Not a One Crop Town
Wayne County led Ohio in production of a variety of crops. The Rice family, for example, has grown potatoes, bred Belgian Draft horses, and run dairy facilities and grist mills.1 Seven generations of Frederick Rice’s descendents continued to farm a variety of crops in Creston Township. This northeastern Wayne County family is typical of Wooster-area farmers, with relatively small farms and a wide range of crops.
Throughout the nineteenth century, these farmers led Ohio in production. In 1839, Wayne County was the second-largest producer of oats with 542,965 bushels and in 1849 and 1859, with 427,319 and 592,693 bushels, respectively. Wayne County was the third-largest producer in Ohio in the swine industry in both 1840 and 1860, with 55,889 and 54,243 pigs, respectively. Furthermore, Wayne County had the largest population of horses in Ohio for several decades, with 10,738 horses in 1850 and 14,303 horses in 1860.2
Agriculture began as Wayne County's founding industry in the early 1800s. Throughout the nineteenth century, agriculture evolved with changing technology and techniques, but it remained important in the community. In 1841, there were 35,808 people living in Wayne County and 7,676 of them listed their employment as agriculture.3
Today, with a population just over 115,000, Wayne County has about 1,750 farms and 2,600 full-time farm operators. Farms are relatively small (at 141 acres on average), but Wayne County remains an important agricultural hub for Ohio, leading the state in dairy production and cattle and ranking high for hay, corn for silage, fruit, tree nuts, and berries.4 Wayne County's variety of crops has continued to envigorate its economy as it benefits from exporting goods, but is also able to be self-sufficient. The County continues to evolve in their agricultural practices, now home to a thriving local food movement, relying on the 1,750 small farms in Wayne County and farms in surrounding areas.
1 Susan Mykrantz, “Six Generations of Rice Farmers,” Firelands Farmer, April 9, 1990, 1.
2 Robert Leslie Jones, History of Agriculture in Ohio to 1880 (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1983), 62, 132, 147, 160.
3 US Department of State, 1841 Compendium of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants and Statistics of the United States, and Obtained at the Department of States, from the Returns of the Sixth Census by Counties and Principal Towns Exhibiting the Population, Wealth, and Resources of the Country, agcensus.usda.gov.
4 US Department of Agriculture, 2007 Census of Agriculture County Profile: Wayne County Ohio, agcensus.usda.gov.