Some Suggestions for Recruiting and Training an Emergency Land
Army in the Food Production Program
It did not require any great amount of intelligence for anyone to know that with our country engaged in a total war effort and shipping vast quantities of food stuffs to our allies that a food shortage might occur. Then when the whole situation was made more acute by the withdrawal from food production occupations of thousands of men and women who went into other war production jobs and by the further fact of decrease in manufacture of farm equipment, it became very plain that it would be necessary to resort to emergency measures to produce the food needed.
Accordingly, as long ago as the summer of 1941, we in Vocational Education began thinking of what Vocational Education could do in such an emergency and set up a program through which thousands of dollars worth of farm equipment has been repaired and kept in service. In many cases discarded equipment has been restored to usefulness. Furthermore, there are 170 departments of vocational agriculture in Kansas. Every one of them has a well-equipped shop for the care and repair of farm equipment. These are available to the farmers of these communities throughout the year.
We knew that there were great numbers of town and city boys who could become available for farm work, at least during summer vocations. In March 1942 we wrote all school superintendents, high school principals, and teachers of vocational agriculture in Kansas, calling attention to the farm labor situation. We outlined a program of training and placement for high school boys on farms for week-end training under farm conditions.
Again, in November 1942, we communicated with all school superintendents, high school principals, vocational agriculture teachers, and Boy Scout Executives in the state. At this time we included a plan of eleven suggested steps for recruiting, preemployment week-end farm experience training, and placement. This plan was published in the "Kansas Teacher" in December 1942. Here it is:
- "1. Bring non-farm boys in high school to recognize the extreme importance of food in winning the war.
- 2. Acquaint them with the acute shortage of farm labor.
- 3. Develop in them a keen sense of duty. Challenge them.
- 4. Caution them there is little that in dramatic and spectacular in farm work--that it calls for long hours of hard work with moderate wages, yet there is no field of war production of greater importance, not even the production of tanks, planes, guns and ships.
- 5. Delegate someone on the school faculty to promote and execute such a training program. Where vocational agriculture teachers are available, their services can be utilized although they will be extremely busy with their regular work and supervising the farm machinery repair courses for adult farmers.
- 6. Arrange for the cooperation of local implement dealers for use of machinery and other farm equipment for instruction, demonstration and practice in operation.
- 7. If a large group of boys enrolls, invite retired farmers of ability and leadership to take charge of groups of boys for instruction, demonstrations, and practice in operation.
- 8. Make arrangements with farmers near town for the use of fields for practice operation of farm machinery.
- 9. Through the vocational agriculture teacher, the county agent, the home demonstration agent, Farm Bureau, Grange, and Farmers' Union, bring farmers in contact with high school boys willing to work on farms. (Care should be taken that such boys be placed only where the environment is wholesome.)
- 10. Individual farmers should make arrangements for boys to spend week-ends on the farm as frequently as possible during the school year. Such a boy can not only be a help to the farmer, but will be acclimated and more useful to the farmer next summer.
- 11. Stress the fact to the farmers that these boys have only been given some preliminary farm training–that it is largely the farmers' responsibility to make them useful farm workers."
As the situation grew more acute and the need more apparent, in January 1943 we communicated with all town boys enrolled in Kansas high schools through the Hi-Y presidents and Boy Scout Executives. At this time we described the farm situation in war time and issued a challenge to every able-bodied boy who could possibly make himself available for help to meet the farm labor shortage in Kansas.
And again, in April 1943, we addressed a letter to town and city boys, school superintendents, high school principals, vocational agriculture teachers, and Boy Scout Executives making 30 specific suggestions that we hoped would be helpful to town boys in adjusting themselves to farm life.
We have evidence that leads us to believe that our efforts have not been entirely in vain, for we know that school executives, teachers, and Scout Executives have been concerning themselves with getting this job done.
But now that schools are closed, or about to close, it is our opinion that the schools, generally, cannot render any great service until they reconvene in September.
We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that as we proceed with this program we are proceeding not just for the three months between now and the re-opening of schools, but we are proceeding from now until the food shortage is relieved, whether it is accomplished in this year, or the next, or the next.
But at this moment we face the immediate future, by which I mean the rest of this month, and June, July, and August.
Town and city boys who have had some preemployment training will be worth a great deal more in farm work and will adjust themselves with less inconvenience to themselves and the farmers for whom they will work. But since there is no time left for more of such training, it occurs to us that the most effective thing we can do is to prepare the boys through the press, through public meetings, over the radio, and through form letters so that they will accept this challenge as their patriotic responsibility. In this connection, I know of nothing that reflects more accurately the situation in which the boy will find himself than the suggestions made by Mr. L. B. Pollom, State Supervisor of Vocational Agriculture, and addressed to town and city boys in Kansas, under date of April 19, 1943. I enclose a copy.
It is equally important that the farmers for whom these boys will work accept the job of using the potential manpower thus afforded by accepting it as their patriotic responsibility to try to understand the boys and to try to make them useful. A farmer was heard to remark that he would have none of these farm and city boys on his farm. "They are soft and awkward and no good." He may as well have said that a town or city boy is not capable of becoming a good soldier, or marine, or sailor, or pilot. With the proper training and conditioning, we know that they make good in the armed forces. By the same token and with the same training and conditioning they can make good in the "land army on the home front". It is the farmer's job, and greatly to his advantage, to take this time to explain each farm skill carefully to the boy who offers his services. In discharging this responsibility the farmer becomes a teacher an the skill with which he teaches will determine the usefulness of the boy. He can discourage the boy so badly that he will not be willing to help on the farm or he can make a useful worker of him. Again, I refer you to "Suggestions to Farmers who employ Town Boys". These suggestions were prepared by Mr. L. B. Pollom, State Supervisor of Vocational Agriculture for Kansas.
If we accept this situation to be somewhat as I have tried to describe, then we in education and you people in the Extension Service and farmers who catch this vision face the biggest job of training teachers that any of us have ever faced. We must in some way impress upon the farmers who are in need to help the importance of their being able to teach well enough to make the best possible use of the manpower afforded by these boys.
It occurs to us that in some way we should arrange to put into the hands of every farm or city boy who aspires to work on a farm during the emergency the suggestions to which I have referred, and he should carry with him, from some responsible source, some suggestions to the farmer for whom he will work.