Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The opening episode of the 4-hour epic that premieres on PBS on November 18 goes right to the cause of the problem. In a short time, farmers converted an area twice the size of New Jersey and centering in the Oklahoma Panhandle from native grassland to wheat fields. They did so because of a concerted policy in the 1920’s to industrialize agriculture and to “turn farming into a factory.” But the wind-swept prairie that dominated the region was unsuited for growing much, aside from drought- resistant grasses. Once farmers turned over the firm soil, they set the stage for a monumental disaster.