THE MIDWEST: TECHNOLOGY BRINGS CHANGE TECHNOLOGY BRINGS CHANGES TO THE MIDWEST The Midwest is often called “the heartland” because it is the agricultural center for our nation. Technology helped make farms productive. Inventions like the steel plow, windmill, and barbed wire helped settlers carve out farms on the plains. FAMILY FARMS DWINDLE Until the 1980’s small family farms operated in this region, and many were mixed crop farms. That is, they grew several different crops, so if one crop failed, the farm had others. In the early 1980’s there was a country-wide recession, or downturn in business activity. The demand for farm products dropped at the same time interest rates on loans increased. Over one million American farmers have left their land since 1980. CORPORATE FARMS EXPAND Some of the farms that were sold were bought by agricultural companies that combined small farms to form large ones called corporate farms. Large agricultural companies had more capital, or money used to expand a business. Corporate farmers rely on machines and computers to do much of the work. In Kansas, 90 percent of the land is farmland or ranchland, but less than 10 percent of the people are farmers or ranchers. THE MIDWEST GROWS CITIES Chicago, Illinois was a city that got its start as a place to process and ship farm products. By the late 1800’s it had become a steel-making and manufacturing center. Farm equipment was one of the most important manufactured products made in Chicago. Detroit, Michigan is called “the Motor City.” You will find the headquarters of the American automobile industry. A huge stainless steel arch beside the river marks St. Louis, Missouri as the “Gateway to the West. THE WEST: LAND OF PRECIOUS RESOURCES A WEALTH OF RESOURCES An incredible wealth of natural resources has drawn people to the West for well over 400 years. The Spanish were well established on the West Coast even before the Pilgrims settled in New England in the 1620’s. With the California Gold Rush in 1849, the population of the region exploded. Miners head off to the Sierra Nevada expecting to strike it rich. Further discoveries of valuable minerals drew more and more people westward. MANAGING RESOURCES IN THE SIERRAS. The forty-niners, the first miners of the Gold Rush, washed small bits of gold from the streams, but to get at larger deposits, big mining companies used water cannons to blast away entire hillsides. After the Gold Rush, California's population soared. Engineers built dams to send water through pipes to coastal cities. Next to the dams, they built hydroelectric plants. USING AND PRESERVING RESOURCES Portland, Oregon was founded in 1845 near the junction of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. It became a trade center for lumber, furs, grain, salmon, and wool. The area around San Jose, California was known as “Valley of the Heart’s Delight” for its beautiful orchards and farms. Now its called “Silicon Valley,” because it is the heart of the computer industry. San Jose has built a light-rail mass transit system. Mass transit replaces individual cars with energy-saving buses or trains.