NARRATOR: The Tennessee valley was largely a rural region of tenant farmers, who eked-out a living on 70-acre plots of land. If TVA was going to make a major improvement in the standard of living, it would have to improve life on the farm. As well, the devastating floods and erosion were actually made worse by the way farmers traditionally plowed their land.
First, farmers learned to plow along the natural curves of the land. Contour plowing prevents rain from racing downhill and causing a flood. Next, farmers learned to use phosphate fertilizer, which restored productivity to the tired soil. Then a broad mixture of crops was introduced, including clover, tobacco and wheat. Community threshers improved the efficiency of the harvest.
The plan worked. The demonstration farmers dramatically increased their harvests. Even though half the valley's farmland had been flooded by reservoirs, the total farm output increased by nearly 100 percent.
electric substation at dam
TVA had dramatically improved life in the valley. But the biggest improvement was yet to come. Electric power would change things in ways no one could anticipate. And it would create a power struggle that would tear TVA apart.