Traditional Tobacco Farming, Ben Hill County

Traditional Farming Methods Hoeing Chopping Tobacco Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Though tobacco farming is much less common in South Georgia than it once was, manual methods of weeding the rows called topping and suckering, are often still employed. It’s very labor intensive.

Traditional Farming Tobacco Chopping Hoeing Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

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3 Comments

Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--

3 responses to “Traditional Tobacco Farming, Ben Hill County

  1. Jesse M. Bookhardt

    Brian,
    Those are great pictures of tobacco rows. When I was a kid, tobacco used to be “king” in South Georgia. That is how we made our living in Jeff Davis County in the Snipesville/Denton community. Successful tobacco farming was a challenging business and relied heavily upon hand labor. Removing weeds was done by using a plow, hoe, and hands. “Topping” and “suckering” had nothing to do with “weeding”. They were different tasks.
    When the tobacco plant bloomed with pretty white and pink blossoms, these flowers, or tops were broken off of the plant. This was necessary to make the plant grow more robust, and to spread its leaves while gaining body and structure. It should be thought of as a pruning process. That practice was called “Topping Tobacco.” After the plant was topped and began to grow stouter, it produced suckers at the junction of leaves and the stalk. To prevent the plant nutrients and energy from going into the suckers, these sprouts had to be removed. Pulling these suckers by hand was a terrible job. One got tobacco tar all over their hands, arm hairs, etc. This task was referred to as “Suckering Tobacco.”
    Tobacco growing became more automated in the 1960s. A chemical was first introduced in the mid to late 1950’s called MH-30 that stunted the suckers without harming the leaves. That was a major step forward for the farmer. Who knows what the chemical did to smokers.

  2. Billy M Davis

    Sent from my LG Smartphone on Sprint

  3. Ann Aldrich Rowland

    I saw your link on my friends facebook. It took me to many puctures of my past as a child living in Bulloch county. I remember having to pull weeds as a child, also as they called it top and sucker tobacco. I grew up in the area of some of your articles. But I was wondering if you could do an article on the old house on the fairgrounds. My father’s family grew up in that house as I was told. This would mean so much to me. Thank you Ann

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