A Mennonite farmer puts tobacco into his barn near Lancaster in May 1941

Lancaster County has strong agricultural roots. 

Today, the county is the top agricultural producer in Pennsylvania and holds the distinction of being the most productive non-irrigated farming county in the United States.

Farmland and agriculture are the primary reasons why tourists spend more than $1.6 billion a year in the county. 

But decades before tourists and locals began posting Lancaster County farm landscapes on Instagram, a government office sent photographers here to document life in America in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lancaster County agriculture by the numbers

From 1935 to 1945, the Farm Security Administration's Office of War Information conducted what was the largest photo project ever sponsored by the federal government.

The project grew over time to 170,000 photographs. And years later, many were digitized. The collection is now hosted on the Photogrammer website at Yale University.

Included are 653 photos of Lancaster County depicting daily life in Lancaster, Lititz, Farmersville, Maytown, Churchtown, Blue Ball, Hinkletown, Ephrata, Intercourse and other areas.

Here are 13 photos that capture farm life in Lancaster County. 

Herbert Royer feeds chickens on the Enos Royer farm in 1938. 

farm2 Herbert Royer feeds chickens on Enos royer farm 1938.jpg


Potatoes ready for market in a potato cellar on the Enos Royer farm in 1938.

farm1 Potatoes ready for market in potato cellar on Enos royer farm 1938.jpg


Tobacco drying in a field, 1938

farm4 Tobacco drying in field 1938 Churchtown.jpg


Lancaster County farmland, 1939.

farm5 Farmland June 1939.jpg


Cows grazing on farmland, 1939.

farm6 Stock farm in Lancaster County June 1939.jpg


A  farmer and children traveling near Lancaster, 1941

farm7 Mennonite farmers going to town near Lancaster 1941.jpg


Women going home from market, near Lancaster, 1941

farm9 Mennonite farm women going home from market.jpg



A boy gives water to a horse, 1942

farm12 Mennonite boy watering horse 1942.jpg


A farmer puts tobacco into his barn, near Lancaster, May 1941



Butchering pigs on a farm in Ephrata, March 1942

farm13 butchering pork on a Mennonite farm 1942.jpg


Hex signs and cow on a Terre Hill barn, March 1942 

farm14 Terre Hill hex sign and barn decor 1942.jpg


A woman at her Lancaster Central Market stand, November 1942

farm15 Mennonite woman at her Central Market stand 1942.jpg


Farmers loading fodder on a farm in the Lititz area, November, 1942



What to read next