The September 14, 1938 issue of The Bossier Banner carried the following story about outstanding Negro farmers:
“C. J. Cohn, Benton agricultural teacher, has lately selected the superior farmers of Benton and Midway communities for 1938. This is an annual affair among the Negro farmers of these communities and much interest as well as improvement is noticed each year.”
“Over 80 farmers made the tour with Cohn and four judges, who scored each farm according to the following score card: 1. Home ownership; 2. Convenient home; 3. Active member of the C.F.A.I.A. [Colored Farmers’ Alliance] or Farm Bureau organizations; 4. Must have received systematic training from agricultural teacher; 5. Carried out at least ten improved practices; 6. Must be carrying a live-at-home program; [see end of article for description of this program] 7. Carry out a farm shop program; 8. Must be carrying out a soil improvement program.”
“Bodie Lee, of the Benton community, and Newton Cook, of the Midway community, were selected superior farmers of their respective communities. This will mark two successive years these two farmers have led their communities in better methods of farming. This is a high and coveted honor awarded to one farmer in the two communities each year.”
“For being chosen superior farmers Lee and Cook will be awarded a certificate of merit at the annual fifth district meeting next summer, to be held at Rural Normal, Grambling, by the department of agriculture of Southern University.”
“The six highest ranking farmers in the communities are as follows: Bodie Lee, Newton Cook, Wash Player, Jim Mills, Ed Coleman and Jake Coleman. Cohn states that the hill farmers of North Bossier Parish will harvest one of the largest feed and food crops in the history of this section, however, the cash crop (cotton) is very poor, he says.”
In 1929 North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner established the live-at-home program to encourage farmers to grow more feed and food crops, rather than sinking most of their efforts into the cash crops of cotton and tobacco. Home Demonstration groups were a part of the program which was itself, a response to the devastation caused by the Great Depression. The live-at-home program idea was adopted by many states.
To find out more about the agricultural history of Bossier Parish visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.
Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org