To The Discussion Leader

Many American servicemen, wanting a change of occupation when once they are able to return to civilian life, are casting about for various types of opportunities-among them farming. They may think a farm offers a secure and independent living. Perhaps they believe a farm is a healthful and normal place to bring up children. It may be that they are motivated by a deep-rooted love of the soil typical of many Americans. In any case it seems reasonable to expect that many farmers now in uniform will return to the land and that they will be joined by many young men who were not farmers before the war.

These younger men particularly have many questions: What is the future of farming? Will a hard-working and intelligent farmer be able to make a living after the war? What kind of man does it take to make a successful farmer? Do farm families really lead a more healthful life than city families who have ready access to doctors and hospitals? What and where are the best farm opportunities? What does it cost to operate a farm? Your organizing a discussion based on this pamphlet will enable a good many men to do some realistic thinking on a possible postwar career.

Use your ingenuity

In planning a discussion on farming as a postwar occupation, decide on a wording for your subject which you believe will bring. the men out to your meeting. Here are two such springboards for discussion:

  1. Is family life better on a farm?
  2. What does it take to be a successful farmer?

As you study this pamphlet, other approaches to the general subject of farming will undoubtedly occur to you. One of these should fit into your discussion program better than any other.

Once you have decided on your main topic, you will want to prepare an outline of some sort to guide you in conducting the discussion and to enable you to cover as many important points as possible during the time at your disposal. Suppose, for example, you have chosen this subject: Should an ex-soldier take up farming? Your outline might list such important questions as:

  1. Why should a man want to be a farmer?
  2. Is family life in the country better than in the city?
  3. What qualities should a farmer have?
  4. What kinds of farms are there?
  5. Should a man own or rent his farm?
  6. Will farmers be prosperous after this war?

Under each of these more important questions you would do well to list a number of other questions which tend to bring out specific minor points covered in the pamphlet. Many of the headings in the pamphlet phrase such questions; careful reading of the text will suggest others to you; still others are listed at the end of this guide.

Practical ideas

An expert. It is a rare unit in which an experienced farmer cannot be found. Find such a man who is willing to answer questions and to help you make important points.

Discussion techniques. Either informal discussion or panel discussion will probably serve you best in handling this subject. Use the first if your group is smaller than 25 or 30; if it is larger, a panel of from 4 to 6 persons will develop more basic information and can serve as experts at the same time. Some of the panel members should be farmers and some should be city men.

Your best general guide to organizing and conducting forums and discussions is EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. If you are interested in broadcasting discussions over radio or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service, you should secure a copy of EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable. Other subjects already published in the GI Roundtable series are announced at the back of this pamphlet.

Reading. Provide copies of this pamphlet at key places (library, service club, or day rooms) where men who come to your meeting may read them. Men come not only for information, but for a chance to air their views. They will take more active part in discussion if their ideas have been stimulated by reading.

Questions for discussion

  1. Should veterans be encouraged to settle on farms, or should they go to the cities? What kind of man makes a successful farmer?
  2. In what ways is country life superior to city life? Why is the rural family more stable than the city family? If you knew that a general economic depression was to hit the United States within the first decade after the war, where would you prefer to settle on a farm or in a city? Why? If there was to be a period of relative prosperity, would you make the same decision? Why?
  3. Assuming that you will take up farming after the war and that you have some capital to invest, would you prefer to start as a hired hand, a tenant, or an owner operator? What are the advantages of tenancy? What are the risks of farm ownership?
  4. If you should decide to buy a farm, would you locate in new or developed sections? What kind of farming would you undertake? What factors would influence your decision? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of part-time farming?
  5. What are the advantages of the cash lease? The crop-share lease? The crop share-cash lease? The livestock-share lease? Is a year-to-year lease preferable to a longer term lease? Why? How can a tenant safeguard himself against the possibility of a sudden decline in farm prices? What provisions and safeguards would you write into a lease?
  6. Has this war affected agriculture differently from the last war? How? Why? What are the economic conditions upon which farm prosperity depends? Why does farm prosperity in the United States depend to a certain degree on a large oversea demand for our farm products?
  7. Congress has taken the stand that agricultural prices must be supported by the federal government for at least two years after the war. This involves the use of subsidies which come from taxpayers, both rural and urban. Is it justifiable to tax city people in order to help support farm prices?
  8. It is asserted that if farm prices are not supported by the government, they will drop sharply after the war. If this occurred, city people would get their food at lower costs. Would this result be desirable from the standpoint of national welfare?
  9. Taking all reasonable factors into consideration, what do you think will happen to American agriculture after the war?

From EM 35: Shall I Take Up Farming? (1945)