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Prosperous Clayton co. - 1930


Posted By: S. Ferrall (email)
Date: 5/6/2004 at 08:07:09

Mid-western Community Prospers as Result of Business Methods - by Bruce Catton

Elkader, Ia -- The great Iowa corn belt, where the farmers have been crying for help so long that their voices are all husky, has one county that cares no more about farm relief than it cares about the Einstein theory.

This is Clayton co., a rarity among rarities - a strictly agricultural county in which everybody is prosperous. Prosperous? Clayton cuonty, as far as per capita wealth is concerned, is said to be the richest county in the United States. It has 22,000 inhabitants and they are all making money. Its automobiles average better than one to a family. the citizens have opposed the McNary-Haugen bill because they don't need relief. Considering the fact that Clayton county is planked down in the middle of the region where agriculture has been groaning under a seven-year depression, this sounds almost unbelievable. but the fat remains that the farmers of this section have found out how to make agriculture pay.

Crops are Diversified. C.F. Murphy, a leading attorney, explains it easily. "In the first place," he says, "we have a very fine soil here -- a productive clay loam, well watered and well drained. But our success is primarily due to the fact that our agriculture is diversified. Our farmers raise all the kinds of crops that can be raised in the north temperate zone, and they know how to rotate their crops so as to get the most out of the land. they raise poultry, swine, beef and dairy cattle and sheep -- and everyting that is raised here is fed here. The stock feed is grown right on Clayton county farms." The average Clayton county farm is about 160 acres in size. A farmer will lay aside a 40-acre patch for pasture land for his stock. Another 40-acre patch will be devoted to raising hay. A third patch of the same size will be sowed to small grain - oats, barley, wheat or rye -- and a fourth 40-acre patch will be planted with corn. At the end of the year the farmer simply moves part way around this square. the field that was planted to grain lies fallow and serves as a pasture lot. the field that was pasture lot will be planted with corn. the former cornfield will be planted with hay. the former hay field will be sown with grain. So it goes, year after year -- and the soil keeps its productivity undiminished.

Farm Bureau Aids. Clayton county farmers also take full advantage of the state farm bureau here in Elkader, the county seat. Roy Combs, county agent, has taught the farmers here the value of co-operatives, and has helped them to use scientific crop methods. He has organized a great number of cow-testing associations. A tester visits each farm once a month, testing each cow's milk for its butterfat content. He advises the farmer on the kind of feed that is needed and helps himi to make his dairy herd as productive as possible. There are 15 co-operative creameries in the county, and 19 co-operative livestock shipping associations, which handle 90 percent of the county's livestock sales -- some 3,500 cars of stock a year. there are co-operative feed-grinding mills in every town. The result of all this is that the agricultural depression has bothered this county very little.

Hold Own Mortgages. To begin with, 75 per cent of all mortgages on Clayton county farms are held within the county. thus, when the depression came, and the eastern investment houses began to call their farm paper, Clayton county escaped such a sudden demand on its resources. Its banks gave extensions, fully confident that they would get their money. "Our farmers get a continuous income," says Murphy. "And they're mighty good business people. A lot of them have regular accounting systems, just like city business houses. theyre are plenty of farms here with $50,000 worth of buildings on them. Practically every family owns an automobile, and lots of them have two or three, and a truck besides. there hasn't been a bankkruptcy in Elkader in 30 years, and mighty few anywhere in the county. We've never had a bank failure -- and we're in the middle of the corn belt, if you please." Clayton county has only $1,500,000 in bonded indebtedness -- a bond issue floated not long ago to provide paved roads, but this bond issue is not costing Clayton county anything. Each year the county gets a certain sum from the state highway commission for road construction. This money is sufficient to pay the interest on the county's bonds and retire them in 20 years. Incidentally, $500,000 of this bond issue is held by Clayton county farmers. "The average estate left by a Clayton county farmer at death is $30,000." says Murphy. "There's hardly a one that will be as low as $10,000. there are no extremely rich people here -- but everybody has enough."

A Few Statistics. Here are a few statistics on Clayton county's prosperity:
There are 26 banks in the county, with nearly $14,000,000 in deposits. Nearly every one of the 3,063 farms in the county is owned by the man who operates it, tenant farming being almost non-existant. The value of butter produced in the county in 1926 was $3,467,000. The average monthly income of the farmers as a group is upwards of $205,000. Two years ago the county's farm lands were given an assessed value of more than $28,000,000.

So there's Clayton county for you -- a strictly agricultural community where the average of individual prosperity is higher than in any other county in the land.

source: Appleton Post Crescent;Appleton, Wisconsin; February 8, 1930


Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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