Friday, September 21, 2012

Tobacco Barns

While coming home from a few days in North Carolina my photographic eye caught this barn and I just had to have a picture of it to share.  I am sure most of you are familiar with it but sooner or later all will disappear and I just had to have a photo.  So here it is:

I was reading an article in a magazine regarding the history of these tobacco barns, not regular animal barns or hay barns.  The article written by Jim Murphy of North Carolina. Most of these farmers were married with three or four children and their wives usually either stay at home or worked in town.  If the wife worked in town and the price of tobacco high it  gave them a comfortable living  back in the 1950's or 60's.
Not as comfortable to take expensive trips or buy expensive furniture, clothing etc. but living was good, tobacco selling for .69 a pound depending on the year with a yield of 2700 pounds an acre.  Tobacco was the force behind local agriculture much of the last century until 1990's when a combination of the market  declining, crop disease and end of government price supports.   There are still these farmers though, a small part of the agriculture output.
Today a lot of these barns are empty and used only as a storage bin for everything from old cars, equipment not used and all now rusting away.  There is a coalition of groups in Madison County, N.C. that hope to uncover stories about these barns, knowing families that worked the fields, children of farmers, livestock they may have had.  Preservation of them and their history which amounts to about 7,000 so far with information from documents, here say, building material that withstood climate, farmers that built them by using hand tools, all interviews may interest enough to realize that our past should always be preserved.  They are icons and should be enjoyed in decades to come.  Next time you see one in your travels along roads travelled think about its history. Take a photo.  The sun was shining on the tobacco leaves giving off an orange, yellow color, which my camera did not capture, drying on long poles of rows and rows of autumn's leaves of gold.


  1. Your information on N.C and the movement to document and preserve their tobacco barns is fascinating. Today, KY has many tobacco barns that are principally used for storage. A gov't buy out ended tobacco crops on many of these KY farms. Good info -- barbara

  2. In the '30s and '40 uncles of mine, some in Southeastern Indiana and some in north central Kentucky grew small allotments of tobacco -- the allotments were government controlled, only an acre or two or less. That was not enough to require a whole big barn such as your picture shows. I think they dedicated what would otherwise be the hay mow to hanging the tobacco to cure it. Then the government stopped allotting, I think, to such small producers. I remember thinking it had a lovely smell as it cured. A piece of the past, both my memory and the existence of many barns like the one in your photo. I's a very nice photo, too.

  3. We have two tobacco barns belonging to our family in NC. Several years ago, when building was booming, many tobacco barns in our home area of NC were dismantled, the pieces numbered and then reassembled to build rustic-looking (and often huge) cabins or houses. My husband's grandfather was a tobacco farmer years ago.