Tobacco's Heritage Celebrated

Article excerpt

NICHOLLS, Ga. -- Felder Carver, 76, nodded yesterday as his

7-year-old grandson Jason tied a string around two 3-foot

tobacco leaves and hung them on a pole for drying.

Carver, who grew up harvesting and tying tobacco near Cairo for

5 cents a day, watched with pride as Jason tied a perfect knot

around the green leaves in his very first try.

"I started about this age," Carver said. "I hope he might get

into it some day."

The Carvers and about 100 other people gathered at General

Coffee State Park in Coffee County yesterday for the "Tobacco

Sunday" festival. The third annual event celebrated the history

of tobacco farming in southern Georgia. Kids participated in

harvesting activities.

The irony of encouraging kids to harvest a plant that will

become cigarettes and chewing tobacco, products they are

restricted from using, was not lost on the event's organizer.

Park ranger Eda Kenney said she also is aware some people might

question the timing of the festival, held at a time when tobacco

companies are being sued by the federal government and the

families of people whose relatives claim they died from smoking.

Kenney, director of programming at the park, said the festival

teaches children and adults how hard their ancestors had to work

and how important tobacco was to their survival.

"I'm not pushing tobacco," Kenney said. "But I do recognize and

respect what it has meant historically."

Tobacco is a cash crop that is as important to the economy of

southern Georgia as oranges and tourism are to the economy of

Florida.

Georgia farmers who lived off their vegetable crops earlier

this century sold tobacco and cotton to get money to buy clothes

and other necessities, Kenney said.

Tobacco remains a critical cash crop today, said Clyde

Kirkland, who lives on Clyde Kirkland Road outside Douglas. …