Michigan State University

April 12, 1917: Number One Issue Confronting Michigan Farmers -- lack of labor at planting and harvest time

Jon Harrison
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In less than a week following the announcement of war against Germany, Michigan Governor Sleeper hears farmers request for labor at food conservation conference.

On April 12, 1917, Gov. Albert Sleeper learned at a food conservation conference that the number one issue confronting Michigan farmers was a lack of labor, particularly at planting and harvest time.

Farmers pleaded that factories let their workers out during these two critical times to help with the work and that high schools let their students out to assist in the collection of crops.

"I had no idea that the labor situation was so serious as it is," the Governor said.

One Marquette farmer conceded that he "stole" teenage boys from the local high school and are paying them "men's wages" because he could get no one else to work for him.

Source: "Labor Famine Peril's State's Food Supplies", Detroit Free Press, April 13, 1917.

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