By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
We’ve recently put a renewed focus on agriculture, particularly grain and livestock prices, here in the pages of the Carter County Times. So, as we went through Uncle Jack’s clippings this week, it was interesting to see how agriculture was viewed in the county 100 years ago. While in some ways there was a lot more industry in Carter County at that time, with two of the largest brick yards in the world; coal, limestone and clay mining as lucrative business endeavors; and the railroad a constant presence (though those are issues for a future feature), agriculture was still an important activity in the county.
While today we enjoy the benefit of the agriculture extension agency, soil conservation district, and USDA to help farmers make the best decisions on how to manage their land and livestock, in 1919 it was the opinions of neighbors and newspapermen which guided the farmer.
For instance when Mr. W.H. Scott bought a new hog in May of 1919 it not only made the newspaper, it lead to the paper calling for others to begin breeding purebred hogs to meet the market demand, rather than the “scrub” hogs that had been raised to provide families with meat and lard and bacon for so long.
Eggs were another concern the Carter County Herald addressed. More specifically, the role roosters played in egg production. The paper noted that while a rooster was necessary to raise the next generation of chickens, they weren’t necessary for egg production. Therefore the paper encouraged egg producers to get rid of their rooster – either by selling them off or turning them into chicken soup – once “the hatching season is over.” The reason for this is that fertilized eggs were more likely to start to develop due to summer heat, while unfertilized eggs would never develop, no matter the temperature. The reason for this wasn’t that they worried about cracking open an egg only to find a baby chick inside. It was that fertilized eggs were more likely to go bad above 70 degrees than unfertilized eggs, according to the Herald. Up to 17 eggs per 100 could go bad if eggs were fertilized prior to sale. The number of bad eggs per 100 for unfertilized eggs wasn’t significant enough to count, but 17 percent was a high enough number for the paper to suggest that, “(e)very rooster in Kentucky should be sold, killed or shut away from the flock as soon as hatching season is over.”
The Herald turned their attention to thoroughbred hogs again in August, when they praised W.H. Scott for raising “Some Hogs,” in particular a Duroc raised by Scott’s son Earl for taking first prize in the Carter County Boys and Girls ClubWork Contest for fattening the hog. While the original article said the weight gain for the hog on its feed was one pound per day, the number was actually two pounds per day, a distinction important enough to merit a correction in the next week’s paper.
We’re lucky we have the experience of the extension agency today to guide our youth and our farmers in making good business decisions with the animals and crops they raise, but it looks like our ancestors had things squarely in hand as well, relying purely on market demands to guide their choices.
Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of articles drawn from the historical newspaper clippings in the scrapbooks of Jack Fultz. We thank Sally James of Sally’s Flowers in Olive Hill for sharing her uncle’s collected clippings with us and the community. – Jeremy D. Wells, editor, Carter County Times