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North Carolina. Tenancy Commission, Carl C. Taylor (Carl Cleveland), b. 1884, Carle Clark Zimmerman, 1897-, and B. F. Brown (Benjamin Franklin), b. 1881
Economic and Social Conditions of North Carolina Farmers. Based on a Survey of 1000 North Carolina Farmers in Three Typical Counties of the State. Prepared under the Direction of a Comittee Appointed by the State Board of Agriculture Consisting of Representatives from the North Carolina College for Women, the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering, the University of North Carolina and the State Department of Agriculture in Co-operation with the U. S. Bureau of Agricultural Economics
[Raleigh?]: s. n., 1922.


The Tenancy Commission was created by the North Carolina State Board of Agriculture. The Board was particularly concerned about the increased number of tenant farmers in North Carolina, and asked Dr. Carl C. Taylor, head of the Division of Rural Economics at the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (now North Carolina State University) and a group of other distinguished academics to form the Tenancy Commission. To conduct a useful statistical study, Dr. Taylor and his partner, Carle C. Zimmerman, implemented the latest techniques of rural sociology developed at the University of North Carolina.

The Tenancy Commission surveyed a representative sample from Edgecombe, Chatham, and Madison counties (to represent the state's three major geographic areas). The sample was made up of 1,014 farm families, including farm owners, tenants (farmers who paid cash rent for their land), and sharecroppers (farmers who paid a share of their crop for their land). The commission asked each family over seven hundred questions about their work and home lives and then compiled comparative data. The information they obtained includes the amount of land under production, the type of crops produced, as well as family incomes, diets, and general health. The report also includes statistics on social factors such as education, literacy, radio sets and books in residence, and recreational activities.

Most of the data is tabular; however, the commission summarizes its findings in the introduction and includes notes throughout the study that highlight significant findings. They discovered, for example, that white farmers owned the most land and had the most income, while black sharecroppers tended to struggle the most. The Commission also asserted that the "crop lien [was] the curse of North Carolina agriculture." (p. 5) While landowners were not free from its influence, the landless farmed "under this handicap in three times as great" a number as the landed (p. 5). In addition, the more food crops (as opposed to cash crops, such as tobacco and cotton) farmers could produce, the healthier their families tended to be. The commission also concluded that tenant farming depletes the land's fertility more quickly than conventional "owner-operator" farming and that most tenant farmers will never have the means to own their own farms.

Michael Sistrom

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