Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anson County Club Women Become Businesswomen, 1915-1932

From a report by Rosalind Redfearn, Anson County home demonstration agent, 1933.

In Anson County, my native county, the money crop has always been considered cotton. However, large numbers of our people are turning more and more to such things as poultry, eggs, turkeys, cream and fresh and canned vegetables.

The income derived from the successful marketing of these products by the farm family may mean the difference between comfort and the bare necessities; it may mean the difference between contentment and worry; it may mean the difference between happiness and despair.

In the early years of our canning club work in 1915 and 1916, the women and the girls were growing and canning the produce from their one-tenth acres of tomatoes and beans. While attending the farmers’ convention at State College, we secured the cooperation of the steward of the college in giving an order for canned beans, tomatoes and blackberry jam, all to be put in No. 10 cans. We were so pleased with our check for $713 that the next year we added peach jam to the order. We continued to fill these orders until the year 1918 when “sugarless days” were in force and the price of all containers and foodstuffs increased so that we could not continue with any degree of profit.

In the meantime the women were increasing their poultry flocks and we had poultry clubs in the county with girls and boys in addition to canning clubs. We were having more and more calls from the town people for broilers, for beans, for country sausage, for fig preserves, for fresh eggs—making notes of these things and having the club women bring them into the agent’s office, usually on Fridays.

From this grew the idea of having sales days at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We called these “Home Product Sales,” running them from one to three days. The first one of these produce sales netted $678, which we were most happy over. This small beginning gave us a vision of something bigger and broader.

The following summer while attending the farmers’ convention we went with the steward of the college to the storeroom in the interest of our canned goods shipments, and while there he showed us the cold storage rooms where the meats were kept. The thought flashed through my mind, “Why can’t we ship dressed hens?” And when we learned that these fowls had been coming from Baltimore and other cold storage points, we asked if we could not ship hens too. The steward seemed a little doubtful, but we assured him that if he would give us just one order and if it was not successful we would not trouble him any more. We asked him how many chickens he would use a week and he said, “We do not buy them by the piece but by the pound—and it takes 300 pounds.” We asked him to give us an order for 300 pounds “more or less” until we could learn how many hens weighed 300 pounds. We notified a number of our club women of the order and as hens were bringing only 12 ½ cents a pound at that time alive and dressed hens were 20 cents, they were delighted with the idea of shipping cooperatively.

We immediately began to organize the communities by listing those who had surplus hens for sale so that we could hold the order throughout the season, which we did. We soon received an order from a fancy grocer in Raleigh who wanted 30 dressed and drawn hens each week, so this was added, and it enabled us to take on more producers. When the turkey season came we began to receive inquiries for turkeys and began the parcel post system of shipping to individual customers in the cities. These people did our advertising; many additional orders were received because of their recommendations.

From this has grown our present system of county-wide cooperative shipping of produce to colleges, merchants, institutions, hotels, and also to private customers. It is a cooperative project conducted by both the home and the farm agents.

Beginning with 15 families we have grown to 301 families, and the people depend upon it as an outlet for surplus hens, broilers, eggs and turkeys.

Today with our carload shipping of live poultry also, we have 900 families represented.

The plan became so popular that the schools and churches often wanted to take part and through donations of live hens by the community which were plucked and placed in our orders, paint, seats, stage curtains, pianos and other equipment were purchased.

As a result of this cooperative shipping to outside markets, the production of poultry in Anson County has increased 65 per cent. The growing of turkeys has been multiplied four times. From small flocks of mixed mongrel birds, our farm men and women have changed their flocks to pure bred varieties, and have increased the number of hens kept for egg production. The flocks are handled by improved methods in housing, feeding and general care. Brooker houses, laying houses, and poultry lots wire in, are found all over the county.

Turkeys are also raised in brooder houses now and the production of this favorite bird has grown by leaps and bounds since better methods of management have been used, and since we have had the assurance of a good outside market. Today poultry, eggs and turkeys are among the main cash crops grown in Anson County.

From the small beginning of $713 in 1916, our outside marketing has grown steadily. The largest amount received was in 1928-29 when prices were at their peaks.

The years of the depression did not affect our volume of business in production, but prices have declined to less than half of what they were in preceding years.

In addition to the dressed fowls we ship live carlots also. The amounts given below include the sales value of all forms of marketing used in Anson County:
                1916       $713
                1919       $3,009
                1921       $6,501
                1923       $11,556
                1924       $16,620
                1925       $17,340
                1926       $19,400
                1928       $55,411
                1929       $48,300
                1930       $29,592
                1931       $28,097
                1932       $19,986

This system of marketing means much to women. It has broken down that old feeling of timidity and has developed many real business women. It has enabled the town and country women to meet together in a friendly, happy relationship. New friendships are formed, new ideas developed. It has enabled the women to do things for their families that all mothers like to do: to provide clothing, school books, trips, college for the boy and girl, comforts for the home. I could mention many, many things, but summed up they mean that each one of us has a part in life to play and when we strive with our own hands and minds to make the best better, we can go far in making life finer and sweeter in every way.

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