Owen County Cooperative Extension history: 1939-1946

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Extension service celebrates centennial

May 8 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act, the federal legislation that created the Cooperative Extension Service. President Woodrow Wilson, in signing the act, called it “one of the most significant and far-reaching measures for the education of adults ever adopted by the government.”
To honor this centennial, the News-Herald will publish a series of features on the history of the extension service in Owen County. This feature story will be based on information from these old reports.


The following agents served during this time period: Ernest L. Janes, 1938-June 1940; William D. Kleiser, July 1940-Aug. 1941; Harry A. Berge, Aug. 1941-Dec. 1945; Joseph L. Claxon, Jr. (Asst.), Aug. 1945-Nov. 1946; Kleiser, Dec. 1945-Aug. 1946; John Buford Shryock (Asst.) Dec. 1945-July 1946 and Martha Lee Jones (Stamper), Feb. 1946--.
As Ernest James became county agent in late 1938, he found there were several state and national agencies in effect to assist with the accomplishment of existing agricultural problems affecting the area, that still suffered from the depths of the Depression. Those agencies were the Farm Bureau, Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Farm Security, Vocational Agricultural Bank, Market Division of the State Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.
All of these agencies operated in cooperation with each other and with the extension service. Agent Janes predicted that these agencies were going to be a means by which greater strides of progress could be made for the rural people of Owen County.
By the end of 1939, Owen County RECC had 1,150 member consumers, an increase of 780 during the year. Lines in Gallatin, Grant, Pendleton and Scott counties were added to the system, and contract were awarded for the construction of lines in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.
The extension of electric lines into the rural sections made a complete change of the social and economic life in the rural communities. Consumer surveys indicated that in the two years that rural Owen residents had electricity, 50% were using electric washing machines, 40% were using electric refrigerators and 90% were using electric irons and radios and hundreds of other appliances, including ranges, water systems, feed grinders, vacuum cleaners, toasters, hot plates, etc.
Farm leaders were looking for other ways to develop the county. In 1941, a Farm Bureau committee consisting of R.H. Proctor, W.T. Forsee, C.W. Orr and Jack Welch visited the University of Kentucky Experiment Station in Lexington and held conference with Dean Thomas Poe Cooper regarding the possibility of securing a sub station (experiment farm) for the hilly region of the outer bluegrass.
Agent James and a committee made up of Florian Gray, J.H. Satterwhite and Robert H. Shipp met in early 1939 to select committees of farmers representing each important commodity in the county. These committees were to meet with the agent and outline a program of work for that commodity. These committees continued to function through the years and provided a recommended program for James and succeeding agents to follow.
The new tobacco program continued to be a major topic of conversation among farmers. In 1939, Janes reported that farmers raised 6,770 acres of tobacco, exceeding the acreage agreement by 15 percent.
The first tobacco marketing cards were issued in 1939, with 3,000 Owen County growers receiving cards and selling over 5.2 million lbs. of tobacco.
Another referendum on the tobacco program was held that year. Janes and several farm leaders worked intensively on efforts to inform farmers about the Marketing Quota Act. W.T. Forsee delivered a radio address over WCKY promoting the program. Owen County growers voted 2,154 to 355 to continue the program, a majority of 89.4 percent.
In the early 1940s, members of the county tobacco committee included Jack Gayle Jr., Clarence Orr, Webb Lucas, Howard McDonald, Leon Young, Howard Baldwin and O.W. Butcher. This committee planned a county-wide tobacco program each year and determined what new management practices needed to be emphasized.
Several new varieties of tobacco were introduced in the early ‘40s and tried by a number of growers. Varieties #16 and 33 were not accepted well by growers, but 41-A became very popular.
Demonstrations across the county were held on the use of Bordeaux mixture on plant beds, weed control with Cynamid on beds and fertilizer use. Mr. Alex Wilhoite of Poplar Grove, conducted one of the fertilizer demonstrations and stated that he produced at least 1,600 lbs. per acre of high quality tobacco, while that not fertilized only average 950 lbs. per acre and was of much lower quality.
RECC cooperated with the agent in installing artificial lighting at stripping and grading demonstrations to show the value of proper lighting. During Kleiser’s and Berge’s tenures as county agent, demonstrations were held each year on proper stripping and grading; some of them being held on the farms of Jack Gayle Jr. of New Liberty, Ervin Boulton of Long Ridge, A.W. Ayres of Sweet Owen, Woodrow Perry of Lusby Mill, N.S. Thompson of Wheatley, Alex Williams of Monterey, Emmett Harris of Sweet Owen and C.A. Lee of New Columbus.
The first county-wide tobacco tour was held in 1944 with field meetings being held on the farms of Elvin True of Monterey, Roscoe Martin of Owenton, Jack Gayle Jr. of New Liberty, Ed Ayres of New Liberty and W.N. Davis.
In 1945, an expanded two-day tour was held on the farms of French Smoot, Owenton; Walter and Everett Gaines, Beechwood; Beckham Clifton, J.W. McIlroy and L.G. Wilson, New Columbus; Danzil Works and A.W. Smither, Lusby Mill; A.E. Rose, Greenup; Howard McDonald, Monterey; Grover Hayden, Gratz; Glenwood Farms, Perry Park and C.W. Butcher, Ed Ayres and Shug Bourne, New Liberty.
By 1939, agent Janes started encouraging the use of more hybrid corn, with less acreage of steep land cultivated.
Alfalfa continued to be an important crop. Fertilization was the major emphasis in the 1940s. A demonstration plot was established on Clarence Orr’s farm in 1940 that showed the need for potash fertilizer. Agent Berge reported that several demonstrations were established in 1942-44 to show the need for boron and potash on the farms of R.H. Proctor, George Faulkner, A.L. Walker, C.J. Jones, Edgar McClure, Smoot & Thomas, Leslie Stephenson, J.C. Baldwin, James Samford, Bob Gillock, Long Ridge and Forrest Noel.
In 1944, the Owen County Soil Conservation District was organized. Berge and several farm leaders attended community meetings, discussing the program and asking for volunteers to establish demonstrations on soil erosion and soil management practices.
Sheep production continued to be an important part of Owen County agriculture. In 1941, Owen was listed as being the leading county in the production of purebred rams.
The Sheep Advisory committee to the county agent in the ‘40s was made up of Roscoe Martin, C.L. Forsee, I.L. Arnold, R.N. Greene, A.T. Mills, Roscoe Vance, Buford Martin and John Kemper. There recommendations in the early ‘40s included promoting the use of phenothiazine for control of internal parasites, bringing in better ewes and increasing the use of purebred rams.
In 1940, over 7,000 Northwestern ewes were brought into the county. The use of purebred rams increased in proportion to the demand for the better ewes, and in 1941 Owen was listed as the leading county in the state in the production of purebred rams.
In Oct. 1945, a Dairy Herd Improvement Association was organized and joined with Grant County.
The dairy committee suggested that Owen County dairymen learn more about the Artificial Breeding Association. In 1946, 34 dairy leaders met and listened to the explanation of the method used in breeding cows artificially and about how a local group could be organized. They decided to organize a local Artificial Breeding Association. Within a month, 95 farmers had signed up over 1,000 cows.
The Food For Defense program also encouraged farmers to produce more chickens and eggs to meet wartime needs. The Poultry Advisory Committee made recommendations to aid poultry raisers meet the increased production goals.
As in the decade before, national problems affected the work of Agent Berge. Much of it had to do with the increased home production of food.
A major effort was made to encourage families to give more attention to their gardens. Even before the U.S. entered World War II, a Food For Defense campaign tired to make people conscious of the economic value of the garden as well as the need to produce food at home in order to “release other food the Army for Great Britain to preserve the outpost of democracy.”
Canning demonstrations were given during the summers to encourage people to store and can as many fruits and vegetables as possible. The 1943 Live At Home slogan was “Raise All You Can, Can All You Raise.” Because of potential food shortages that year, the Live At Home Committee set up a program for farm families.
Berge reported that county wide in 1943, 513 families canned 344,400 quarts in glass jars and 12,590 containers of tin (mostly in the Owenton cannery); 4,370 lbs. of vegetables and 950 lbs. of fruit were dried, 11,400 bushels of root vegetables were stored and 1,900 gallons were preserved in brine.
In 1944, the Farm Bureau and Berge worked to obtain a frozen food locker. It was opened in Owenton in Feb. 1945 with 322 lockers ready for use, increasing to 582 by the summer. Mr. H.T. Williams was the local plant operator.
Berge served as a member of the county USDA war board. As a member of this board, he contacted farmers encouraging them to grow hemp for seed as part of the war program in 1942. 8 farmers agreed to grow 36.5 acres. Two trips were made to Henry County with hemp growers to attend cutting and harvesting demonstrations. Berge cooperated with the AAA in securing hemp seed and castor beans for growers.
Harold Hughes began work as Farm Labor Assistant to Berge in February, 1944. 38 farmers placed applications for tenants, 17 were placed and 11 Victory Farm Volunteer boys were brought in from eastern Kentucky and placed on farms. Some farmers wanted to leave farms to go into defense industry work. In other cases needing assistance, they were in selective service. Arrangements were also made with the Eminence Prison Camp to use German Prisoners of War in the harvesting of tobacco in Owen County. Farmers were encouraged to use their tractors and equipment to help their neighbors. In November, Mr. E.W. Kessler of Frankfort, replaced Mr. Hughes as farm labor assistant.
In 1939, 4-H leaders worked with Agent James and formed a 4-H Leaders Council. These leaders agreed to share responsibilities of the 4-H program and all county activities with the agent.
The Spring Rally was a popular 4-H event in the early 1940s. Held in May, attendance was well over 200 on several occasions, as demonstration teams from various community clubs across the county met and competed with each other. 4-H projects were exhibited and judged and livestock shows were held in the afternoon.
In 1940, during the Spring Rally, the first county-style revue was held, with 30 girls competing. Two years later, May Arnold of Pleasant Home won the style revue and placed in the state 4-H style revue.
Several boys excelled in the tobacco show and sale in Carrollton and Shelbyville. Recognized were Jarl Lee Harris, Charles E. Howard, Clarence Howard, Bobby Bishop, J.W. Howard and Maurice Walker.
In 1944, Oswald Forsee was the state 4-H sheep champion and was awarded a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago.
In 1946, a dairy team trained by assistant agent Shryock won a contest in Lexington and placed second in the state contest. The team members were Wallace Montague, Ken Franks and Harvey Ayres.
In Nov. 1946 the first 4-H Jamboree was held with over 800 people in attendance to see 4-H clubs and individual members perform. The event was to raise money for 4-H activities and was organized by the leaders council and Joe Claxon, assistant agent; Martha Lee Jones, home demonstration agent and Conrad Feltner, county agent.
The Owen County Homemakers began with the hiring of Martha Lee Jones on Feb. 1, 1946, as the first home demonstration agent. Groups of women began to organize by meeting in homes, local schools, lodge hall or a store. The first meeting was held in Owenton and nine community homemaker clubs were organized throughout the county.
It was the goal of each homemaker to tell others about the work and impress on each that it was an educational program. The purpose was to bring farm family economics and the most up to date findings in home economics. The organization was made up of rural women who desired the benefit of the training offered.
By Nov. 5, the Owen County Homemakers Association was formed at the first annual meeting held in the I.O.O.F. Lodge Hall, with 97 members present. A constitution was adopted at this meeting, as well as officers elected to serve for 1947. Officers were Mrs. Cecil Lucas, president; Mrs. Leslie Stephenson, vice president and Mrs. C.W. Orr, secretary-treasurer.
Projects selected for the coming year were making of dress forms, floor coverings, window treatments, wall treatments and furniture arrangements.
The advisory council formulated the following goals: To stimulate the interest of homemaker members and to attend club meetings regularly and promptly; to increase club enrollment in the county; to help women know their needs and how to meet them and to follow through one designated project before starting another.