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Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Berry L. Anderson, a white man, was born on a farm near Tarboro in 1911, the youngest of nine children. The family moved into town in 1927 (though Anderson’s father “commuted” to the farm every day) and then moved full-time back to the farm in 1941. Anderson graduated from Tarboro High School in 1929 and went to State College. After graduation he worked with his father on the farm and then acquired his own. He married a girl from Washington, NC in 1939. They had three sons. Anderson went into the peanut business with his brother-in-law Dick Talbert, founding the Anderson and Talbert Peanut Company. After Talbert became disabled, son Berry Lane Anderson Jr. became Anderson’s partner. He has a lot to say about the cultivation and processing of peanuts, including many details about how things were done in the old days vs. modern practices. He says that in his father’s day a peanut farmer could handle about 50 acres, whereas now he and his son operate about 2,000 thanks to herbicides, modern machinery, and modern techniques. The normal yield now in Edgecombe County is from 2,800 to 3,200 pounds of peanuts per acre for a good farmer. He also discusses modern ways of grading and pricing peanuts. Anderson has a lot of praise for NC State and its Extension Service, especially for help to farmers through developing hybrid peanuts, spraying, better seeds, better cultivation practices, and other science-based innovations. He also talks about improvements, thanks to the Extension Service, with corn, cotton, and turnips. He discusses the evolution of cotton farming and processing over the years. He also discusses the sharecropping systems, and changes in farm labor, especially why it became preferable to so many people to switch from sharecropping to the more secure day labor system. Anderson thinks race relations have always been all right where he’s lived and worked, though African Americans might have been more satisfied with their lot in the old days than they are now. He thinks the community-mindedness of people out in the country is less strong than it used to be, with schools/PTAs being less important as social centers and so many people spending time in town. Anderson served as an Edgecombe County Commissioner for about 25 years, and on his local school board. He says government subsidy of agriculture during poor-yield years has been essential. He has a lot of praise for County agents, and says State and the Extension Services have been a godsend to farmers. He ends his interview with memories of his mother doing laundry out in the yard with a hired helper.

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