GIs experienced on the land can borrow cash from the FSA of the Department of Agriculture to buy new farms or restock their old ones.

By Cpl. Hyman Goldberg

YANK Staff Writer

“There was a lot of chicken when I was in the Army,” Leo Pierce said. “I got so fed up with it that when I came out, I decided to see if I could make a living out of chicken.”

Pierce, a thin, serious-looking man of 28, went into the Army in August 1943. Discharged at Fort Devens, Mass., after developing stomach ulcers, he’s one of more than 1,000 veterans of this war who have gone into farming with the help of the FSA (Farm Security Administration of the Department of Agriculture).

FSA loans

When he got out of ODs, Pierce had a little money—his mustering-out pay, $100 or so, and the allotment money his thrifty wife had saved. Born and brought up in Augusta, Maine, he knew about a 68-acre Government-owned farm a couple of miles out of town. The FSA had it up for sale.

Pierce called on the county supervisor, Leon H. Lamoreau, and asked him about the place. It had been valued at $4,000, but it could be had for $2,000; Pierce figured it was a good buy.

“I was ready to make a down payment on the place,” said Pierce, “but Mr. Lamoreau said I wouldn’t have to.”

The down payment was waived, Lamoreau explained, because Pierce needed all his ready cash to make improvements and buy livestock.

Pierce had always fooled around his father’s place as a kid and had no trouble showing that he’d be a good risk. Now he has a cow, two hogs—one about ready for killing—and 150 pullets.

Pierce says he figures that when he builds his flock up to 500 laying hens, he’ll be able to make a living from them. And 1,000 hens, he says, will give him a good living.

He’s an enterprising character. Hearing there was a market for rabbits, Pierce got himself several and sat by and watched them multiply. Since he knows everybody in Augusta, he expects to be able to sell the eggs and rabbits—and later the raspberries from his several hundred bushes—directly to consumers in town. That way he’ll get a better price.

Mary Kathleen, his wife, is a farm girl and does much of the work while Pierce holds down a full-time job in an August shoe factory. She’s put up more than 250 jars of fruits and vegetables. With her help, the $11.20 a month Pierce is paying on his debt to the FSA should be a cinch.

What Pierce needed and what he got from the FSA was a Farm Ownership loan. Bill Massure had a different problem.

fsaA native of Fryeburg, Maine, Bill went into the Army in September 1942, spent a year with the 715th Engineers in Africa and at 41 was discharged as over age under the regulations when in force. He had been a farm hand, a carpenter and a lumberman.

Massure’s prospects, when he came back to the States in December 1943, didn’t look too bright. Married a couple of years before he went in, he had a little more than $300—his mustering-out pay and some Army back pay—and that wasn’t enough to do anything much with.

Today Massure is located on a farm as a tenant and owns eight cows. They are the beginning of the herd of 20 he intends to have built up in another year and a half.

Massure’s wife Hilda knows practically as much about farming as he does. Hilda, too, was born and brought up in Fryeburg and part of the time Bill was overseas she worked as a hired hand, driving a team, plowing and doing chores. Later she quit the farm to work in a shipyard.

Massure is practically well off because he’s renting a farm that must have cost $40,000 or $50,000 to build up. It’s in the Saco River Valley near Conway, N.H., on a 1,000-acre estate owned by a New York lawyer. Massure has 50 tillable acres and the right to cut all the wood he needs. The barns and other farm buildings are modern and contain equipment such as a refrigerating unit most farmers couldn’t think of installing.

Into the bargain, Massure, his wife and their infant son have a pleasant, well-furnished eight-room house for their $20-a-month rent.

Bill Massure’s changed circumstances, like Leo Pierce’s were brought about by the FSA. It was through the FSA that Bill found the farm he now leases and borrowed the $1,000 with which to buy his cows. Here’s the way the FSA works:

First off, the vet seeking FSA help has to have farm experience, either as a hired hand, a tenant or an owner. A shoe salesman can’t suddenly decide he wants to be a farmer and ask for a loan. Of course, if a shoe clerk wants to be a farmer after he gets his discharge, he can go to an agricultural college under the GI Bill of Rights. Then, if he can convince the FSA that he knows enough about farming to be a good risk, the agency will lend him money to start out.

A qualified veteran can borrow enough money from the FSA under the Farm Ownership Plan—the way Leo Pierce did—to buy a place of his own. The amount loaned under this plan is limited to the average value of all the farms larger than 30 acres in the county where the vet wants to settle, and the maximum that can be loaned is $12,000. The FSA loan provisions were established mainly to help tenant farmers buy their own farms, so the money available to the agency to loan under this plan is allocated to states according to the number of tenant farmers in each state.

The borrower under this type of loan has 40 years in which to pay off, and the interest rate is 3 percent. The FSA knows a farmer’s income varies from year to year and from season to season, so it allows him to make smaller payments in lean times and bigger payments in good times.

The second form of FSA loan—the one Bill Massure got—is called Rural Rehabilitation. The largest amount that can be borrowed under this plan is $2,500. The money may be used for operating needs such as the purchase of livestock, seed, feed, tools and farm machinery or family-living needs. Loans run from one to five years at 5 percent interest.

In some cases, in order to give the veteran a start, the FSA will make loans under both plans.

A veteran borrowing money from the FSA makes his application through a county supervisor, who will look over the place the veteran wants to buy and tell him whether it is a good investment and what he will need to fix his place up. The county supervisor is invariably a man with practical farming experience.  Often he is an agricultural-college graduate.

The applicant is also interviewed by a county committee, made up of three farmers in the area where the applicant lives or wants to settle. The committee can tell pretty quickly whether the joe who wants the money is a capable enough farmer to make good on the loan.

The FSA takes a mortgage on the farm for its Farm Ownership loan or a chattel mortgage for its Rural Rehabilitation loan.

Hall Edwards is another Maine man who can tell you about FSA loans. He was a Pfc. in the 752d Tank Battalion and, after seeing service in Africa, is settled down on his old home farm in Pownal Township, Cumberland County.

Discharged from the Army after a long siege of stomach trouble, he came home to find his father, George Freeland Edwards, too crippled with rheumatism to work much. Ex-Pfc. Edwards arranged to take the farm over from his father for $3,000.

“It’s a pretty easy arrangement,” Hall said. “Pa says that when I get rich I can pay him.”

The farm consists of 300 acres, 150 of them tillable. Hall had about $700 when he came out of the Army and when he discovered last April that this wasn’t enough to set things right, he called on Darius G. Joy, the county supervisor, and arranged under Rural Rehabilitation for two loans totaling $2,395.

Then Hall bought 17 cows and a milk cooler. With the cows he already had, the milk now brings him in about $100 a week. And there’s an extra $10 a week which the Government pays him as a subsidy.

Hall pays the FSA $15 a month to liquidate his debt. “It’s taken out of my milk money and turned right over to Mr. Joy,” he said. “I don’t see it at all, so it don’t hurt me none.”

He is working to build up his dairy herd to about 75 cows and says: “I’m going to try to be the biggest milk producer in this part of Maine someday. And I’m going to stay right here in the State of Maine and never go out of it.

“When I was over in Africa, I useta say: ‘If I ever get back to that farm of mine, I’ll never go further than 10 miles from it.’ Well, I almost kept my word. I’ve been back here since last August and the farthest I’ve been is Portland. That’s 20 miles away.”

For Further Reading Check Out:

The GI Bill Boys: A Memoir

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