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Interview conducted with Julius W. Stallings as part of the Nash County Cultural Center’s Oral History Project. Stallings (born Jan. 6, 1947 in Edgecombe County) speaks in detail about tobacco farming. His parents and grandparents all grew up on farms, and his family has a long history of growing tobacco in Edgecombe County. He mentions the farming in the 1950s and 1960s being done almost exclusively by members of his family, emphasizing the pride taken in all aspects of their work. He says his oldest uncle, A.J. Drake, ran the farm and chose to hire outside help only to barn the tobacco. Stallings says since it was the main cash crop, everyone on the farm seemed to know the status of the tobacco at all times; but says this awareness and the level of pride dropped off considerably once more outside workers were brought in during the 1970s. He remembers working on his family’s farm as a child, helping unload tobacco off of trucks, and recounts his grandmother’s system for grading the dried leaves. He reminisces the daily routine of starting work before dawn, eating large mid-day meals prepared by his grandmother, and napping in the back of a tobacco truck before returning to work. In 1965, Stallings left the farm to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and serve in the Air Force. Until 1978, he was working as a comptroller for Jack Bailey of Franchise Enterprises, building Hardee’s fast food restaurants in the region. He says he and his wife, who was also raised on tobacco farms, had become disenfranchised with their careers and lifestyle, wanting to return to farm life, changing seasons, and wide-open spaces. Stallings left his job in 1979 and purchased a farm and irrigation system for $750k. Based upon the practices he learned while at Franchise Enterprises, he was expecting the property to gain value in a few years. However, those 70’s practices were no longer useful in the 80’s, and dramatic increases in interest rates decreased the value of farms. He speaks on the difference of prosperity in the 70s vs. difficulty turning a profit in the 80’s; citing droughts and discussing the need to rent out his tobacco to maintain his farm’s economic stability. He breaks down the costs and management needs of different types of farming; discusses migrant labor hiring/housing, and irrigation vs. no-till farming. He discusses the science involved in growing tobacco, but points out the there is an art to the practice that is more valuable. Stallings discusses in detail the rules for crop rotation, the process of top-dressing tobacco, and the nitrogen content of soil. He also talks about insulating the bulk barns and learning to control the air inside. After no longer feeling the reward was worth the investment, Stallings decided to get out of farming.





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