Changes & Challenges (1940s): World War II and Revival
6 - 8
Students will examine the effects, both positive and negative, of World War II on agriculture.
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture multimedia program
- The War Effort at Home article
- Food dehydrator (optional)
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- 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 & Challenges multimedia teaching tool accompanies the following lessons:
- Changes & Challenges (1840s-1880s): Era of Self-Sufficiency
- Changes & Challenges (1890s): Utah Becomes a State
- Changes & Challenges (1900s): Boom Time for Agriculture
- Changes & Challenges (1910s): The Boom Continues
- Changes & Challenges (1920s-1930s): Agricultural Hard Times and The Great Depression
- Changes & Challenges (1940s): World War II and Revival
- Changes & Challenges (1950s): Mechanization and Science
- Changes & Challenges (1960s-1970s): Expansion and Prosperity, Big Farms, Big Government
- Changes & Challenges (1980s): Recession, Expansion, and Utah Wheat
- Changes & Challenges (1990s): Products of Utah Travel Worldwide
- Changes & Challenges (2000s): Recession and Expansion
Interest Approach – Engagement
- View the Agriculture in the 1940s section of the Changes and Challenges multimedia program with your students.
- Open the picture link to see the Japanese American farmer working at Topaz, Utah. Discuss the photograph and question associated with the link, "Should the U.S. government pay money to citizens it has mistreated in the past?"
- Open the picture link describing the shift away from cattle. In previous decades sheep were the most valuable livestock in Utah. By the 1940s, cattle became the largest source of cash farm income. Discuss the associated question, "What might have been some of the reasons behind this change?" (demand for beef, oversupply of lamb, overgrazing caused by large numbers of sheep)
- Explain to students that World War II greatly changed farm life and society in Utah. By 1940 less than 45 percent of Utahns were living in rural areas.
- Review with your students the attached article The War Effort at Home by John D. Barton or navigate to the article using the web link titled "The Effects of World War" in the Changes & Challenges multimedia presentation.
- 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?
- In the multimedia presentation, open the picture link illustrating rationing during the war. 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 associated question, "What are we being asked to conserve today?"
- If your students were asked to conserve food today, which foods do they think should be rationed? Why?
- 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.
- Investigate with your students additional methods of food preservation. Food dehydrators are easy to find in Utah, consider drying some fruit with your students.
- 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?
- 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
- Changes and Challenges (Activity): The Cox and Gossner Family Histories (Activity)
- Utah Garden Planner (Kit)
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture (Multimedia)
- Creamed, Canned and Frozen: How the Great Depression Revamped U.S. Diets (Multimedia)
- Edible Gardening: Growing Your Own Vegetables, Fruits, and More (Teacher Reference)
- Junior Master Gardener Handbook (Teacher Reference)
- Junior Master Gardener Teacher & Leader Guide (Teacher Reference)
- Steps to a Bountiful Kids' Garden (Teacher Reference)
- Agricultural News (Website)
- Kid's Gardening Website (Website)
- School Garden Center (Website)
- Tractor Timeline- A History of Tractors (Website)
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom
- Investigate the past and present role of agriculture in Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Identify the importance of farming and ranching to Utah's economy.
- Explain the impact the Great Depression on farmers and agriculture.
- investigate how agriculture has diversified and improved over time.
- Examine the cultural legacy of agriculture in Utah.
- Investigate the relationship between physical geography and Utah's settlement, land use, and economy. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Read and interpret a variety of maps.
- Identify the physical features and regions of Utah.
- Compare and contrast the relationship between physical features and regions to settlement, land use, and the economy.
- Assess how natural resources sustain and enhance people's lives. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Recognize the impact of water, minerals, wildlife, and forests on people.
- Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.
- Analyze how natural resources improve the quality of life.
- Assess the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources.
- Examine how people affect the geography of Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Identify Utah's counties and cities.
- Assess how people change the landscape.
- Examine how altered landscapes affect people.