Farming at Minidoka

Something close to 1,000 acres were farmed at Minidoka by Japanese American prisoners.  First, they had to convert the land from dry sage brush to irrigated agriculture.  While the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had put in the Milner-Gooding Canal to provide water to the area, there was a tremendous amount of pipe laying necessary to bring the water from the canal to the would-be farmland.  Japanese Americans worked to bring irrigation to Minidoka, but also to surrounding lands.

Two groups of historical photos follow…

Converting the land…

Irrigation Workers DDR NA

An irrigation crew at work, building a concrete collection box. [Densho Digital Repository: National Archives – DDR:NA]

Welding Irrigation Pipe DDR NA

Welding irrigation pipe. [DDR:NA]

Clearing Sagebrush DDR NA

Clearing sagebrush… [DDR:NA]

Clearing the Fields for Farming DDR NA

Clearing the fields… [DDR:NA]

Farming the land…

Working in the Field DDR NA

Working the field… [DDR:NA]

Sugar Beet Crew DDR NA

Sugar beet crew… [DDR:NA]

Harvesting Onions DDR NA

High school students harvesting onions… [DDR:NA]

Harvesting Beans DDR NA

Harvesting beans… [DDR:NA]

The Japanese American farmers who were brought to Minidoka literally created farmland out of scrub land.  They made it possible to begin irrigated agriculture on the land, adding immeasurably to the long-term value of the land.  They produced crops for over three years.  They were poorly paid for the work they did ($12 per month, 1/4 of the normal farming wage).  Worse, they received no share of the substantial value added to the land by making irrigation available.

It was a harsh environment in which to establish farming. The water from the Bureau of Reclamation made agriculture a theoretical possibility. It was the tenacity of the people who worked the land that made farming a reality in the area. Many of the people who helped to turn a barren land into a vast agricultural gem were prisoners in the Minidoka WRA Camp.

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