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Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Utah Studies

Changes & Challenges (1940s): World War II and Revival

Grade Level(s)

6 - 8


Students will examine the effects, both positive and negative, of World War II on agriculture.

Estimated Time

45 minutes

Materials Needed

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Vocabulary Words

  • mechanization: to cause to be done by machines rather than humans or animals

Background Agricultural Connections

Screen 7, Agriculture in the 1940s, Narrative

By 1940 there were more than 10 million acres of farmland in Utah but only 28,500 farms. The average farm size jumped to 354 acres. The 1940s brought war and the rationing of many foods. Food rationing and rising employment led to dramatic growth in the demand and prices for Utah farm goods. The demand for almost every agricultural product increased. However, the production of labor-intensive crops like sugar beets and row crops declined because so many workers were at war or working in factories. Farmers benefited from increasing mechanization during World War II, which made up for labor shortages. Women, Prisoners of War, and interred Japanese-American citizens all provided additional farm labor in Utah during the war. After the war, Utah agriculture experienced even greater growth as America went through a unique postwar boom.

Changes & Challenges Unit

This lesson is one in a series of lessons designed to accompany the Utah Studies course taught throughout Utah. The unit explores the settlement of Utah, the self-sufficient nature of the state's people, and the future of Utah agriculture and agricultural land. The Changes and Challenges Interactive Timeline accompanies the following lessons:

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. View the Agricultural Hard Times (1920s-1940s) Era on the Changes and Challenges interactive timeline with your students.
  2. As a class, listen to the narrative on the tile captioned, "Agriculture in the 1940s."
  3. Click on the main event tile captioned, "World War II: Utah's War Effort at Home."
  4. As a class, read about Utah's war effort at home and how World War II affected Utahns.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration
  1. Explain to students that World War II greatly changed farm life and society in Utah. By 1940, less than 45% of Utahns were living in rural areas.
  2. Review with your students the attached article The War Effort at Home by John D. Barton.
  3. Discuss the following questions:
    • How were farmers and their families affected by the war?
    • What happened to the men who worked on the farms?
    • How did women’s roles on the farm and in Utah in general change after the war?
  4. Explain to your students that during World War II, many items could be purchased only in limited amounts. Families were given ration coupons for buying certain foods and were asked to conserve. Discuss the following questions:
    • What are we being asked to conserve today?
    • If you were asked to conserve food today, which foods do you think should be rationed? Why?
  5. If your students were asked to conserve food today, which foods do they think should be rationed? Why?
  6. Explain to students that the government encouraged both home gardens and home canning during wartime. A January 1943 poll showed that 75 percent of Americans processed food at home. Food preservation was important during the war years. In fact, Utah still leads the nation today in per capita home canners.
  7. Investigate with your students additional methods of food preservation. Food dehydrators are easy to find in Utah, consider drying some fruit with your students.
  8. Gardening is the number one hobby in Utah today. Do any of your students have gardens at home? Ask your students if their families could survive on their gardens?
  9. If the government asked each of us to plant a garden today to improve our nutrition, ask students what they would plant. Ask them to create a personal garden plan for themselves and their family. How much space will they need? What will they plant? There are many helpful books and websites; Gardener's Supply Company provides a free, online square foot gardening planner, and a variety of additional resources are listed in Suggested Companion Resources below.

Suggested Companion Resources


Debra Spielmaker

Organization Affiliation

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

State Standards for Utah
Grade 7: Social Studies Standard 4
Students will understand the diverse ways people make a living in Utah.
Objective 2
  • Investigate the past and present role of agriculture in Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Identify the importance of farming and ranching to Utah's economy.
    2. Explain the impact the Great Depression on farmers and agriculture.
    3. investigate how agriculture has diversified and improved over time.
    4. Examine the cultural legacy of agriculture in Utah.
Grade 7: Social Studies Standard 1
Students will understand the interaction between Utah's geography and its inhabitants.
Objective 1
  • Investigate the relationship between physical geography and Utah's settlement, land use, and economy. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Read and interpret a variety of maps.
    2. Identify the physical features and regions of Utah.
    3. Compare and contrast the relationship between physical features and regions to settlement, land use, and the economy.
Objective 3
  • Assess how natural resources sustain and enhance people's lives. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Recognize the impact of water, minerals, wildlife, and forests on people.
    2. Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.
    3. Analyze how natural resources improve the quality of life.
    4. Assess the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources.
Objective 4
  • Examine how people affect the geography of Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Identify Utah's counties and cities.
    2. Assess how people change the landscape.
    3. Examine how altered landscapes affect people.