Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Once iconic American symbols, tobacco farms are gradually disappearing. It is difficult for many people to lament the loss of a crop that has come to symbolize addiction, disease, and corporate deception; yet, in Kentucky, the plant has played an important role in economic development and prosperity. Burley tobacco -- a light, air-cured variety used in cigarette production -- has long been the Commonwealth's largest cash crop and an important aspect of regional identity, along with bourbon, bluegrass music, and Thoroughbred horses.
In Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century, Ann K. Ferrell investigates the rapidly transforming process of raising and selling tobacco by chronicling her conversations with the farmers who know the crop best. She demonstrates that although the 2004 "buyout" ending the federal tobacco program is commonly perceived to be the most significant change that growers have had to negotiate, it is, in reality, only one new factor among many. Burley reveals the tangible and intangible challenges tobacco farmers face today, from the logistics of cultivation to the growing stigma against the crop.
Ferrell uses ethnography, archival research, and rhetorical analysis to tell the complex story of burley tobacco production in twenty-first-century Kentucky. Not only does she give a voice to the farmers who persevere in this embattled industry, but she also sheds light on their futures, contesting the widely held assumption that they can easily replace the crop by diversifying their operations with alternative crops. As tobacco fades from both the physical and economic landscapes, this nuanced volume documents and explores the culture and practices of burley production today.
Would you rather have present day or olden days? Tradition and Transition in Kentucky Burley Tobacco Production
Sowing the Seeds and Setting the Tobacco
The Harvest through Preparation for Market
Tobacco's Move from Self-evident to Self-conscious Tradition
Tobacco Under Attack, Hello "Heritage"
Now is the good old days: Burley Tobacco Production and Nostalgia
Why Can't They Just Grow Something Else? The Challenges of "Replacing" Burley Tobacco
"This book's description of the shift to viewing tobacco as a 'heritage' crop in Kentucky and what that means is an excellent contribution to the literature." -- Ann Kingsolver, author of Tobacco Town Futures: Global Encounters in Rural Kentucky
" Burley is a fascinating account of farmers and traditions surrounding a crop with a unique and long history in America, a crop that has seemingly gone from royalty to ruin in the space of the last fifty years. Ferrell does a terrific job probing the angst of contemporary producers, and along the way documents a culture that is simultaneously dynamic and conservative, changing and yet traditional." -- Sandy Rikoon, Curators Distinguished Professor of Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri
"In Burley, Ann Ferrell combines historical and ethnographic procedures to create a compelling account of agricultural processes, changes, and policies. She exemplifies contemporary folkloristic practice and employs the techniques of oral history while contributing richly to our understanding of rural culture and the key issues of tradition, memory, and heritage." -- Henry Glassie, College Professor Emeritus of Folklore, Indiana University
" Burley traces the history of burley tobacco from the colonial period to the present. Using her extensive interviews with farmers, Ann Ferrell carries the reader through the contemporary cycle of planting and harvest, a time 'in which King Burley no longer reigns and the future is uncertain.' This fine book captures both the history and the heart of Kentucky and its tobacco world." -- William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
"[Ferrell] leaves the reader with an intimate look at those continuing to carry on Kentucky's tobacco traditions and heritage.... Ferrell consistently reminds us there are real people being hurt by it, real families losing real money and more; a way of life they took for granted for generations." -- Bowling Green Daily News
"Farrell has shined light on both the economic and cultural significance of tobacco farming in the state." -- Kentucky Monthly
"This book is an interesting, well-written, and well-researched look at a crucial yet controversial piece of Kentucky history." -- Kentucky Kaleidoscope
"An illuminating account of how burley tobacco, once a proud symbol of the economic strength and cultural heritage of the commonwealth, has in recent years been scrubbed from the consciousness and public image of Kentucky, and the impact this has had upon tobacco farmers in the state." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"An engaging exploration of the complexities and difficulties of contemporary American agriculture." -- Drew Swanson, Wright State Univeristy
"Ferrell has crafted a thoughtful, well-written, and often insightful account of one tobacco variety that nicely complements recent historical scholarship on American tobacco production." -- Agricultural History
"Ann Ferrell's study of the occupational folklife and industry's recent history as it pertains to contemporary tobacco culture in central Kentucky contributes to our understanding of the continued importance of the crop in contemporary life." -- Journal of Folklore Research
"Ferrell uses the stories of individual farmers to trace not only the history of tobacco cultivation, but also to illuminate the region's complex relationship with the crop. Building on interviews and oral histories, she examines how all aspects of cultivation have changed over the years, from sewing and setting through harvesting and curing to selling and marketing. Her inquiry gives tobacco farmers a voice as they have become increasingly stigmatized by changing social attitudes toward smoking. She concludes by looking at the future of tobacco, including the problems associated with replacing it with alternative crops.
In order to fully understand the changing nature of business, the voices of those whose livelihoods depend on tobacco must be taken into account. Ferrell brings these important, first-hand accounts to the forefront, ensuring that their perspectives are not ignored or lost." -- WKU News
"Not only does she give a voice to the farmers who persevere in this embattled industry, but she also sheds light on their futures, contesting the widely held assumptions that they can easily replace the crop by diversifying their operations with alternative crops. This nuanced volume documents and explores the culture and practices of burley production today." -- McCormick Messenger
"Ferrell brings these important, first-hand accounts (of Burley farmers) to the forefront, ensuring that their perspectives are not ignored or lost." -- Northern Kentucky Heritage
"Her fieldwork brings both heart and depth to a topic that often is seen as a nostalgic element of Kentucky's agriculture heritage, but she also explores how contemporary practices in agriculture are readily adopted by tobacco farmers as elements of modern culture.
Her narrative presents a story that is complex and oftentimes surprisingly heartwarming.
Her excellent regional study provides important perspectives for understanding similar changes in other areas of agriculture throughout the nation." -- Journal of American Folklore