Filling the Nation's Breadbasket
For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of the newest German
immigrants made their way to America's farm country, where they
helped form the backbone of the nation's agriculture. As previous
generations of Germans had before them, these immigrants made their
homes on the outskirts of European settlement, where land was affordable.
Germans poured into the available lands in the center of the North
American continent--the valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri
Rivers--and began farming the fertile land around the Great Lakes.
By the mid-19th century, over half of the German-born people in
North America lived in this region.
Later in the century, many Germans would head
even farther west to the open spaces of Texas and the Dakotas--often
traveling in the Conestoga wagons that Pennsylvania German farmers
had invented to carry their crops to market. In the late 1800s,
Germans joined the early settlers in the Pacific Northwest and
California, where they were among the first to cultivate oranges,
now one of the trademark crops of the American West.