Growing crops for food was one of the first priorities of the earliest settlers arriving in North America. With shipboard supplies depleted, and having little familiarity with the land and native vegetation, groups arriving from Europe were quickly forced to learn to produce crops to ensure their survival. The stories of Native Americans teaching the settlers to plant and fertilize a corn crop are part of this countrys lore.
In the era of Thomas Jefferson (arguably the most illustrious farmer that this nation has produced), farmers made up about 90% of the work force. As late as 1900, almost 40% of the labor force was engaged in producing crops and livestock for food, feed, and fiber. Now, with less than one percent of our population claiming farming as a principal occupation, most U.S. citizens have little or no crop production experience. This section provides an overview of the principles and practices associated with production of the major crops grown in the United States.