By the time Oklahoma and Indian Territories combined in 1907 to become the State of Oklahoma, there were over 62,000 farms, producing 8.6 million bushels of wheat, 113 million bushels of corn, 8 million chickens, 347,000 turkeys, 2 million bushels of potatoes, 90,000 bushels of flaxseed, 864,000 bales of cotton, and 60,000 sheep. Three years later, the state had over 190,000 farms.
Thousands of years earlier, long before statehood, ancient people were cultivating corn, squash, sunflowers and many other plants now considered weeds. On the Plains nomadic tribes burned brush to manage grazing land for herds of bison, elk and deer.
Today Oklahoma has nearly 80,000 farms and ranches. The average farm size is 431 acres, but there are farms and ranches over 5 million acres and some as small as 120 acres. About 76 percent of our state’s 45 million acres of land is used for farming and ranching.
Agriculture in Oklahoma is diverse because our climate is diverse. Our deep soils are rich in organic matter built up under tallgrass prairie. The short-grass prairie in the west is fine for grazing beef cattle and sheep. Many crops there are grown under irrigation because rainfall is scarce. We have a long growing season—over 200 frost-free days in the central and southern parts of the state. We straddle five growing zones, determined by the number of frost free days. Oklahoma includes zones 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b and 8a. We also have many different kinds of soil— more different kinds than anywhere else in the world.
Two interstate highways cross our state, providing a means for transporting agricultural products. The Port of Catoosa near Tulsa connects Oklahoma with the Mississippi River, which carries agricultural products across the nation and to the Gulf of Mexico. From there they can be shipped all around the world.
Anyplace you live in our state, you are surrounded by agriculture. In nearly every county you will find beef and dairy cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and chickens.
Nearly half the state’s cropland is planted in wheat. Wheat needs an average amount of rainfall and cool weather when it first starts to grow. Then it needs bright, sunny days late in the spring that gradually turn dry when it is time to harvest in June. Wheat grows well in north central Oklahoma. The wind that sweeps across the prairie helps the wheat dry in time for harvest.
Most of the crops that grow in Oklahoma provide feed for animals. Barley, sorghum, oats, corn, rye and hay are all grown mostly for that purpose. Barley and sorghum grow well in the Oklahoma Panhandle, where the weather conditions are dry. Corn grows in the Panhandle and eastern Oklahoma. Oats grow well in north and south central Oklahoma. Alfalfa and other kinds of hay grows all over the state.
Soybeans provide animal feed but are also used in common products, like candy bars, building materials, ink for newspapers, crayons, foods like soy sauce and vegetable oil, and in sunscreen, lip balm, hand lotion and other cosmetic products. Soybeans like the warm, moist climate in northeastern Oklahoma.
Peanuts, canola and cotton seed can be used for oil in the same ways soybeans are used. Canola is a good rotation crop with wheat. Cotton grows well in southwest Oklahoma, where the growing season is long, rainfall is moderate and temperatures stay around 90 degrees F in the summer. The nuts on a peanut plant grow underground in sandy soils. Most of Oklahoma’s peanuts grow in the southwestern part of the state. There are four shelling plants in Oklahoma to handle most of the state’s crop of Spanish peanuts.
Oklahoma is one of only 11 states in the US that grows pecans. Pecan trees prefer deep, moist soils. In Oklahoma these soils are usually found along rivers and creeks.
In most Oklahoma counties there are small acreages of specialty crops like grapes, peaches, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Fields of watermelon, sweet corn, muskmelon, green beans, squash and mixed greens grow in several locations across the state.
The southeastern corner of the state has loblolly pine tree plantations. Pine trees need plenty of water to grow. Loblolly pines grow fast and can be harvested to make furniture, lumber for building houses or paper products.
Background and Vocabulary (Reading Page, with activities)
A Timeline of Agriculture in Oklahoma History - Grades 3-4: SS
Students will use maps to trace historical migrations of different people coming to Oklahoma and leaving Oklahoma. Students will discuss economic cycles of prosperity and hard times for Oklahoma agriculture. Students will examine the impact of government on Oklahoma agriculture. Students will identify cause and effect in events in the history of Oklahoma agriculture.
Oklahoma Ag Production Statistics, 1907-2012 - Grades 3-4: SS, ELA, Math
Students will graph information provided from Oklahoma agricultural production statistics, 1907 to statistics from the most recent census data. Students will answer questions from the census data.
Ag in My Community - Grades 3-4: SS, Science
Students will read about agriculture in their own community and across the state.
Smart Board Activity: Proper and Common Nouns
Oklahoma Grown - Grade 3: SS, ELA
Students will learn about major Oklahoma crops and where they grow.
Hit the Trail - Grades 3-4: SS, ELA
Students will draw three cattle trails that passed through Indian Territory, using written descriptions of the trails. Students will write a journal of life on the trail. Students will research cattle trails. Students will complete a vocabulary page.
Hit the Trail Kahoot!
The Real Reader - Grades 3-4: ELA
Students will read an account of cowboy life on the cattle trails and ask questions to determine which of three volunteer readers has the correct passage.
Dark Days on the Prairie - Grades 3-4: ELA, SS, Science
Students will read about the Dust Bowl, create time lines of the events leading up the the Dust Bowl, identify cause and effect and use dominos to demonstrate. Students will view photos from the Dust Bowl period and write descriptions of them. Students will create legends to explain maps of the region affected by the Dust Bowl. Students will research to learn about climatic conditions in the Dust Bowl region.
A Century of Farming: Dust Bowl Days Kahoot!
The Dust Bowl: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Grade 11
The Dust Bowl in the Classroom (PBS)
Dust Bowl Days (National Dept of Humanities)
Hoboes on Harvest - Grades 6-High School: ELA, SS
Students read about the Great Wheat Belt Migration, the yearly migration of wheat harvest workers in the early 1900s, answer and discuss comprehension questions, practice finding the main idea in paragraphs and comparing characters, write imaginary letters and research to find more information. Students will locate states involved in the Great Wheat Belt migration on a US map. Students will develop a timeline to place the Great Wheat Belt migration in context.
Red Dirt Groundbreakers
Students will read about various people throughout the history of Oklahoma who laid the groundwork for the success of agriculture in Oklahoma.
Black Mesa: Where the Rocky Mountains Meet the Short Grass Prairie - Grades 3-8: Science, SS, ELA
Students will read and answer questions about Black Mesa. Students will create a time line of the history of Black Mesa. Students will research to compare the Black Mesa area with other parts of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Forests - Grades 2-3: ELA, Science, SS, Visual Art
Students will use their senses to observe and write about a tree, read about Oklahoma forest regions, locate the different forest regions on a map of Oklahoma, create map legends based on the reading, and create models of trees.
Oklahoma Soils - Grades 3-8: SS, Science
Students will answer questions from a chart showing the many different varieties of soil in Oklahoma’s Major Land Resource Areas.
From Shelter to Playing Fields: Oklahoma Sod - Grade 3: SS, Math, Science
Students will read about the importance of sod in Oklahoma history and as an Oklahoma-grown product in today’s economy. Students will complete math problems related to sod. Students will conduct experiments with a purchased roll of sod. Students will conduct an experiment to demonstrate the usefulness of sod in preventing soil erosion.
Buried Treasure: Oklahoma's Aquifers - Grades 3-6: Science, SS
Students will read about the hydrologic cycle, groundwater and aquifers, locate aquifers in Oklahoma and build models to show the permeability of different earth materials.
"What is Groundwater" (Excellent video from Quest Science)
"Summary of the Water Cycle" (Great charts from USGS Water Science School)
Bones and Stones - Grades 3-4: ELA, SS, Science
Students will read about ancient farming cultures in Oklahoma and the early development of farming tools. Students will design and construct simple farming tools.
Old Farming Tools
Simple Garden Tools
Three Sisters - Grades 3-4: Science
Students will read about the Three Sisters method of planting used by some American tribes and conduct an experiment the bean, pumpkin and corn seeds.
Spiro Farming: Corn, Squash and Beans Build a Mighty Trade Center - High School: ELA, Oklahoma History
Students will read about farming practices among the people who populated the area around Spiro Mounds. Students will research to learn more about Spiro culture and other prehistoric farming cultures in Oklahoma. Students will identify the region in the US occupied by Mississippian culture. Students will trace the trade route along rivers and tributaries that joined the Spiro Mounds people with Mississippian ceremonial centers back east.
Cherokee Farming - Grades 3-4: ELA, SS, Science
Students will read about farming among the Cherokees and compare farming before and after the removal. Students will make a timeline of the foods adopted by the Cherokee. Students will research to learn more about the Cherokee. Students will conduct experiments with heirloom seeds.
Plows on the Hunting Grounds: The Indian Allotment Act of 1887 - High School: ELA, Oklahoma History
Students will read about the Indian Allotment Act of 1887, which divided tribal land among individuals. Students will discuss the reading and answer comprehension questions. Students will conduct short research projects related to the reading.
Average Rainfall for Select Oklahoma Towns
USDA Hardiness Zones
Top Oklahoma Commodities
Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics, Annual Report
2012 Ag Census for Oklahoma Counties
Crossroads (Oklahoma Historical Society)
Extra Reading: Books for Oklahoma Studies
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative
Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development, the Oklahoma Department of
Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.