Live-at-Home Program to Save NC Agriculture
Following the boom of consumerism in the 1920s, the United States experienced a drastic economic and agricultural shift, entering into the historically notorious age of the Great Depression. From rural farmland in the South to the industrialized lands of the North, nearly every American citizen lived in constant fear of poverty and deprivation.
With over half of the population living on working farms, rural life and agriculture consumed a majority of North Carolina’s population throughout the early decades of the 20th century . NC farms focused on the production of cash crops, primarily tobacco and cotton; however, as the Roaring 20s reached their final demise, the profitability and success of these crops declined. As asserted by RoAnn Bishop, the curator of agriculture, industry, and economic life at the North Carolina Museum of History, farmers became “desperately poor, live in wretched houses, and were scantily provided with even the necessities of life.” Considering the state’s dependency on these farmers and agriculture as North Carolina’s “economic backbone,” both state and federal government engaged in a strenuous effort to save the plight of North Carolinian agriculture .
In 1929, North Carolina’s governor Oliver M. Gardner introduced the “Live-at-Home” program, a program which promoted a transition from primarily growing cash crops to grow food crops for the family, livestock, and surrounding communities. Reverberations of this movement can be seen today as corn, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and peanuts remain a few of the most profitable crops in the state . As shown in the excerpt included above, this initiative not only encouraged more sustainable, progressive farming techniques, but it ensured the consistent provision of food and an agricultural economy to more populated areas of North Carolina. In addition to its elaborations on modernized farming practices, the Live-at-Home program provided all members of the Tarheel state with crucial information on how to start at-home gardens, grow and harvest crops, and practice food storage through canning and food preservation . Through the promotion of self-sufficiency, sustainable farming, and food preservation, North Carolina’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction provided its citizens with a life-saving plan to get through the tough years that laid ahead. The result of the Live-at-Home initiative was astounding. The state experienced a spike in the production of profitable crops, greater accessibility to food items and livestock in local markets, and increased practices of gardening and food preservation. In an interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, residents of Bynum, North Carolina, they comment on the universality and importance of small gardens and farms, asserting, “most of them worked out in the field… and farmed… and most of them had gardens and things like that. They all got along pretty good” . Gardens offered people with a sense of security. With a garden, starvation was out of the equation, no matter how grim financial situations became. If a family was without the resources to have a garden, they often raised poultry and other livestock in order to trade and sell goods in their local markets. While the Great Depression was a time of immense devastation, poverty, and loss, the Live-at-Home Programs helped North Carolinians come together as a community to feed and support each other in some the most troubling in United States history .
The implementation of the Live-at-Home Program provided Tarheels across the state with the resources to adopt modernized agricultural practices, take advantage of local markets, grow and maintain sustainable, at-home gardens, practice canning, and food preservation techniques, and ultimately come together as a community to support and nourish the needs of the Tarheel nation.
 Eula and Vernon Durham, interview by Jim Leloudis. Southern Oral History Program Collection in the Southern Oral History Program Collection,
Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 29, 1978.
 Live-at-Home Week: In the Public Schools of North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1930.
 RoAnn Bishop, “Agriculture in NC During Great Depression,” NCpedia, January 1, 2010, https://www.ncpedia.org/agriculture/great-depression.
 “State Agricultural Review,” N.C. Department of Agriculture. Accessed November 3, 2018.