February 26, 2024

Preserving Indiana’s ag history: Farm gives glimpse of life during Great Depression

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — If farms could talk, Maplelawn Farmstead would have a long, colorful story to tell.

The farm has roots dating back to 1835, when it was established by John and Jane Wolf. In 2003, it was sold to the town of Zionsville. Now it is a community park, preserved for educational purposes.

A lot can happen in nearly 200 years.

“Our mission here on the farm is to educate, inspire and preserve,” said Jan Stacy, secretary at Maplelawn Farmstead, during a tour hosted by Indiana Barn Foundation.

Maplewood offers a glimpse into farm life during the Great Depression.

Not only was there an economic depression that caused many people to lose everything — there was a long, harsh drought.

“With no rain, farmers couldn’t grow any crops,” the Maplewood website states. “Without crops to prevent soil erosion, the wind blew bare soil high into the air creating dust storms in the Plains states — known as the Dust Bowl.

“Farmers, already struggling due to a depressed economy, were forced to give up and move away from their family farms.”

President Franklin Roosevelt believed the return of national prosperity was linked to the recovery of U.S. agriculture.

Programs were developed to teach farmers about irrigation and how to conserve the soil. Other programs paid farmers to plant less of certain crops or not to plant at all.

Through all of the ups and downs, the Maplewood Farmstead survived.

Now visitors can learn how changes in seed varieties, technology, growing practices and more helped the farm to be successful.

Learn more at maplelawnfarmstead.org and www.indianabarns.org.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor