The Brooklyn College Farm Labor Project was designed as a way for young men and women to become more involved in the war effort throughout the early 1940s in order to help alleviate the labor and production shortages. The concept of farm labor aid was prevalent during World War I and by World War II; the societal movement of “Victory Gardens” was rapidly on the rise once again, but in a new way. President Gideonse saw this concept as a way to not only provide his students with the opportunity to fulfill their patriotic duties, but also as a way provide them with an opportunity to experience life outside of the congested and confined city of Brooklyn, New York. The beginning stages of this project began in 1940 through the efforts of President Gideonse when he reached out to the Associate Director of the American Youth Commission in Washington D.C., Howard McClusky, to discuss the “application of the work camp idea” at Brooklyn College. By 1941, President Gideonse had met with other administrators of youth labor organizations (such as the Work Camp Committee, for example) and was able to create a well-rounded Work Camp project which focused on the education of students inside and outside of the classroom; providing hands-on experiences that most could not get at home. Students who were interested in volunteering for this project had to apply and undergo a review by the College Placement Office, the Faculty Committee on Employment and the Student Council Committee. Students who were accepted were able to earn a class credit as well as a weekly stipend for their services. A “trial-run” of the project was held at a farm located in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 1942 where over 80 students learned how to grow and pick various fruits and vegetables including cherries, strawberries and lettuce. By 1943, the Farm Labor Project was more of a triumph than a failure and it was at this time that President Gideonse was able to successfully create a “Brooklyn Bridge to Morrisville” by working with local agricultural defense committees. Over 100 students (mostly women) were enrolled in the Farm Labor Project during the years of 1943 and 1945; also becoming honorary members of the New York Farm Cadet Victory Corps. In Morrisville, students were able to experience a true farm life where they learned to grow and harvest various fruits and vegetables, milk and tend to cows and other animals, and work in collaboration with local farmers. Housing and weekly stipends were provided for students; however, by the Morrisville years; the same opportunities were provided for African-American families of low income who wanted to help with the war effort. Although the Farm Labor Project was successful at providing new opportunities for college students and families during this time, the project had faced harsh criticism in the beginning. During 1940-1941, President Gideonse was criticized by leftist members of the Brooklyn College chapter of the American Student Union (A.S.U) who felt the Labor Camp project was similar to Hitler’s Nazi Labor Camps of this time. President Gideonse strongly defended his beliefs by stating the benefits of the project for the country and the opportunities it provided the students and local families of Brooklyn. The Farm Labor Project can be seen as another facet to the war effort of World War II; however, it is also a very integral chapter to the history of Brooklyn College.
Item, folder title, box number, Brooklyn College Country Fair Collection, Archives & Special Collections, Brooklyn College Library