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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles D. Thompson, October 15, 1990. Interview K-0810. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Good old boy network makes securing a loan difficult

Thompson decided that in order to stay in the farming business, farmers needed to turn to small farms. But his plan for a small farm, though extensively researched, met resistance from lenders. The lenders were accustomed to large scale loans, and Thompson suspected that, as members of the "good old boys system," they were reluctant to lend to a newcomer.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles D. Thompson, October 15, 1990. Interview K-0810. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I just wanted to figure out a way for me to farm in an alternative way that would allow me to, well, use another person's quote, actually is also Earl Parson "get big" or "get out." In another word, to expand or give to other person who wanted to expand?
JUN WANG:
But you don't like big farm, right?
CHARLES D. THOMPSON:
No, I didn't. These people were get out of business. If there is a way to make a living, is to the opposite, to get small and get in agriculture. The difficulty was that to persuade a lender to give you money to buy a farm on a small scales where the farm plan was to plant vegetables and fruits. The farm plan I worked out very well, using lots of different books. I continued to use that library. Because it moved to Chatham county. That library is not exist in Chatham now unfortunately. This is another story. SO I worked with those books and came out with a pretty good farm plan. Probably, it much better than anything I've seen. To say honestly. Because most farmers don't go through the experience as I am through college degree, humanity, my writing skill and all that were good. So I came up with this farm plan was very specific in terms of how many acres of each thing I was going to plant, I even did a marketing analysis showing that various restaurants would buy these things and I interviewed people and wrote down what they said. They thought they would like a farm to plant this and that. It was really a professional business plan. It's like writing a paper. SO I gave that to couple of banks. Actually I talked with several bankers. But they all said, "no, we don't do any farm loan any more. So I tried to convince them. But farmer's Administration is a Federal agency established to help minimum resource to beginning farmers. And that is its historical mandate from congress to serve the population, particularly the minority farmers. So when we started the hotline, and this different methods to help people in the community, one of the things we had to learn was the regulation about lenders. And the main one we were really getting a lot of information was called Farmers Home Administration. It's a Federal agency. Any agency in this country that supported by taxes should treat farmers fairly, giving them every benefit that possible. Knowing they experienced wide spread farmer crisis since 1930s the great depressions to 1980s, so we need understand these lenders. So we worked hard to learn about how to make the Farmer's Administration worked for farmers. We, I mainly, wrote a bunch of (pansolines?) so the farmers could read about their right as a borrower. What's the different kind of bankruptcy? Anyway, I learned a lot from this work and I knew how to get a beginning farmer loan.
JUN WANG:
Yes, you became an expert on this.
CHARLES D. THOMPSON:
Yes. So I used my own mouth to win a loan. I went to the local county committee. I gave application to the county director. He takes my farm plans and presented it to the county committee. There are three people in the committee, but none of them was farmer. They are just big business men. They all from Chatham. I can't remember their names. They were partly rural but basically do business. Actually we have worked hard to change the committee to have farmers in. And it changed since then. Now there is a law that there should be at least two full-time farmers in the committee. They are making loans. But there could be other problems such as jealousy. But it is still important that a farmer will know whether a bad harvest is due to the weather or the guy didn't try. Anyway, I applied but they said they are not going to give me any loan. There were two reasons: you don't have enough experience, and you know it's hard to show you have experience as a beginning farmer. Although I had my grandfather's farm, work experience, degrees, but they were still not sufficient experience. The other reason was that my farm plan was not a typical for the area. No one has ever done it, therefore it couldn't work. Well, it's such a bad logic. Because what everyone else was doing didn't work. And I appealed. I don't know if anybody appealed before. So I appealed and I went to the district director, appears one person, happened to be an African-American. Perhaps a little more sympathetic to the ideas of discrimination. Although I couldn't detect that, I just thought maybe it's a good thing to have an African-American to understand. He wouldn't be part of--- Do you know what I mean if I say the good old boys system? It's a slogan in the South. The good old boys are the powerful white guys like those own the county. And they aren't sophisticated in the rural. They may be farmers, or lawyers or doctors. But they tend to rule the county. It's a network. I guess there are these guys in every country. And they usually male. Who they know and whom they related get benefit and give the land and once come to politic, they get their people elected. You know this? Is this the same in China?
JUN WANG:
Yes, this kind of network is very popular in China
CHARLES D. THOMPSON:
Yea, this good old boys system keeps outsiders out, keep new ideas out. Keep minorities out. Maintain the old style. They don't get along with people like me. So I thought this African-American guy might not that part of the system, so might understand me.