Sunday, July 3, 2011

Farmers Federation Cooperative Founded in Buncombe County, 1920

The Farmers’ Federation, a cooperative founded in 1920 in Fairview (Buncombe County), helped farmers market their products. 
“At present the farmer does not control the price of the stuff he produces, and until he does control it he will never be safe. As a step toward controlling what we produce, we plan to put up this warehouse on the Fairview [railroad] siding. It can help every man in this section. It has great possibilities, but it can only do us good if we all stick to it”, said cooperative founder James G.K. McClure in the July 1920 issue of the Fairview Farmers’ News Sheet, which later became Farmers’ Federation News. McClure, who was originally from Chicago, helped fund the cooperative with money raised locally and in the North.

Seven years later, the Farmers’ Federation opened the Western North Carolina Cannery in Hendersonville, which processed local peaches, beans, apples and tomatoes, putting money into the pockets of farmers and the men and women employed at the cannery. Seeing the success of the cooperative warehouses, additional warehouses were built in Buncombe, Rutherford, Henderson and Polk counties. Cooperatives also helped by purchasing feed, seed, and fertilizer in quantity and passing the savings on to farmers.

The federation had a religious project called The Lord’s Acre Movement. Members planted one acre for the Lord and proceeds from the sale of the crop on that acre went to the member’s church.
By 1937, more than 3,500 farmers had bought a share in the Federation, which by then had 17 warehouses in 11 counties, two chicken hatcheries, five sweet potato curing houses, seven feed mills, and the cannery in Hendersonville. Over the years, it added sales of handicrafts, farm implements and hospital insurance to its services and Farmers’ Federation News circulated to 22,000 readers. The cooperative officially closed its doors in 1963.
For more information on the Farmers’ Federation, see The Business of Taking the Egg and Turning It into the Baby Chick: The Farmers’ Federation in Western North Carolina, by Annie Fain Liden (, and the McClure family farm’s web site at The farm –-offers beef, pork, and poultry, some of which can be purchased on the internet.

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