by Philip Paramore
The G.I. Bill, officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was a bill which provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans. Also provided in the bill was one year of unemployment compensation. In addition, the bill included different types of low-interest loans for returning veterans to buy houses and begin businesses.
Many of the World War II veterans were from rural backgrounds. Most had been gone anywhere from three to five years from their homes. All veterans had the choice to go to college or receive vocational training in the area of their choice, like business, mechanics and, of course, farming. Those veterans who wanted to return to an agriculture-based profession had the opportunity to attend veterans’ classes related to production agriculture.
Every county in Alabama had vocational training for veterans. Most local high schools served as the site for this training, unless there was no room for the veterans. Some local churches served as "schools." The veterans who chose to receive training in agriculture were taught by certified vocational agriculture teachers, commonly referred to as vo-ag teachers.
These teachers were to have no more than 20 students. However, some teachers had more because there was a shortage of teachers. Each veteran, who desired to be involved in production agriculture, had to develop a farm plan under the direction of his vo-ag teacher. This farm plan or record book listed for each month what was to be done on his farm, down to how many rows of vegetables were to be planted in the family garden. The plan told the veteran what he had to do and when he was to do it. (The record book developed for veterans is still used by agriscience teachers today. However, over the years modifications have been made to the original book.)
The reason each vo-ag teacher of veterans was to have a maximum of 20 students was because he was required to visit each student/veteran for two hours every week. And because many of the veterans had been gone several years, production agriculture, as they knew it, had changed. The training they would receive, it was hoped, would prepare them for success in farming.
The February-March 1951 issue of The Alabama Future Farmer magazine had an article on the "Veterans Vo-Ag Program in Alabama." It lists stories from 16 counties, but because of space only eight will be featured.
"Pike County. Improved livestock farming practices is one of the ultimate aims of 376 veterans in training in Pike County under the Veterans Vocational Agriculture program.
"Some phase of livestock raising is the theme of the projects of nearly every one of the 20 classes in which these veterans are enrolled. A number of the classes are operating either calf or hog projects.
"At least four classes are now planning to launch post-treating projects. Assistant Head Teacher W.C. Hearn said the veterans will fence many acres of pasture land and other farm property with the posts which they will treat in a short period. The posts will be treated with copper naphthenate.
"Classes at Josie, Troy, Tarentum and Shellhorn are planning post treating projects. It is expected the classes will treat approximately 200 posts in 36 hours.
"A Spring Hill class is sponsoring both a purebred Duroc hog project and a Guernsey project. Another Duroc breeding project is sponsored by the class at Tarentum. Other classes which sponsor Duroc projects are Shiloh, Brundidge, Troy and Goshen. Shellhorn and Henderson classes sponsor Guernsey projects and a colored class at China Grove is operating another purebred Duroc breeding project.
"Escambia County. Ossie L. Allen, Escambia County, found peanut yields can be increased by dusting with copper sulphur.
"In 1949, Mr. Allen planted 4.8 acres and made 5,873 pounds without dusting. In 1950, his allotment was cut to three acres. Last year he dusted twice with copper sulphur and made 5,936 pounds. These peanuts were planted on the same soil-type and fertilized the same.
"The copper sulphur controls the leaf spot disease which causes the leaves to shed. When the leaves shed the peanuts shrivel and lose weight. The copper sulphur dust controls the disease and the leaves remain on the plant and the peanuts develop and increase in weight.
"Pickens County. One farmer in Pickens County will be quick to tell what the farm training program has meant to him. He is William Hoyt Kilpatrick, who has worked small wonders with the 105 acre farm after starting with only a pair of mules and work equipment, two cows, and two hogs.
"Since enrolling in the Veterans Training program he has added 18 cows, including one purebred Guernsey bull; built a grade "A" dairy barn and installed equipment for it; installed an electric pump; wired his home and barn; and enclosed 45 acres in electric fence.
"He also has running water in his home and barn, and built a sanitary toilet. He dug a stock well in his pasture and installed a pump for convenience. He wired a four-acre hog pasture. Here he planted reseeding crimson clover and rye grass.
"For his dairy barn he has 30 acres in grazing crops of oats and vetch combined, and he is shipping between 200 and 300 pounds of milk daily. Mr. Kilpatrick plans to clear an additional 30 acres of land and prepare it for sowing pasture crops next spring.
"Last year he sold ten top hogs and has two brood sows, subject to registration, which will farrow soon. He plans to increase the number of brood sows to three.
"His plans are many, too. He won’t grow cotton – instead he hopes to buy more cows. He wants to grow all feed necessary for his livestock except supplement feed.
"Covington County. Advance Wheeler, veteran of Covington County, has attained the title of "Peanut King" of South Alabama as he harvested 3,072 pounds of peanuts per acre last year to celebrate the completion of his veteran training.
"He began his training as a one-horse farmer with one cow, one grade sow and enough plow tools to cultivate crops. At the end of the first year, he began to make plans to secure better equipment and livestock. His grade sow was exchanged for purebred Durocs. By the end of the first year, he had a sufficient number of purebred sows to increase his farm from 30 acres to 50 acres of cultivated land.
"In his third year of training, Wheeler purchased a tractor and equipment to cultivate and harvest his crop.
"Veteran Wheeler, at the end of his training period, lists his accomplishments as follows: Three purebred sows, three gilts for breeding purposes, 35 shoats running on corn and peanuts. Last fall he sold 30 head of top hogs. He now has planted six acres of clover, four acres of sericea and 10 acres of lupine for soil conservation.
"His crop last year consisted of four acres of cotton, 32 acres of corn and 3.9 acres of peanuts.
"The fertilizer practices followed on this farm last year were as follows: Corn, 300 pounds 4-10-7, 150 pounds soda per acre. Cotton, 500 pounds 4-10-7, 150 pounds soda per acre.
"Veteran Wheeler feels his greatest accomplishment is the raising of 3,072 pounds of peanuts per acre planted behind a heavy litter of corn stalks around March 31, and 2½ percent DDT. In addition to these accomplishments, he has installed a gas heating system for his house.
"Escambia County. Veteran farm trainees in Escambia County are learning to treat their own fence posts.
"Demonstrations have been held by the classes at Huxford on Dewitt Cruit’s farm. The class from McCullough attended this demonstration. Louis Bell’s class at Atmore held a demonstration on Harvey Gilmore’s farm. Two other classes attended this demonstration. Roy Cook, teacher at Henley Roberts, held a demonstration on his farm for his class. The class from Damascus and the colored class from Boykin attended a demonstration at B.M. Stone’s farm.
"At these demonstrations approximately 1,000 posts were treated with pentachlorophenol mixed with fuel oil or used motor oil at the rate of one gallon penta to 10 gallons of oil. The posts are left in the mixture from six to 24 hours, according to size of post.
"Chilton County. Veteran farmers in Chilton County have shown much progress in establishing a good hog program during the past year.
"Since last spring hog projects have been established in nine of the Veteran Classes in the county. Five of the projects have registered O.I.C. sows and four are using Durocs. Since the projects were started, 92 pigs have been farrowed and all the gilts are being kept for breeding stock. Some of the gilts have already been bred and will farrow soon.
"Valuable training is received in grazing, fencing, proper feeding, value of minerals and improved breeding through these projects.
"In addition to the registered gilts in the hog projects, 47 others have been placed on individual farms of the veterans.
"Chilton County’s hog program will be much improved by bringing in the purebred gilts and boars on the Veterans’ Training Program.
"Henry County. John F. Guerin, veteran of Henry County, has whipped his personal housing problem.
"He has constructed a nice five-room home for a total cost of only $1,900. This was possible through cutting, drying and using lumber from his farm and doing much of the labor himself.
"He now has the foundation poured for a combination general use and dairy barn. He plans to soon finish getting out the lumber for the barn and hopes to finish the barn by spring.
"Jackson County. 73 veteran on-the-farm trainees were among the 124 Jackson County farmers recently nominated for membership in the Alabama 100-Bushel Club. Leading all veterans in corn production on an acre was Elbert Lands of the Skyline class with a yield of 150.06 bushels per acre. Elbert planted the Dixie 17 variety and fertilized his corn with 600 pounds of 6-8-4 before planting and side dressed with a total of 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate. He also broadcast six tons of manure before beginning land preparation.
"Three veterans entered the select circle of producers who averaged 100 bushels or more per ace on their total farm acreage. Leon Kuykendall, a member of the Pisgah class, led all veteran producers with an average yield of 136.64 bushels per acre on 12.5 acres of corn. Franklin Brashier, a member of the Skyline class, produced an average of 101.88 bushels of corn on his total acreage, while James F. Gross also a member of the Skyline class, averaged 100.88 bushels per acre on the eight acres of corn he produced."
Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.