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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Current status of farmers in America, economically and socially

Farmers must become large-scale operators to find success in the industry, Connor believes, because size insulates farmers from financial losses. He believes also that most Americans do not appreciate farmers' contributions to their daily lives.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ROB AMBERG:
I'm not sure how I wantߞhow to phrase this because I'mߞdo you think the small farmers like you just described in Europe or elsewhere. That's kind of the way it was here years ago. Everybody was much, much smaller. Now there has been a move to get bigger primarily because you have to get bigger in order to stay in business, I think that's been the push. Is there a relationship between those values that we described and those values that were instilled to you and also from your grandfather and the values that you've instilled in your children? How does that relate to getting bigger and that kind of thing?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
If the guy wants his family to be able to farm, he's got to get bigger. You can't do it with four or five hogs. You've got to have a lot. If you don't have an integrator that takes the risk. I'll give you a good example. Back when I was an independent, and a neighbor of mine, we had a bunch of corn. Well here comes a hurricane and blows all the corn down. What the hell we going to do now? So we went to the livestock market, and we bought two hundred seventy-pound pigs. We wanted them big enough they could handle it on there on and not little enough we were going to have to pamper them. So we took electric fence and covered all this corn that had been blown down and we turned them pigs in there. And everyday other day we'd go in there and put fifty pounds of supplement down the road protein and we got them up to market size. We got them and they looked good. Well the hog prices went to seventeen cents a pound. Well back then the number one top was two twenty. They were at two twenty and the price went south to seventeen cents a pound. Well, hell we got to sell them so he took one and I took one and put them in the freezer and sold the rest of it. When we figured up what it cost us for the supplement and everything we got about one hog and four dollars a piece. Now like on contract, I don't have that problem. When hogs got down to eight cents last November, I was still making the same thing I was making before. I furnished the building the labor, and the utilities. They furnished everything else. They take theߞof course, they make a lot of money when they're sixty cents. They lose a lot of money when they're eight cents and mine stays the same.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And yours is what?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Between eleven and twelve dollars per head, per hog. You know when you're pumping out five thousand at a turn that gets to be a lot of money. Fifty-three turns a year, that's $150,000. I couldn't make $150,000 on this sized farm with two or three hundred hogs. Couldn't do it. That's why everybody works in town. The wife's got to work; the kids got to work. You live in the country, you're all working but you're together, the family unit's working. I don't know if I answered your question or not.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah. It's because the farms are getting bigger, I mean I understand exactly what you're saying. I think that's accurate. I guess, it's almost like well years ago again ninety percent of the population lived on farms and things like that. Now as a society, we do live in town.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
And they don't comprehend what it takes to put that meat on the table.
ROB AMBERG:
Well there's that and yeah. Well, they certainly don't do that. I've had experience with that just on our little place up in the mountains.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
They think that bacon and eggs and milk comes from the grocery store.
ROB AMBERG:
Potatoes, all of it.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
They out to go work on a farm. A working farm. I might work with an integrator, but it's still a working farm. Somebody's got to fertilize that hay; somebody's got to cut it; somebody's got to rake; somebody's got to bale it; somebody's got to haul it down to feed. You've got stores. You've got use what you can to feed your cows. You've got to sell what you can to pay your expenses. Most people don't comprehend that. I don't know it's that they don't comprehend it. They just don't know.