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Interpreting the Evidence

New York State Food Supply Commission Poster

  • 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:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load New York State Food Supply Commission Poster, May 8, 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
New York State Food Supply Commission for Patriotic Agricultural Service poster announces state agricultural news related to World War I, May 8, 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 food supply poster, issued by the New York State Food Supply Commission, informed farmers of the various services available to them for supporting the war effort. 
The poster gives information on how to obtain extra speed, tractors, labor, and transportation, but also states that these items are not free to the farmer. Farmers still had to purchase the extra supplies with their own money. The state was only providing easier access to the various components needed for additional crop production. Many farmers willingly grew more food, as they believed this was their patriotic duty. 
The Farm Cadet Program also called the New York State Boys’ Working Reserve, allowed high school students to enroll as farm laborers. Farm Cadets could work on their own family farms or be placed on another farm in the state. The state required each farm cadet to submit an essay at the end of their service documenting their activities and the ways in which they contributed to the war effort. Although not old enough to fight on the battlefield, these individuals could provide the labor necessary to maximize food production for both the local communities and the world. Both the federal Food Administrations and the state Food Commission promoted the idea that contributing to the production of food was both a public duty and a patriotic act.

Essential Question
How does war affect a nation's economy?

Check for Understanding
In what ways, did New York State attempt to satisfy the economic demands of war?

Historical Challenges
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, farming was the major source of income for Americans. Research the role of American farmers in another period in American history. You might consider the American Revolution on the early years of the Republic when doing your research.

Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a letter to a farmer asking to work on his farm during the summer. Be sure to include why you want to work as a farm cadet and how you will be of help on the farm.

Math: If 1,400 farmers wanted to buy seed potatoes, how many bushels could each farmer buy?

Science: Research new farm technologies available to farmers during World War I. How did these new technologies help farmers produce more food?