Kern County, California, April 9, 1940.
This potato field near Edison, Kern County, is in a new potato area which has been developed in the last two or three years. Potato fields are divided into two sections about thirty-five feet long by stake lines running diagonally across the rows. Potato digging machines run up and down the rows, followed by the field workers picking potatoes. Each worker is responsible for one section, which must be clean before the machine returns. The rate these machines travel, and the speed at which pickers must work, varies with the soil conditions and the efficiency of the machine. Wages are thirty-five cents an hour.
This year there was a tremendous oversupply of labor in potatoes. Men and women hunting for work waited at the ends of the rows for a picker to drop out. Some were willing to pay five or even ten dollars for a place in the field, at thirty-five cents an hour. The natural result of this could be the speeding up of the potato digging until someone dropped out of exhaustion.