Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fred Latham of Belhaven Is Master Farmer, 1939

“An Original Master Farmer” by Gertrude Carraway, published in the Carolina Co-operator, January, 1939

Twelve years ago, Fred P. Latham of near Belhaven was made one of the original “Master Farmers” of North Carolina. The title was conferred on him by the Progressive Farmer, cooperating with the State College Extension Service. It was well-chosen.

Mr. Latham is widely recognized as an outstanding agriculturist. His stock farm is one of the finest in the South. He has won cups, cash prizes and blue ribbons in many regional competitions. His famous “Latham Double” seed corn has been awarded first place in many tests. And last August his five carloads of 395 hogs weighing 65,000 pounds constituted the largest single shipment of hogs by any one individual in North Carolina.

But this record has not all come from hard work, though Mr. Latham and his 15 assistants work hard. Nor has it come merely from effective methods of applied scientific agriculture, though this, too, has helped. It is largely due to the fact that Mr. Latham is constantly using his brain to think out new solutions for his own particular farm problems.

Since 1902 he has been experimenting with seed corn. Starting with pure-white corn, he has tried for the past six years to develop a yellow variety. Many tests have been won by his white seed, and last year for the first time he entered yellow tests, ranking higher than any other yellow corn.

His corn seems especially well adapted for Norfolk sandy loam soils. On his own farm, where he plants corn on about 300 acres, his yield of 50 to 60 bushels an acre is 2 ½ times the state average of about 22 bushels. His assistant, Neal Seegars, raised 80 bushels to the acre last season.

When corn was selling for a dollar a bushel last year, many farmers decided not to feed such expensive food to hogs, for the price of hogs was low. So many of them sold their corn, and their hogs. Mr. Latham bought numerous hogs. Around June 1 he had about 700.

After much consideration, he decided to settle jointly his hog feed problem and his problem of low-priced Irish potatoes. He sold his corn, and fed potatoes to his hogs. Statistics were not available as to food values of potatoes in comparison with corn, but he tested his own results.

Experts advised him to cook the potatoes. So he rigged up a huge tank as an enormous cook pot, into which potatoes could be easily dumped in quantities from trucks. But he found that the hogs liked raw potatoes as well as cooked ones, so he stopped his outdoor cooking when he ascertained that they thrived splendidly on raw spuds.

Crab scraps from Belhaven factories are fed to hogs in his fields, and they are like the seafood. Thousands of sea gulls are attracted to the farm in the spring by the crab meat.

Of the 1,300 acres on the Latham farm, known as Circle Grove, which he inherited from his father, the late Dr. James Franklin Latham, Mr. Latham has about 600 acres under cultivation. Twelve mules are used, and two tractors.

Heavy rainfall makes drainage a major farm problem. Hence, Mr. Latham has arranged an unusual system of the drainage pipes. When he came across difficult stumps in his ditches, he devised a new kind of chisel and had a blacksmith make one to order for the task.

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