Dust Bowl Relocation

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The Dust Bowl, itself left no option but to force thousands of poor families to flee especially the farmers who had farms, land and property, a high rate of crop destruction was made which caused the inability to grow crops such as cotton and wheat. The states that had suffered greatly in the early 1930s were Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas from the rapid increase of the severe drought that lasted not even for months but for several years. People from the plains had noticed that there seemed not to be as much rainfall in the region anymore. This horrible drought had produced an ecological disaster, caused by the shocking dust storms which had arisen by the weakened plowed topsoil. Even though the Dust Bowl migration was due to poor agricultural and farming practices, there are other factors that lead this migration. One circumstance was that not all people that left in the migration were just farmers. Residents left also in the sense to settle and start a new life easily. The state of California had attracted many of the migrants coming over, and apart from the poor living conditions, the climate and its abundant resources available, the beauty of the landscape was above all.

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During that time there were various ways to attract people to California, such as advertisers and advertisements saying, come to California to find the good life. Obviously, many came from different states, causing a huge population growth during those years but some migrants from the south had been very successful farmers who wanted to seek more American opportunities, trying to own a piece of land in the west. Many of the migrant families were forced to migrate to California seeking work because of the drought which at the time had already lasted many years. Some problems that arose resulting, from this drought, led to a widespread hunger and poverty. More than 500,000 Americans were left homeless and over 350 houses were completely torn down. Families felt that they had no choice but to leave their country in search of work in the west. When families began to move from the Plains, especially in Oklahoma and Kansas, most fell ill and died of dust pneumonia or malnutrition. Not all immigrants traveled a long distance, some just went to the next town or county. One of the largest migrations in American history within a short time was the Dust Bowl exodus that lasted between 1930 and 1940. About 3.5 million people moved out of the Plains and migrated elsewhere. In a year, over 86,000 people migrated to California, more than the number of migrants during the 1849 Gold Rush.

After migrants came to California, many hoped to be hired on California farms, learning how to grow fruits and vegetables while living on the farms they worked, instead, California farms hired seasonal workers only when they were needed and used farm workers to perform specific tasks rather than to learn new farming techniques. Many migrants from the plains who migrated particularly to San Joaquin Valley supplied various fruit and vegetables to the nation’s grocery stores, more than of the people were Mexicans, Filipinos, and white men workers before the Depression picked those crops, and during that time there seemed to have been more whites looking for harvest labor jobs and many of them traveling as families coming from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas. These migrants came with great hope but were heading to a disappointment of work shortage and for low wages. Housing was difficult for them and it would be either in a tent camp or a shack. Migrants after the Great Depression ended, moved back to their homeland while others remained settled in California, the economy improved dramatically because many of the migrants went off to fight in World War II, which caused the other migrants that were left, to take the better advantages to have job opportunities that had become more available. As a result, this made the migrants have a more suitable lifestyle. The economic and agricultural problem that had hit the most was in the southwest plain. There were little to no opportunities which made them alternatively to quit the area and leave. On the other hand, farmers who didn’t want to abandon their farms completely, mostly the poor, went to go in search for employment at large plantations where cotton was being practiced. Their experience with cotton farming helped them to have jobs in these plantations.

As more farming methods were beginning to be mechanized, the migrant’s way of picking cotton began to be old. This new procedure was not what the migrants were expecting. Many of these farmers thought to improve their lives but the amount of money they were getting paid made life even harder. From their earnings, they would have to buy day to day needs such as food for their family at very expensive shops causing them nowhere to live. Migrants wanted to settle down and own land but most of the land was either owned or run by large businesses and companies. Soon migrants lost hope of the desire to own land, so they migrated elsewhere in seek of other opportunities. Even though the migrants were trying to fit in, people would discriminate them in different ways, especially when they were looking for employment and were often referred to or nick named as Okies, and Arkies. A lot of the migrant farmers didn’t seem to get or understand why they were called liked that, they were just some good westerners who were just faced with a huge economic crisis beyond their control. As I said earlier, some of the areas which were majorly hit were Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. These regions that had come across large scale destruction were those who practiced farming the most. In brief the extreme drought and the Dust Bowl were only some of the reasons or factors that led this migration in fact the low cost of the agricultural products, and crop pest affected this migration as well. Additionally, most migrant farmers were being advised to even sell off their lands and this was because their lands would support them if sold, and sometimes they sold off their land at a very cheap price.

Agricultural products ultimately started reducing in the market and shops. This caused an economic distress in the plains and surrounding counties and town as the change of depression steadily rose. Studies and findings have shown that during the Depression, the southwest region had a high rate of unemployment and residents were either jobless or didn’t have a meaningful occupation. As compared to other states, the southwest owed very minimal amount of aid since their income was very low. Residents could not meet all the necessities for the southwest, these people suffered from the effects of unemployment and had a hard time in obtaining daily needs. They couldn’t tolerate this situation anymore and decided to migrate to nearby urban towns where they settled in and built their shanties, which was what they called their home. It would stretch along a large area containing almost 2,500 people in it. Most of these people did some odd jobs in surrounding towns and it would include assisting in the distribution of food aid. The settlement of the migrants in California had an impact in the economic development of the state, but this grew government concern. The government tried to identify ways of improving the state by creating more jobs. About 5 years later during the 1930’s, the government took initiative by creating more factories and other employment jobs which helped raise gross domestic product of the state and most of these taxes came from the working population and not the wealthy. For the most part migrants that came to California were majorly rural based and couldn’t easily match or afford the quality of life in a town and as the towns were recovering from the effects of the Depression the rate of unemployment was very high. All in all, migrant farmers and families had to adapt to the way of life in California as it was going to be their new homes and as time passed by most of them really adapted and life had to keep going.

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Dust Bowl Relocation. (2019, Jul 11). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from

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