G is for Georgia, Part 3:Thanksgiving (11/17/2023)

Georgia was the 10th state to receive a national FFA charter. Georgia received their charter in 1929 (click here to see the application). In 2020-21 Georgia had 386 chapters and 71,074 members.

Since we are fast approaching Thanksgiving, why don’t we plan our Thanksgiving celebration by visiting some FFA chapters and members in Georgia.

Note: This will be the last Friday Footnote until January 5, 2024. See the concluding remarks for more information.

The Turkey

What would Thanksgiving be without a turkey? If it were 1959, we would visit Charles Goodown at Montgomery County High School. Charles raised wild turkeys to be released on a game preserve. After having a surplus of wild turkeys, he sold some to the public for eating purposes. Then he added domestic turkeys for meat purposes. However, “many of Charles’ customers actually prefer the wild turkey to the domestic type.” See Figure 1 to learn more.

Figure 1. The Atlanta Journal. February 22, 1959.

Do You Prefer Ham at Thanksgiving?

Some people prefer ham for their Thanksgiving meal. If you lived around Macon, Georgia in 1955 you would be in luck. Thirty high school agriculture departments in the area were participating in a pig chain sponsored by the Sears Roebuck Foundation (check out this Friday Footnote to learn more about these chains). This activity started in 1944 and had spread to more than 100 schools across Georgia. I am sure one of the FFA members participating in the pig chain could fix you up with a ham. See Figure 2 for more details.

Figure 2. The Macon Telegraph. October 9, 1955

What about a Sweet Potato Casserole?

A sweet potato casserole is often served at Thanksgiving. It would not be very hard to find sweet potatoes in Georgia in the 1950s. Several FFA chapters operated sweet potato curing houses. If you are not familiar with these structures, they were used to cure sweet potatoes which resulted in a longer storage life and a sweeter flavor. It was common to find curing houses operated by the FFA or NFA in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and in surrounding states. Sweet potato curing houses will be fully explored in a future Footnote.

Several FFA chapters in Georgia operated sweet potato curing houses as a community service or as a fundraiser. The Pickens County High School opened their potato curing house on December 24, 1960 so the patrons could retrieve their potatoes for the Christmas meal. See Figure 3.

In Figure 4 we see agriculture students at the Alexander Stephens Institute handling crates used to store sweet potatoes in their curing house. Note: In Figure 4 the school is identified as the Alexander Hamilton Institute; it should be identified as the Alexander Stephens Institute (Hamilton was the person’s middle name). This was a private academy at one time but became a county high school in 1920.

Figure 3. Pickens County Progress. December 15, 1960

Figure 4. The Atlanta Journal. October 26, 1958

How about some Green Beans also?

A green bean casserole often ends up on the Thanksgiving table. Green beans are often called string beans in the south. That term is somewhat outdated but green beans once had fibrous “strings” running down the length of the pod that had to be removed before cooking. Thus the name string beans. And according to the LSU AG Center, green beans are also known as snap beans.

Even though Billy Joyner of Peach County raised “string beans” and “snap beans” in 1974 and admitted most “would be used at home” some were sold. So we could get those green beans from Billy. His garden, which is on rented land, earned him the FFA chapter crop production proficiency award. See Figure 5.

Figure 5. The Macon News. June 30, 1974

What would one do if they had an abundant supply of string beans? This was the case in many Georgia communities. The answer would be to take the surplus to a community cannery operated by the local high school and can them.

In Wheeler’s (1948) book, Two Hundred Years ofAgricultural Education in Georgia, he tells of two schools that started cannery operations in 1926. By 1932 the number of canneries in Georgia had grown to 87. By 1942 there were 383 school canneries in Georgia. Even today we find 27 schools in Georgia operating community canneries (click here to see the list). To learn more about school canneries in general visit this Footnote from 2019.

An article in The Macon News in 1943 describes the two high school canneries in Irwin County, Georgia. During the summer canning season the plant at the Ocilla Public School had processed 76,000 pints of food including “snap beans”. The cannery at Irwin County High School located at Mystic had processed 35,000 pints of vegetables and meat. So perhaps we could get some green beans in Irwin County. (See Figure 6a).

If we fast forward to today, we will discover there is still a school cannery in Irwin County. After school consolidation the Irwin County High School, now located in Ocilla, still operates a community cannery. One of their students, Connor Paulk, received a $1,000 grant from the National FFA in 2022 for his Agriculture Processing SAE. He operates Paulk Produce and offers the community fresh peas, beans and tomatoes. So we could get our Thanksgiving green beans from Connor. See Figure 6b.

Figure 6a. Newspaper article in 1943 about the school cannery in Irwin County, Georgia. The Macon News. August 1, 1943

Figure 6b. Facebook posting on the Irwin County High School FFA Facebook page. December 16, 2022:

Congratulations are in order for Irwin FFA member and officer Connor Paulk. Connor has been selected by the National FFA to receive a $1,000 grant for his Agriculture Processing SAE. Connor owns and operates Paulk Produce which offers the community fresh peas, beans and tomatoes throughout the summer months. Connor will use the grant to improve his SAE project.

What about Dessert?

Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert. To secure our pumpkin we could visit Bradley Weaver, a 2009 graduate of Dawson County High School. Bradley’s Pumpkin Patch garnered about $80,000 in sales during his four years in high school. In 2009 he was the national FFA proficiency award winner in Agricultural Sales Entrepreneurship. To learn more about Bradley and his pumpkin operation see Figure 7.

Figure 7. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 10, 2009.

A Thanksgiving Day Tradition

On Thanksgiving Day some people watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade football on television or view the football games. However, before the television era many people would go hunting on Thanksgiving morning. For decades, my father-in-law would go cottontail rabbit hunting on Thanksgiving morning. But quail hunting seemed to be the number one Thanksgiving tradition for many.

If you were to Google “quail hunting” + Thanksgiving you would get over 800,000 hits. Hunting quail (or pheasants or rabbits) on Thanksgiving Day was a tradition in many families. And this tradition was not specific to just Georgia.

The first seven hits when I Googled quail hunting Thanksgiving had the following headings:

  • Thanksgiving brings back memories of quail hunting (from Nevada)
  • Thanksgiving stirs long-ago memories of quail hunts (from Louisiana)
  • Thanksgiving Quail (from Missouri)
  • Thanksgiving Family and Hunting (from Georgia)
  • Outdoors: Giving Thanks to Thanksgiving quail (from Nebraska)
  • Moments of Fall and Thanksgiving (from Minnesota)
  • Thanksgiving quail hunt feeds our souls (from Arizona)

A shotgun advertisement in The Atlanta Constitution published in 1905 (November 28) for Anderson Hardware proclaimed, “Get ready to hear the ‘Call of the Quail’ on Thanksgiving Day.”

One FFA member in Georgia, Carl Jordan, heard the call of the quail in 1961, but in a different way. Carl lived in town but wanted to study vocational agriculture. Back in 1961 federal regulations required vo ag students to have a home project that we now call a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program. So what was city boy Carl to do?

Carl was so insistent on studying vocational agriculture that his parents purchased an abandoned drive-in movie site and cleared it. They converted the concession stand/projection building into an attractive home. Then Carl started using the land for his SAE project – raising quail.

Carl borrowed $200 from the bank for a 1,500 egg capacity incubator and pens and feed. Some of the quail he raised were sold for breeding purposes and some were dressed and sold for eating. The rest were sold to game preserves. So if you were to go quail hunting on Thanksgiving Day near a game preserve in Georgia, you might have encountered one of the quail that Carl raised. See Figure 8.

Figure 8. The Atlanta Journal. February 19, 1961.


Concluding Remarks

As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for. Despite all the political static we hear, we should count our blessings. As this Footnote has shown, agricultural education students in Georgia (and across the nation) have risen to the challenge of producing a quality, safe food supply for the nation. Agriculture teachers and extension agents have played a pivotal role in this effort, both in the past and today.

This past week we said “Thank You for Your Service” to our military veterans. In the coming week we need to say “Thank You for Your Service” to our agriculturalists — farmers, ranchers, agricultural scientists, extension agents, agriculture teachers, and others engaged in producing food and fiber for the nation.

As mentioned at the start of the Footnote, this will be the last Friday Footnote for 2023. Next week is Thanksgiving, so we need to spend time with family and friends (and perhaps watch football and do a little Black Friday shopping). You don’t need to be reading a Footnote the day after Thanksgiving.

Then, the following week many of us will be in Phoenix attending the National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention and celebrating 75 years of the NAAE (previously the NVATA). I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Phoenix and perhaps some of you will attend a couple of workshops in which I am presenting.

Then, after the convention many agricultural educators will be giving end-of-course exams, wrapping up the semester, attending Christmas activities, and spending time with family and friends. So, focus on those important activities. The Friday Footnote will return on January 5, 2024.  Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.