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Interpreting the Evidence

Patriotic Emergency Farm Labor Enrollment Card

  • 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 Patriotic Emergency Farm Labor Enrollment Card, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A Patriotic Emergency Farm Labor Enrollment Card was to be completed by students interested in enrolling in the Farm Cadet Program. The cards were issued by the New York State Food Commission during World War I, February 7, 1918.

Historical Context
The presence of over four million American soldiers in Europe meant the absence of those same individuals from the American workforce. Certain areas of the country noticed a significant decline in the number of active farms due to the absent farm labor. State officials feared that if too many farms became inactive during the war a severe food shortage would follow. New York State attempted to solve the issue of a labor shortage by enacting several programs which recruited workers and students into farm labor. 
One program created by the state food commission asked local workers to sign up for Patriotic Emergency Farm Labor. In the event of an emergency, workers would leave their jobs, with the consent of their boss, to work on a local farm for a designated number of days per month. The goal of this program was to keep food production going while large numbers of farmers were serving their country in World War I.

Essential Question
How do nations attempt to meet their basic economic needs during times of war?

Check for Understanding
Explain the purpose of this card and determine the issue addressed by this system.

Historical Challenges
After World War I was over, millions of soldiers returned home to their former lives. Research the lives of returning farmers in Upstate New York and answer the following questions. How successful were farmers in returning to farm life? Did food production greatly increase after the war? How did the return of soldiers affect the local economies?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Design a recruitment poster to encourage individuals to sign up for emergency farm labor.

English Language Arts: Write a letter to the employers of New York State explaining the Emergency Farm Labor Program and requesting their support in providing workers.