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Preparing for War


North Dakota Agricultural College president Edwin Ladd launched North Dakota’s war effort on this date in 1917. After attending an agricultural conference in St. Louis, Ladd returned with director Thomas Cooper of the Experiment Station to address North Dakotans at Fargo. The conference, launched only days after the U.S. officially entered the Great War on April 6th, highlighted the necessity of an ‘Industrial Army’ able to supply the troops and the home-front, as well as the allied countries.

Ladd stressed that North Dakota’s great part in the war effort would be to “…produce wheat as never before,” adding that, “Every foot of ground must be made to produce.” The Department of Agriculture estimated that an Industrial Army of two million men would be necessary to produce enough food during the war, and that, even then, drastic measures would be necessary. Much of Europe at the time was already experiencing shortages, so Ladd argued that no time was to be wasted in an attempt to maximize food production at home. He encouraged farmers to take to the fields immediately, and for families to take up home production and eliminate all waste. He called on local school children to raise gardens during the upcoming school months, and all boys of age to take to the plow. Every able-bodied man, woman, and child was to find work of some kind; “It is no longer a war of bullets and lead,” said Ladd, “but a war of bullets and bread.”

He also claimed that out of “patriotic duty,” the owners of vacant lots and fields should allow for their planting: “Within the limits of the city of Fargo there are…100 acres of ground that can be utilized for gardening…The utilization of that land to its full capacity would be sufficient to supply every family in Fargo with vegetables ‘til next spring.”

In fact, World War I did bring a period of great prosperity to the state, as demand for farm products sky-rocketed, as did the price of wheat. Unfortunately, demand fell drastically once European farmers were able to resume production after the war. North Dakota farmers fell on hard times during much of the 1920s and 30s, until the nation called upon their help once again during the Second World War.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 19. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Friday (Evening ed.), April 13, 1917: p. 1.