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Interpreting the Evidence

Farmer Friend, Ontario County Emergency Farm Labor Application

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Agriculture
    Communication
    Labor
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Finger Lakes
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Farmer Friend, Ontario County Emergency Farm Labor Application, World War I, c. 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A form for farmers in Ontario County, Canandaigua area to fill out to request farm labor assistance, c. 1917.

Historical Context
On April 15, 1917, just a few weeks after the United States entered World War I, President Wilson addressed the nation. He requested that every American do their part to help the war effort. Specifically, Wilson called upon farmers to use every acre of land to produce extra food for the troops and allies. Wilson offered federal and state programs to provide access to seed, labor, and transportation. This poster issued in Canandaigua informed farmers of the process by which they could request farm labor. 
In addition to volunteering on farms, local residents were also asked to “save food.” Food conservation became a major part of the home front's contribution to the war. Many communities adopted strategies like “Wheatless Wednesdays” which meant they served meals containing no wheat. The pamphlets, posters, and educational brochures included recipes that used acceptable substitutes and other ways of reducing the consumption of the items in short supply.
Once informed of their patriotic duty, many citizens willingly contributed to the war effort in any way they could find. Posters like this one were important in spreading the word about the different ways local residents could participate in the war effort and how farmers could request help.

Essential Question
How do nation's attempt to satisfy basic economic needs during times of war?

Check for Understanding
Identify the key ideas and explain the purpose of this poster.

Historical Challenges
How many farmers applied for emergency farm labor during World War I? How many people signed up for the Farm Cadet Program? Was this program successful?

Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a journal entry from the perspective of a farmer during World War I. Discuss the types of food you are growing for the war effort and the extra labor you have found through the New York State Food Commission.

Art: Design a poster advertising your farm as a great place to help out with the war effort. Be sure to include any benefits a worker at your farm might have over a worker at another farm.