How Hoover and America Handled the Onset of the Great Depression

For America’s farmers, the depression followed a decade of poor crops and crippling losses. National Archives

2. Farmers were among the hardest hit during the first three years of the depression

During the First World War, America’s farmers responded to government urging and produced record crops. The following decade of the Roaring Twenties found prices for their crops declining steadily, due to the results of their success creating surpluses. Throughout the 1920s, farmers encountered declining prices, as well as several years of failed crops due to weather. Competition from imports took their toll. By the end of the decade farmers were struggling; the collapse of the stock market and the ensuing bank failures added to their miseries.

Beginning in the fall of 1930, after another bad year for crops across much of the American plains, farmers began to default on their loans. Banks unable to carry them foreclosed in previously unforeseen numbers. Other farmers managed to hold on to their properties for a time, but lacked the wherewithal to plant crops. When drought conditions arrived, the unplanted fields added to the Dust Bowl conditions which devastated the Great Plains in waves during the 1930s. Some small farmers managed to survive the depression and series of droughts which accompanied it through diversification of labor, and the sale of some property to pay taxes and loans. Thousands did not during the early years of the depression.