Thursday, September 23, 2010
As many already know, tobacco is a crop that has played a major part in the history of the southern United States. Tobacco was the major source of profit for most farmers in Georgia, North and South Carolina. Harvest was very labor-intensive…beginning in mid-July, harvesters would walk the fields, pulling the ripened leaves from the bottom of the plant. These harvesters would make passes through the fields every week for about the next eight weeks, pulling the ripened bottom leaves off the plants with every trip. The harvested leaves were transferred to a sled that was pulled by mules through the field, and then taken to a nearby barn once it was full. Bunches of leaves were then strung up to a stick and hung in the barn to dry and cure. One barn held hundreds of these sticks, and once full would be heated for several days until the tobacco leaves reached a desired state.
The type and design of tobacco curing barns varied from region to region. The farmer usually built his own barns with assistance from neighbors. Barn structure was dependent on the designer and how he intended to cure his crop. While heating the barn was a common practice, some farmers chose other methods to dry their crop. Tobacco barns were built with an elaborate venting system that was intended to catch the wind and increase curing efficiency. The interior of the barn was crisscrossed with wooden beams called “bents”, strategically placed to allow the sticks of tobacco leaves to be hung across them.
Some states, such as Maryland, now discourage tobacco farming. In those areas where tobacco is still a cash crop, the methods of yesterday have given way to technology and efficiency. Tobacco warehouses now cure enormous quantities of leaves, replacing the barns of yesterday. Because they no longer serve a useful purpose on the farm, those barns are falling into disrepair and disappearing at a very fast rate.
The loss of the tobacco trade is the gain for reclaimed barnwood furniture lovers. The high quality and durability of the wooden planks used to build those barns are perfect for furniture construction. The Cottage Barn Wood and Barn Wood Designs collections are crafted from the wood reclaimed out of old tobacco barns. Much of this wood is over 100 years old and has seen many uses in its lifetime. To incorporate these pieces into your home and to think of all that wood has been through is truly amazing. This tobacco turnaround is definitely a great way to commemorate the agricultural history of our South and to build a legacy in your own family.