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托福听力短文 II-05-3

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(WA) One of the most popular myths about the United States in the nineteenth century was that of the free and simple life of the farmer. It was said that farmers worked hard on their own land to produce whatever their families needed. They might sometimes trade with neighbors; but in general they could get along just fine by relying on themselves, not on commercial ties with others.

This is how Thomas Jefferson idealized the farmer at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and, at that time, this may have been close to the truth --- especially on the frontier. But by mid-century, sweeping changes in agriculture were well under way as farmers began to specialize in the raising of crops such as cotton or corn or wheat.

By late in the century, revolutionary advances in farm machinery had vastly increased production of specialized crops. And the extensive network of railroads had linked farmers throughout the country to markets in the East and even overseas. By raising and selling specialized crops, farmers could afford more and finer goods and achieve a much higher standard of living --- but at a price.

Now, farmers were no longer dependent just on the weather and their own efforts. Their lives were increasingly controlled by banks, which had power to grant or deny loans for new machinery, and by the railroads, which set the rates for shipping their crops to market. As businessmen, farmers now had to worry about national economic depressions and the influence of world supply and demand on, for example, the price of wheat in Kansas.

And so, by the end of the nineteenth century, the era of Jefferson's independent farmer had come to a close.

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