I. Agriculture and Livestock

Agriculture
An Agricultural Report was given once or twice a week at Rally meetings. Everyone was kept informed on what was happening, and ideas and expertise were solicited from the whole community. Farm produce reports gave a sense of what crops were being grown, which would be available for kitchen use, what the anticipated dates of harvest were, etc. Among the crops were:

  • leafy vegetables (greens, wild greens, eddoes, deer callaloo, sorrel, bok choy, mustard greens)
  • root vegetables (radishes, sweet potatoes, eddoes, peanuts)
  • beans (kidney beans, mung beans)
  • fruits (watermelon, papaya, mangoes, pineapple, bananas)
  • other garden vegetables (squash, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, pumpkin)
  • rice

People discussed in the Roller Journals (January 78 to August 78) who worked in Agriculture are listed below:

 

Agricultural Office from Roller Journals 2/78-8/78
COORDINATORS:
Jim Morrell (Bogue)
Jack Beam
James “Reb” Edwards
Darrell Devers
 
AGRONOMY
Russell Moton
 
INSECTICIDES and CHEMICALS
Ernestine Blair
Mike Lund (Rozynko)
Becky Flowers
 
CULTIVATION
Philip Blakey
 
SAFETY STEWARD
Danny Kutulas
 
Processing
Cassava Mill:

Mary Wotherspoon
 
Rice Mill:
[being purchased]
CROPS
Fields
(Cassava, Rice, Sweet Potato, Eddoes, Pineapple)
Jan Wilsey
 
Bananas:
Danny Kutulas
Anthony Ford
 
Peanuts, & Sorrel:
Jack Barron
 
Nursery & Citrus:
Gene Chaikin
 
Vegetable Gardens:
Jim Simpson
Shirley Smith
Frances Buckley
 
Herb Gardens:
Shirley Fields
Earnestine March
 
Senior Garden:
Selika Bordenave
 
Children’s Gardens:
Frances Buckley
ANIMALS
Chickery:
Rob Gieg
Tommy Keaton
 
Dairy Cows:
Jim Morrell (Bogue)
Marshall Farris
 
Piggery:
Wanda Swinney
Guy Mitchell
 
Small Animals/Veterinary:
Selika Bordenave
Christine Talley
Edie Kutulas
 

 

 

Assembled from lists and records found in the FBI documents, the jobs and workers listed in the Agricultural department are in this pdf file:
Agricultural Department Jobs and Personnel Listing

From the July 1978 request to list Department jobs and workers comes this list:
1. Ag Personnel

Partial summary of pdf above:

Agricultural Department Personnel

Title Name
Farm Manager

Asst. Manager

Jack Beam

Darrell Devers

Secretary Carolyn Kirkendall (Thomas)
Bookkeeper, Radio Jessie McNeal, Carol Dennis (McCoy)
Lab Tech Becky Flowers
Agronomist Russell Moton
Analysts: Jan Wilsey, Gene Chaikin, Russell Moton,
Becky Flowers, Jim Simpson, Rob Gieg, Phillip Blakey, Harold Bogue
Accounting Tish Leroy
Floating Inspectors Jan Wilsey, Gene Chaikin, Jim Morrell
(Bogue), Jose Simon
Nursery Gene Chaikin
Intensive Agriculture Jan Wilsey, Gene Chaikin, Jim Simpson,
Hue Fortson
Orchards Glenda Polite (supervisor), Vern Gosney,
Betty Moore
Heavy Equipment Phillip Blakey, David George, Al Simon
Bananas Danny Kutulas (supervisor), Lucioes
Bryant, Sharon Kislingbury, Gary Tyler
Insecticide Control Russell Moton (supervisor), Ernestine
Blair (asst.)
Large Animals Guy Mitchell (supervisor), Wanda
Swinney, Walter Cartmell
Small Animals Rob Gieg (supervisor), Tommy Keaton,
Anthony Simon, Christine Talley
Inventory Jerry Parks, Odell Blackwell
Wood Crew Gerald Johnson (supervisor)
Land Clearing Mike Touchette (supervisor), Emmitt
Griffith, Stephan Jones, Al Simon
Food Vacuum Store Ron Talley (supervisor), Herbert Newell
Herbal Garden/Kitchen Russell Moton (supervisor), John Harris,
Fannie Jordan, Earnestine March, Kevin “Freeze Dry” Smith
Field Work Supers Jocelyn Carter, Tanya Cox, Shirley
Smith, Teena Turner (Bogue)

Some of the notes from Roller with
Agricultural Reports can be found:

Dates = Agricultural Reports (46) chronicled in Roller Journals

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Aug

Tue
31

Sat
4

Wed
1

Sat
1

Tue
2

Sun
4

Fri
4

Tue
7

Sat
4

Sun
2

Sat
6

Fri
9

Tue
8

Sat
11

Tue
7

Thu
6

Mon
15

Tue
13

Sat
19

Tue14

Fri
10

Sat
8

Sat
20

Sat
17

Tue
29

Sat
18

Tue14

Mon
17

Tue
23

Tue
20

Tue
21

Fri
17

Thu
20

Sat
27

Mon
26

Sun
26

Sun
19

Sat
22

Tue
30

Mon
27

Tue
21

Tue
25

Wed
22

Fri
28

Mon
27

Minutes and notes kept by Rally and Committee Secretaries cover some periods missing in the Roller Journals, specifically: July 78, September 78 and November 78. Because Agricultural Reports were part of the Peoples Forum (Rally) meetings, the Ag Reports and Rally minutes are intermixed. Comparing the Ag-Rally Meeting Notes [by Rally Secretaries] to Edith Roller’s notes could prove interesting.

For most all Adobe Reader pdfs in Jonestown Research:

(1) Page numbers contain the FBI FOIA CD source: CD#-Volume-pages, should you wish to look it up. That is, the page numbering carries the CD source details.(2) Bookmarks contain the RYMUR FBI HQ archive numbers for each section.
(3) Bookmarks give titles and dates of subsections in pdf files.

2. June Ag Reports, Ag Analysts Reports & Rally Reports
(includes 5 yr Swine Report & Chaikin’s Citrus Development Plans)
3. July Ag Reports, Ag Analysts Reports & Rally Reports
4. Planting Schedules & Projected Yields: July 78-Jan79
5. August Ag Reports, Ag Analysts Reports & Rally Reports
6. September Ag Reports, Ag Analysts Reports & Rally Reports
7. November Ag Products Report

The Temple’s Guyanese Articles of Association and the Land Lease had a purpose which served Peoples Temple (to provide means through which to sustain the community) as well as the government’s need to set up a demonstration farming project, to develop the Northwest region: more inhabitants, more farming, more industry. Though there was much mineral wealth, the land was considered “marginal” agricultural land, rather than “prime” – good for cassava, tropical fruits, and native plants, but largely untested and unproven for other crops. Everything Peoples Temple built in agriculture was with the help of the local native peoples and Governmental Agricultural agencies, which offered advice on how things were done in the fragile jungle ecology. Peoples Temple was also helping to explore and open agricultural possibilities.

Topsoil in the rainforest is negligible. Topsoil usually develops from a slow breakdown and accumulation of organic waste (leaves, trees, twigs, bark, etc) mixing with the clay and sand to make it more crumbly and “rich” in organic nutrients for growing plants.  In the jungle where temperature and humidity are high most of the year, organic breakdown is very rapid. As a result, jungle topsoil is at most a few inches deep (compared to several feet in temperate climate). And, unless one is careful, tropical rains will wash most of the topsoil away from “open fields” of crops.

The agriculture of the local Amerindian population was “slash and burn.” A family would settle somewhere, work an area for several years and then move on to another, beginning the process in a new area, as the old area grew back.

The Temple tried to find what could be adapted, what could be added to, what could be brought in, and what industries might be developed. In the first years of development, Peoples Temple employed a Guyanese work crew of planting and development of about 30-50 people to work and teach their tropical agricultural skills to Jonestown’s pioneers. Some of the worker leaders, such as a man named Jupiter, are referred to in Roller’s journals and other records.

8. Peoples Temple Paylist for Fortnight Ending May 8, 1976

The first task of the work crews, of course, was the clear the land of jungle. After clearing an area, stumps and trees were gathered along a windrow in a field and burned. Bananas were fairly easily grown in the potash of the ashes from the burn feeding the plants. By 1977, the nascent community was selling bananas to the Guyanese Defense Force at Matthews Ridge.

One of Jonestown’s first priorities was to establish vegetable gardens to feed its small workforce and to prepare for the anticipated immigration. Rows and sections of raised earth were developed with the addition of fertilizer and organic wastes. Workers secured several boatloads of shell pieces – a shell-gravel – from shell reefs and beaches along the Guyana coast and added it to the soil to sweeten (lower the acidity) the soil, making it better for the vegetable crops familiar to North Americans. Okra grew well, as did eggplant and squash.

Local Crops: Eddoes and Cassava
Some tropical tubers such as eddoes (a cousin to Hawaiian poi) grew well in wet areas. The plant served a dual purpose, in that the community could use tubers as well as the greens.

Cassava grew almost anywhere, and as the main road in was fully cleared along the sides – it had to be cleared by about 50 feet on either side – cassava was planted there. The process was simple. You took an 18-inch piece of cassava stalk, made a hole with a stick, and planted the stalk into the ground. When it was ready, you would dig it up, and process the clump of tuberous roots, grating them, pressing the starch out of them and making bread and flour from the gratings. The three- to five-foot stalks were cut into 18-inch segments, and the process started over.

There are several types of cassava – sweet cassava, bitter cassava – with varied uses. Tapioca comes from the starchy cassava juice. One kind can be used for animal feeds and another can be used for making bread. Today one of Guyana’s largest agricultural crops is cassava.

9. Uses of Cassava

The pioneers and Guyanese workers planted many acres of citrus and coffee. Some of the citrus was beginning to bear fruit, as was the papaya, pineapple and more. Sweet potato seemed to be a good crop and was into its third season in November 1978. Rice was far enough along – into its second crop – that the community had just purchased a rice mill.

Livestock
In addition to crops, Jonestown had done much work in raising animals as well. As early as 1974, the first “flat boxes” of baby chicks were flown in through Matthews Ridge. Anthony Simon was one of the first who worked with the “Chickery” as it was called. From some of the aerial photos, there seem to have been seven or eight buildings of chickens. The chickens gave eggs and eventually were slaughtered for their meat. Egg production reports showed about 167 dozen eggs per week, as reported in tape transcript from January 1978.

 Tape Q 240 Transcript from January 19, 1978 Rally with Agricultural Report

The community had more difficulty with pigs, which seemed to have more problems in surviving in the jungle. Just as the pigs seemed to get going, many would die. There were several steers, cows and horses, and livestock managers had also started raising rabbits as well. The animals were all housed about two miles from the central area of Jonestown.

10. Five Year Swine Plan

– Don Beck

 

Last modified on January 28th, 2014.
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