Loading the player...
Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Audio on track 1 starts at 00:01:00 and ends at 01:00:30. Track 2 starts at 00:00:30 and ends at 00:09:35. Radford B. Bailey talks about his long career as a soil conservationist, erosion control specialist, and County Agent in a number of places in North Carolina, especially in Edgecombe County. He was born in Woodleaf in Rowan County. When he was seven his parents (both of whom were completely deaf – they had met as students at Galaudet College for the Deaf in Washington, DC) bought a farm in Ramcamp near Raleigh. Bailey went to school in the county and high school in Cary, then studied vocational agriculture for two years at State College until the start of the Depression. He went to work with the Civilian Conservation Corps helping build roads in the mountains, and in 1934 got a job with the Soil Conservation Service for forty-five cents an hour. He started work in High Point as an engineers’ assistant putting in terraces, and part-time with the agronomy department helping farmers with water runoff problems. He worked subsequently in Greensboro, Cleveland County, Caswell County, Madison County, Rockingham County, Wilson County, and Bertie County, focusing on helping farmers develop long-range soil, drainage, and erosion control plans. Bailey was drafted into the Army, getting out in 1944. He knew he wanted to make a career in soil conservation work for the Extension Service, and was offered jobs in five different counties. His mentor, William D. Lee in Raleigh, convinced him to go to Edgecombe County because farmers there were unusually progressive and open-minded to learning new best practices; the varied soil problems in Edgecombe County would present interesting professional challenges; and a long line of great county agents and district supervisors had already won the farmers’ trust and goodwill, prominent among them the current bureau head Joe Powell (others Bailey names are Bob Knight, Ernest Gault, Jimmy Worsley, Barry Anderson, Paul Bullock, Walter Hardy O’Neill, David Davenport, and Charlie Lockhart). Bailey met and married his wife Evelyn, a librarian at the school in Pembroke where his mother was teaching, and they moved to Edgecombe County in 1944. One of his accomplishments of which Bailey is proudest was introducing a new trenching system, with digging technology and tilework. Returning to thoughts of his boyhood on the farm, Bailey discusses the large vegetable garden they had (they sold produce at the market in Raleigh, and carried tomatoes and cantaloupes in their truck as far as Norfolk and Myrtle Beach) and many chickens (up to 1,500 laying hens at a time). Bailey learned a lot from his father, who was ingenious with cultivating staked terraces and practicing crop rotations. They had no electricity at home and no telephone. Other topics Bailey touches upon are the nature of the consultations he would do with farmers; the fact that race relations in Edgecombe County were good; and how he thinks there’ll continue to be a future for small farmers in North Carolina.