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Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Ledger Clark Harrell, a life-long tobacco farmer, was born in 1927 in the Macclesfield section of Edgecombe County. He was the youngest of 12 children. He and his six brothers stayed in farming all their lives, and of his own four children two sons farm with him, while another son is a police patrolman and his daughter works in healthcare. He and his sons own part of their property and rent a lot more. He has a lot of detailed observations on the differences in farming, and how children grew up, in earlier years, as opposed to nowadays. Among the changes he talks about are farmers’ going from two-mule farming to tractor farming; working the land close to where you live rather having property spread out; raising and handling fodder for mules; going from one-row plowing with mules to two- and eventually four-row cultivation with tractors; going from old-fashioned looping to doing it by machine; the advent of bulk barns; the use of long harvesters (and he describes in detail how they work); advances thanks to rolling cultivators; how farmers no longer waste plants that don’t get in the ground by nightfall; fixing plant beds nowadays compared to the early days; differences in how the leaves are primed and how they’re picked; irrigation issues; advances in sucker control; how people used to work together and help each other out more than nowadays; advances in controlling worms; and how hauling tobacco to market and how dealing with the warehousing and selling procedures have changed. Harrell also talks about how tobacco farmers in the Macclesfield area survived the Depression. He also praises the work of the Extension Service (mentioning Joe Curry by name as an excellent County Agent). He talks about seeing German prisoners of war working at the tobacco warehouses during the war. He talks about Georgia’s switch to buying tobacco loose, which called for less labor on the farmers’ part, and how so many North Carolina farmers started selling their crop in Georgia that the state had to change. He talks in detail about different methods of keeping leaves fresh before they get to market. He says that some women depended on extra work as graders before the new method came in, but that all in all – cutting down on the need for hand-grading and extra packhouse space – the advances were beneficial to most tobacco farmers. Harrell also talks about the government’s introduction of the allotment system and, in the late ‘40s, price supports. Harrell regrets modern life’s lack of neighborliness and sense of community, and remembers that when he was a boy people visited with each other as a major use of their free time. Where he grew up they enjoyed baseball and fox hunting – which was a major community recreation, involving many neighbors’ hunting together, and having a barbecue. He remembers his father’s having a corn shucking party with neighbors, with food and drink. When people started getting cars Macclesfield was a popular destination on Saturday nights, but nowadays people go farther away or stay home. Growing up he enjoyed tent shows and a weekly free movie sponsored by local merchants. He considers air conditioning, TV, and the fact that fewer farm families live and work together as major factors in changing how people relate to each other these days.





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