Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Farmerettes of NY State School of Agriculture

During World War I, the NY State School of Agriculture trained women in farm work. The Navey League conceived of sending women for this three-month course in practical farming. Albert Johnson, the supervisory of the training, stated that one woman with modern farm implements could do the work once done by three men and seven horses. Instead of calling themselves, “aggies”, these women referred to themselves as “Farmerettes.”

On June 15, 1917, a new barracks were built for these women with an opening ceremony and flag raising.  These barracks have twenty sleeping rooms with beds for forty women and a separate bathing pavilion. The barracks were built by Fay Kellogg and the beds were regulation army beds. At the opening, sixty-seven women were already registered for the program. No one took them seriously at first. There was a wager among the faculty as to how long they would last. Three months into the program, not one woman quit.

The women worked from 5am-6pm. They rose at 5, had breakfast at 6 and then room inspection at 7. After that, they worked side by side with the men doing morning farm chores. Lectures on farming began at 9am and lasted until 12:30. After that, they did their own work. They were each given a plot of ground to plant whatever they chose. They were responsible for taking full care of this plot. In addition, they were given eggs and an incubator and were left to their own devices to hatch and raise chickens.

They even created their own planting song:

            The Planting Song of the Farmerettes
            Nellie was a pedagogue
            And Sue a social light
            But when Germans sank our boats
            They both set out to fight
            Grabbing up a rake & hoe
            They joined the food armee
            Now they’re out at Farmingdale
            A-fighting for the free

            It’s a hard job to plant potatoes
            It’s a darn sight worse to hoe
            It’s a hard job to weed tomatoes
            When the pesky things to grow
            Farewell to all the bright lights
            Good-bye old Broadway
            We are all out here to serve our country
            And you bet we’ll stay

“Farmerettes Open Their New Barracks.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. June 16, 1917
Foster, Elene. “Farming with the Farmerettes on Farmingdale.” NY Tribune, 1917
Weiss, Elaine. Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army of America in the Great War. Potomac Books, 2008.

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