Farmers of submarginal land relocated
In the high hills and deep ravines just south of Dawson Springs, KY, 14,648 rough and rocky acres are held by the Pennyrile State Forest and Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park.
These public lands -- and in eastern Kentucky, properties that became the Kentucky Ridge State Forest -- were leased in 1930 under the Land Use and Resettlement Program. Official websites for both forests state that leases were "sustained until 1954 when the property was deeded by the U.S. government to the Commonwealth."
I was a little surprised that the program that created these forests was under the Hoover Administration rather than the New Deal. However, I read a bit of relevant history -- Congress began trying to reduce farming of submarginal land in 1929. The Agricultural Marketing Act of that year provided for study of the problem, and perhaps this program was an outgrowth of that legislation. I have found no other reference to the "Land Use and Resettlement Program" on the internet.
I've always wondered where the farmers were relocated when they were moved out of the Pennyrile Forest area, and tonight I came across part of the answer in a guide to Kentucky by WPA writers:
Hopkinsville is the headquarters of the Farm Security Adminstration's Christian-Trigg Farms, a project covering more than 8,000 acres in Christian, Trigg, and Todd Counties. It was designed to provide small farms -- they average 67 acres -- for a selected group of tenants and sharecroppers in these counties as well as families removed from near-by areas that were submarginal for farming. Each unit includes a house, barn, smokehouse, and poultry house.
Forty-eight of the 103 farms planned were occupied in October 1938 and the homesteaders, advised by Federal agents, had worked out a diversified crop plan by which the families raise the major portion of their food and the feed for their stock (chickens, hogs, and milk cows), plant legumes to enrich the soil, and produce tobacco and cotton for cash crops.
Quoted from The WPA Guide to Kentucky. Originally compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Admninistration for the State of Kentucky and published in 1939 as Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State. The entire entry for Hopkinsville is quite interesting if you know the area.
The description of the diversified crop plan being taught to the relocated farmers reminds me of the small farms owned nowadays by Mennonites and Amish in Christian County. Most would be about the same size -- less than 100 acres. Like the relocated farmers of the 1930s, they raise their own food and their livestock's food, practice crop rotation, and raise cash crops such as vegetables, corn, grains, etc.
Tobacco is still widely grown in Christian County, but I have not seen or heard of cotton grown here.
Pennyrile State Forest
January Scenes from Christian County, Kentucky