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  1. #1
    Elite Member smstonypoint's Avatar
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    Default South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    I enjoy reading about farming in the "good old days." I recently stumbled upon this reminiscence of a gentleman who grew up on a tobacco farm in South Georgia: South Georgia Tobacco Patch. It makes for an interesting read.

    I didn't grow up on a tobacco farm. What little I know about tobacco production comes from my reading and conversations with former students and friends/colleagues who grew up on tobacco farms. I did learn something about tobacco marketing from working on a research contract with colleagues who were tobacco marketing specialists. By the time of the project, most of the tobacco was marketed under contract, with the balance being sold via electronic Dutch auction. I regret having never attended tobacco sales under open outcry.

    I found the author's conclusion particularly apt.

    Growing up on a farm is a privilege. Few live as many rich diverse experiences that help you appreciate life. As a kid complaining about getting up before dawn to "take out" a barn of tobacco, I never dreamed I was learning discipline and responsibility. While sticky and sweaty, cropping up and down tobacco rows, perseverance never crossed my mind. When hanging sticks in the barn, I never realized that I was learning to be a team player. Developing do-it-yourself skills was the last thing on my mind, when I was helping build sleds. When just walking round the farm, "green space" didn't mean what it does now. Farming builds character, and farmers are tough and enduring creatures.

    Having grown up on a dairy farm, I can substitute my chores for those listed by the author. The "life lessons" are the same.

    Steve

  2. #2
    Super Member 2LaneCruzer's Avatar
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Anyone who can stomp barefoot through a patch of stinging nettles is a man to be reckoned with! Those folks ate well, too...my kind of food.
    Have Wings, Will Travel.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    I read the entire article and thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a tobacco allotment of 4 acres when I was growing up. I will always remember hanging the tobacco in the barn. I learned from experience not to wipe my sweat off my forehead with my arms or hands and use a rag that I kept secure in my overall's pockets. Thanks again for posting. I relived some memories.
    The PUPIL who does not surpass his Master, fails his Master.

  4. #4
    Super Star Member dave1949's Avatar
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    That's a real slice of Americana, thanks for sharing it.
    Never having lived in the South, I had no idea about tobacco curing or cooking, the time and skill needed. I knew they hung it barns or sheds, but thought it just dried on its own.
    "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end ..."
    When there is a huge solar energy spill, it is called a "nice day"!

  5. #5
    Elite Member smstonypoint's Avatar
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Dave,

    The author is describing flue-cured tobacco production. Burley tobacco, grown mainly in KY and NC, is air-cured. There's also fire-cured tobacco, grown in TN and KY.

    They still produce some shade tobacco in Connecticut, not too far from your neck of the woods. I understand that it is air-cured.

    Steve

  6. #6
    Super Star Member dave1949's Avatar
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Quote Originally Posted by smstonypoint View Post
    Dave,

    The author is describing flue-cured tobacco production. Burley tobacco, grown mainly in KY and NC, is air-cured. There's also fire-cured tobacco, grown in TN and KY.

    They still produce some shade tobacco in Connecticut, not too far from your neck of the woods. I understand that it is air-cured.

    Steve
    I see. I always thought tobacco would have a long "days to maturity." Looking around, I see that 90 days from germination is possible.
    Grow -Tobacco Seeds - Blackbird Naturals

    I have heard of a few folks up here growing tobacco for personal use, maybe they dry it over their wood stoves
    We can usually count on 120 days of frost free weather, but they aren't all good growing days. This summer, the first three weeks of June were wet and cool which slowed soil temperatures considerably. My green beans looked like they wanted to crawl back into the ground. A lot of them rotted off at the top of sprout, Had to replant.
    "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end ..."
    When there is a huge solar energy spill, it is called a "nice day"!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Quote Originally Posted by smstonypoint View Post
    ...
    The author is describing flue-cured tobacco production. Burley tobacco, grown mainly in KY and NC, is air-cured. There's also fire-cured tobacco, grown in TN and KY.

    ..
    I think most NC tobacco is flue dried. When I lived in KY all of the tobacco barns I saw were to air dry. In my area of NC the tobacco barns are MUCH smaller than what was in KY and are/where used to flue dry. Course most of the old barns were wood construction with wood or metal siding. Though some farmers had kilns which look like shipping boxes. I know one ex farm that still has the kilns. He stopped growing years ago when the quota system ended. He still heavily plows the land every year for some reason. I guess he plows out of habit. Lately he has been having HUGE amounts of soil put on his land. I guess someone is paying him to store dirt. Years ago they brought huge amounts of wood chips. They did it again this year as well. I guess he can make more money storing dirt and wood chips than from farming now that tobacco is gone.

    They are storing dirt on one parcel now that ticks me off. There is a large flock of turkeys in that field most evenings that I like to see but the activity has scared them off. I have never seen that many turkeys before.

    He still has the kiln's and I wonder if they would make good storage "barns" for stuff, would he sell and for how much. One morning I might stop and ask.

    Later,
    Dan

  8. #8
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Quote Originally Posted by creekbend View Post
    I read the entire article and thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a tobacco allotment of 4 acres when I was growing up. I will always remember hanging the tobacco in the barn. I learned from experience not to wipe my sweat off my forehead with my arms or hands and use a rag that I kept secure in my overall's pockets. Thanks again for posting. I relived some memories.
    I worked one fall stacking tobacco in a barn for air drying. This was back in KY and the farmer was one of my high school teachers. He would hire 11th and 12th graders to stack the tobacco after he and his father put the leaves on the sticks. I questioned my sanity climbing a couple stories in a barn, to balance on a 2x4, though it seemed like the wood was more like a 2x3, while we passed heavy bundles of tobacco up into the barn. I learned I would rather climb to the top of the barn to stack than be looking up to pass the tobacco. At least at the top, the tobacco was not falling down your neck, back and into your eyes. Figured I was in trouble if I fell from any point except the first six feet or so, so I might as well be the guy at the top stacking to avoid most of the dust.

    Later,
    Dan

  9. #9
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Quote Originally Posted by dmccarty View Post
    I worked one fall stacking tobacco in a barn for air drying. This was back in KY and the farmer was one of my high school teachers. He would hire 11th and 12th graders to stack the tobacco after he and his father put the leaves on the sticks. I questioned my sanity climbing a couple stories in a barn, to balance on a 2x4, though it seemed like the wood was more like a 2x3, while we passed heavy bundles of tobacco up into the barn. I learned I would rather climb to the top of the barn to stack than be looking up to pass the tobacco. At least at the top, the tobacco was not falling down your neck, back and into your eyes. Figured I was in trouble if I fell from any point except the first six feet or so, so I might as well be the guy at the top stacking to avoid most of the dust.

    Later,
    Dan
    I, most certainly, can identity with all that you just described. We only air cured our tobacco. My Father would used the money made in raising tobacco to purchase things that we didn't have the money for during the rest of the year. We, like everyone in East Tennessee, called Tobacco a "Cash Crop".
    The PUPIL who does not surpass his Master, fails his Master.

  10. #10
    Elite Member smstonypoint's Avatar
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    Default Re: South Georgia Tobacco Patch -- Growing Backer on the Wiregrass Plain

    Quote Originally Posted by dmccarty View Post
    I think most NC tobacco is flue dried. When I lived in KY all of the tobacco barns I saw were to air dry. In my area of NC the tobacco barns are MUCH smaller than what was in KY and are/where used to flue dry. Course most of the old barns were wood construction with wood or metal siding.
    Dan,

    Burley production in NC was confined to Western NC counties prior to the tobacco buyout and the end of the quota system. Growers are now free to produce whatever type of tobacco wherever they wish. Of course, they are not guaranteed buyers.

    I have seen some burley production in Iredell County, a traditional flue-cured area.

    Steve

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