Letter from John Paul Lucas to the Mayors of Two Hundred North Carolina Towns, Undated
NORTH CAROLINA FOOD CONSERVATION COMMISSION
<Mayors of about 200 towns addressed>
To the Mayor,
You are the official, recognized and real leader of your community. Your people look to you for leadership and initiation in all things required for the welfare of your community. I desire to call your attention to an opportunity for service and a very real duty both to your own community and to your State and Nation.
The Nation, through the Secretary of Agriculture and other officials upon whose shoulders fall the duties of prosecuting the war into which we have been drawn, have called upon the South to feed herself and to help produce the tremendous amount of foodstuffs that will be necessary for the maintenance of our armies and the armies of our Allies in Europe. Further than this, we have been solemnly warned that unless we do at least produce sufficient food and feedstuffs for our own consumption that our people will suffer, because the millions of dollars worth of these products we have been securing from the North and West will not be available for us this year, regardless of the amount of money our cotton and tobacco crops bring us. President Wilson has added his own appeal to those of other officials and our State officials, from Governor Bickett down, have been doing their utmost to bring our people to a realization of the fact that the South, particularly, faces the gravest crisis since the Civil war; and possibly a situation fraught with greater peril than our people faced then.
I am confident that our farmers will practically all raise sufficient food and feedstuffs this year for their own establishments. Many of them, heeding the call of patriotism and seeing the opportunity for profits assured by certain high prices for all staple food and feed crops, will raise a considerable surplus above their needs which will be available for our cities, towns and mill communities.
The State Food Conservation Commission has gone far enough with its work, however, to realize that the farms of the State are not going to produce this year sufficient food and feed crops to make up the $80,000,000 deficit which we have heretofore secured from the North and West, for the principal reason that the supply of labor and workstock is handicapping them. This being the situation it is of the most vital importance that every acre of idle land in and adjacent to our cities and towns be put into cultivation in staple food and feed crops, the people of those cities and towns providing the workstock and labor for the operation.
Many of our cities and towns own workstock which can be withdrawn from other work temporarily. In all of them there is privately owned workstock which can be diverted from less important work for the time necessary for these farming operations. Whether the farming operations are undertaken by the municipality or by private individuals, with the co-operation of the authorities, must be determined by local conditions. This task, however, should be undertaken without delay and you, Mr. Mayor, are the man to initiate it. I am confident that you will find ready co-operation upon the part of your commercial organization if you have one or the progressive men of your town.
Another matter I desire to call to your attention: Our farmers are suffering for want of labor. There are many loafers in most of our towns. See that the vagrancy statute is vigorously enforced in your town and the labor shortage will to some small extent at least be remedied.
Now Mr. Mayor please don’t wait for the other fellow to do this. He can do his part but not yours. This agitation for increased production of food and feed crops is not hysteria. We are confronted by a very real situation and none of us, especially in official positions, have any more pressing duty than to take steps to meet it. Aside from the call of duty, however, with high prices of these products certain we have the opportunity to profit through our duty.
I shall appreciate it if you will keep this office informed of steps you are taking or may take to meet the situation. Your example may be valuable to others.
Very truly yours,
North Carolina Food Conservation Commission
By John Paul Lucas