Youth Harvest Beans, Sauvie Island, 1943

This 1943 photograph shows two teenage boys working with a woman to harvest wax bush beans on Sauvie Island. During World War II, many Oregon teenagers and women supported the war effort by working as seasonal laborers on area farms. They responded to a nation-wide labor shortage brought on by increased wartime production. Many people who had been working as farm laborers moved into higher paying jobs in the national defense industry, building ships and planes.

Between 1943 and 1947, the Oregon State Emergency Farm Labor Service placed thousands of youth and women on Oregon farms, where they thinned and harvested crops. Some of the children and teenagers were members of the Victory Farm Volunteers, a national organization for youth between the ages of 11 and 17. Members of the Women’s Land Army, an government organization that encouraged women to work as farm laborers, often supervised the children.

While the wartime effort from women and children was considerable, it did not relieve the labor crisis. National and state programs also placed Mexican nationals, Japanese internees, German prisoners-of-war, and conscientious objectors on Oregon farms.

Written by Kathy Tucker, © Oregon Historical Society, 2002.

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Mexican Laborers Pick Potatoes, 1943
Mexican Laborers Pick Potatoes, 1943

This photograph shows Mexican citizens harvesting potatoes in central Oregon during World War II. In 1942, the United States government negotiated with Mexico to import workers in order to alleviate a serious national agricultural labor shortage. The Mexican Farm Labor Program was more commonly known as the Bracero program, translated …

Women's Land Army

This 1944 photograph shows Mabel Mack, supervisor of the Oregon branch of the Women’s Land Army (WLA). The WLA was part of a World War II national effort to supply desperately needed laborers to U.S. farms. Locally, the Oregon State College Extension Service established the Emergency Farm Labor Service to …

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This entry was last updated on May 28, 2020