Down on the farm

Published 11:20 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

MURFREESBORO – For those that appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that accompany living and working on a farm, a new book by two local authors is a “must” on your Christmas gift list.

“Eastern Carolina Farming” – authored by E. Frank Stephenson Jr. and Barbara Nichols Mulder – is out in print. The book boasts 200 vintage images, many of which have never been published, and showcases memories of days gone by.

The authors will have books available to sell and autograph from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Walter’s Grill in downtown Murfreesboro. Be sure to check out the Murfreesboro Christmas parade at 10 a.m. and then drop by Walter’s for a snack and a book.

The book is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, featuring photographs of farm life, farming practices and farm equipment utilized 50 to 100 years ago in eastern ‘Carolina. The photos include chopping crops, hog killing time, harvesting and grading tobacco by hand, tobacco market auctions, the traditional peanut harvest, and other examples of the numerous small family farms that dotted the eastern ‘Carolina landscape.

Mulder and Stephenson, both long-time employees of Chowan University, grew up on small family farms in different sections of Hertford County. Their lives were greatly influenced by their farm life experiences.

The co-authors shared similar farm life experiences growing up as both families raised the same kinds of row crops such as peanuts, tobacco, corn, cotton and soybeans. Both families raised hogs and chickens for food and income sources and also grew large gardens for a food source for the family.

They both have large collections of personal family farm life photographs and have drawn extensively from these to use in the book to illustrate the way of life and culture featured in the book.

Settled as a maritime and agricultural colony, North Carolina’s history has always been intertwined with agriculture and farming. After the Civil War, North Carolina became the nation’s top grower of tobacco, and one of the country’s largest tobacco companies—the American Tobacco Company—flourished from the huge quantities of Eastern North Carolina–grown tobacco that was purchased. With the growing success of cotton farming and other crops and livestock—including corn, peanuts, and hogs—the region was particularly rich in subsistence farming.

Over the course of the 20th century, farming and agriculture went through tremendous change. The familiar landscape of cotton and tobacco began to shift and include more varied crops, such as soybeans and sweet potatoes. At the same time, hand tools were exchanged for tractors and combines. Eastern North Carolina Farming showcases the rich history of this agriculturally dynamic region while telling the individual stories of farmers who grew for families, markets, and distribution.

The book is available at Walter’s Grill, Colonial Pharmacy, Blue Front Shoppe, and the Jefcoat Museum, all in Murfreesboro, at Tunis Bait and Tackle in Tunis, at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665. Copies can also be ordered from Meherrin River Press in Murfreesboro by calling 252-398-3554.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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