The Princeton union. (Princeton, Minn.)  July 24, 1913,

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

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An Illiterate Alabama Negro’s Crop
Achievements Amaze Experts.
Sam McCall is an ex-slave, illiterate
and seventy-five years old, but he is
teaching the farmers of the world
some noteworthy lessons. He has won
fame by producing on his little farm
in central Alabama the largest amount
of cotton to the area ever grown in
the United States. This is one bale
to an eighth of an acre of land. The
importance of this achievement may
be understood when it is known that
the average yield for the United
States is only two-fifths of a bale for a
whole acre.
Sam McCall has developed a method
of cultivation on once worthless land
which is so successful that he thinks
nothing now of producing three and
one-half to four bales of cotton an
acre or eighty bushels of oats or corn.
The average in the southern states for
corn and oats runs fifteen to twenty
five bushels an acre.
When Sam was made free he bought
land to the amount of 160 acres. He
cultivated forty acres and the first
year made hardly enough to keep him
self. He concluded that with his limied
equipment and in view of the fact
that he was doing practically all his
own work it would be wise for him to
reduce the amount of land He grad
ually brought his cultivated farm down
to two acres and for twenty-two years
on this plot has spent all of his time
and energies in what farm experts call
one of the most interesting examples
of intensive farming carried on in the
United States
According to some who have gone to
Alabama to study his methods, the
reason for the ex-slave’s success in ag
riculture is due largely to the fact that
he has manufactured nitrogen in the
soil unknowingly by feeding the soil
bacteria with carbohydrates and cellu
lose, coming from the refuse of th
McCall’s land is part of an abandon
ed farm. Before he began to cultivate
it the soil was perhaps as bad as any
that can be found on any farm in the
southern states The former slave
knew nothing of scientific methods of
cultivation, but was a good observer.
He noticed white farmers in his sec
tion gathering leaves in the fall to
spread over their land to form humus
in the soil Sam never heard of the
word humus, but he concluded the
white farmers knew what they were
doing, and he followed suit He later
decided to use the refuse of all crops
as a natural fertilizer At the time he
began to cultivate his land commercial
fertilizers were little known, and the
ex-slave has never made use of them