NEW YORK (Mar. 3)
Progress in the Jewish back-to-the-farm movement in 1936, despite new problems raised by the arrival of increasing numbers of German refugees, was reported today by Gabriel Davidson, general manager of the Jewish Agricultural Society.
In the annual report to the Society’s officers and members, benefits to Jewish farmers from general agricultural improvement are cited, as well as the Society’s record in granting 11,997 farm loans aggregating $7,392,000 to Jewish farmers in 40 states and helping them with information.
The Jewish farm population today approximates 100,000, the report says Last year 756 persons sought advice on settling on farms, and 41 families were placed with an average capital of $2,700 on farms costing $5,200 on the average. Regret was expressed at the small number of new settlers.
The report recalled the Society’s pioneer work in the establishment of secondary mortgage loans and farm cooperatives, adding that “there is no intention to claim that the activities here set forth served as patterns” for other agencies, but that in settling urbanized people “it was imperative to strike out boldly along new or little travelled roads.”
“There is no ground for the assumption that Jews who possess the necessary qualifications, physical and temperamental, and who have the required capital, will not make their way on farms,” the report says. “The danger is that, in the absence of a directing hand, farm buyers will make hit-and-miss selections, or fall into the clutches of grasping land developers or dishonest real estate agents.”
Discussing the aid to German refugees, the report says that “the rigid restriction against the transfer of funds from Germany seriously complicates the problem of settlement.” However, the Society sought to arrange exchange of land owned by Germans here for that of Jews in the Reich.
“In our work with German refugees we are confronted with a new set of problems and are doing our best to meet them,” the report said. “As yet achievement has, because of the inherent difficulties, been meager. But we regard the experience we are gaining as a preparation for the task that lies ahead.”
A hundred per cent of those settled on farms in 1936 are still there, it was reported, with the five-year average 88 per cent. The causes of defection were given as sickness and death, maladjustment, insufficient capital and partnership dissension.
During the year the Society received 540 loan applications aggregating $411,614 from farmers in 15 states. Of these, 268 were granted, totaling $116,801. In addition, other mortgages were extended.
The Society’s Farm Employment Department placed 185 young men and two young women, bringing the total placements to 18,089. Positions were found for eleven German refugees. “We look for a growing number of applicants from among these unfortunate exiles,” the report said.
Other activities included the Agricultural Education and Extension Department, whose staff made 3,000 farm visits during the year, publication of The Jewish Farmer, only agricultural magazine of its kind in America, and the Rural Sanitation Department.