Video: Child Labor and the Farm

The real reason behind the spring break at school may surprise you. At one time most Georgians lived on farms. In the early 1900s when compulsory school attendance was first required by law, families still needed children to help with the necessary farm work in the spring. School calendars were set to accommodate that need. Twelve year old Dusty Dunn demonstrates how he helps his father and grandfather with the farm chores. Farm work is year round, but because of school obligations, Dusty can only work on weekends, holidays, and summertime. He describes how he learned to drive a tractor at age 9 when the regular driver got sick. Dusty appreciates the mechanized equipment used on farms today and wonders how his grandfather did it when the horse in horsepower really meant an animal. Students, who do not live on farms, learn about farm life through a visit to the Georgia Agrirama. Dressed in period clothing, they go back in time and try their hands at shelling corn, feeding livestock, hitching a mule to a wagon, and cooking on a wood stove. John Johnson at the Agrirama recounts how important agriculture is to Georgia. Large families were necessary because the children helped provide the labor needed to work the farm. At one time, almost 90 percent of Georgians lived and worked on a farm but only 2 percent live on a farm today. The students at the Agrirama agree that farm life in the old days had a different rhythm, and life for them is far easier today.

Teacher tip:
What responsibilities would a young person have today living on a farm? Dusty Dunn demonstrates some of them and students in the classroom may have first hand experience to share.