Loading the player...
Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Lifelong farmer George R. Gammon was born in 1917 on his family’s farm in Edgecombe County, the only boy (he had one older sister and one younger). He says they had a good life, with running water (though cold only) and electricity (provided by a Delco home generator), an ice box, and a home-made shower in the yard (a suspended barrel). His mother had both a wood stove and an oil stove, switching later to an electric stove. Gammon attended public school in the county and studied for one year at East Carolina Teachers’ College after his eleventh year, then spent four years at Oak Ridge Military Institute. He was drafted in 1942 and spent many months in Cairo, where he became interested in Egyptian agricultural practices. After his military service he married and acquired his own farm in Edgecombe County in 1948. He also served on the Edgecombe County Draft Board from 1948 to 1953, and as Executive Director of the Production Credit Association, based in Rocky Mount, from 1957 to 1983 (the PCA was a farmer-owned body established to help farmers access loans). He retired from farming in 1980. His memories of growing up on the farm are happy ones. They raised tobacco, peanuts, cotton, sugar cane, and a lot of hogs, and always had a smokehouse full of hams. (During the Depression his father paid for his older sister’s tuition at East Carolina with hams.) They always had a big vegetable garden, and his mother would can and dry hundreds of pounds of vegetables and fruits every year. Gammon goes into interesting step-by-step details on the processes involved in (1) raising, harvesting, curing, and grading tobacco; (2) raising, harvesting, and processing peanuts; (3) producing cotton and molasses; and (4) slaughtering and processing pigs. He also describes Egyptian agricultural processes (especially primitive irrigation and the threshing of wheat) during the 1940s. He says that when he was growing up, Saturday nights in the country were for three things: (1) taking a bath; (2) reading the lesson for the next day’s church and Sunday School; and (3) polishing your shoes for Church. Gammon feels that race relations between white and Black farmers have always been good in Edgecombe County. He says one problem with modern farming is a tendency to over-produce, which lowers prices and wastes crops, and another problem has been easy credit, allowing farmers to overextend. Farming is so expensive, with land and equipment costs, that having even one bad year can set one back financially to the point of not being able to recover and pay back loans. He recalls one bad year he himself had, losing a third of his peanut crop, but says that Edgecombe farmers’ tendency to diversify crops is a good safeguard. He regrets how hard it is, financially, for young farmers to get started these days, and says you really have be dedicated to go into it now. Gammon praises the Long Manufacturing Company for having been in the forefront of agricultural innovations and for having employed and trained so many local people.