The backbreaking work was an alternative for those who didn’t want to live behind barbed wire in an incarceration camp. Japanese Americans were badly needed to fill jobs caused by a labor shortage due to so many workers drafted to fight in the war.
One such farm labor camp was in Nyssa, OR. not far from temporary holding centers in Portland.
A new exhibition documenting life at the Nyssa Farm Labor Camp along with several others opened Friday at the Four Rivers Center in Ontario, OR and will be on display through December 12, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Titled Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II , the exhibition showcases photos by Russell Lee of life in Nyssa, Rupert, Shelly and Twin Falls.
“The work was very hard, very backbreaking, but the workers could earn more in a fews days than they could in a month at the concentration camp,” said Morgen Young who curated the exhibit.
The laborers worked mostly in the sugar beet industry, according to the exhibition. Those sugar beets were converted to alcohol and used to make munitions for the war effort.
You can read about the experience of some who worked in those camps in the Idaho Statesman. You can look at some of Russell Lee’s photographs in the slide show below.