Friday, July 1, 2016

Doc Grisso "Rancher and Conservationist"

This post continues the story of Doc Grisso as found in The Grisso Family book.

     Doc Grisso was  very interested in effective land conservation.  The land in the Seminole area had been terribly abused and misused.  Doc was instrumental in repairing some of the damage.

     Cotton, being the largest money crop, had been planted on the same land for so long that the soil just would not grow anything.  The discovery of oil had caused much land to be ruined by the drilling operations, and they had done nothing to build the land back up.  The result was massive erosion.

     Another damaging factor to the soils in the area was the startling ignorance of the farmers in regard to the use of land.  They grew the same crops on the same plot of land year after year; they failed to fertilize their land, and they knew little about the value of terracing the land to prevent erosion

     Doc along with several other concerned citizens, became alarmed about the situation..  It is interesting to note that he himself had to learn about better farming methods before he really did anything to help his community.

     Doc Grisso had a friend, Chester Ellis, who was responsible for instructing Doc about the newer and more modern methods of farming.  Mr. Ellis was president of the First State Bank in Seminole.  He was a farmer long before he came a banker, back in Tennessee where the land is precious indeed.  These mountain people had out of necessity learned how to preserve the land, which was carved out of the Tennessee mountains.  Mr. Ellis knew all these modern methods and pushed Doc in the right direction in regard to improving the lands in Seminole.

     With the coaching of Mr. Ellis the farm of Doc Grisso became a model for conservationists.  He had adapted terrace as a means of preventing erosion and was anxious for others to learn and use the method. He  felt so strongly that he backed several contests to see who could terrace the land the best way.  In March of 1930 it was announced at a farmers banquet in Wewoka at the Aldridge Hotel that he would offer $1000.00 in cash prizes in March of the next year to the persons who would terrace their lands most successfully.  There would be five prizes; first prize, $400.00; second prize, $250.00; third prize, $150.00; fourth prize, $125.00;
fifth prize, $75.00.  All of this money was to be paid in gold, and in those days those sums were considerable amounts of money.

     This was only one of many contests that Doc backed in the following years.  His interest in improved farms never waned.  He was constantly reading about ways to build up and conserve the land.  He was chairman of the Conservation District group for more than thirty years, and during the early thirties Seminole County had more miles of terracing than any other county in Oklahoma.

     Doc bought considerable land to improve so he could demonstrate what proper handling of the soil means in the production of field crops and pastures.  At his death he owned approximately 7,000 acres of land, into which large amounts of time, money, and effort had been poured.  As an Ada Newspaper put it, "If one wants to see some of the results of his work, he ought to compare the fields that Dr. Grisso rebuilt with the production on neighboring fields which did not get the treatment.  His ranch land was turned into "excellent pasture of both tame and native grasses".

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