Noted author and Calloway County native Bobbie Smith Bryant is the guest speaker at the quarterly meeting of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society Saturday, July 22nd at the Purchase Area Development District office, 1002 Medical Center Drive, Mayfield, Kentucky. Bryant will talk about the subject of her recent book Farming in the Black Patch, winner of a 2016 Kentucky History Award. The event is sponsored by a grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council. The meeting begins at 10:30 AM. It is open to the public and free of charge.
In the book, Bryant tells the story of tobacco farms in west Kentucky, a region known as the Black Patch. She came from one of these families.
"My grandparents were very involved in our family's farming operation and I remember them being in the stripping barn when I'd get home from school," the author said. "Typically they and a few of our elderly neighbors would be lined up on a variety of stools, chairs, buckets, and the like, pulling leaves from each stalk, grading them as they went. They were rhythmic and sure, tying a single, folded leaf around the stems of a handful of dark leaves to create a 'hand of tobacco.' "
The 2004 federal government tobacco buyout reduced the number of tobacco farmers from 30,000 to around 4000 today. What hasn't changed much is the amount of hard work it takes to raise a good crop.
"As some of the old folks were known say, 'tobacco is thirteen-month-a-year job,' because in the past, you would be starting a new crop before you were finished with last year's crop," Bryant said. "Every single aspect of a tobacco crop requires hands-on labor. While modern techniques have lessened some of the more laborious tasks such as worming and hoeing, tobacco still requires many hands touching each and every plant multiple times."
Bobbie Smith Bryant is the author of several books, including Passions of the Black Patch: Cooking and Quilting in Western Kentucky, and Forty Acres & A Red Belly Ford: The Smith Family of Calloway County. She is also the co-producer of a program for Kentucky Educational Television based on Farming in the Black Patch and a featured speaker for the Kentucky Humanities Council. Copies of her books will be available after her presentation.
The Jackson Purchase Historical Society was founded in 1958 to promote interest, study, and preservation of the regional history of the territory encompassed in the Chickasaw Purchase of 1818. It publishes the award-winning Jackson Purchase Historical Society Journal annually.
The Society is especially interested in the history of all Kentucky counties west of the Tennessee River as well as Lake, Obion, Weakley, and Henry counties in Tennessee. Meetings are held four times per year at locations throughout the region. Membership is open to the public.
Information about the Society, future events, and membership is available at the meetings, on Facebook at Jackson Purchase Historical Society, or online at http://jacksonpurchasehistory.org/.