Friday, July 30, 2010


Kenny Hylton standing near some twine tied tomato plants.

In the early spring of this year I wrote a post titled Farmways -- Country Homemade Blackberry Arbor. It was about Debbie and Kenny Hylton who after being tobacco farmers in Kentucky for many years had to think about a new type of farming. They had been part of the government buy-out that changed the way farming was done in Kentucky. In a nutshell it discouraged independent tobacco farmers to raise tobacco. Of course the issue is complex -- too complex to discuss in a short post -- maybe a college course would be able to cover all the ways and means of the total buy-out.

Tobacco had been a leading crop in Kentucky since its settlement in the late 1700s. It was a way of life in Kentucky -- it was part of the cultural tradition. It influenced barn types, transportation routes, livelihoods, labor workers, language, and socialization.

Since writing the previous post on the blackberry arbor many readers of this blog have continuously visited it. So, I thought I would revisit the Hyltons and see how they were doing with the new blackberry crop.

Blackberries ripening on some of Kenny's pre-arbor plants.

Kenny Hylon and I walked around his blackberry arbor as he explained a few things I didn't catch on my first visit. I learned that the type of blackberries that he planted are called Triple Crown. Also, he pointed out a small crop of blackberries that were blooming along a fence -- they were there before he built the arbor. Along the fence he had both domestic and wild blackberries.

Arbor with young blackberry plants.

As we walked out by his homemade new blackberry arbor, he explained how it was built:

I bought all the wood from a governmental salvage place. It is recycled treated lumber. You can get lumber there for ten dollars a truck load. I got the idea of how to build the structures from a book I read.The end structures that are like triangles are cemented into the ground while the middle row structures, that look like a "Z," are not. The end triangular uprights stabilize each long row.

I asked about the new blackberries:

Well, we got a very small crop this year as they really were just planted earlier this year. I raise cattle and have been saving all the manured hay -- it is now a huge stack. I plan on placing it around each blackberry plant next spring which will really help in production.

He continued:

I have lived on this piece of land since I was born -- I have seen many changes. Development has diminished the rural ways around this area. My street in front of my house is now a busy hard-top country road. When I was young it was a dirt road and we would play baseball and marbles right in the road as there was hardly any traffic. The dairy farm that was next to my property is now a subdivision.

The Hylton's farm wagon with just picked produce.

We walked past a large farm wagon where Debbie and Kenny had recently laid the just-picked produce from their kitchen garden. Debbie was in the house, as I toured with Kenny, canning tomato juice. Their farm is an active place with farm work -- growing much of what they eat. Yet, Kenny explained, they still go to the store to buy some of their food. As I walked back to my car, Kenny pointed out fruit trees -- apple, peach, and pear. As I drove out of their drive I had a a fresh picked cantaloupe and a large tomato -- given to me by Kenny -- a friendly country gesture for sure.

Some traditions have changed like growing tobacco but many have remained such as fruit and garden production. Surely a busy working life but a beautiful way of living.


  1. How lovely!
    I'm intrigued with his Z and triangle uprights for his vines, haven't seen anything like it before (not here in Oz at least).

  2. Lots of folks who used to grow tobacco are trying other things -- the Blackberry arbor looks great!

  3. Jayne and Vicki -- Nice comments. The arbor is perhaps an example of the determination and creativity that we can put to work to find new ways. Thanks. -- barbara

  4. Those tomatoes make my mouth water! Farmers have to be adaptable people, I think that's always been true. My family, both in Kentucky and Indiana grew tobacco for many years too. An interesting post, as usual. Thanks.

  5. June -- sounds like you enjoy tomatoes as much as I do. My tomatoes have not done well this year -- too much rain and no cool nights so far. So I buy from the farmers at the market. Interesting that you had family in Kentucky and Indiana. I have only lived here three years. Still learning a lot about the Kentucky culture. Today when I was riding in the car I went through a small rural town that I had written about quite a long time ago. And BAM my eyes realized that two of the structures that I took photos of were completely gone. Change happens so fast -- just like tobacco farming. Thanks for the comment -- barbara