Ken Burns Classroom

Reform (Finnell’s system)

Ken Burns Film: The Dust Bowl

Collections: The Great Depression and WWII (1929-1945)

Subject: US History

Grade Level: 7-12

Video Run Time: 4:43

In the summer of 1936, Roosevelt takes a whistle-stop tour across the Midwest and Northern Plains to see the crisis himself. He inspires enthusiastic, but weary, audiences. At the same time, Hugh Bennett, head of the Soil Conservation Service, begins instituting his program of agricultural reform and offering incentives to those farmers who will adopt the new farming methods. The film clip notes that, “The final [government] report estimated that 80 percent of the Great Plains was in some stage of erosion, and pointed to what Bennett called “the basic cause” of the problem—“an attempt to impose upon the region a system of agriculture to which the Plains are not adapted.” But, it concluded, the nation “cannot afford to let the farmer fail.”