Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century

Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century

Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century

Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century

Excerpt

“Would you rather have
present day or olden days?”
Tradition and Transition in Kentucky
Burley Tobacco Production

Frequently over the past decade, I have heard Kentucky natives comment with sadness on the changing landscape of their home state: the countryside of childhood will soon be gone. The links between land and culture, sense of place, history, and identity have been widely acknowledged. According to Lucy Lippard, “The intersections of nature, culture, history, and ideology form the ground on which we stand—our land, our place, the local.” Such intersections, of course, are neither inherent in the land itself nor static. We form the ground on which we stand through our use of it and as we come to view it not just as land but as landscape. Gregory Clark argues, “Land becomes landscape when it is assigned the role of symbol, and as symbol it functions rhetorically.” It is precisely because landscapes symbolize something about who we are that shifting landscapes often result in feelings of loss. The source of the sense of loss expressed by so many Kentuckians is not the expected—the loss of land to the proliferation of subdivisions and “big-box” retail stores, although certainly many bemoan such development. This sense of loss follows observations that the tobacco fields are disappearing.

It is difficult for many to understand the loss of tobacco—a crop that has come to symbolize addiction, disease, and a deceptive industry—as lamentable. However, this loss has vast economic and cultural consequences for farming communities, as well as for . . .

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