Percent of Land in Farms by County
Source: United States Geological Survey- Land Use History of North America
Map Description:
These maps indicate the percent of land in farms, by county, for the years 1850, 1860, 1900, and 1950. Because county size varies markedly across the United States, it would be misleading to compare counties based on the total number of acres under cultivation. Instead, the maps included here display agricultural activity as the percent of each county's land area that is farmland. Farmland areas are shown within counties where soils and topography could reasonably be expected to support agriculture as cropland, pastureland, and/or rangeland.
Until 1910, new counties were often created, some were dropped, and new territories were acquired. In a few cases whole states seceded from other states or territories (West Virginia, for example, was created from part of Virginia in 1863 [U.S. Bureau of Census 1995]). For consistency, we used today's county boundaries and spatially allocated earlier data to them from earlier boundaries.

This information is taken from the report:
Maizel, M. Historical Interrelationships Between Population Settlement and Farmland in the Conterminous United States, 1790 to 1992 National Center for Resource Innovations-Chesapeake, Inc.

Cautions for this Product:
It is important to note that the definition of farmland used in this study is very broad and the study does not account for shifts of less- to more-intensive farmland uses, e.g., from rangeland into irrigated cropland uses such as has occurred in eastern Nebraska and western Kansas after 1970 (Gage and Maizel, unpublished data). Also, census data were not available for some states until they joined the United States (e.g., those states involved in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and Florida, ceded by Spain in 1819 but not formally added to the conterminous United States until 1845). The late addition of Oklahoma is obvious in the images presented here, due to the lack of data for that state until after 1907. Consequently, there is some omission of early agricultural activity in the western states. Likewise, no spatial data exist for farming practices by Native Americans prior to European settlement. The reader should be aware of these data gaps when assessing the displays.

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