On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed earning the day the epithet “Black Tuesday.” It was the beginning of the Great Depression. However, hard times hit North Carolina’s farmers before the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In the 1920s, North Carolina was still very much a rural state. Half of the total population lived on working farms. Agriculture was the largest industry. But farmers’ income had declined steadily. The scale and severity of the Great Depression demanded more assistance than farmers could provide on their own. Governor O. Max Gardner (1929–1933) pledged to improve agricultural and rural life. He introduced the “Live-at-Home” program, which encouraged Tar Heels to grow more food crops for their families and livestock, and less cash crops for sale.
Home demonstration agents working under the direction of North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University) assisted the program by showing women across the state how to can and preserve food. Agricultural extension agents in every county taught farmers the benefits of crop rotation, deeper plowing, better seed selection, crop diversity, and the correct use of fertilizer. Shortly the amount of land devoted to cotton fell by 536,000 acres, and corn production increased by 10 million bushels.