Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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November 14, 1934


The top administrators of the work and rehabilitation division of the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission included the administrator, assistant administrator, director of work program, director of work relief, director of rural rehabilitation, director of women's work, director of emergency education, director of drought relief, and director of subsistence gardens.

At the county level emergency relief committees appointed county garden committees composed of a member of the county emergency relief committee and several citizens having an interest in subsistence gardens. These committees nominated county garden supervisors who were approved or disapproved by the state director of subsistence gardens. Paid garden supervisors selected land for cultivation, laid out individual plots, arranged for the plots to be plowed, received and acted upon applications for plots, received and distributed seeds and other supplies, and maintained records of all of their transactions. When sufficient amounts of produce were harvested canning stations were established to preserve vegetables for the winter months. On November 26, 1934 the state director of subsistence gardens reported that canning projects were active in sixty-two counties and that 4,500,000 cans of vegetables were in the pantries of relief families awaiting consumption.

Points to Consider

Which actions did this document lay out?

What is a "subsistence garden"?

Considering the numbers of people addressed in this memorandum, how many people were involved in subsistence gardening statewide?

How would excess produce have been stored?

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