Sunday, June 12, 2016

County Agent Recalls Early Days of Farm Organization

This article from the St.Tammany Farmer in 1975 features an interview with one of the first county agents for the parish. He tells some interesting details about his work and of the many efforts to help farmers find, grow and market the most appropriate produce for this area. In those early days, getting the harvest to potential customers who were further and further away was a challenge for all farmers, and organizing their options for moving and selling their crops was a full time job. Here's the article.

Former County Agent Recalls Days of Getting Farmers Organized;

Karl Treen, a former Covington resident, stopped by to visit the other day. He and his wife are travelling about the nation by bus, taking a nine month tour. He recently sold his Chicago area business and plans to retire in the Florida Parishes.

Back in 1918, he was secretary of the newly formed St. Tammany Fair Association, as well as secretary of the chamber of commerce. He is now 84. He left St. Tammany Parish 51 years ago, went to Evangeline Parish to teach school and wound up in Chicago as an educator.

Up until a year ago, he was in insurance and real estate.

While here, he and his wife were the guests of Mrs. Ruth Valois.

He was concerned with many things, the dominance of the Democratic party in" the south, the liberal decisions of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and their effects, and the need for a "universal language."

He recalled his days as county agent here, especially his numerous projects, including the building of sweet potato drying kiln which helped keep the potatoes edible for shipment out of the state. Under his guidance, area farmers were organized in shipping their produce north, realizing profits in addition to those of selling their goods locally.

He assembled the first cargo of sugar cane syrup out of the parish. He sampled the syrup of a number of farmers, got the best bottled and crated and sent it to a lumber company across the state.

His shipments out of St. Tammany were not much to begin with, he admitted, but they were a start. He was saddened to hear that many of the farming activities he had encouraged no longer contribute significantly to the parish's economy.

He remembered how his father, a farmer in Mississippi, promoted the growing of soybeans 50 years ahead of his time. "He saw the potential of soybeans long ago," Treen stated. His father also advocated the rotation of crops and deep plowing before they were generally accepted.

Some farmers did not take kindly to the new ideas promoted by county agents, Treen recalled. In fact, when the dipping of cattle for tick control was started, some of them dynamited the dipping vats once a-month.

Only after ticks were brought under control was the modern beef and dairy industry possible, Treen said. Only with modern hybrid corn methods did farmers really increase their yield, he explained.

His current tour by bus will bring him and his wife for visits with their children in Florida, Pennsylvania and several other states. When he does return to the Florida Parishes to settle down in retirement, he will devote himself to two hobbies, one, the planting of trees, and the other, the promotion ot Esperanto as a world-wide language.

He is an expert at caring for trees and plants and is planning to plant as many as possible.
He has also, for the past ten years, been encouraging the use and teaching of Esperanto because of the serious lack of communication among people of different nations. He feels that if people knew two languages, their own and Esperanto, then they could work out their problems without escalating them into conflicts.

It will be quite a challenge, telling the world of the up and coming man-made language, but it is a challenge Treen looks forward to.

As an agriculture graduate from Mississippi State, Treen helped St. Tammany get its farm production better known and appreciated. He was a little disappointed to learn that the rural community is not as active as it used to be.

Published February 20, 1975

In 1977, he also wrote a letter to the editor telling of the early fair days.