The First "Essential" In Operation
TOWARD THE END of September the beautiful Parthenon on the Acropolis and St. George's chapel at the tip of Mount Lycabetus beckoned to us as we approached the now familiar city of Athens.
It was with somewhat different feelings, however, that we entered Greece on this occasion. It was no longer a passing adventure, for we had definitely committed ourselves to the new program and we were looking forward with eagerness to its development. I was well aware of all of the difficulties involved, but I knew also the challenging possibilities. The field was totally untouched. There were certain modern methods of rural reconstruction, which, if applied in Macedonia with the proper adaptation, would surely bring unusual results. Referring again to those old monthly reports I find in the summary for October 1929 the statement:
"This report marks the beginning of the second chapter of our Macedonian village program; or, perhaps more accurately stated, as the opening paragraph of Chapter I—with last year's activities considered in the nature of an Introduction. The latter point of view is more nearly the case, for our work last season was purely exploratory, entirely experimental. Whatever we were able to provide of definite instruction was, after all, merely a by-product. Our real purpose was to gain experience, acquire a knowledge of Macedonian village conditions, and to develop a workable plan, nicely adjusted to the existing situation. These objectives were attained, at least to a fair degree; and upon the foundation thus laid we are now attempting to construct a systematic program; one that will deal in an effective manner with the vital problems of these rural areas."
One of my first tasks was to transfer our headquarters from Athens to Salonica. This move was essential in order that we might be near the center of our activities. We could certainly no longer afford the time or the money in that extra travel from Athens to Macedonia. Furthermore, it was no longer necessary to camp on the doorstep of the Ministries at the Capitol. They were all well acquainted with our objectives, they were thoroughly in accord with what we were attempting to do, and they were quite ready to assist us on our way. It was now necessary merely to keep the authorities informed from time to time as to what we were doing. With my office in Salonica, and the use of a full-time secretary and interpreter together with the part-time services of several of the local relief workers, our administrative section was complete.
I decided that we would attempt, for this first year, an agricultural program in six areas of eastern Macedonia, selecting regions with which I was already familiar. To cover such a field we would need six men. Four candidates were discovered almost immediately. Demosthenes Economou indicated his interest in returning to the work on a more permanent basis and he suggested a former schoolmate by the name of Dionysios Tsonga. Dionysios was found to be eager to have such a job. It developed also that two Near East Relief orphans who had been given special scholarships for training at the Larissa secondary school of agriculture were now available for work. George Papadopoulos and Haralambos Petropoulos had recently completed their school training and they had undergone the required military service. George had had some experience with farmers while working for a brief period with the Refugee Settlement Commission. I needed workers and here was an opportunity to relate, in a rather interesting manner, the new educational venture the old relief program.
I turned to the tentative list of villages which had been worked out in the spring on the basis of observations made during the previous winter. These villages had now to be studied in detail. It was necessary to visit each district, note the distances between the various centers, and make certain rearrangements which would enable a man to cover, without too great a strain, those selected for his area. Such preliminary studies were at once made of four districts for the four men first engaged. Since Economou had already attempted certain activities in the Porroia section it was logical to return him to this region. It was necessary only to add six villages to the three he had covered the previous winter and to make the selections in such a manner as to provide a contiguous area. As the brief program previously conducted by Economou was somewhat similar to the plan we were now inaugurating, his section was used during the first few months as an observation and training ground for the newer employees. With barely three months of doubtful experience I was forced to consider Economou as a veteran in the service.
As each new man was taken on he spent a brief period of apprenticeship with this "experienced" leader. The arrangement proved to be as stimulating to Demosthenes as it was interesting to the new candidate. By the time this preliminary period of observation was at an end the new area was usually selected, the necessary surveys were completed, and all arrangements made for introducing the agriculturalist to his villages. Weekly report blanks appropriate to the various activities of the new program were prepared. Each man was also supplied with a letter of introduction and identification issued by the Director of Education for Macedonia and signed by the Governor-General. Thus my first young reformers started out with no lack of support from the Greek authorities.
In the midst of my struggles to get the new scheme under way Clayton Whipple arrived. Whipple was a welcome addition to my young and growing family. With the effort involved in conducting all work in two languages, not to mention the difficulties of transportation, an associate was urgently needed. Furthermore, Whipple had just the qualifications demanded at that time by our new venture. With his background of experience in vocational agriculture he was familiar with teaching methods, he had made farm and community surveys, and he knew how to develop a course of study or a program of work on the basis of information secured from such surveys. As a successful teacher in a rural section of New York State he had not confined his instruction to the class room, or even to the enrolled pupils of his vocational department, but he had done considerable work with the out-of-school youth, had promoted numerous community campaigns, and had conducted winter courses for the adult farmers of his locality. Whipple had been selected primarily on the basis of these special interests.
When undertaking pioneer educational and reconstruction work in the rural field abroad one cannot too strongly emphasize the importance of a proper combination of training and experience in the American supervision. One may easily secure an experienced extension leader or a trained teacher of vocational agriculture; but the ideal, generally speaking, is a combination of these two. To attempt agricultural instruction or rural ex tension with men who are trained only in subject matter is to ignore completely one highly important development which has taken place in America during the past twenty-five years.
With Whipple to share in the responsibilities I now could proceed much faster. We soon developed a technique for handling our most pressing affairs. Calling in our new men one by one from the Porroia district where we had placed them, Whipple would spend a few days with each individual discussing Macedonian conditions (and thereby gaining much useful information for himself), outlining a few of the more elementary principles of vocational teaching, and in other similar ways slighty preparing the young man for his new job. While this was going on, I would be in the field for one final survey of the area to which this chap was to be assigned. It was necessary to recheck the villages for specific information: Could the area tentatively selected really be covered by one man with a horse or his own legs as the only available means of transportation? What substitutions were necessary in order to effect a more suitable arrangement? Where could the agriculturist live? Would the local official agree to support such a worker? These, and others of a similar nature, were the questions that had to be answered. By the time this study was properly completed, Whipple was ready with his young apprentice who would be brought to his area, introduced to his villages, and hopefully assigned to his new tasks. This procedure would then be repeated with the next appointee.
By the end of December we had our four young men all properly installed. We needed two more. We had, as I have stated, set as our objective for this year a staff of six men in the field. Two new recruits were soon found. One of these was Haralambos Zoulamoglou of Drama. The activities of the Colonization Office of that place had already begun to diminish and as a result to release some of its temporary agriculturalists. Zoulamoglou was one of the younger men and therefore among the first to be eliminated. He was a graduate of a secondary school of agriculture, originally established by the Turkish government, near Salonica. This institution had been continued for some time by the Greek authorities after Macedonia was taken over from the-Turks, and then finally closed to be re-opened as an experiment station.
Zoulamoglou was well recommended. He had had considerable contact with Macedonian villages in his former work of dividing the lands, and he was not averse to engaging in a program of practical education for the common peasant. He also had a little farm of his own which he was working on the side with the help of his aging father. This he had acquired, as a refugee, in the normal distribution of Macedonian land and he was anxious to remain in the vicinity in order to supervise its developmen. Zoulamoglou was therefore engaged, put through the usual routine of preliminary training, and assigned to a group of small villages not far from his home town of Drama.
One final staff addition of the year represented an interesting-development as well as important official recognition of our pioneering effort. A permanent worker of the Ministry of Agriculture was officially assigned on full salary to be used in our program of village improvement. John Loucopoulos, graduate of Larissa, was one of those civil service employees of the Ministry of Agriculture who had been loaned to the Refugee Settlement Commission in its program of Colonization. With the reduction of these activities he was returned to the Ministry. Loucopoulos happened to be one of the several agriculturalists whom I had used on a part-time basis during the previous winter. He was one of the few who seemed to have the qualities that appeared to be necessary for that kind of work. In the meantime he had received his transfer to the Ministry and had been assigned to a post in southern Greece.
This important cooperative relationship with the government was not accomplished overnight or without considerable effort. The question had been raised with the Director of Agriculture for Macedonia who promised his support of such an arrangement. Negotiations were then entered into with the Ministry at Athens and the matter finally settled to our complete satisfaction.
It was an unusual step for the government to take in behalf of a foreign organization, and it represented an important recognition of our work. Loucopoulos was assigned to the district office at Serres with instructions to the director that he be reassigned to us. To avoid complications it seemed best to use Loucopoulos in this same administrative district, although this was not our original intention. He was, therefore, placed in a group of farm villages at the foot of the Pangaion mountains.
Loucopoulos eventually became one of our most valued leaders. He profited by the in-service training which we regularly provided and he did excellent work for his people. But his professional ambition, combined with his untiring efforts, proved eventually to be his undoing. Although extra remuneration was provided to supplement his meager government salary, Loucopoulos sacrificed on his food and his personal needs to save for further education. Moreover, he used his vacation periods not for well-earned rest and recreation, but to prepare for entering the College of Agriculture. As a consequence he suddenly succumbed, three years later, to a malignant form of tuberculosis. He died within a few weeks in spite of everything we could do to save him. In fact it was obvious from the very beginning of his attack that there was little hope of recovery. This was not our first tragedy but it was one of the most unfortunate. An understanding and intelligent worker was lost to the cause of rural improvement in Macedonia.
With all of the field men properly installed we faced the problem of the procedure to be followed in carrying out their daily routine. Careful thought had been given to this matter from the day the first man was assigned to his task. It will be recalled that each leader was required to serve three villages at one time. He was able, therefore, to devote two working days every week to each rural center. A schedule was filed in our office indicating just where each worker made his home and in what village he should be found on any day of the week. It was expected that after about two months these inexperienced and inadequately trained instructors would exhaust their resources, for the time being at least. They would then be transferred to the adjacent group of three villages. At the end of another period of the same length the leader would again be shifted to a third section. In order to maintain contacts with all of the villages throughout the whole six months (from November to April) arrangements were made for periodic visits to previous groups with each succeeding transfer. Thus would a worker be kept busy during the winter period of instruction.
When the time arrived for the first shift it was already apparent that this scheme needed to be modified. The best men had dug in so rapidly and had found so many opportunities for service that it was evident they could really busy themselves quite efficiently with only three villages. The poorer men soon exhausted what few resources they possessed and were quite ready for a transfer. We arrived at the unique conclusion that the better the man the fewer villages he needed. As a compromise it was decided to reduce the number of centers per man from nine to six and increase the period of time spent in each section to three months. Thus during the winter season only one shift would be effected. In the follow-up program of the summer no such division in the area was made. With slight modifications in the manner of covering the six villages this area was found, with experience, to be the most efficient unit in Macedonia for this type of work.
In each village the leader was expected to devote at least one period per week to the school: teaching a class of youngsters, if requested; helping to develop the school garden; sometimes conducting the children on an excursion. Apart from any thing that our men might provide in the way of worthwhile instruction these were welcome releases for the average teacher who had under his charge anywhere from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty small children. Is it any wonder that these rural school masters were always harassed, were sometimes uncooperative, and not infrequently jealous of the results secured by other workers who did not have to carry such nerve-racking responsibilities?
In addition to this working relationship with the rural school, groups of young men were enrolled for winter courses and evening gatherings with adult farmers were conducted. The meeting place for these various groups might be the local school, or the village coffee house, or even the public square. The program as originally outlined was somewhat over-standardized, with the emphasis upon the means rather than the end. At this stage we ourselves were not certain as to the best procedure. We were determined however that our itinerant instructors should have a definite program and that they should follow this quite religiously.
It was immediately evident (or perhaps I had learned this from the previous year) that some of our men were not too systematic. A day or an hour set for a meeting was not always adhered to with real care. Gradually, however, we succeeded in injecting some system into the work. Supervisory visits were never announced in advance. We would drop in on an area any day, or at any hour of the day, and go directly to the village indicated on the schedule. If the leader were not in his appointed place the burden of proof was on him to explain the reason. Such thoroughness on the part of a supervisor in following up field activities was a little unusual in this part of the world, and it had its effects. But as the men began to develop a greater appreciation of system in their work and to value our frequent counsel, visits to the field became more truly supervisory in nature and less inspectorial.
The agricultural program, which soon developed, might be summarized as somewhat similar to that of a rural high school vocational teacher devoting his entire attention to part-time and evening instruction, with the necessary follow-up. This was obviously putting the emphasis where it might very frequently, and with profitable results, be placed here in the States.
One of our important problems in the beginning was that of providing our men with suitable portable equipment adapted to this type of itinerant teaching. Equipment at that time was, in some respects, much more important than later. In a few years the men became so steeped in the problems of their areas, so filled with the facts and the figures of hundreds of surveys, and so concerned with the long-time objectives they were attempting to achieve, that each leader carried within himself most of the equipment that he needed. Such was certainly not the case, however, in those early days.
The men needed charts and pictures and pamphlets and books. They needed simple instruments with which to prune vines and inoculate poultry. In America one could formerly almost equip a vocational department with samples of fertilizers, educational charts, and even certain instruments from the donations of commercial companies. This was not possible in Greece. But some assistance we could give. We discovered, for instance, that the Hellenic Agricultural Society located in Athens issued a few popular leaflets written in simple language. This was something which, surprisingly enough, had never been attempted by the agricultural college. The Hellenic Society had taken certain educational charts, sent out by Germany, and readapted these in language and in form to meet the requirements of the Greek farmer. A few materials of this kind served our purpose in the beginning.
There was need also for a limited number of instruments, pruning shears, saws, budding knives, syringes, grafting material, and the like, with which to demonstrate certain practices to the farmer, or render on occasion important emergency services. Then, too, the men, acting upon our advice, were attempting simple demonstrations in natural science for their lessons in the village schools. For this work they had to have a few pieces of apparatus. To solve this problem we developed a portable laboratory case. It contained an alcohol burner, glass and rubber tubing, corks, funnels, certain chemicals, and a few instruments—all neatly arranged so that one small box was able to accommodate a surprising number of articles. An Agricultural agent going about with this case not only had readily at hand the things that he needed, but the psychological effect upon the peasant proved to be of some importance in this pioneering stage.
There was one other bit of equipment which was slightly unusual for an agricultural worker. One or two of our young men were athletically inclined and they soon made a special place for themselves with the youth of their villages. It became immediately evident to us from this that we had a serious responsibility in this direction. With the economic level so low and existence so drab we could not turn our backs on the need of enlivening recreation. It seemed to us, as we considered it, that these young leaders of ours, even though they were primarily agriculturalists, should be expected to capitalize on their own youth and their knowledge of organized play to bring something in the way of games and recreation to these play-hungry children. And so footballs and volley balls soon found an important place in the field supplies that were issued.
As rapidly as possible we attempted to educate ourselves and our men in regard to the fundamental needs of these Macedonian farmers. Our own knowledge was pretty superficial. With our field workers the situation was little better. We faced the long and tedious process of securing accurate information which would enable us to build a sound program. Surveys of every village were made. In the beginning these were chiefly of a general nature, including those items of information which would give us a fair picture of the social and economic conditions prevailing and the farm resources available in every center.
In addition to the surveys each man was required to select one enterprise for special study. In developing this professional improvement activity we attempted an adaptation of the "job analysis" method. After selecting an enterprise for special consideration each individual was expected to outline the farm jobs that made up this enterprise. He was then required to summarize in some detail the common practice of the peasants in regard to these jobs. Finally, he worked out, for each practice, a few improvements that might be considered as being within the limited means of the average farmer. This latter section of the study formed the basis of the instruction provided.
It must not be forgotten that the idea of an itinerant instructor or extension agent working directly with the farmer was quite new in this country. Such a thing had never before been attempted in Greece. It is not surprising, therefore, that there was no common knowledge relating to this philosophy of education or the methods and techniques of rural extension. Nor were our men well grounded in subject matter. As to teaching methods they knew nothing at all. Therefore, we began at once to provide such assistance as we could along this line to field agents. During visits they were always given a few suggestions in regard to their teaching procedure, their relations with the farmers, their approach to community problems, and even their dress. A few of the men picked up some of these ideas very rapidly. Others seemed to lack altogether any ability to transfer such limited knowledge as they may have had to the farmers or the boys with whom they came in daily contact.
Gradually these Macedonian farmers became accustomed to the idea of a trained agriculturalist facing the hardships of village life and taking an interest in their daily problems. Their acquaintance had been limited to government agents who divided their lands, or settled their disputes, and who frequently drove hard bargains with them. They had known a few "experts" who had driven out from the central office in cars or good carriages to provide wordy advice. Hearing this counsel caused the old peasant to smile.
With the arrival of our men to eat and to sleep and to live in their midst they had been somewhat surprised, but they were still skeptical. They were polite and hospitable, but their suspicion, for the most part, remained. Perhaps they were still wiser than I was, for later events proved that most of our own men were not too practical. A few, however, found points of contact on which they were quick to capitalize for the benefit of their people. Service types of work are frequently profitable points of departure and often provide the entering wedge through which more permanent contributions can be made. This was the case with some of our better representatives. They found ample opportunity to make spray mixtures, inoculate poultry, test soil for lime (not acidity in this region) and prune trees. One or two had some knowledge of veterinary science, and a scrubby old cow saved from bloat meant the permanent friendship of its owner.
Very early in his service Demosthenes Economou discovered one or two unusual opportunities for worth-while activities. As already indicated he was located on the side of a mountain near the Bulgarian frontier. This was a military zone and the average traveler was required to have a special passport to go through this region. However, we were given permission without question to work in this area and to go and come at will. In this locality there were several army posts. Here soldiers were stationed for frontier service and many young privates undergoing their military training were from this region. Economou became acquainted with the commander of one post who requested him to give lessons to the soldiers under his command. As most of the privates were farm boys from various parts of Greece, it seemed an excellent opportunity to spread useful agricultural knowledge. Consequently Economou readily agreed to the idea, or perhaps it was he who suggested the plan in the first place. At any rate it was not long before a regular course of farm training was under way at the military post of Platanakia. As one means of translating the instruction into actual practice a sizeable garden was made and the soldiers were soon growing an abundant supply of vegetables for their own use.
Later on I discovered that Demosthenes was conducting a similar course at a post adjacent to, but outside, his area. It seemed to me that he was spreading out a little too thin, and so I endeavored to call a halt. I suggested to Economou that his final achievements would be much greater if he stuck to his schedule and did a few things well. In making this ruling, however, I had not reckoned with the military commander. He wrote to me immediately and indicated his personal interest in this work. He outlined the importance of such instruction for the young soldiers of this camp who came from backward farm homes. Naturally I agreed that if this activity were as important as indicated it could certainly continue. The orders which immediately went out to all of the posts of this camp give some indication as to the value attributed by the commander to this training and his determination to make the most of it:
The Third and Fourth Companies
On each Saturday and Sunday, from 10:30 to 12 :00 a.m. the agriculturist, Mr. D. Economou, agrees to give lessons on farming at the quarters of the fourth company.
For this reason I request that from the 8th of December the personnel selected to represent both companies at the lesson to be given, report at the quarters of the fourth company from 10:30 to noon, when they will return to their places again.
Those of the soldiers found at the quarters of the fourth company will follow the lessons regularly while several officers appointed for the special purpose will repeat the lesson material to the men of the third company who cannot be present, and to the division at Akritohori. Therefore, officers must keep notes of what is taught.
The fourth company will report to me every Saturday by telegraph a confirmation of the presence of the appointed soldiers.
Rhodopolis November 11
Major A. N. Bourdaras Commanding Officer Belles Section
Copy to: Mr. Economou
Before the rush of spring farm work came upon us, necessitating the elimination of all group instruction and public meetings, certain minimum requirements were worked out as a guide for the summer program. These special projects were held down to a comparatively small number to enable our men to have a standard quite easy of attainment for this first season. Although several of the workers began their activities very late in the year and consequently did not have much time in which to develop a program for summer follow-up, all but one or two did surprisingly well.
The standard decided upon for this first season provided that each leader should have, for his six villages, at least eighteen home projects with older school boys and young men; six "cooperating" farmers—key men, only one in each village—who were interested in receiving continuous assistance in at least one important farm enterprise; and six school gardens, or the equivalent in municipal or military plots. These, with the miscellaneous calls for advice and assistance, were modest requirements ; but we preferred our beginning to be made slowly, if this would help, as it should, to ensure a sound approach.
Our actual accomplishments, this first season, were not too disappointing. Eliminating our friend Dionysios, who was an excellent farmer but a poor organizer, the other five men achieved an average of sixteen home projects, eleven cooperating farmers, and six public gardens. The practicing farmer had responded much better than we anticipated; the village boy not quite so well. These special activities might be said to be roughly equivalent to the summer program of a rural high school department of vocational agriculture. Considering the difficulty of getting about and the newness of the work, it represented a fair task for this season. At least these activities would provide suitable avenues of approach, and as a result the instruction of the following winter would no doubt be much more practical and the activities of the next summer considerably greater.
Taking the year's achievements as a whole the results were encouraging to us. These itinerant leaders had traveled a total of 10,410 kilometers, from November 1929 to November 1930, of which 5,578 had been on foot. In spite of a late start, the interruption of a spring conference, and a summer training course, the men had accomplished a good deal. They had conducted five hundred and twenty-three regular meetings with an average enrollment of thirty-six. Two hundred and forty-six special meetings had been organized with an average attendance of fourteen. They had taught two hundred and fifty lessons to school children. Two thousand and thirty-five follow-up visits had been made to home projects, cooperating farmers, school gardens, and individuals desiring special assistance. How much of this activity could be said to have been translated into changed practices was another question. But at least our men had been busy and if they could keep up this pace a permanent impression would eventually be made.
The need of certain changes in our staff was apparent by the end of the first year. Dionysios Tsongas was plainly unsuited to the work in personality and in organizing ability, even though he was admittedly one of our men best posted on questions of practical farming. George Papadopoulos, who had always been known to be none too strong as an orphan and who had once had a serious case of pleurisy, developed tuberculosis and had to be sent to a sanatorium. Of the remaining four, one or two would develop, with training and experience, into strong leaders and one or two might or might not. It was decided that we would expand our field to include nine areas or fifty-four villages, and thus we would need three new men in addition to the two replacements required at the end of the first year. This was additional staff for us to secure but we had made certain contacts during the year which should result in bringing forth somewhat better material.
Basil Moussouros had completed his year of post-graduate training in rural education after making a fine record at Cornell University. With his return to Greece in the fall of 1930 arrangements were completed with the Ministry of Agriculture by which he was assigned to us on full salary to assist in supervising our agricultural work and to serve as the government representative w this developing program. With a trained Greek specialist in rural education to assist in the work it would, henceforth, be much easier to get over our ideas than was the case when we used ordinary interpreters, however good they might be.
Our first systematic approach to the Macedonian rural problem was at last under way. And the future of this project seemed well assured. This assurance was derived not entirely from our own success of the year. There was another event which was an even more important factor in this connection. It had been definitely decided in New York to eliminate Near East Relief, and its liquidation on the foreign field had been rapidly proceeding. In its place had been chartered, during this year, a new corporation known as Near East Foundation. We were now operating directly under the Foundation.
This organization was not concerned in any way with relief. It would specialize in practical forms of education and reconstruction and concentrate chiefly on rural problems. A few worth-while projects of Near East Relief were being taken over, reorganized, and placed on a sound educational basis. Requests were coming in from all parts of the Near East to assist in making educational demonstrations in this field and that. These countries were crying for leadership in the field of vocational education and extension. Our executive officers in New York were busy considering these various possibilities and many schemes were advanced regarding work that might be under taken.
Great pressure was exerted to induce us immediately to expand our Macedonian project into a fully rounded program. Obviously we lacked the experience and the ground work to do this in any very rapid manner and still maintain a sound approach, and so I developed a veritable passion for putting on the brakes. Delays, excuses, alibis were constantly advanced for not attempting this addition or that until our headquarters office became quite exasperated. But I knew from experience in the Near East and elsewhere that if we could be left to proceed slowly and build soundly we would eventually have at least one program which might serve as a model for all others.
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