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Reclaiming the Land

A Massive Demonstration

The devastating impact of poor agriculture practices in Georgia is hard to overstate. By the 1940s, millions of acres lay ruined, especially in the Piedmont, where sloping land planted in rows of cotton year after year eventually lost all of its topsoil. Yawning red clay gullies sliced through once-fertile fields, and rolling hillsides became muddy torrents with every summer thunderstorm.

By the mid-1940s soil conservation practices had become established, and many Yancey customers across the state were using their dozers to build farm ponds and their motor graders to terrace fields—both key components of wise soil management.

Then in 1948 the Soil Conversation Service organized a 168-acre one-day “face lift” of a worn-out farm two miles outside of Winder. Yancey Bros. Co. and several of its customers were among the sponsors and participants in the operation. Six hundred men operated more than $1 million worth of equipment from dawn until late afternoon filling fifty-foot-deep gullies, building ponds, terracing fields, and clearing land.

The idea of the “Master Conservation Field Day” was to provide a model for other farmers and show them that even the worst land could be reclaimed and put back to work.

A Yancey Bros. Co. newspaper invitation stated, “You’ll be seeing a blueprint by which thousands of Georgians can build a prosperous farming future at a bargain price.”

Local organizers were not prepared for the response. They had set aside parking for 14,000 cars, and more than 15,000 from across the South plus buses arrived. The crowd was estimated at more than 40,000.

At the end of the day Governor M. E. Thompson congratulated the workers. Pastures and fields were plowed, fertilized, and seeded, and the landowners committed to continue responsible practices.

Construction companies took advantage of the opportunity to both show and tell their capabilities.

“If It’s DIRT—We Move It

Our part of the program will be the complete construction of the lake on the farm using the famous Caterpillar diesel equipment.

In addition, we will do some of the terracing construction we can do for customers throughout our territory. Our facilities are available at all times for general construction work, grading, clearing, road construction, foundation work, airport, lake construction, and farm terracing.”

— Newspaper ad by Rutledge Construction Company

Sixty years later, in 2008, the Carlyle-Blakey Farm was listed by the National Register of Historic Places for the important role the Master Conservation Field Day played in the recovery of farmland in Georgia and across the South.

Yancey Bros. Co. customers participating

  • C. A. Rutledge Construction Co., Winder
  • J. F. Harwood, Madison
  • Harper Construction Company, Macon
  • Winthrop-Phelps, Greensboro
  • J. B. Lay, Winder
  • Currahee Construction Company, Toccoa
  • Elbert County
  • W. D. Dodson, Fairburn
  • Calvin Rutland, Decatur
  • Alton Jones, Jasper
  • E. N. Keith, Carrolton
  • Clarence Murphy, Cedartown
  • B. L. Jones & Company, Milledgeville
  • H. C. Hill, Thomaston

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