Growing Instead of Buying

​IN ORDER TO allow companies to send most of their manufactured products overseas – items such as tinned fruits and vegetables, boxed cookies and cereals, dried beef and so forth – everyday Americans were encouraged to grow, preserve and prepare most of their own foods. In April 1918, Sheridan County Agriculturalist C. A. Marks reminded residents of their patriotic duties along these lines:

The war garden is very essential this year as the farmers have cut down on truck farming and because of the high prices on food that are bound to come. Enough vegetables can be raised in these war gardens to supply the family throughout the summer and by using the cold pack method [of canning], fresh food can be placed on the table in midwinter.

Sheridan established a number of community gardens (the gardens actually didn’t have to be large; a few tomatoes grown in a clay pot were enough for some fresh salads or a few cups of tomato sauce). Unfortunately, drought combined with neglect resulted in few of the crops coming to bear in 1917. Therefore, Marks said, most gardens in 1918 would be planted in backyards, where people could keep better track of weeds and watering.


AMERICAN CHILDREN HAD a role to fill during the war. Just because boys and girls were too young to go to either front or factory, that didn’t mean they were too young to help with the war effort. They could knit mittens or purchase war stamps with their allowance; they could even eat the right thing – corn meal mush, for example – willingly! Children were not supposed to whine or cry about shortages of their favorite things; they were supposed to remain cheerful and give their fathers on the front something to fight for.

One of the most important tasks for children was to grow fruit, vegetables and livestock for domestic use (so manufactured goods could go overseas). In 1918, clubs were formed at Sheridan County schools and over three hundred students participated with stunning results: One boy grew seventy-five bushels of potatoes on a one-eighth acre plot of land; another boy raised twelve lambs that sold for $275 (about $4,000 in today’s dollars); a high school girl canned over 250 quarts of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Children also found themselves in demand in Wyoming’s agricultural industry. For the state’s livestock producers, the war was a time of mixed blessings. On the one hand, they were prosperous years: cattle production almost doubled between 1914 and 1918 and thousands of horses were needed for the army. On the other hand, many of the experienced men that the ranches relied upon – cowboys, hay contractors and fencers – went overseas to fight. Others went north to take high paying jobs in the Canadian wheat fields. As a result, much of the day-to-day work had to be done by old men, women and teenage boys.

Wake Up America!

Life at Home During the War, 1917-1918

The Youth's Companion Magazine, 1918 (LOC)

Detail from Poster, "Wake Up America," 1917 (LOC)

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

April 2017 through December 2018

 State Historic Site

Trail End