The Last Auction, Part 8 - Changes in Farming
Looking at the transition from hand-held farming to the advent of machines.
In the past, tobacco was a labor-intensive crop. People handled every leaf throughout the growing, harvesting and curing process. This changed in the 1970s, as farming became more mechanized. Although farm machines were very expensive, they reduced labor costs and fewer people were needed to work on the tobacco farms. Most South Carolinians who grew up working in the fields and tobacco barns say it was extremely difficult work. Now, most farmers hire seasonal workers to provide cheap labor for just about any crop. Smaller farmers have a difficult time making a living. Buying and maintaining equipment, along with the costs of fertilizers, pesticides and special curing barns, are too much of an investment for the small farmer.