There was a time in our history when the government gave away land to whomsoever would farm it. According to the Homestead Act of 1862, if you were 21 or the head of a household and could put down $18, you could claim 160 acres in the West. You had to settle on it and farm it for 5 years, however, before you got final title. The act was not officially repealed until 1976 (ten years later in Alaska), by which time approximately 10% of the country had been given to farmers.
That act, and the political consensus behind it, were based on the belief that a free people, working their own small farms, were fundamental to a free country. Many Americans still feel that way.