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Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. James C. Allen, of the Crisp community, a white farmer and farm supply store owner, was born in the Green Spring Park area near Greenville, NC in 1921. His father, a sharecropper, was killed in an auto accident when Allen was nine, and his mother managed the farm with the help of various relatives, remarrying in 1941. Allen and his siblings managed to stay in school, and Allen himself went to Eastern Carolina University for a year before returning full-time to the farm. He spent four years in the Army during World War II and then came home to get married and rent his own farm. In the 1950s he worked as a farm manager and kept his own crop on the side, and in 1968 farmed full-time on his own leased property. He and his wife had six children, two of whom stayed in farming. In 1973 he and his friend Ben Lewis started buying and running farms in partnership, and established a store. The raised cotton, tobacco, corn, and peanuts, and at the time of this interview he has 87 acres of tobacco, 80 acres of peanuts, 450 acres of corn, 130 acres of wheat, and 325 acres of beans. He talks in some detail about changes in tobacco, corn, and peanut production over the years, due to mechanized processes and the use of chemicals. When he was an overseer/farm manager there were twelve tenant families on the property; now, on his own farms, he has just two families, hiring day labor otherwise. Asked about his childhood, Allen says he had a good time. He would milk the cow before going to school each day. He remembers hitchhiking into Tarboro to see a movie for ten cents, and getting a drink and a box of popcorn for a nickel each. Baseball was always popular too. He describes the tobacco curing process, with the need for someone to sit up all night, and remembers the time the barn burned down. He describes sprinkling and grading tobacco, and says his mother sometimes made money grading tobacco for other farmers. Allen served as President of the Edgecombe County Farm Bureau, and remembers controversies then about the federal tobacco programs. He says that over the years the Farm Extension Service has been tremendously helpful to farmers, and cites Joe Powell particularly. Allen has also been a member of Ruritan, the South Edgecombe Fire Department, the FHA Board, and the county planning board. He has also been a deacon in his church for decades and the PTA President at Crisp School. He says there is less community spirit nowadays than there used to be. He also believes that school integration has helped with race relations. He acknowledges there are fewer Black farmers than there used to be, and says farm labor is harder to get altogether because people can make more money doing other jobs.





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