Monday, January 28, 2013

Pierce family farm played a role in truck farming economy

The above photo is of N. B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964), left, and five of his nine children.

Standing is Wilson Taft Pierce (1910-1983). The identity of the other children isn't certain, but the boy on the far right is believed to be Ralph Bailey Pierce (1917-1984). Judging by the boys' sizes, this photo was taken in the late 1920s.

Bonie’s 40-acre farm constituted part of the extensive truck-farming operations that surrounded the port city of Mobile. These truck farms took advantage of the long Gulf Coast growing season to produce fresh vegetables that were consumed locally or shipped by sea or rail to northern cities.

Eventually Bonie farmed an additional 40 acres that belonged to neighbor Ralph Bailey. (It is after this
neighbor that Bonie named his son Ralph.) Bonie grew black-eyed peas and wrapped them in bunches, held together by rubber bands Bonie had made from the innertubes of old automobile tires. He sold the bunches for 10 cents each. Bonie’s other crops included green onions, butter beans, okra, corn, sugar cane, and all sorts of fruit, but especially strawberries, a lifelong favorite. The plants here appear to be strawberries.

A one-horse mill ground sugarcane to make molasses and ground the corn for meal to feed the family and Bonie’s chickens.

Bonie marketed his produce in Mobile, a trip of about 25 miles over some roads that were unpaved at the time. He could sell his goods to the many grocers along Dauphin Street or hawk them himself, as he
sometimes did at the City Market on the ground floor of the historic Mobile City Hall on Royal Street.

Truck farming doesn't get much attention in Southern histories, but it played an important role in supplying local, regional and distant markets. Bonie only had a small family-run operation, but it helped supply local residents with a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Have you looked at how your ancestors' farm fit into the local economy? Did they farm to meet only their family's needs or to sell into the market place?

1 comment:

  1. These ancestors in the fields look like mine, as I knew them when I was a child. They didn't truck farm, but they did sell turkeys, beans, okra . . my cousin still sells cantaloupes and watermelons. For many years they had a dairy farm, but it went the way of most Southern dairy farms. Very much enjoyed your post. .. takes me back!