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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Farmers Almanacs - 2004-09-27

Broadcast: September 28, 2004

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

In seventeen ninety-two, in the United States, a man named Robert Thomas started The Farmer's Almanac. Later the name became The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Robert Thomas wanted to make his almanac useful and interesting. Most of his readers were farmers. He tried to give them information no one else could provide. Robert Thomas included weather predictions for the whole year in his almanacs.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac continued to grow under his supervision for more than fifty years. It was a big success. Later, in the early nineteen hundreds, the almanac changed to include stories of interest to the general public -- much like it is today.

The almanac tells the story of a time when federal officials captured a German spy on Long Island during World War Two. The spy was carrying The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Officials worried that it could provide the enemy with intelligence about the weather. But the editor at the time was able to get officials to agree not to close the almanac.

In eighteen eighteen, an astronomer named David Young started the Farmers' Almanac. It is not the same as the Old Farmer’s Almanac, although they shared the same name for many years. In more recent years, whoever makes the weather predictions has gone by the name of "Caleb Weatherbee."

Both almanacs say they use a secret system to tell what the weather will be like. The systems are said to be based, among other things, on the movements of the sun and moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac says its results are traditionally eighty percent right. The Farmers' Almanac says many of its longtime followers claim its forecasts are eighty to eighty-five percent accurate. But it points out that weather forecasting still remains an inexact science.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published for two hundred twelve years. It is based in Dublin, New Hampshire. The Farmers' Almanac was established one hundred eighty-six years ago. It is based in Lewiston, Maine.

In their pages, readers can find astronomy facts like when the sun, moon and planets rise and set. Both contain advice about when to plant gardens. They also contain history, stories and information that is meant to be more fun than fact. Both are examples of a great tradition in publishing that started with the needs of farmers.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Gwen Outen.