Online Exhibits


Following the Crop masthead

Introduction

Strawberry label
Fruit label, ca. 1940. Dr. Lloyd O. Warren Collection (S-84-269-19)

Agriculture has long been a major economic force of Northwest Arkansas. Early pioneers grew crops to feed their families and livestock. With the arrival of the railroads in the late 1800s farmers grew additional produce and shipped it to market. By the 1930s researchers had introduced new farming practices to improve crop yields. Commercial canning plants opened. More and more laborers were needed to pick and process the 24,000 acres of crops in Washington, Benton, and Madison Counties.

Strawberry pickers
Strawberry pickers, Springdale, May, 1939. Dr. J. Lawrence Charlton Collection/Dr. J. Lawrence Charlton, photographer (S-86-15-14)

 

 

 

 




Financial hardship during the Great Depression led people across the nation to pack up their belongings in second-hand cars and “follow the crops,” traveling from town to town picking whatever crop was in season. In Northwest Arkansas strawberries were harvested first, followed by green beans, tomatoes, peaches, other berries, cherries, grapes, and apples. Entire families labored long hours in the fields. Those who were too young, too old, or too ill waited at the side of the field for the rest of the family to finish work. Farmers couldn’t provide much in the way of good housing and medical care. Migrant laborers camped by their cars or lived on the farmer’s property in poultry houses or sheds. Host communities worried that folks without regular access to health care might bring diseases like tuberculosis to their area.

“[The pickers came earlier than expected] …they scared the cows and my Dad got flustered when we were not ready for them. We got the platform scales set up and leveled and Dad put the change into Mom’s muffin pan and we were in business. Dad paid two cents a pound for the picking…

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s, March 2008

“If you have ever seen migrant farm workers in the field in the past, you are certain to have noticed one thing: how hot, tired, neglected babies and small children have struggled out the weary day while their mothers assisted in the harvest of strawberries or beans.”

Billie Jines, columnist
The Springdale News, 1960s

“The migrants were just like us, just hard-working people that got in the field about 5 a.m. and worked hard till about 1 p.m. ...[They] would generally pick a few roasting ears from the corn to take home with them; Dad never said anything to them...as we had plenty.”

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s, March 2008

 

A Camp is Built

The Workers

Lending A Hand

Closing the Camp

Photo Gallery


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