By Drew A. Swanson
Swanson, who brings to his narrative the event of getting grown up on a operating Virginia tobacco farm, explores how one try out at agricultural permanence went heavily awry. He weaves jointly social, agricultural, and cultural heritage of the Piedmont quarter and illustrates how principles approximately race and panorama administration grew to become entangled lower than slavery and in a while. tough long-held perceptions, this leading edge examine examines not just the fabric relationships that attached crop, land, and other people but additionally the excuses that inspired tobacco farming within the region.
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Extra info for A Golden Weed: Tobacco and Environment in the Piedmont South
At the ﬁeld they placed one seedling to each hill, using a short wooden peg to make a hole for the plant. Planting was a period of intense labor. The faster hands moved seedlings to the ﬁeld, the better the plants could take advantage of the “season’s” soil moisture, resulting in a higher plant survival rate. 59 Once a farmer was satisﬁed with the stand, cultivation began, a process that would continue until a few weeks before harvest. 60 As in corn and cotton culture, tobacco cultivation was an exercise in vigilance.
A lack of urban industry presented few alternatives to tobacco cultivation, and poor transportation networks meant that only agricultural crops with a high value to weight ratio (such as dark and later bright tobacco) were cost-eﬀective. Profuse waterways and bottomland soil presented the possibility of tobacco cultivation, which in turn promoted use of waterways, often to the exclusion of other transportation routes, and this reciprocal relationship encouraged local settlers to think of their region as a land “naturally” adapted to tobacco production.
As tobacco cultivation grew in the Piedmont, the importance of the crop’s culture lessened on the older lands of the Chesapeake. Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, and accelerating after the Revolution, many Tidewater farmers, especially on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland and on Virginia’s Northern Neck, turned to wheat as an alternative cash crop to tobacco. This shift occurred for a number of reasons. Tobacco cultivation on fresh Piedmont lands increased competition at a time when tobacco prices ﬂuctuated (prices gradually increased but there were periods of severe recession, 20 on t he b ack of t o b acco and especially steep price declines would occur during the French Revolution).