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Agriculture is Idaho's primary industry. We depend on it everyday for food, clothing and economic well being. Agriculture looks at the history of this industry in Idaho, starting with the settlers who provided food for the miners. It also looks at two of the state's major contributions to the agricultural industry.


After viewing Agriculture, students will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the role agriculture played in the state's development.
  2. Understand how advancements in technology have changed the agricultural industry.
  3. Understand that irrigation made fanning possible in many parts of Idaho.
  4. Describe two of Idaho's major contributions to the agricultural industry.

Agriculture reviews the history of Idaho's leading industry. The program begins with the host, Phyllis Edmundson, at Silver City. She tells students that Idaho's agricultural industry began when miners came to the area and needed food.

Idaho's first farmers faced a number of problems, the biggest being how to get their products to market. Farmers in eastem Idaho had large tracts of land without water, so they developed a system of irrigation. With the leadership of men like Thomas Ricks, Mormon pioneers developed irrigation to farm much of eastern Idaho.

Farmers in northern Idaho had a different problem. They had to deal with the rolling hills of the Palouse. Technology gave farmers better tools. The railroad came to Idaho and farmers and ranchers had a better way to get their products to market. Canal companies formed to deliver water to farms and men like Ira Perrine made Idaho's desert bloom.

Farmers and ranchers today face challenges never seen by those first settlers. There are concerns about pesticide uses and greater demands on the water supply. Still, agriculture remains Idaho's number one industry and continues to grow. The video concludes with a look at two major contributions, the Polypay sheep and the Russet Burbank potato.

Early Agriculture


(Before Viewing)

  1. Have students list all of the different kinds of agricultural products they use each day. Don't limit the list to food.
  2. Look at a map of the river systems in Idaho. Identify the farm land found along the livers. Discuss how much water would be needed to keep that land productive and how much more would be needed to develop additional farms.
  3. Discuss some of the ways Idahoans use water.
  4. List some of the agricultural products produced in Idaho. Discuss who uses these products and how these products get to the consumer.

(During Viewing)

  1. How do you get your crops to the people who can buy them?
  2. How do we decide who gets how much water?
  3. How do we balance everyone's needs?
  4. What do you think makes these sheep so special?
  5. But what good is a great product if no one knows it exists?

Agriculture - The science and business of raising crops or animals
Canal Company - A business that provides canals to move water to farm land
Irrigation - A way of supplying water to farm land
Palouse - The rolling hills of northern Idaho
Pesticides - Chemicals used to kill insects, bugs and other animal pests
Promote - To advocate, propose, or sell
Reservoir - A man made lake used to store water


(After Viewing)

  1. Who did the first farmers sell to and what problems did they face?
  2. Why is irrigation important to agriculture? How have people changed the environment in order to use water for agriculture?
  3. What tools and inventions helped advance Idaho's agricultural industry?
  4. Why would it be important to develop new breeds of sheep?
  5. Why would it be important to promote Idaho's potatoes and other crops?
  1. Research the types of crops grown in Idaho and then draw a map showing where those crops are grown.
  2. Pick a product and have the student follow it from the farm or ranch to the store.
  3. Design an imaginary product and have the students figure out ways to promote it.
  4. Have the students plant and care for a mini garden.

Crossword Puzzle
Design your own crossword puzzle using at least ten of the words below. You will need to figure out how the words link together, which boxes to shade, and what the clues will be. If you need to use extra words not on the list to make your puzzle work, go ahead! You may need to use a dictionary.

Potential Word List:

Alfalfa Hay

Sugar Beets

Sweet Cherries
Sweet Corn