On this day in WNC history: The hard work and skill of farmers and women’s groups were presented to the public as the WNC Agricultural and Livestock Exposition opened in the Asheville city garage in 1924. Speaking and presiding over the exposition was James G.K McClure Jr., president of the Farmer’s Federation, which had in just a few short years begun to transform the lives of many small farmers in WNC.
McClure, an Illinois-born Presbyterian minister and experienced livestock handler, visited Asheville on his 1916 honeymoon and quickly decided to purchase and operate Sherill’s Inn and the surrounding farm in Fairview. McClure drew heavily on the social gospel movement advocating for the poor and disadvantaged, as well as the previous attempts at farmer cooperation when he founded the Fairview Farmer’s Federation in 1920. The group worked to build a warehouse for selling farmer’s goods, and McClure preached cooperation and improvement to local farmers. He attributed the poor state of WNC agriculture to inferior seed and livestock breeds, erosion, lack of fertilization, and lack of cooperation in marketing. The federation encouraged farmers to standardize their breeds and seeds, producing “Federation potatoes” and the more-profitable Duroc-Jersey hogs. The Federation added five more warehouses in Buncombe and Henderson counties by the time of the 1924 exposition, and with the investments of Cornelia Vanderbilt and E.W. Grove, was able to pay consistent dividends to stockholders while boosting the livelihoods of local farmers.
The 1924 exposition, the largest ever attempted in WNC at that time, featured pure-bred hog sales, cattle judging, and several speakers touting new developments and practices in agriculture. The honor of the event also belonged to several women’s organizations which held millinery, canning, and various other demonstrations and competitions of skill. The exhibition showcased the potential and the progress of the Federation and other groups improving the lives of rural WNC residents.