Claude Elam’s Farm Field Day

Wednesday 01 May 2024

Part Four of the WCSHC Rumble Through Rural America Tour

By Frank Taylor

On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, WCSHC’s dedicated team embarked on a journey across Interstate 55 to McCarley, MS, for Claude Elam’s Farm Field Day. As Shirley Gladney skillfully drove the van north through French Camp, MS, the team received a call from Frank Taylor, Team Leader. Frank requested the team to make a stop at McDonald’s in Winona, MS, for a special occasion. There, co-op members joyfully celebrated and serenaded Arlexis Cunningham-Yarbrough with a birthday song, fostering a sense of camaraderie. 

After the celebration, the team’s focus shifted to McCarley, MS. I can hear voices asking the question, “Where is this hamlet located?” Drive seven miles west of Winona, MS, along Hwy 82, you will see a sign pointing north. McCarley is a close-knit unincorporated hamlet of less than seven hundred people. Yes, you will find a post office and vacant storefront buildings along the main strip. According to the archives, Robert Johnson, one of the greatest bluesmen, played at local juke joints around the McCarley area before his premature death in the 1930s. Willie Totten, the legendary football quarterback, who played for Mississippi Valley State University, hailed from this area.

The ragtag team traveled into bucolic America. They witnessed the birth of spring. Mother nature displayed its beauty as trees, and the landscape was beginning to yield green. They could hear the diesel tractor engines idling as local farmers tilled the soil for spring plantings. After crossing a levee, Shirley turned left onto County Road seventy-seven for a one-mile drive to the host site of Eden CME Church. 

Claude Elan welcomed the WCSHC team and others to his home church. We decided to move the event here just in case of rain. Claude reminisced about his career as an assistant principal, teacher, and bus driver. He told us how he coached track, basketball, and football at J. Z. George High School in North Carrollton, MS, for thirty-one years. His retirement work includes managing his cow/calf operation and growing timber. 

Claude loves being a manager of God’s natural resources. Claude obtained technical and financial assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to install conservation practices on his farm, such as concrete feeding pads, cross fencing, and subsoil drainage. He also received a forest management plan through NRCS. These practices have helped Claude increase profitability from his agriculture entities. 

Claude said, “Retirement allows me to spend quality time with my grandson, Cameron, and share the Elam Farm’s philosophy.” This prompted the Elam Family to host this field day event so other individuals could observe and learn.

Claude called the meeting to order at 4:30 pm with more than fifty participants seated. He delivered a welcome and a brief history of the farm. Frank Taylor highlighted WCSHC’s purpose and commitment to help save rural America. The meeting presenters included the Carrol County Office of the Mississippi State Extension Service, USDA, and MFC. Each presenter shared tidbits about their role in delivering technical support to help sustain rural communities. The Extension Service discussed canning, connectivity, and other valuable services to help families. The Farm Service Agency elaborated on the need for farmers to register farms and obtain farm loans. The Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel discussed EQIP and CSP. The Mississippi Forestry Commission representative related information about their programs to assist landowners with reforestation practices. Vickie Roberts-Ratliff, a private forest landowner from Montgomery County, MS, elaborated on the legacy of land ownership. Vicke has implemented a host of conservations on their family woodlots to spur growth development. Henry Drake traveled from Chattanooga, TN, to engage with landowners and to learn about services to help him manage his family’s forestland. 

We would like to express our gratitude to the Elam family and Terry Moore for providing us with a delightful meal. Furthermore, we extend our sincere appreciation to Eden’s Pastor and Church Family for hosting this educational event.

View photos from this event and the video clip below.

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