Farming for Freedom — WW2 Work Song

image of victory job

During World War 2, my grandma sang this song while working on a farm in upstate NY for the summer. As far as I know, this is the first time the full lyrics have been published on the internet.

Farming for Freedom
(to the tune of the Caisson Song)

Up in trees, on our knees,
Picking beans and strawberries,
We are farming for freedom today.

Bit by bees, stung by fleas,
We are working just with ease [?],
We are farming for freedom today.

With our flag in sight
We are working day and night,
Feeding the men in the air and on the sea.

So it’s off we go
To meet the common foe,
Yes we are farming for freedom today.

(Cheer) Keep ‘em eating, keep ‘em eating!

I Googled exact phrases from the song and only found one hit, on page 59 of the autobiography Madame W by Leila Israel Weisberg. The related section is quoted below. Note the slight differences in the lyrics.

Due to labor shortages, New York State had a program which organized volunteers to harvest farm crops. I signed up for the two-week program.

The group of volunteers gathered on Sunday morning for the trip to Poughkeepsie, New York on the Hudson River Day Line. When we arrived in Poughkeepsie we were loaded onto buses and taken to various camps in the area where we would be housed for two weeks. My group was taken to the training camp used by Tony Canizzaro, the prizefighter. The accommodations seemed rustic to me, a city girl, but quite adequate. After a good supper, we all went to bed early because we had to get up the next morning at 5:30 am. Breakfast was at 6 and the area farmers started picking us up at 7. Each of us was given a bag lunch and we were loaded onto the backs of trucks and taken to the farms. We picked cherries, currants, and strawberries and weeded tomatoes. We were paid for our work by the bushel or pint or by the hour when we did weeding. The farmers kept track of what we earned.

As we worked, we sang a song to the tune of “As Those Caissons Go Rolling Along.” I only remember the first verse. It went like this:

“On our knees
Up in trees
Picking peas and strawberries
We are farming for freedom today.”

It was the hardest work I had ever done and I came back to camp each evening so tired I could barely eat and flop into bed. We had to pay for our room and board and after two weeks, my earnings covered all but $3 of the cost.

So there you go, historians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *