Heart Mountain Agriculture Program

The Heart Mountain Agriculture Program provided food for the World War II-era concentration camp in Wyoming.


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A plan to feed the thousands of Japanese confined at Wyoming's Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II will be the topic of a talk on Monday, May 20, in Cody, Wyoming.

Dakota Russell, museum manager for the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, will talk about how Glenn Hartman and Alden Ingraham were drafted out of the University of Wyoming by camp administrators to develop an agriculture plan for the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

The talk is part of the meeting of the Pahaska Corral of Westerners at the Governors Room in the Irma Hotel. The event begins with a no-host dinner at 6 p.m. followed by the presentation around 7 p.m. Both the meal and the program are open to the public. Due to limited seating, RSVP by emailing Lynn Houze ljhcody@tctwest.net

Hartman and Ingraham worked in tandem with camp residents, who included seasoned farmers, and James Ito, a soil scientist, to develop and execute the camp's agricultural plan. The process was not smooth and included completing the Heart Mountain Canal and tilling fields with tractors that proved too weak to break the tough Wyoming soil, which precipitated a strike.

The experienced Japanese farmers of Heart Mountain had been uprooted from California, where they did not have to deal with the short 90-day growing season of the Wyoming high desert.

Russell came to Wyoming from Missouri, where he began his career at the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site. He later worked at the Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic Site, where he researched and developed the interpretation program.

He uncovered a rich vein of African American history there, which began with slavery and continued well into the 20th century. He is most interested in preserving the lives of people who didn’t have the power or means to write themselves into history.

“That’s a big part of what drew me to Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and the chance to tell the stories of more than 14,000 Japanese Americans confined there during World War II,” he said.

The Pahaska Corral of Westerners is the local chapter of Westerner International, an organization headquartered at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (formerly the Cowboy Hall of Fame) in Oklahoma City. The Westerners International, founded in 1944, is dedicated to stimulating interest and research in the history of the American West.

This article originally ran on billingsgazette.com.