The first book to chronicle the agricultural history of Tennessee during the antebellum period, Tennessee Farming, Tennessee Farmers explores the ways in which farmers transformed the state from an undeveloped wilderness into a cluster of mature agricultural regions producing a wide variety of commodities.
As Donald Winters shows, Tennessee farmers before the Civil War created a complex agricultural system that provided goods for household consumption and for sale in markets off the farm. As a result, the state came to occupy an important transitional position between the cotton and tobacco agriculture of the South and the grain and livestock agriculture of the North. Adopting new technology and better farming methods enabled Tennessee farmers to improve their efficiency and the quality of their products. Meanwhile, producing for outside markets required them to participate in an extensive commercial network through which their goods were sold, transported, and processed; this system also provided the financial services essential to their operations.
Although Tennessee farmers poured much of their energy into business matters, they also sought in various ways to enhance the quality of rural life for themselves and their families. As they pursued their objectives, farmers set priorities and selected from competing options. Their decisions, the context in which they made them, and the ways they carried them out form the content of this book.