsylvania, however by the twentieth century this industry became more prominent than ever before. Dairying is now Pennsylvania's number one industry. The state is the fourth largest milk producing state and also the fourth largest producer of ice cream. (Smith, 2011) Up until the nineteenth century, women always made milk into butter and cheese. Refrigeration, railroad completion, and the rise of huge urban markets caused the increase in demand of fluid milk and dairying and shifted the production of butter and cheese to industrial plants. Refrigerated trucks also helped the dairy industry to grow by solving transportation concerns that many farmers had.

Quantity of production soon became the main concern with large urban markets. This led to more homogeneous population of European dairy cows. Some of these breeds include what we know as the Holstein, Guernsey, and Jersey cows, to name a few. Many innovations such as machine milking, refrigeration, sanitary milk separators, disease control, pasteurization, and dairy inspection all contributed to a milk market industry that provided 40 percent of the state's farmer's income by 1940.

New Modern Era

With the first Farm Show, new developments in farming were quickly becoming evident. The first Farm Show was held in Harrisburg Pennsylvania in January of 1917 and it quickly grew into one of the world's largest indoor agriculture shows. In 1931 a new main exhibition building was opened with another exhibit arena added in 1939. Presently the Farm Show continues to be a popular venue for both farmers and the public. Unlike most state fairs, the Farm Show is held every year in January. It was set up in such a way because the original committee had the idea that this was the time of the year that farmers wanted to look ahead to the coming season. They would be making decisions and purchases about buying seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and other supplies. (Smith, 2011)

By 1930 many new developing technologies were improving the life of Pennsylvania farmers. The farmers were within trucking distance of thirty million consumers, but it was not until the Great Depression that farmers were able to connect with the customers. During the Great Depression the Commonwealth built and paved close to 20,000 miles of "Pinchot roads" that farmers were able to utilize to connect with the outside world. (Stories From PA History, 2011)

With this new Modern Era of agriculture Pennsylvania saw dramatic changes in farm labor, technology, and the size of farms. A great amount of concern for the neglect of the education of youth led to child labor laws being passed in 1915 and again in 1935. These laws restricted the number of hours that children could work on the family farm during school hours. New advances in technology helped to lessen the burden of children however. With the development of refrigerated trucks many farmers found a means to supply fruits and vegetables for larger city markets.

During the Great Depression many farmers like all Americans were having a difficult time to make ends meet. The Federal Government put in place the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. This act restricted the freedom of farmers to raise crops and livestock. Needless to say many farmers were very opposed to this. Only five percent of the wheat farmers in the state signed contracts that would reduce wheat production in 1934. However, many farmers were open and appreciative of other New Deal programs for agriculture. Some of these programs included the farm credit program, the tenant-purchase loan plan, and the federal government's offer to buy surplus crops.

The 1930's also brought the introduction of electricity to rural areas and made it much less of a burden to have house hold conveniences. With electricity came the use of radios and telephones which made farming communities much less socially isolated. Also advances in technology resulted in much less of a dependence upon horses and other livestock for cultivating farmland. Tractor drawn machinery and combustible engines were becoming much more available.

Following World War II, farming and agriculture became a much less desirable occupation. (Smith, 2011) Much of this was due to the increasing cost of labor and equipment. Many young farmers moved from rural areas to much more developed urban areas. The number of farms drastically decreased from 225,000 to 59,000 as more than 170,000 Pennsylvania farmers left for more developed big cities. Southeastern Pennsylvania, which is considered to be the state's most productive agricultural region, was losing farmland at a historically unprecedented rate. This let agricultural companies or suburban housing developers buy up many small farms. This lead to the expansion of the interstate highway system and many developers bulldozed land into shopping centers, industrial parks, and housing developments.

In response to the labor shortage that was quickly becoming apparent on farms across the state the Pennsylvania State Employment Service recruited migrant farm workers, many of them being of African American or Puerto Rican descent. Even to this day migrant workers still are employed at a number of farms today. Even though these drastic changes took place Pennsylvania still has one of the largest rural populations in the nation and more than two million residents are employed in agriculture and agribusiness. The agribusiness field-which includes industries such as food processing, forestry and the sale of feeds, fertilizers, and farm equipment, is the Commonwealths largest industry generating about $45 billion in revenue in 2000.

Pennsylvania is our country's fourth largest producer of food products. Nearly every county has some type of specific food plant that they are known for. Philadelphia, Dauphin, Allegheny, Berks, York, Lancaster, and Montgomery Counties employ the most food workers in the state. Philadelphia is known for its bakery products, candies, and ice creams. Dauphin County is home of Hershey Foods and the world famous Hershey Chocolate Factory, while York County is home to Hanover Foods. The State has a number of canneries for fruit and vegetables. On the Western side of the state Henry J. Heinz has been bottling horseradish and ketchup since 1869 and has made Pittsburgh home of the world famous Heinz products.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture continues its original mission still today by conducting scientific studies and publishing bulletins on a variety of agricultural subjects. The department helps to monitor both animal health as well as plant diseases. It encourages the marketing of Pennsylvania agricultural products and administers an active farmland preservation program. In 1989 Pennsylvania created the State Agricultural Land Preservation Board that by 2003 has preserved more than 250,000 acres of prime farmland in the State. (Smith, 2011) The Department of Agriculture also monitors Pennsylvania laws that apply to farmers and provides protection for the general public through the regulation of programs for farm produce. Regulation of milk products and sanitation, canned foods, food employee service certification, and other food related issues are also regulated by the Department of Agriculture. Still on top of all these responsibilities the department also administers the Pennsylvania Farm show that high lights the contributions of thousands of Pennsylvania farm families.

For More Information

After reading the history of farming and agriculture in the State, it is important to look towards the future. Pennsylvania has such a rich heritage and history in farming. It is important that people realize how important this heritage is and make efforts to preserve it. Also it is important that people are made aware of the problems facing farmers today, and more importantly new methods of farming. People in the local community also need to understand the importance of the phrase "Buy Fresh, Buy Local."

The Horn Farm Center is dedicated to showcasing and interpreting the rich heritage, viable present, and exciting future of York County Agriculture. By providing youth as well as the general public with the opportunities of participating and experiencing hands on gardening projects and educational operations. (The Horn Farm Center, 2011) This is primarily done through the centers Community Garden Projects. Members of the community are able to purchase small plots of land they can cultivate for themselves. For more information on the Community Gardens Projects at The Horn Farm Center please click here for more information.

The Horn Farm Center demonstrates new farming practices that demonstrate sustainable farming practices and the economic viability of small scale farming. This is accomplished with the unique feature of the Centers Incubator Farms Project. This full operational, self-sustaining, small scale farms are run by independent farmers. (The Horn Farm Center, 2011) For more information on Incubator farming please click here for more information.
In the upcoming year the Center has some exciting events and projects planned. If you are interested in becoming involved with The Horn Farm Center itself, you should please visit the website here. Or you could call or contact:

Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education
4945 Horn Road
York, PA 17406
Phone: 717-757-6441















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