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UND Harvest Hands


TIME Magazine reported on the 1942 North Dakota harvest on this date seventy years ago. What made the harvest that fall unique enough to be reported in the pages of TIME, Life, and Newsweek magazines? Well, in addition to its enormous size, the entire harvest was completed not by farmers, but largely by college students, football players, and professors.

With many of the state’s farmers and young people called away to war, Governor John Moses took to the airwaves to broadcast a desperate radio message to the state’s citizens. Without laborers to harvest the state’s largest crop in history, the food would spoil in the fields. It was already early October, and winter would soon arrive. The Governor pleaded for any able-bodied persons to assist with the fieldwork, for the millions of bushels of wheat and potatoes, and tons of sugar beets, were desperately needed to supply the nation and its troops overseas.

The following day, the University of North Dakota held an all-campus meeting to address the issue. Over one thousand concerned students and teachers showed up. As the students and faculty debated the possibility of assisting with the harvest, Dean William Bek shouted above the melee, “Fieldwork is not beneath any of us, and any one of you who thinks so is a slacker in every sense of the word!” Those in attendance immediately voted to shut down the college for two weeks to assist the farmers. The North Dakota Agricultural College and the State Teachers’ Colleges followed suit.

Students and faculty took to the fields at dawn the next morning. One faculty woman, armed with a PhD and a pair of overalls, volunteered to drive a farmer’s truck between the fields, while the UND football team cancelled games and homecoming events to help bring in the Grand Forks County sugar beet crop. Over four thousand college students were soon joined by thousands of high school students across the state. Several students took over farm kitchens to help feed the “student army,” while others threshed wheat, picked potatoes, and hauled equipment. One college president, working alongside several of his students, declared it to be “the finest community spirit I have ever seen displayed by any student body anywhere!”

By the end of October, the entire harvest was in, thanks to North Dakota’s most educated work force.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


“EDUCATION: North Dakota Harvest”, Time Magazine, Monday, October 26, 1942 (accessed 19/10/2011:,9171,850167,00.html)