Vol. 11


Seeds for the Future

c. 1950s; Kinston, North Carolina, USA

My granddad Ernest Quincy Faulkner, Jr., always spoke about growing up on the farm in the 1950s. I can still see his thick, scarred hands and hear his deep, stern voice as he told of the days growing up and learning lessons of hard work and dedication. He would always start with “When I was a boy, things were much different. We did everything outside, and life was about tending to the crops. Everyday life on the farm was busy.”

Quincy, as my granddad was called, always started the tobacco season from a bag of seed and cared for his plants until harvest. Back in the old days, tobacco was planted in long, narrow soil beds in the cold February air. Each seed was placed in the rich soil by hand, and then the beds were covered with plastic to help keep them warm through the winter days. As the weather became warmer and the sun made the seeds sprout, Quincy would remove the plastic and cover the plants with wheat straw. As they grew, he would pull the weeds by hand, bending over the hundreds of plants that he had grown from seed.

Once the plants were ready, Quincy would pull each one up and place it in a basket to carry to the field. There he would work with his other workers to plant each tobacco plant. He bent over each hole and secured each plant with fertile soil. Everything was done by hand.

As the plants grew, Quincy was in the tobacco field in hot steamy weather to top and sucker1 the plants, hoping for the best crop. One by one, he would pull off the sticky flowers and suckers between the leaves. With every plant, his body became more covered with tar.2 With sweat pouring down his face, he’d look down the long row of plants and pray he could earn enough money for the year. Day in and day out, he tended to his plants. Rain or shine, there was work to do.

After many weeks, Quincy would look over a field of fully grown tobacco, and realize it was time to take the crop to the barns for curing.3 This took all of the members of the family. They moved down each row, pulling leaves. Then they sent the leaves to a barn, where ladies looped them onto sticks that were hung on racks. When a barn was full of tobacco leaves, it was “fired up” by burning wood in a fire pit. The rich smell flowed out of the barn and filled the hot summer day with the distinct smell of curing tobacco. This was how they cured tobacco during the 1950s.

Stories from a farming family have played a big role in where we are today. Day-to-day farming has changed, but the traditions have been passed down from my granddad to my father and now to me. Quincy planted the seeds of farming in all of us with his tales of his farming days. These stories have shaped me and will stay with me forever.

Dylan Faulkner; North Carolina, USA


1. To sucker a plant is to remove extra shoots, called “suckers,” from it.

2. This tar was actually the sticky sap from the tobacco plants.

3. To cure tobacco is to dry it out.



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