Arvin Farm Labor Center (Weedpatch Camp) – Bakersfield CA


The Resettlement Administration built this camp for migrant farm labor, and it is still in use.

“Camps would be constructed to provide migratory families with minimum decencies: a healthful site, a pure water supply, sanitary facilities of all kinds, and other simple amenities. Ten to a dozen camps were planned; two were constructed by the Resettlement Administration before it was absorbed into the Farm Security Administration in 1937. One was at Marysville and the other near Weedpatch” (Lowitt, 184).

While writing “The Grapes of Wrath”, John Steinbeck visited Bakersfield, and based his book on the Arvin Farm Labor Camp, which in his book is called “Weedpatch Camp.”

Source notes

Project submitted by both Douglas Dodd, and by Gail Erwin with the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum.

Croutch, Albert. Housing Migratory Agricultural Workers in California, 1913-1948. Thesis, UC, 1948. 46-56, 70,71.

Richard Lowitt, The New Deal and the West. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 184.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

8701 Sunset Blvd
Bakersfield, CA 93307

Location notes:

Coordinates: 35.223276, -118.907499

23 comments on “Arvin Farm Labor Center (Weedpatch Camp) – Bakersfield CA

  1. Celia Melton

    I believe Steinbeck actually called the camp “Wheatpatch,” in the Grapes of Wrath, and not “Weedpatch,” as you stated. My father’s family lived at the camp.

  2. Diana (Reagan) Brashier

    Im excited to know that the camp still stands..I was born in 1956 and my birth cert. says my parents address is Arvin Labor Camp.. I would of never dreamed that I could still go and look the place where I lived when I was a newborn..I would of figured the whole place was gone so I googled it and low and behold it still around.. going out tomorrow to have a look see.. I am very excited to see the place .. I wished my parents could be here to tell me the stories behind living out there and what it was like for them..I don’t know how long we lived there at the time their was five other siblings beside me ..and yes we was some of the OKIE’s that came to live and work and Im Proud of my Heritiage…Looking forward to going tomorrow

  3. Looking for anyone that has 1st account history of this camp for an interview, even if you were a child or have family stories about this camp for a documentary.

    • My cousin stayed there as a child. I’ll ask her if she wants to contact you. It would have to be by mail as she does not use computers. Thanks. Curt

  4. Alejandro Villarreal

    I lived in the camp for 14 years, 1977 – 1991, and I remember all my friends and the sunset school. We went walking every day. Wonder years!

  5. DeeLyn Beard

    I am looking for information on my family who resided in Weedpatch & Bakersfield CA. They migrated west from Arkansas & Oklahoma (Okies) in the 1930s. My Great Grand Pa passed at an early age in 1948 Oregon. I am seeking information on his very large family. Ben Beard & wife Nancy “Nannie” Wallace-Beard. Their children (youngest to oldest) Willis Beard, Opal Jean Curtis (Beard). Most have passed away already but I still desire to connect our family limbs to the tree. Thank You!

  6. Ronald Shields

    We moved to the Arvin Farm Labor camp in 1944 when I was three years old and lived there till I was in High School. My mother was the camp librarian in the building preserved at the camp. My dad worked for the camp under Dewy Russel for several years. My mom was also the school librarian for Sunset School and my dad worked there as a custodian until he retired. Growing up in the camp was a wonderful experience. I didn’t know that we were poor, we raised a big garden and had plenty to eat. I still have my first Social Security Card with our address on it. It say Route 6 Box AFLSC, Arvin, Calif. So the offical name of the camp was the Arvin Farm Labor Supply Center I think! As a kid I watched them build several new buildings at Sunset School in the last 1940’s. I attended Vineland School grades 1-4 (no kindergarden), Sunset School grades 5-8, and Arvin High School grades 9-12. Then I attended Bakersfield Junior College and got my AA degree.
    I had friends who went through all those year with me. Life is good. The camp was a godsend for people like us. We first lived in the circle where the houses wee wooden structures with tent tops and sides, then we moved to two tin cabins with a water facuet in between. Then we moved to the apartments which were two bedrooms upstairs with a bathroom, and a kitchen and living room downstairs. Then we moved into a little two bed room house. As you lived there you could put your name in for better housing. I had lots of friends at the camp and lots of grass lawns to play on. It was a wonderful experience living there and the camp Manager Dewy Russel, did a good job of running the camp. Everyone had to keep there place clean or they would not be able to stay in the camp. Just some memories I thought I would share.

  7. Both of my parents migrated from OK around 1940/41 when they were 5 or 6 along with their parents and siblings. They lived in some of the camps. Does anyone know if there are rosters kept from the time of the Okie migration? If so, where would they be? Thanks!

  8. carlton faulconer

    Cecil Melton
    I attend Sunset School and remember you very well. My family lived at the government camp for 4 years. The tin cabins were very hot in summer but it was one of the best places were had to live at that time. I remember picking cotton and picking grapes. I worked at Digeorgo Farms.

  9. carlton faulconer

    I remember you very well thanks for posting. I agree with you it was a nice place to live. I remember helping dig and build the swimming pool the C46 cargo plane where classes were held. The 2 AT6 trainer planes students that had a high grade were allowed to taxi the AT6 down the runway. Peter Bancroft over saw most of these things and made it all possible at the Sunset school.

  10. carlton faulconer

    see my 2 post and contact me if you like. I lived in the government camp for 4 years and attended Sunset School.

  11. gerald waterman

    does anyone have any information that they could share with me on the, cherry lane was between stockton and liden ca. off of highway 26 , just before jacktone rd . my family lived there from 1946,to about 1949. we were from mo. i went to delphi grade school.would love to have more infro on the camp. [email protected]

  12. Billy Melton

    My parents, Chester and Bertha Melton, rented Garden Cottage #23 in very early 1942. I was born 3/29/45 and joined my older brothers, Willard and Cecil, in living in the Camp. I lived there until late August 1963, when I joined the Marines. My parents were very, very appreciative of their home in the camp and of the Camp. “Best friend a working man ever had,” said my dad. In 1942, rent for #23 was my favorite i$8.20. In June, the electric bill was $0.75. Rent went up to $9.70 in July and remained that amount for the rest of the year. For a little 2 bedroom home with land for flowers, a garden, chickens, and fruit and nut trees – that was incredible! The last house rent recorded in my dad’s little Garrett Snuff notebook was for March of 1951. It was for $33.23.

  13. Hello, I am a student currently attending Arvin High School and I would love to know more about your stories about this camp for a project called “The Beauty of Arvin” where I will be documenting different significant places here in Arvin and their history. If you have any stories to share please contact me through my email: [email protected]

  14. Gabriella Shaffer

    I am developing a book that’s set in the late 1930’s and early 40’s about Weedpatch camp and the school Leo Hart started. Reading the stories in these comments was amazing, and I would love to learn more from anyone who lived there or knows someone who did during that time!
    Carlton Faulconer, did you meet Leo Hart?

  15. Robert Nowlin

    My dad, Doug Nowlin, taught school at Sunset Elementary, and Vineland Elementary, in the 1980’s. He took me to the camp once, where I hot to kick around a soccer ball with some of the kids. I also got to pretend I was a student in his class at Vineland, where I met a girl named Dolores. I didn’t know how to say her name right, so I called her “Doors.” But, when I saw her at a school festival between the camp and Sunset Elementary, we waved at each other. As a 2nd or 3rd grader, my friendship with Dolores was a very special memory.

  16. Mike Ferguson

    I lived there in 3rd grade. Went to Vineland School and shopped at Johnnie’s market right by Vineland. My grandfather was an irrigator for S.A. Camps. My Dad worked in the shed for Digiorgos right after the war. He went on to be one of the 1st Chevron Dealers and ended up with 3 Chevron Stations. After school, on weekends and when there was no school my brother and I were expected to be out picking cotton. My Grandmother had made us 12 foot cotton sacks.

    I really enjoyed my time there.

  17. Mike Ferguson

    Little story.

    Back then my aunt and her family lived on the old rankings place, down the road from Johnnie’s market. One late night my grandma woke us up and said get in the car. My grandpa drove us over to the rankins place. As we pulled up ( the rankins place was 4 feet or so off the ground) the car lights shined up onto the porch. My aunt and her husband were out standing on the porch. My aunt was crying. My brother and I were in the back seat of the old Chevy. My grandpa put the car in neutral, set the brake and slowly opened his door. He got out and slowly began walking up the steps to the porch, as he was doing so I see his right hand slowly reach into his pants pocket and take out his pocket knife. He held it at his side as he opened it. Once he reached the top of the stairs and onto the porch he quickly raised his hand and made a fast swipe down along the side of my aunt’s husband’s face. Blood went everywhere and my grandpa said, “Don’t ever hit her again!” My grandpa walked back down the stairs, we went back to the government camp and to bed. My aunts husband had that scar on his face to the day he died. Nothing was ever said.

  18. Mike Ferguson

    As a 3ed grader I really enjoyed playing football on those large lawns, enjoyed pulling a slat out of a grape box grabbing a garbage can lid for a shield and going wasp hunting with all the kids. Really enjoyed swimming in ditches filled with irrigation water, then getting in the cotton patch, hunkering down, grabbing a cotton ball and waiting for another kid to raise up so I could throw it at them…….What a time we had

    I now live in Montana, what a great place to live.

  19. Joyce Ferguson

    To those who may be interested, there is a book by Jerry Stanley titled Children of the Dust Bowl – The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. It has photographs and is a very good read.

  20. Billy Melton

    I would dearly enjoy knowing the dimensions of the little 2 bedroom “Garden” home that I grew up in. Feb 9, 1942 my parents rented #23. 3/29/1945 I was born in Kern General and lived in the Camp from birth until late August 1963. In February of 1964 my parents bought a home in Lamont on Santa Barbara St.
    I would also love to see any interior room measurements of my home, any drawings, and pictures.
    Thank you, Billy

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