• “Threshing grain in the Great Judith Basin near Hobson, Montana," 1910. Courtesy of the Hobson Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Threshing Grain
    • Date
    • 1910
    • Creator
    • Cook & Dunn.
    • Description
    • This postcard depicts a threshing machine in operation in the Judith Basin near Hobson, Fergus County, Mont.
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hobson Library

  • Stacking hay in the Judith Basin in the high production year of 1915. Courtesy of the Hobson Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Stacking Hay
    • Date
    • 1915
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • This is a photo of stacking hay in the Judith Basin.
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hobson Library

  • Large machinery and workers in the field farming near Havre, Montana, 1920. Courtesy of the University of Montana - Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Farming near Havre, Montana
    • Date
    • 1919
    • Description
    • Large machinery and workers in the field farming near Havre, Montana. Hay wagons are pulled by horses. Men ride on a large tractor.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library

  • World War I poster depicting immigrants aboard a ship passing the Statue of Liberty, 1917. "Food will win the war. You came here seeking freedom. You must now help to preserve it. Wheat is needed for the allies. Waste nothing." Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

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    Food Will Win the War
    • Date
    • 1917
    • Creator
    • Chambers, Charles Edward, ca. 1883-1941.
    • Description
    • Immigrants aboard a ship passing the Statue of Liberty. Text: "Food will win the war. You came here seeking freedom. You must now help to preserve it. Wheat is needed for the allies. Waste nothing." Poster is number 18 in a series.
    • Rights
    • The SA of NC considers this item in the public domain by U.S. law but responsibility for permissions rests with researchers.;
    • Partner
    • North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
    • Contributing Institution
    • North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Boom to Bust

During the boom years of 1909-1919, homesteaders filed claims on twenty-five million acres in Montana. Montana's climate was in a wet cycle from 1909 to 1917, which encouraged homesteaders to flock to Montana for the free land and set to work farming and developing farming methods. Money poured into the state to encourage the development of irrigation projects. Other farmers worked to develop dryland farming techniques. James J. Hill, owner of the Great Northern Railroad, sponsored dryland farming conferences and exhibitions.

Hardy Webster Campbell promoted subsurface compacting, a method of plowing that firmly packed the loose soil at the bottom of a furrow so it would hold water where the roots developed. Then the top two to three inches were tilled into a loose, dry layer. Researchers at Montana Agricultural College, now Montana State University, advocated against use of this method, but many farmers put it into practice. Homesteaders learned over time how detrimental their farming methods were to the land because their nutrient-rich topsoil blew away in Montana's heavy winds.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, farmers' markets expanded once again. The government pushed farmers to increase production to meet the demands of a nation at war with slogans such as "Food will win the war." Farmers borrowed money to buy land and equipment. When the war ended, many farmers were deep in debt. The wet cycle of Montana's climate ended bringing fires, drought, and locusts. Between 1921 and 1925 at least half of the farmers in Montana lost their farms. Farmers who were successful in keeping and enlarging their holdings improved farming practices through the use of better methods and improved equipment.