New Book Recounts Purdue Cooperative Extension Agents During the Great Depression through World War II

Fred Whitford has delivered a bumper crop once again for the preservation and education of Purdue and the State of Indiana agricultural history. Whitford’s seventh book in the Purdue University Press Founders Series is titled, Planting the Seeds of Hope: Indiana County Extension Agents During the Great Depression and World War II. Available April 15, this book with 700 pages and over 200 illustrations will bring joy and enlightenment to multiple generations of Midwest farming families.

About the Book

The Great Depression of the 1930s nearly brought the agricultural community to a standstill. As markets went into an economic freefall, farmers who had suffered through a post–World War I economic depression in the 1920s would now struggle to produce crops, livestock, and other commodities that could return more than the cost to produce them.

In Indiana, the county agents of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service saw this desperation firsthand. As they looked into the worried faces of the people they were asked to assist, the trust they had worked to build in their communities during the previous two decades would be put to the test. Throughout the painful years of the Great Depression, the county agents would stand side by side with Hoosier farmers, relying on science-based advice and proven strategies to help them produce more bushels per acre, more pigs per litter, more gallons of milk per cow, and more eggs per chicken.

Then, as the decade drew to a close, the start of World War II in Europe soon placed farmers on the frontlines at home, producing the agricultural commodities needed in the United States and in war-torn locations abroad. The federal government quickly called on county agents to push farmers to meet historic production quotas—not an easy task with farm machinery, tires, and fuel rationed, and a severe labor shortage resulting from farm workers being drafted for military service or opting for higher-paying jobs in factories.

Using the observations and reports of county agents, Planting the Seeds of Hope offers a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to live through these historic events in rural Indiana. The agents’ own words and numerous accompanying photographs provide a one-of-a-kind perspective that brings their stories and those of the agricultural community they served to life at a pivotal time in American history.

“If you’re not sure what it was like to live during the early 1930s in a depression, or before REMCs formed and brought lights to the country, or before your ancestors grew hybrid seed corn, or why it was so difficult to get a new hay baler during the early 1940s, your questions will be answered as you read this book. Whitford includes plenty of vintage photographs and artwork from early Extension bulletins to help you grasp the flavor of those days.”

Tom J. Bechman

editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

About the Author

Fred Whitford works for the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agriculture. He has authored more than 350 research, extension, and regulatory publications, and has delivered 6,000 presentations to a wide array of audiences. Whitford has written six previous books on the history of Indiana agriculture, including Memories of Life on the Farm: Through the Lens of Pioneer Photographer J. C. Allen.

Read the Book

You can receive a 30% discount on Planting the Seeds of Hope: Indiana County Extension Agents During the Great Depression and World War II and any other Purdue University Press book by ordering directly from our website and using the code PURDUE30 at checkout. Our books are also available through your favorite hometown bookstore, preferred online retailer, or your local library.

About Purdue University Press

Founded in 1960, Purdue University Press is dedicated to the dissemination of scholarly and professional information. We publish books in several key subject areas, including Purdue and Indiana history, aeronautics/astronautics, the human-animal bond, Central European studies, Jewish studies, and other select disciplines.

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