The daylight saving time discussion — the annual annoyance or optimism that comes with moving clocks one hour forward at 2 a.m. — has raged for decades in the U.S., spawning unusual alliances between powerful lobbies in favor of and against tampering with Father Time.
But one thing is clear in all machinations and manipulations to spring forward over the years: Daylight savings time, which begins Sunday, was not created to benefit farmers.
Michael Downing, the author of the 2006 book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time,” said it’s a persistent belief in the U.S. that farmers wanted the earlier start time, but, in fact, they fought it pitchfork and scythe, even taking their opposition all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1920s.
Farmers disliked daylight saving time because they needed the sun to dry the dew from their crops before they could harvest and go to market. With the sun rising an hour later, they argued they were having to wait too long to pick their produce.
At the same time, cows didn’t follow man’s clock. They needed to be milked every 12 hours, and daylight saving time meant the farmer who once woke at sunrise to milk, now had to be up in the dark, using artificial light.
“I can see the dew argument,” said Ann Holt, who owns Twin H Farms in Belle Glade, Florida, with her husband and is president of the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau. “Our main crop is sweet corn, but in Georgia, we grow green beans, and you can’t harvest green beans until the dew dries off.”
So why do so many people believe farmers are the reason for the time change?
Downing believes it goes back to when the first nationwide daylight saving time law was passed in 1918 as an energy-saving measure during World War I. But it was also supported by a Boston-area department store owner Lincoln Filene, who compiled a list of the positive outcomes of daylight saving time, including “most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off.”
“This was news to farmers,” said Downing, who believes the true reason for the 1918 change was that the retail, leisure and sports industry saw benefits to daylight saving time.
So who did benefit from the new time change in 1918? Check out the full story at MyPalmBeachPost.com.