Monday, June 13, 2011

Life on N.C. Farms in 1940

Written by F.H. Jeter, State College Extension Editor, published in The Southern Planter magazine, 1940
Helping Tenants on Braswell Estate
It is entirely possible for low prices of tobacco and cotton to “break” eastern Carolina farmers who own large tracts of land on which there are many tenant farmers. Tom Pearshall, efficient manager of the 16,000-acre Braswell estate in Edgecombe, Nash and Halifax counties, has determined that it will not happen to him.
Each of the 136 tenant farmers operating the 55 farms on the Braswell holdings must have a garden and a cow this year. He has also transformed an old store building at Battleboro, headquarters of the farms, into a community building for all tenants where picture shows and lectures on farming topics can be heard.
There are 900 persons on the Braswell farms and Mr. Pearshall has had printed a complete garden calendar for each person. In addition to the regular maintenance allowed for each family, he has supplied $8.65 worth of garden and potato seed. Included in the garden seed allotment were 30,000 cabbage plants. The 26 tenant families able to feed and care for milk cows have the loan of a good cow; a few others have their own cows.
By these precautions, Mr. Pearshall hopes to solve on the eastern Carolina’s most perplexing tenant problems, that of a low standard of living and a dissatisfied and hungry people.
John W. Mitchell Promoted
John W. Mitchell, Negro district farm agent for the past 10 years and county agent for 12 years prior to that, has been appointed state agent in charge of extension work with Negro farmers in North Carolina. He is the first of his race to hold such a high executive position with the Extension Service in North Carolina and probably the first in the Southeast. Mitchell takes the place made vacant in early March by the death of C.R. Hudson. J.W. Jeffries, Negro farm agent in Alamance County, succeeds Mitchell as district agent. The new Negro state agent is well trained and has proved himself an able administrator and worker among his people.
It Pays to Know
A lumber buyer offered Dr. James R. Alexander, physician-farmer of Charlotte, $1,500 for the timber trees in a tract of 136 acres which had been injured severely by a local storm; but Dr. Alexander secured a local forester connected with the Soil Conservation Service to go over the tract, to mark those trees that should be removed and to estimate the board feet of lumber which they would produce. As a result he sold the timber for $1,000 more than he was first offered. Then, too, only the crowded, wind-blown and mature trees were marked by the forester. The other trees were left for a future timber crop. He estimated that the timber lift on the tract will increase about 30,000 board feet a year.
Beginning a Dairy Operation
M.P. Bodie, one of the good farmers of Rutherford County, decided that he would start selling milk to the new plant recently established by a large commercial milk company at Statesville. Before growing or buying additional cattle, he further decided that something else must come before the cows. So in addition to improving his pasture, his plans for 1940 include the production of 40 tons of hay, 2,500 pounds of grain and enough cotton to have 1,700 pounds of cottonseed meal. By doing this Mr. Bodie feels he is overcoming one of the obstacles which often and easily discourage new milk producers.
Money From Bees
Ervin Hill, a 4-H club boy of Deep Run, Route 1, Lenoir County, stared a beekeeping project in 1937 with four colonies of bees. That year he produced 257 pounds of honey from which he paid all expenses, added four new colonies and cleared $18.63.
In 1938 he harvested 820 pounds of honey from the eight colonies and sold it for $124.75. After paying all expenses, he cleared $115.31 net profit.
In 1939, he harvested 717 pounds of honey which he sold for $107.50. After paying expenses, he had left a profit of $100.32.
During the three years, therefore, Ervin made a profit of $234.46 from the bees at little cost, for little labor, and from interesting work. C.L. Sams, beekeeping specialist, says the boy managed his bees well, kept them in modern hives and followed modern methods of disease control.
Hereford Bulls
Beef cattle production received another boost in March when L.I. Case, Animal Husbandman at North Carolina State College, went to Kansas to buy a carload of purebred Hereford bulls for distribution to eastern Carolina farmers. The purchase was financed by eastern members of the North Carolina Bankers Association. While “out west”, Case met a delegation from Haywood County at “The Round-up” in Kansas City, where he aided them in purchasing a car of animals for that county.
Dairy Industry Grows
There were 118 different milk processing plants in North Carolina at the close of 1939, capitalized at $10 million, and doing an annual business of over $15 million. The value of the milk produced and sold on the farm for various purposes also amounted to about $20 million. Ten active dairy herd improvement associations were in operation; 965 pasture demonstrations were conducted by farmers; and 195 purebred dairy bulls were purchased by dairymen during the year. All these things, coupled with the surge in importance of the 4-H dairy calf clubs, gives John Arey a feeling of optimism as to the future of the cow business in the State.
Sheepmen Organize In Ashe County
Back in 1931 there were 24,000 sheep in Ashe County, but by 1939 this number had dwindled to only 8,000. Most growers blame sheep killing dogs for the decline, but others say the price of lambs and wool had a lot to do with it. One farmer reported that dogs got into his flock one night and killed 44 out of 46 animals. At any rate, Ashe County farmers have determined to do something about it, so they have organized the Ashe county Sheep and Wool Growers Association with W.B. Austin of Jefferson as president.
Farm and Home Week
North Carolina’s 1940 Farm and Home Week will be held at State College July 29 to August 2, according to plans made by a group of rural leaders meeting on March 14. H.C. Ferebee of Camden County is president of the Farmers’ Convention for this year and Mrs. Dudley Bagley of Moyock is president of the State Federation of Home Demonstration clubs. Fewer speeches, more round table discussions, recreation, demonstrations and exhibits will feather the program this summer.
Surplus Cotton into Mattresses
One hundred and twenty low-income families in each of six North Carolina counties will sleep on well-made cotton mattresses, following the distribution of 12 bales of cotton and one bale of ticking to each of the counties through the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation.  The counties to which the cotton has been assigned are Anson, Halifax, Wayne, Person, Alexander and McDowell. The county Triple-A committees will select the families in cooperation with the home and farm agents. Sixty counties in the nation will be used in this experimental effort to relieve the cotton surplus and to furnish low-income families with this sleeping comfort. Farm families with a total cash income of not more than $400 and non-farm families with a gross income of not more than $500 will be eligible to participate in the mattress program. The material will be allotted on the basis of 50 pounds of cotton and 20 yards of ticking for each mattress.
The above stories reported in The Southern Planter, 1940, by F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, North Carolina State College (now NC State University).

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