Cotton - Why didn't poor white farmers start co-ops

archieclement

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#21
Its odd to compare all small farmers to subsistence farmers, ones with slaves had opportunity to grow and better themselves....which really isn't subsistence farming, that's barely getting by with little room for improvement. Not ambition and desire to improve ones station. Same in my lifetime, there's small farmers happy where they are getting by, and others who are driven to expand and improve
 
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NH Civil War Gal

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#22
Taking this into a bit of a different direction. Edward Ruffin had a bee in his bonnet about Yankees but he was getting a good grasp on soil conditions and fertilizing. The Sea Islands in Georgia had wonderful cotton but I also think they used seaweed for fertilizer along with animal fertilizer. How common was it and how common was his knowledge disseminated in Alabama and Mississippi to planters for maintenance of their fields? Was the push for other slave states based on the land being run out by cotton? They must have known by this time that tobacco exhausted land quickly.
 
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#23
Let's take this in a different direction then - why didn't the poor white farmers work in the cotton fields themselves? I'm not being snarky here. Was the culture such that it was considered dishonorable for white workers to be in the cotton (rice, sugar) fields?
I know far less about this that the other posters to this thread, but I have done some reading on yeomen farmers in North Carolina because I was interested in the role of yeoman farm women. Emsley Burgess of Randolph County was an example of a yeoman farmer and fortunately he kept a journal. Emsley lived in a log cabin with his wife and eight children. He was a Quaker who owned no slaves. He relied solely on the labor of his children and relatives, a few neighbors and some poor whites he hired to help. Based on his journal, Emsley was often busy. He wrote about a day’s accomplishments one October: “... put up husks at the barn sowed some wheat gathered corn over the creek sowed wheat hauled a load of corn.”

It appears Emsley grew corn, wheat, rice, potatoes, and oats and kept a large garden where he grew peas, onions, beets, lettuce, radishes, watermelons, beans, and cucumbers, among other vegetables. He also had patches of cotton and flax to provide for his family’s textile needs. Emsley made barrels and metal cans to sell and repaired stovepipes, gutters, and household items to make money for buying household items he could not raise or produce on his farm.

I was interested to learn that during the antebellum period some people began to look toward science to assist them in producing higher yields and greater profits. By the 1850s, some were looking toward new information that was becoming available through agricultural societies, books, and newspapers. Some southern yeoman farmers like Emsley were adopting “progressive” agricultural techniques on a modest scale. Emsley began rotating his crops and planting clover and timothy (a type of hay) in fields that had previously grown wheat or corn to save and replenish the nutrients in his soil. He also learned the value of spreading leaves and manure onto his fields and plowing them into the soil.

Sadly, Emsley by his own admission was not a successful farmer. After the death of one of his horses in April 1847 he wrote in his journal, “I cannot help feeling rather discouraged and under the weather fer the hand of misfortune has seamed to laid heavy on me." I was happy to read that he still recalled the pleasures of visiting friends and relatives, the fellowship of his Quaker meeting and the taste of his watermelons. He concluded his journal by saying there “has been some sunny spots too in the path.”

Just in case anyone is interested (this is admittedly off topic), yeoman farm women sometimes worked in the fields and at chores alongside their husbands. They usually tended to their own tasks and responsibilities building and maintaining fires for cooking, heating and lighting and hauling water from a spring, a stream, or a well. They cared for their children and prepared and served the meals. At least weekly, they had laundry to wash and iron and bread to bake. Women also regularly fed the livestock, milked the cows and churned butter. On a seasonal basis, they made soap and candles, maintained gardens and preserved foods for use later in the year. These women were also responsible for certain aspects of textile production such as spinning, dyeing, sewing and sometimes weaving.

The yeoman farmer's children were expected to contribute to the work around their parents’ farm. As soon as possible, they worked at nearly all the same tasks as adults.

Great thread @NH Civil War Gal!


Source:
Emsley Burgess and Thomas H. Hunt Papers, 1845-1866, 1996-1997. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/e/Emsley_Burgess_and_Thomas_T.Hunt.html. UNC Libraries' Southern Historical Collection.
 

Joshism

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#24
Growing edible crops: idealized agrarian goal. White man's work.

Growing cash crops (tobacco/cotton): idealized goal for upper class. Black man's work, white man's profit.

Cotton co-ops involving whites would be seen as degrading. White men doing work that was beneath them, in the mindset of the times.
 

archieclement

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#26
Don't see this equation some seem to make just of apparently farmers working being somehow degrading. The more successful and larger one becomes, whether through farming, stores, factories or whatever you wish to use, the more likely the owners will be regulated to managing the venture...…..large enterprises don't run themselves...……. Don't see how that equates to finding anything degrading, management is as necessary as working the field/store counter/lathe/ ect

Also the edible crops/cash crops isn't much a comparison....here many slaveowners grew edible crops....but by being able to increase production beyond subsistence levels, corn becomes a cash crop often in distilled form :D
 
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Polloco

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#27
I'm no farmer but My Dad was. Isn't the term Sharecropping left out of this discussion? A lot of the farmers in the South were not the landowners just the poor folk who supplied the labor. Also I'm not sure when this scenerio is supposedly taking place but one does not just go out and plant cotton. There is this thing called an Allotment involved. Not real sure when the USDA enacted that little jewel but the allotment belonged to the landowner I believe. No solution here just more fuel for y'all to consider.
 

archieclement

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#28
I'm no farmer but My Dad was. Isn't the term Sharecropping left out of this discussion? A lot of the farmers in the South were not the landowners just the poor folk who supplied the labor. Also I'm not sure when this scenerio is supposedly taking place but one does not just go out and plant cotton. There is this thing called an Allotment involved. Not real sure when the USDA enacted that little jewel but the allotment belonged to the landowner I believe. No solution here just more fuel for y'all to consider.
I inherited a 5th generation farm in northern Mo, climate/land where our farm is/was never conducive to cotton/tobacco/hemp as its upland prairie ground, so my GGGF used a small number of slaves to grow corn and wheat, but above subsistence levels so he was able to use profits to diversify into buying stock for several country general stores too, while expanding the farm into stockraising as well That slavery couldn't be conducive to northern climates or edible crops seems a myth to me, I live pretty well off what originally started off just that.
 
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#29
@NH Civil War Gal, I've really only just scanned this thread. There's a lot of unsupported conjecture here, par for the course.

I can't speak to the Antebellum, but "small holding" farmers, both black and white, did indeed establish "farmers' co-ops" after the war. I can prove it (with requisite evidence) but your question is a good one with respect to Antebellum times.

It would be great to see an answer to your question grounded in actual evidence.
 
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#30
I'm no farmer but My Dad was. Isn't the term Sharecropping left out of this discussion? A lot of the farmers in the South were not the landowners just the poor folk who supplied the labor. Also I'm not sure when this scenerio is supposedly taking place but one does not just go out and plant cotton. There is this thing called an Allotment involved. Not real sure when the USDA enacted that little jewel but the allotment belonged to the landowner I believe. No solution here just more fuel for y'all to consider.
Do you mean poor or yeoman farmers?
 
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#31
Don't see this equation some seem to make just of apparently farmers working being somehow degrading. The more successful and larger one becomes, whether through farming, stores, factories or whatever you wish to use, the more likely the owners will be regulated to managing the venture...…..large enterprises don't run themselves...……. Don't see how that equates to finding anything degrading, management is as necessary as working the field/store counter/lathe/ ect

Also the edible crops/cash crops isn't much a comparison....here many slaveowners grew edible crops....but by being able to increase production beyond subsistence levels, corn becomes a cash crop often in distilled form :D
Farmers were also wiling to help each other.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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#32
If possible, let's try to keep discussion to antebellum times. Sharecropping, as it seems commonly understood, came in after the CW, and the USDA certainly did.

Maybe we need a definition of what was considered a small farmer for antebellum times. I'm off to go look.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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#33
This is from historycentral.com

Agriculture


"American agriculture faces a shortage of labor and high worker wages relative to Europe. While this may have hampered agricultural development, the increasing amount of farming land available to American farmers compensated for it. The western expansion allowed many farmers, both large and small, to establish farms. Some progressive farmers, such as Thomas Jefferson, followed European models of fertilization, crop rotation and livestock breeding. Most small farmers did not have the money to apply such techniques. Farmers generally knew little about fertilization, and had few resources in labor and equipment to implement any soil conservation policies that might have been developed. Since land was the easiest major resource to acquire, farmers generally used up a given plot of land, stripping it of its mineral nutrients, and moved on to another plot. For antebellum farmers, this was the most expedient method; although later scientific insights into agriculture would reveal the wastefulness of that approach.

Technological developments also facilitated farming. Through the antebellum period, plows were developed to deal more effectively with various terrains of the West. Jethrow Wood?s cast-iron plow made of interchangeable parts (1819) was not strong enough to conquer the hard soil of the prairies. Demand for improved plows compeled many Americans, including Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Webster, to experiment on new models. John Deere developed the first successful all-steel plow in 1847. Obed Hussey and Cyrus McCormick both designed similar reaping machines, in 1833 and 1834 (patented) respectively. By 1855, however, McCormick?s machine won out. The popularity of Cyrus McCormick?s reaping machine slowly spread to farms across the country, although they were most extensively used after the Civil War.

The ?Old Northwest? region became a major engine of agricultural growth, due to the large amount of rich fertile soil, suitable for heavy cereal crops. The richness of the prairie soil was not discovered, however, until farmers began using newly developed plows such as Deere?s plows. The improvement of transportation, including the building of railroads and the Erie and Ohio Canals, made it possible for Western products to reach Eastern markets, thus increasing potential demand.

New England and Mid-Atlantic farmers faced challenges from the success of western farms and the loss of labor to regional urbanization and industrialization. The growing urban populations, however, created larger local markets for specific products; such as dairy products, fruit and perishables. By the time of the Civil War, much of New England farming would be focussed on producing items to serve the needs of those local cities and towns. For farmers in the South and Southwest, cotton was the profitable crop. By the Civil War, two-thirds of American slaves worked on cotton, and the crop constituted two-thirds of the value of all US exports. Whitney cotton ?gins continued to facilitate cotton production; and the industrialization of northern cities, combined with increased demand from England, created a strong market for the southern crop. I. M. Singer?s invention development of a sewing machine in 1851 further contributed to demand for cotton. @jgoodguy

Southern cotton production was closely connected to the southern slave system. A small percentage of southern whites (about 3%) owned large plantations with 20 or more slaves, but up to half of the southern cotton crop was produced from such plantations. The rest came largely from small farmers in the South and especially Southwest, who owned no more than five or six slaves and who often worked alongside their slaves."

Okay, so this is new to me - I didn't realize that about half of the cotton crop from the South and deep South was provided by small farms where the farmers also had to provide the muscle. This means the women weren't doing the plantation belle impression everyday but working hard managing whatever they had to manage too.


 
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#34
Co ops seem to have a relationship to industrialization and commercialization, IMHO due to the cost of labor. Cheap labor deferred Co ops while dear labor encouraged them.
Basically yes. The cotton production was one of the last large-scale areas, that required extreme amount of unskilled handwork, and thus where slavery still was cost-effective. Still, this was not a stable system; one of economical reasons behind the whole Civil War was exactly that the cotton prices were overinflated, and any change in tariffs or labor cost could bring the whole system down.
 
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#35
We know that the cotton growers who succeeded made large profits. We don't know what happened to the farmers that had poor soil, experienced too much rain, too little rain, whose slaves got sick, or whose livestock died when it was time to get the bales to a river landing.
The risks in cotton farming were substantial and many people chose grains and livestock, with some saleable slaves, as a buffer against risk.
 
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NH Civil War Gal

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#37
This is from The Atlantic:

"The reason for America’s quick ascent to market dominance was simple. The United States more than any other country had elastic supplies of the three crucial ingredients that went into the production of raw cotton: labor, land, and credit. As The Economist put it in 1861, the United States had become so successful in the world’s cotton markets because the planter's “soil is marvelously fertile and costs him nothing; his labor has hitherto been abundant, unremitting and on the increase; the arrangements and mercantile organizations for cleaning and forwarding the cotton are all there." By midcentury, cotton had become central to the prosperity of the Atlantic world. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier called it the “Hashish of the West,” a drug that was creating powerful hallucinatory dreams of territorial expansion, of judges who decide that “right is wrong,” of heaven as “a snug plantation” with “angel negro overseers.”
 

jgoodguy

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#38
This is from The Atlantic:

"The reason for America’s quick ascent to market dominance was simple. The United States more than any other country had elastic supplies of the three crucial ingredients that went into the production of raw cotton: labor, land, and credit. As The Economist put it in 1861, the United States had become so successful in the world’s cotton markets because the planter's “soil is marvelously fertile and costs him nothing; his labor has hitherto been abundant, unremitting and on the increase; the arrangements and mercantile organizations for cleaning and forwarding the cotton are all there." By midcentury, cotton had become central to the prosperity of the Atlantic world. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier called it the “Hashish of the West,” a drug that was creating powerful hallucinatory dreams of territorial expansion, of judges who decide that “right is wrong,” of heaven as “a snug plantation” with “angel negro overseers.”
All true. But without involuntary labor especially slavery, the US as we know it would not exist. Without slave-grown cotton, it would a very minor power perhaps bordering on the Mississippi, Canada, the Gulf, and the Atlantic.
 
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#39
I'm no farmer but My Dad was. Isn't the term Sharecropping left out of this discussion? A lot of the farmers in the South were not the landowners just the poor folk who supplied the labor. Also I'm not sure when this scenerio is supposedly taking place but one does not just go out and plant cotton. There is this thing called an Allotment involved. Not real sure when the USDA enacted that little jewel but the allotment belonged to the landowner I believe. No solution here just more fuel for y'all to consider.
Sharecropping came in after the war. The landowners fronted the money for seed and some living expenses against the harvest. The allotment system started in the late 1930's in an effort to raise the price of cotton and is still in effect today. However the price has been high enough there have been no limits on planting. You are right, you just don't go out and start cotton farming. The investment in land and equipment is substantial. Cotton pickers are over $750,000, but will pick 10 acres an hour compared with a man hand picking might get an acre a day.
 

archieclement

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#40
All true. But without involuntary labor especially slavery, the US as we know it would not exist. Without slave-grown cotton, it would a very minor power perhaps bordering on the Mississippi, Canada, the Gulf, and the Atlantic.
Something often overlooked, the whole nation benefited from us being a world power in international market

Would Saudi Arabia still command the level on the world scene without oil......or just be another third world country? Countries can command a certain level of respect internationally from being an economic power instead of a military power.
 
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