Sunday, August 7, 2011

Farmers Seeking a Share of the Economic Sunlight, 1943

By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, published in the Wadesboro Messenger, Feb. 4, 1943

There is definitely growing in North Carolina a farmer consciousness. Apparently the farmers of this state are going to become more and more concerned about their own welfare and will be more willing to work together to secure it. I do not mean this in the sense that a “farm boc” is in the making; but, I do seem to see a slowly developing perception on the part of leading farmers that they must begin to work together to secure for themselves and their families a share of the economic sunlight.

For the past several weeks, I have been going over the state attending a number of meetings having to do with the general mobilization for increasing food production in 1943 and I note that farmers realize their importance in the national emergency. They realize also that they have given up their labor and their sons to the armed forces to possibly a greater degree than any other class of citizens. They further realize that their hours are long and hard and that they do not get time and a half for overtime. Despite some increase in farm prices, farmers have not shared in the present high prices to the same extent that organized labor has. Yet, the farmer’s job is just as important as that of the workman in shop and factory.

North Carolina farmers will not get into any kind of radical mess as has happened in the past nor will they listen to the wiley blandishments of John L. Lewis and his United Mine Workers. Mr. Lewis seems to be trying to bolster his waning power by using the farmer for his purpose. He will not get far in North Carolina. But more and more the Grange and the Farmers Federation are going in power. The Grange is fortunate that it is headed by as progressive and as thoughtful a young man as Harry Caldwell. He is a sound leader and he works day after day for those real benefits which should come to our rural sections. Mr. Caldwell is respected by members of the General Assembly and by all of the trained agricultural workers at State College and the State Department of Agriculture. He has been on numerous occasions to get the trained men of these state institutes and the very practical men of large commercial organizations to work together for some specific benefit that one group could not bring about alone.

Some day Mr. Caldwell should become the head of the National Grange in the United States. He has the ability. Because of his fine work and the high type of farm families that are now connected with the Grange, this farm organization is becoming a real power in the state. The Grange does not go off on any theory but the State Master and his executive commitee study a given situation thoroughly; they confer with leading farmers and then invite trained specialists to give them cold facts before they begin to advocate some movement. In this way they have won the respect of all with whom they have come into contact. I do not know the total farm membership of the Grange in North Carolina but it is a good solid membership that is working steadily for the continued improvement of our rural life.

The Farm Federation is an aggressive, business-like farm organization with some 15,000 members found more largely in the eastern section of North Carolina. It has no factional aspect but concerns itself with study of governmental farm programs, prices for farm produce, distribution of commercial fertilization and other cost and profit items in farming.

Not only have many farmers joined this organization but bankers and merchants and other professional men, seeing how the wind blows, have joined also. The organization has several influential members who are in the present General Assembly and these men are first and foremost for the farmers. I have attended one or two executive meetings of the directors of this organization and I find them gentlemanly, pleasant fellows, easy to talk with, ready for a joke, and quick to laugh over some quip by one of their organization.

But the minute something comes up which affects the welfare of the farmer they are cold, ruthless calculators. Nor do they care who the person may be that is trying to put something over on the farmer. They will tackle anyone form Secretary Wickard [Claude R. Wickard, Secretary of Agriculture, 1940-1945] on down. I sometimes feel they are a bit merciless yet I know that the farmer has too long been lulled with false promises and he must forever be alert from now on or he will be lost completely in the great social and economic changes which are seeping the United States and the world. There is one thing I like about the Farm Bureau Federation—it knows what it wants. It keeps its goal in sight all the time without regard to any blandishments from this side or that. One of these great goals and, probably, the main one, is economic security for the farmer and his family. Farmers would do well to keep this in mind and remember what the driver said when asked to pick off the hornet’s nest with his wagon whip. “That’s organization,” he commented, and wisely let the nest hang undisturbed.

Farming is a way of life, a beautiful way of life when made profitable, but it must be continued profitable. I do not mean to imply that the Farmers Federation or the Grange looks entirely on the cash or profit side or else the Federation would not have honored Mrs. Rosalind Redfearn with a certificate of service to Agriculture at its meeting last week in Raleigh. Mrs. Redfearn has served her people for 30 years in Anson County without considering the cost. She has helped to bring to them some of the beautiful and cultural things of life. So have those whom the Grange has selected to honor from time to time. I am trying to say that these two farm organizations both want the North Carolina farm to be a place where girls and boys can be brought to adulthood filled with a love of country, a love of the land, vigorous with good health, strong in mentality and conscious of their important place in the life of the state and nation.

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