In an effort to preserve the history of what was once the livelihood of many Kentuckians, four volunteers — Joy Bourne Morgan, Harold Malcomb, Frieda Smith, and Elizabeth Prewitt — came together to form the Tobacco Heritage Trail in 2009.
The trail consists of eight murals placed on barns alongside prominent roadways to depict the process of raising tobacco. To accompany the murals, the group worked tirelessly interviewing local farmers on each of the processes. The audio interviews can be found at visitowencountyky.org/barn-murals.
Sweet Owen Magazine will feature each of the murals throughout its upcoming issues, beginning with "Growing Plants" and "Tobacco Setting."
^ GROWING PLANTS is the first step in the production of tobacco. This mural features three framed images to describe the process. Burning plant beds was done in the spring to prepare the beds to sow the tobacco seeds that would grow into plants. Pulling plants was a dreaded job as it required sitting on a narrow board across the plant bed to pull weeds and then plants that would be set in the field. Plant beds were covered with canvas to protect the plants. Float beds began in the late 1990s by growing plants in a greenhouse in plastic trays. Plants are transported in the trays to the field for planting. This mural is located on U.S. Highway 127 South in Monterey, next to the Monterey Cemetery.
^ TOBACCO SETTING is mural No. 2 in the production of tobacco and features four vignettes showing the progression through the years of setting of tobacco. “Setting by the Season” was done by placing the plant in the ground with your fingers or a wooden peg. “Setting with Hand-Held Jobber” required two people; one to operate the jobber and one to place the plant in the jobber. “Horse Drawn Setter” was much improved, but short on comfort as the workers were dragged along the ground. “Setting with the Tractor” increased productivity and speed of setting. It is still done today, usually with four or more workers instead of two. This mural is located about 8 miles north of Owenton on U.S. Highway 127 North.