Food - Drink
The Agents Who Taught Home Canning Skills During The World Wars
Per the National Agriculture Library, food preservation was a “patriotic venture” during World War I and World War II, as civilians were discouraged from purchasing fresh produce and canned goods so that more production could go to war efforts. Citizens were instead encouraged to grow “victory gardens” and, later, to preserve their own food.
In 1914, the government spread canning knowledge through home demonstrations to instruct women on home economics and agriculture. The USDA employed “Agents” (women at home) to share this information, and they were divided into three groups — the agricultural agent, the home demonstration agent, and the 4-H club agent.
The agents’ objective was “to give to rural people [...] information that will enable them to become better citizens in a democracy,” per a 1951 USDA booklet. Community meetings, in-home demonstrations, and clubs became places not only to teach safe canning methods, but also places for women to socialize and learn parenting and home skills.
Home demonstrators fell out of popularity by the ‘60s, but not before spreading home canning across the country. Today, home canning is becoming popular again due to a growing interest in health- and environmentally-conscious foods, and while the government isn’t employing agents anymore, the practice has gotten a newfound meaning.