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Migrant Workers-Farming in California 1930s -2011

Page history last edited by MeaganG 12 years, 7 months ago


The Great Depression hit...

The Great Plains had dried up...


Hundreds of thousands were left jobless and homeless...



Where was there  to go?





"The vineyards, the orchards, the great flat valley, green and beautiful, the trees set in rows, the farm houses...The distant cities, the little towns in the orchard land, and the morning sun, golden on the valley...The peach trees and the walnut groves, and the dark geen patches of oranges.  And red roofs among the trees, and barns-- rich barns" (Steinbeck, 227).


October twenty ninth, Black Tuesday; ready or not, life was about to change for every family during the year of 1929. The depression had an effect on everyone, rich and poor families alike especially those dependent on farming, mining, and construction. With the pressure of the stock market crash coming down hard on these businesses, employers started laying off employees in mass quantities.


In the early 1930s, thousands upon thousands of desperate people across America made the migration to California, looking for a brighter and less poverty-filled future.

The majority of these people were agriculturalists.  California advertised an abundance of fertile land, which was very appealing to these farmers.  Because the massive drought had encompassed the Great Plains, many farmers had no chance but to abandon the land they knew and move west, in hope of a better future.


Seven thousand new migrants appeared at the California border each month.  A few got jobs in agricultural sectors, the rest continued to live in the poverty that they had arrived in. Throughout the 1930's, over 2,500,000 people moved out of the mid-west. In result, over 200,000 of them moved to California.


To watch a video (made by other students) about the migrant workers that moved to California, click here!




Farming In California- 1930s


California produced mostly fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.  In the early 1930s, the central valleys of California were still poorly irrigated.  The Hoover Dam, built in 1935 on the Colorado River, provided enough water to the valleys to make them fertile areas for growing crops.   


Although the farmers had work, the living conditions were terrible. They lived in disease ridden camps and the wages were too low to get families out of poverty. Farmers also soon found that competition rose. There were fewer jobs in California than they had thought. Wages became lower and lower, and so did the social status of the migrant workers.



















So this is Nebraska

by: Ted Kooser

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop   

over the fields, the telephone lines   

streaming behind, its billow of dust   

full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.


On either side, those dear old ladies,

the loosening barns, their little windows   

dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs   

hide broken tractors under their skirts.


So this is Nebraska. A Sunday   

afternoon; July. Driving along

with your hand out squeezing the air,   

a meadowlark waiting on every post.


Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,

top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,   

a pickup kicks its fenders off

and settles back to read the clouds.


You feel like that; you feel like letting   

your tires go flat, like letting the mice   

build a nest in your muffler, like being   

no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey   

or holding a skinny old man in your lap   

while he watches the road, waiting

for someone to wave to. You feel like


waving. You feel like stopping the car

and dancing around on the road. You wave   

instead and leave your hand out gliding   

larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Ted Kooser, “So This Is Nebraska” from Sure Signs. Copyright © 1980 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.









WEEDPATCH, Calif.— The relentless geometry of the farm fields still vanishes into infinity. When Earl Shelton,a 68-year-old retired oil refinery mechanic, walks the grounds of the former Weedpatch camp to which he and thousands of other Okies migrated during the Depression, the scrapbook in his mind turns to the image of Slab 529. That spit of concrete with a tent on it was home, on and off, for 13 years.

Mr. Shelton was 7 when he arrived at the camp, which was immortalized by John Steinbeck in

his 1939 novel ''Grapes of Wrath.'' Like many other Dust Bowlers, who have revived the once-derogatory word ''Okie'' as a term of endearment and source of pride, he can vividly summon the chapters of his own life: Of losing a wheel at night en route to Needles and burning a Sears catalog for light, of hot summer nights cooled only by bedsheets soaked with a hose and then draped over the tent. In the 1930's, Mr. Shelton's father, Tom, a widower with four sons, joined tens of thousands of other dispossessed farmers -- real-life Tom Joads hailing from Arkansas, Texas and Missouri as well as Oklahoma -- leaving the log house

three miles from Scipio, Okla., in a Model A. In these fertile fields they sought deliverance from drought and the Depression in the largest peacetime migration in the nation's history. ''I don't recall going hungry,'' Mr. Shelton said. ''But I know my dad did.'' He and other members of the local Dust Bowl Historical Foundation are now trying to raise money to restore the remaining original buildings of Weedpatch camp, which opened in 1936 as a response to unsanitary living conditions among migrants. But, in this year of the centennial of John Steinbeck's birth, the vestiges of Okie culture are vanishing, as the Dust Bowl generation ages and the texture of the community changes. Every morning, Doris Weddell, a retired librarian who is spearheading the preservation effort, picks up her scissors to clip the obituaries: Ann M. Heid (1929, Cici, Okla.), Alice R. Terry (1912, Anadarko, Okla.), Roy Earl Livsey (1913, Thayler, Tex.).


Published: February 5, 2002


























Analysis of Images and Information:

Throughout The Grapes of Wrath, farming is a recurring theme. The 1930's caused trouble for many, with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The Joad's experience a lot of trouble because of these two things and therefore leave for the promised land, California. They are a prime example of migrant workers in the 1930's. Just like many migrant workers, the Joad's are naive and hopeful, ready to set their life back on track. However, also like many other migrant workers, they end up having trouble finding work and good places to live. The information above connects to the story because it is exactly what the Joad's went through. They picked up and left their home, hoping to find work and shelter in California, which was hard, just like how it is mentioned above. All of the pictures used show what times were like. The first picture shows a luminous dust cloud closing in on a small neighborhood in Texas. The second is an ad for California, similar to ones from the 1930's. The ad is something that convinced many people without homes to travel the long journey for work, food and shelter. The third picture shows a mother and her children, dirty and tired. They are migrant workers, working to live. The fourth picture shows a tractor from the 1930's. Machinery like this was often used on farms in California during this time period. The fifth and final picture shows a small house after the dust storm. The land around it is now barren and empty, dirt and dust everywhere. The images and information above are all accurate ways to show the life of migrant workers in the 1930's and what farming in California was like.








Okies, Dust Bowl Migrants from Oklahoma & the Plains." The Wessels Living History Farm, the Story of Agricultural Innovation. Web. 20 Aug. 2011. <http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_06.html>.


"Farming In California" Image

"1930's South." Wikispaces.com. Web. 23 Aug. 2011. <http://206soph.wikispaces.com/1930%27s+South>.


"Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas" Image 

"The Dust Bowl." Www.weru.ksu.edu. Web. 23 Aug. 2011. <http://www.weru.ksu.edu/new_weru/multimedia/dustbowl/dustbowlpics.html>.


Lange, Dorothea. A Dust Bowl farm in the Texas Panhandle. N.d. JPEG file.

Brown, Patricia Leigh. "Oklahomans Try to Save Their California Culture." The
     New York Times 5 Feb. 2002: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 23 Aug. 2011.


YouTube video:

"@fluffycottncandi". "1930s Immigration to California." YouTube.com. 22 May 2009. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrY7c2zbUiQ&feature=related>.



Because the massive drought had encompassed the Great Plains, many farmers had no chance but to abandon the land they knew and move west, in hope of a better future.

You feel like that; you feel like letting   

your tires go flat, like letting the mice   

build a nest in your muffler, like being   

no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey   

or holding a skinny old man in your lap   

while he watches the road, waiting

for someone to wave to. You feel like


waving. You feel like stopping the car

and dancing around on the road. You wave   

instead and leave your hand out gliding   

larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Ted Kooser, “So This Is Nebraska” from Sure Signs. Copyright © 1980 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Comments (27)

Spixley@rsd6.org said

at 4:57 pm on Aug 22, 2011

MLA format...make sure there are quotes from the novel.

Steven said

at 11:15 pm on Sep 10, 2011

Overall, I think you guys did a good job on your wiki. The format is well spaced out and make the text seem more manageable. I particularly admire the opening phrase, it draw the reader's eyes across the page and makes the wiki seem more fluid. One problem I have with the page is its length; it seems too short and makes the wiki seem last-minute and not as informative. Other than that, I think you guys did a good job in making an attractive wiki.

-Steven Woodruff

Amyo said

at 9:34 pm on Sep 11, 2011

Overall, this was a well done wiki. This wiki keeps the readers attention by spacing out information, I loved the photos and the "So this is Nebraska" was really smart to put in there, I helps give a sense along with the powerful photos. I saw in the work cited there was a youtube video, but that was not included in the wiki page itself...Good job you all!

Micki said

at 8:37 pm on Sep 14, 2011

I think you guys did a good job. However it would have been better if the video could have been embedded on the page. I think the pictures would have looked better centered too. Also I feel as though the first three lines would have looked better with a bigger font because I almost didn't notice them, however they are very powerful statements that make you want to read the page. I liked how there were questions to engage the reader and the font changed color. The information was easy to read as the paragraphs were set up nicely. Good job!

Robinm said

at 9:10 pm on Sep 14, 2011

The wiki, overall, is pretty good. I actually really liked your photos! I thought "So this is Nebraska" added a nice touch. The wiki did seem short compared to the rest, it made it look like it lacked information and I didn't know there was a youtube video included until I read the other comments.

BettyB said

at 10:51 pm on Sep 14, 2011

I really liked your wiki page it looked like you guys put in a lot of hard work. I like how colorful it is. I enjoyed how you asked a question at the top of the page "Where was there to go?" and then lower it's like California! It makes me want to read more. I think though some of the paragraphs were a little lengthy and if possible they could have been paraphrased that would have made them easier to read. Other than that good job.

Danielled said

at 11:31 pm on Sep 14, 2011

The wiki looks great. All the ideas are separated well, and the pictures really connect with your topic. I agree with Betty-the question you asked at the top made me want to read more and actually see where people went! So I think its a great wiki

student said

at 10:35 am on Sep 15, 2011


What i liked the most was how at the top of this page there was somewhat of a senario and question, that caught my attention right away and made me want to read more. great job(:

Emma said

at 1:28 pm on Sep 15, 2011

I loved the way you began the page, the best I've seen yet I think! It was very inviting, made me want to read more! I liked it alot. I thought this was a great wiki, it maybe was a little short but I think you had alot of good information, so good job guys!

ErikaS said

at 1:32 pm on Sep 15, 2011

Overall, this Wiki was very appealing. My favorite aspects were the pictures provided, they all really caught my eye and kept me interested. I defiantly enjoyed reading it, but there wasn't enough information that I needed! So if anything, I would possibly add a bit more information to the text, and possibly a video or sound clip to keep others interested?

SamuelS said

at 1:37 pm on Sep 15, 2011

The beginning draw you into the page very well, nice job! I also like the classic picture of the "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange. You probably should have looked over it, because some of the formatting is messed up like at the bottom of the page. Formatting is the only thing I have to complain about, though! Good job!

Alexis said

at 1:38 pm on Sep 15, 2011

I like this wiki but I felt like it was missing some information and color. While scrolling and reading, I didn't feel like it flowed. As Erika said a sound clip or video would be a bit more insightful.

ElliottH said

at 2:40 pm on Sep 15, 2011

What was your overall impression of this wiki page?
This page seemed as if it lacked design and color.
What are the greatest weaknesses of this wiki page? Explain.
A video or some more pictures would have been nice.

TimL said

at 5:53 pm on Sep 15, 2011

Overall a nice page, although it lacked alot of color or any formatting of the text
more varied forms of media and creative text formatting would've added greatly to the wikis effectiveness

Jessicab said

at 6:52 pm on Sep 15, 2011

This page is great overall! I really liked how you opened up with those three lines and couple of pictures! It really caught my attention. Also I liked the way you supported your quote. However you could have maybe had a little more information and made the headings stand out a bit more!

Mitchr said

at 10:56 pm on Sep 16, 2011

I agree that they way this wiki page opened up was awesome. The picture choices and the colors captured the readers attention and the flow of the pages kept me interested right to the end. I would have preferred the analysis side by side with the pictures but it work for your page!

ColetteD said

at 8:20 am on Sep 17, 2011

The pictures you chose were really nice. They were almost kind of artsy which added a nice touch to the page. The opening to the page was fun and interesting. I like how you opened with a question and got right into the theme of your page.

Valerie said

at 8:26 pm on Sep 17, 2011

I really think this was a strong wiki page. The organization is really good; all the spacing, grouping, and design topped the whole thing off. I loved the poem, it was really different and fit perfectly in with the wiki! I think your page was short and sweet, you said what mattered and left out what didn't (so nice compared to some of the other pages which dragged on)! I really can't think of a weakness... in my opinion this was a great wiki page. Most of people's ideas of weaknesses are all a matter of opinion, so I'm not going to comment on that, because structurally and informationally I didn't find any flaws. Nice job!

IshmaelH said

at 10:58 am on Sep 18, 2011

The opening question of where to go was particularly appealing to me because it really jumpsnout at the viewers and makes them ask themselves that question if they were a worker themselves. Thisnpage in feel was a litt short based on the topic, just because there are so many stories and so much information on them topic, the lowry that makes this page well done is the fact that the editors cut down to the chase and gave out the most important details and stories that represented all of the workers, good job people!

TimothyR said

at 12:26 pm on Sep 18, 2011

This is, as far as I know, the first page I have utilized videos, pictures, poems, text, quotes, and literature at once (slow clap). The information is spread out and separated by a good deal of pictures and other forms of media, definitely keep the reader interested and from becoming to overwhelmed. All of the information is relevant and the video helps to provide a good deal of information about immigration while saving a good deal of space. The style used for some parts of the page was excellent, though in some areas it seemed a little lacking and dry. An excellent job, though.

Justin said

at 12:54 pm on Sep 18, 2011

My first impression of this page was the lack of audio/video effects or a diversity of styles/colors. This page did have relevant and accurate information pertaining to your topic which was the strong point of this page, but you guys could have really used some more effects. Good job overall.

parent said

at 3:50 pm on Sep 18, 2011

I agree with TJ - this group successfully utilized videos, pictures, poems, text, quotes, and literature. There was a great balance between text and information, and mediums. Great job there! It would have beneficial to the group if it had included more text or mediums to take away from the the white spaces. Yet, great job! :)

--Sara Musselman

alexa said

at 4:55 pm on Sep 18, 2011

Overall, i really liked your wiki. The beginning really intregued me to read more, it was probably one of the best beginnings of all of them. I really liked how you had a good amount of text/information and 'artifacts'. I also really liked the poem that you included. However, it seems a little short, but the information that is included is very good/useful. Good job!

MikaylaH said

at 10:12 pm on Sep 18, 2011

Very nice job. I really liked how you placed the words at the top of the page. It grabbed my attention. I loved the pictures and the poetry. I think that this is a very nice project.. It was very artistic. I do think that it was alittle short, and alittle spacey. I think more information is definatly needed. Other than that, very nice job.

NatalieP said

at 11:09 pm on Sep 18, 2011

I love how you began the wiki page! The pictures and poetry encouraged me to continue reading. It seemed a little short, but being short and sweet made it get right to the point which isn't necessarily a bad thing. For further improvement, it could use more information. Overall nice work!

AnneC said

at 12:44 pm on Sep 19, 2011

This page was probably the easiest for me to read and follow. When I was done reading it, I felt as though I had a solid understanding of the material. The connections you made to The Grapes of Wrath were also very strong, and showed great understanding of the novel. I agree with Steve, in that the opening lines of the page were very grabbing and bold. The first couple of photographs were also very catchy. One of the best things about this page for me was the amount of information. There was not too much, and the information provided still gave me a great understanding! :)

clareb said

at 12:38 pm on Sep 20, 2011

I really liked this page because of the poetry which for some reason made me feel that i was more than human, that i was, for lack of better terms, a titan. I wanted to eat my children and contain them in my stomach. The pictures were fun too. The number of sources was lacking, though.

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