The Scioto Marsh in Hardin County, Ohio, was once an immense swamp, teeming with vegetation and wildlife. It was drained in the 1880s to grow vegetables, most notably onions. For decades, hundreds of workers crawled across the fields, hunched over half-mile rows of onions, potatoes, and other crops grown on the tabletop-flat fields of black muck in the 18,000-acre basin. A much publicized labor strike erupted during the broiling, violent summer of 1934, breaking the monotony of field work for that season. But the marsh had already begun showing the signs of exploitation--the rich organic soil was evaporating in astounding, incalculable tonnage. Once as deep as a tall pioneer, that muck was now little more than a foot thick. Unearthing the Land is a century's view of former natural diversity altered by the "progress" of agriculture.
Here, in typically American fashion, are the people who migrated to this place to work, many seeking a better life than offered by the Kentucky coal mines; here, too, are the few who prospered. And here, within the modern context of environmental concerns, is the story of nature's will to retain primal tendencies which still haunt today's fields of carrots and grain crops. Modern themes of national importance play throughout the story of the Scioto Marsh. From prehistory to the present, the marsh is a compelling backdrop for considering today's essential concerns about land use and environmental responsibility.