Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Changes & Challenges (1920s-1930s): Agricultural Hard Times and The Great Depression
6 - 8
Students will investigate the relationship between physical geography and Utah's settlement, land use, and economy, assess how natural resources sustain and enhance people's lives, and examine how people affect the geography of Utah.
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture multimedia program
- The Great Depression article
- Maps of Utah Ground Water Aquifers and Basins
- Utah's Ground Water handout
- Our Family Farm in Alpine Utah oral history
- Official Utah Highway Map or another road map of Utah
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- The Great Depression Article
- Maps of Utah Ground Water Aquifers and Basins
- Utah's Ground Water Handout
- Our Family Farm in Alpine Utah Oral History
Taylor Grazing Act of 1934: a United States federal law that provides for the regulation of grazing on the public lands (excluding Alaska) to improve rangeland conditions and regulate their use
overgrazing: to allow animals to graze (as a pasture) to the point of damaging the vegetation
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- View the Agriculture in the 1920s and the Agriculture in the 1930s sections of the Changes and Challenges multimedia program with your students.
- Use the following Procedures section as a guide to explore the concepts in the multimedia presentation.
Agriculture in the 1920s: Hard Times
- Open the picture link titled "Sugar Beet Cultivation" in the Changes & Challenges multimedia presentation, and discuss the associated question:
- Why do you think farmers with only a few extra acres would bother to raise labor-intensive sugar beets? (Sugar beets were a cash crop worth more than other crops grown in Utah.)
- Open the text link titled "Sheep in the 1920s" in the multimedia presentation, share the text with students, and discuss the associated questions:
- How might the characteristics that made sheep ideal for prospering in Utah also have contributed to the flooding that occurred in Utah during these years? (Sheep eat nearly everything and overgrazing leads to soil erosion and flooding.)
- What are we doing on Utah’s lands and watersheds today that might cause flooding to occur again? (Removing vegetation on the foothills for homes.)
- Use the "Video Clip About Sheep in Utah" from the multimedia presentation to further explore the importance and impact of sheep in Utah during this period. Additionally, you may wish to share this Utah History to Go article: Sheep Fueled the 1920s Economy.
- Open the picture link titled "Mink Production" in the multimedia presentation, and discuss the associated question:
- If more people protest against wearing furs like mink what impact will it have on Utah farmers? (Lower demand would cause a collapse in prices thus forcing mink farmers out of business.)
Agriculture in the 1930s: The Great Depression
- Ask students to read the article The Great Depression individually, or navigate to the article using the web link titled "The Effects of the Great Depression" in the Changes & Challenges multimedia presentation.
- Research the answers to the questions associated with the article:
- What effect did the depression have on families in Utah?
- How might farmers and rural families been better off than those living in Utah’s cities?
- How might farmers and rural families been worse off than those living in Utah’s cities?
- How do Utah farmers today benefit from federal government programs? (The government provides farmers with subsidies, money, to prop up low crop prices, sometimes based on increased supplies or imports, and assists farmers by buying surpluses for government food programs like food stamps, Women and Infant Care [WIC], and school lunch).
- How do consumers benefit from these government programs? (Our collective taxes support lower food prices overall.)
- Explain to students that the 1930s were also a time of North American drought. Utah was in a drought as well and part of the “dirty thirties.” Water has always been one of Utah’s most vital resources. Water is stored in two ways: (1) above ground in lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams; and (2) below ground as ground water.
- Investigate Utah’s ground water resources with your students using the Maps of Utah Ground Water Aquifers and Basins and sharing with them the information on the Utah's Ground Water handout. Ask students to consider the following question:
- What groups do you think are competing for the state’s limited water resources?
- Share the oral history Our Family Farm in Alpine Utah with students (also provided as a text link in the Changes & Challenges presentation. Discuss the following question:
- In the 1930s Utahns purchased most of their fresh produce from around Utah. Where does the produce we buy today come from?
- Explain to students that by the early 1930s, there were almost 100,000 cars and trucks in Utah and 24,000 miles of paved, gravel, and dirt roads. Discuss the following question:
- How would increasing the miles of roads in Utah benefit farmers? (transportation for delivering crops)
- Using the Official Highway Map of Utah or another road map of Utah, ask students to identify the route they would take to get from various rural towns to Salt Lake City traveling the most direct route and avoiding Interstate highways, which weren’t built until the late 1950s. Ask them to consider how long it would take if they were traveling by horse (30 miles per day), and by car traveling 60 mph.
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Suggested Companion Resources
- Changes and Challenges (Activity): The Cox and Gossner Family Histories (Activity)
- Wool Spinning Kit (Kit)
- America's Heartland: Bachelor Sheep Ranch (Multimedia)
- America's Heartland: Wild & Wooly Roundup (Multimedia)
- Black Blizzard (Multimedia)
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture (Multimedia)
- Creamed, Canned and Frozen: How the Great Depression Revamped U.S. Diets (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: CBS 1955 Documentary (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: Grantsville, Utah (Multimedia)
- FDR's Fireside Chat: Dust Bowl (Multimedia)
- Illustrated Accounts of Moments in Agricultural History (Multimedia)
- Agricultural News (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Highlight the interaction and significance of state historical and current agricultural events on governmental and economic developments (e.g., the building of railroads, the taxation of goods, etc.) (T5.6-8.f)
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe benefits and challenges of using conservation practices for natural resources (e.g., soil, water, and forests), in agricultural systems which impact water, air, and soil quality (T1.6-8.b)
- Discover how natural resources are used and conserved in agriculture (e.g., soil conservation, water conservation, water quality, and air quality) (T1.6-8.c)
Education Content Standards
5-12 History Era 7 Standard 3B: A modern capitalist economy emerged in the 1920s.
Objective 4Explain the role of new technology and scientific research in the rise of agribusiness and agricultural productivity.
5-12 History Era 8 Standard 1B: American life changed during the 1930s.
Objective 1Explain the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on American farm owners, tenants, and sharecroppers.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.