The experience of barning tobacco is unforgettable to many. Still the exact details vary from individual to individual. The staff at the museums is collecting information from individuals, from pamphlets and clippings, and from official sources to make the tour as informative as possible. A lucky few can speak from personal experience.
The Quester docents were educated further for their tours of the Museums Tobacco Barn by Mickey Smith. Mickey grew up and worked in tobacco from childhood on his grandfather Rouse’s farm on Rouse Rd. Working with him was Nancy Holland, who shared some of the materials gathered by Jerry Holland, long time teacher of agriculture.
Additional knowledge was imparted via our “tobacco looping” day on November 7 at the museums. Rosalind Snipes shared her skills of looping and barning as practiced on the Snipes farm. Aaron Betts built a smaller replica of a tobacco slide and donated a looping horse for the occasion.
Farming by tenant farmers provided much less stability for a family. Often tenants were in continual debt to the owner and or the merchant. Still oftener, a family found itself forced to move frequently if the owner was dissatisfied with the results. Sharecropping provided more security with a portion of the crop set aside for the share cropper and the remainder for the owner. The small farmer who owned his acres could make a living for his family. More often this was enhanced by cooperation with his neighbor. Each family helped the other providing for the labor intensive task.
Today, none of these three can make a living with tobacco. Much larger farmers renting many acres are able to produce the crop. While a less labor intensive process, these farmers now hire workers to replace the small farm family members and purchase mechanized equipment to perform the tasks once provided by individuals. Almost no care is given to presentation of the leaf at the market which was once so important.
Interpreting the tobacco farming life of our area has become the purpose of the docent. The tour affords those who remember earlier days an opportunity to reminisce while the docent is able to interpret the system and way of life for the newcomer who grew up elsewhere.