Duke Homestead and the State Fair Team Up to Showcase Tobacco Heritage

Nearly 20 teams of three competed in a traditional tobacco tying contest Friday at the N.C. State Fair. The annual contest, hosted by Duke Homestead, demonstrating a common chore on farms across North Carolina performed until the mid-20th century.

Farmers tied tobacco onto sticks and loaded them into barns, where the tobacco was cured.  The practice originated after the accidental discovery of the method for curing bright leaf tobacco by a slave on a Caswell County farm in 1839. The practice largely fell by the wayside as technology improved and tobacco began to be cured in a bulk barn in large containers.  

If you missed Friday’s contest, have no fear. There are more opportunities to learn about North Carolina’s tobacco heritage at the Fair. All week long, volunteers from Duke Homestead and the state tobacco growers association are staffing a working tobacco barn in Heritage Circle. Visitors will be able to take a peek at the curing process during the week. Weekend visitors to the barn can see the finished product.

Duke Homestead will also put on a mock tobacco auction Friday at 2 p.m. in the Expo Building (see coverage of last year’s auction here). Though tobacco is now sold primarily through contracts between farmers and tobacco companies, auctions were the primary method of tobacco trade between 1859 and 2004. The mock auction celebrates that legacy. We hope to see you there!

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