From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old, Empty Tobacco Barns

Common sight in Christian County, KY


Dozens of old tobacco barns like this one can be seen across Christian County, KY. Some stand along roads that are (more or less) traveled. Others can be glimpsed on the back sides of fields and at the edges of woods, where farmers and hunters pass only occasionally.

Some of these aged barns remain in use by tobacco growers, but many of them stand empty year-round. The empty barns illustrate two trends in Christian County agriculture.
  •  In the past, every tobacco barn or two might have represented a small farm and a farm family. Today, we have far fewer small farms. More and more, Christian County's tobacco is raised on larger farms.  
  • Less tobacco is produced now than in the past, and less barn space is needed to cure the crop.

A 2004 USDA report, "Trends in U.S. Tobacco Farming",  says that Kentucky dropped from 136,000 tobacco-growing farms in 1954 to 29,000 such farms in 2002.

The report gives the following overview of changes in U.S. tobacco production:
The number of farms growing tobacco has declined rapidly during the last 50 years. From 1997 to 2002, farm numbers declined by a larger percentage than in any other 5-year period since 1950. Acreage and production both declined due to smaller quotas. The trend toward fewer larger farms will likely continue, but the future rate of change and location of production will depend on several factors: the impact of the tobacco buyout, U.S. and world consumption of tobacco, and alternative crop and off-farm income opportunities for tobacco growers.

Source: "Trends in U.S. Tobacco Farming", published in 2004 by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

2 comments:

Bill Harper said...

I'm not a smoker nor do I chew tobacco like my great-grandfather did but when I lived in Hopkinsville I could smell the tobacco when I walked past the warehouse in town and I liked that.

Genevieve said...

Bill, in the past, it could almost be said that tobacco WAS Christian County, I think. Many residents had nothing to do with growing it or selling tobacco, but they were affected by the ups and downs of the tobacco business. And most had their own set of tobacco-related memories -- just as you do.

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