Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Farming During the Great War

A few months ago I wrote a Time Machine Tuesday feature about the state’s efforts to increase farm production during WWII. These types of efforts were not limited to the Second World War, however; the state had also worked to encourage greater farm production during World War I.

One hundred years ago today, on January 2, 1918, the Craig Empire published an article headlined “Rent Free Farms as War Measure: Plan to Add 100,000 Acres to State’s Productive Area by Furnishing Tracts free of Rent to Capable Farmers,” which you can read online courtesy of the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The article cites a plan from the Colorado State Board of Immigration and other agencies to encourage increased farm production for the war effort. Under the plan, owners of non-cultivated land could turn over portions of their land to the Board for a period of two years or the duration of the war, whichever came first. The Board would then find qualified farmers to cultivate the land, rent-free. At the time of the article, “already nearly 50,000 acres of such land has been pledged, and the Immigration board is in touch with a number of experienced farmers who will lease it and place it in cultivation.”

Much of the land to be cultivated, explains the article, was found on the Eastern plains where in many cases irrigation was limited and would require dryland farming techniques. In the early twentieth century, after much of the state’s best farmland was already under cultivation, the state had worked to encourage farming of some of the state’s less fertile lands. Dry farming would become a major contributing factor to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s; but during the first two decades of the twentieth century it was highly encouraged. The State Board of Immigration issued several pamphlets during the World War I era that were meant to encourage and assist both dryland farmers and those that had access to irrigation. These 1917-1918 pamphlets are available to read online via our library and give interesting insight into Colorado farm life a century ago: