The Midwest

Sofia Rodriguez- 1st period

An Agricultural Economy

Most of the Midwest is relatively flat, and its soil is fertile. The plants and animals that once lived on the soil, in the Midwest, die and decay, building up the soil process. The dark-colored organic material that results is called humus. The Midwestern climate favors agriculture. Winters can be very cold, but summers are long and hot.

Regional Variations

Within the broad expanse of the Midwest are variations in climate and soil that affects farming.


  • Eastern Ohio gets twice as much precipitation annually as central South Dakota
  • In southern Kansas, the growing season is more than 200 days long
  • Near the Canadian border, the growing season is less than 120 days long
  • In Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, corn and soybeans are the major crops
  • In the Great Plains, farmers are most likely to grow grains, like wheat, oats, or sunflowers.
  • In Wisconsin and other states northern margin, the poor soil favor the growth of hay and raising of dairy cattle

The Nation's Breadbasket

Because of the favorable conditions, Midwestern farms are among the most productive in the world. In recent years, Iowa produced more corn, soybeans, and hogs than any other state in the nation. This productivity allows the U.S. to export sizable amounts of its produce to other countries and allows the average American to be well fed.

The Changing Face of American Farms

Farming Technology


  • Cyrus McCormick patented a mechanical reaper, which changed farming
  • McCormick reaper allowed farmers to harvest vast amounts of wheat in much less time than it took by hand
As more and more farm tasks were mechanized, farmers could produce more crops than ever before and with fewer workers.

Linking Farms to Cities

Agriculture dominates the economy, even in many Midwestern towns and cities. Business activities center on dairies or grain elevators. Large Midwestern cities are linked to the countryside. The Mercantile Exchange is the world's busiest market for eggs, hogs, cattle, and other farm products. The Board of Trade is the largest grain exchange.

Linking Transportation and Industry

Many Midwestern cities, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, and Omaha, are located the Great Lakes or major rivers. Water transportation aided the growth of heavy industries, such as automobiles and machinery. The growth of the United States' railway system, thousands of railroad cars were pulling into Chicago every year.


humus- the organic material that results when plants and animals that live in the soil die and decay

growing season- in farming, the average number of days between the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall

grain elevators- a tall building equipped with machinery for loading, cleaning, storing, and discharging of grain

grain exchange- a place where grain is bought and sold as commodity