History of Iowa Crops

What did farmers grow in the past?

close up photo of wheat1700 era Ioway farmers raised corn, beans, and squash. Women did the farming in the Ioway culture while men were responsible for hunting and making tools. Ioway families were subsistence farmers, raising just enough for their family to survive throughout the year and having a little put away in case of a bad year.

The pioneer farmers who settled Iowa in the 1840s and 1850s grew corn, wheat, and potatoes. Corn fed the animals on the farm. Wheat was sold to mills where it could be made into flour. Potatoes were a big part of the diet for the pioneers.

By 1900, farmers in Iowa were growing corn, oats, and hay. These crops were grown mainly to be fed to the animals on the farm.

What do farmers grow today?

corn growing in a fieldFarming has changed quite a bit since the year 1900. But as you drive down the roads in Iowa, you will see that one crop is still grown today – corn. But even corn has changed in the past 100 years.

And new crops have been introduced on Iowa farms too, crops like soybeans. Soybeans were not grown very much in Iowa until after 1930. But then they quickly became a major crop. Pick a crop to learn more about different crops produced in Iowa.

Corn   Hay   Oats   Soybeans   Wheat

What’s a GMO? It stands for genetically modified organism. The goal of GMOs is to grow fruits or vegetables that can have a longer-life span, decrease the plants spoilage, and increase the amount produced. Some examples of GMOs are soybeans, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, cotton, wheat, rice, coffee, onions, and many more.


Ioway: Native American tribe residing in Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri.

Pioneer: A person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.

Corn: A plant that produces large grains, or kernels, set in rows on a cob. Its many varieties produce numerous products, highly valued for both human and livestock consumption.

Soybean: A widely cultivated plant of the pea family which produces edible seeds.