High Cotton: Four Seasons in the Mississippi Deltaby Gerard Helferich
This dirt-under-the-fingernails portrait of a small-time farmer follows Zack Killebrew over a single year as he struggles to defend his cotton against weeds, insects, and drought, as well as 21st-century threats such as globalization. Over the course of the season, Helferich details how this singular crop has stamped American history and culture like no other. Then
This dirt-under-the-fingernails portrait of a small-time farmer follows Zack Killebrew over a single year as he struggles to defend his cotton against weeds, insects, and drought, as well as 21st-century threats such as globalization. Over the course of the season, Helferich details how this singular crop has stamped American history and culture like no other. Then, as Killebrew prepares to harvest his cotton, two hurricanes named Katrina and Rita devastate the Gulf Coast and head toward the Mississippi Delta.
Helferich (Humboldt's Cosmos) chronicles in exhaustive detail a year on a small cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta. Working alongside his wife's first cousin, Zack Killebrew, who farms 1,000 acres of cotton in the town of Tchula, he observes every aspect of the cotton-growing business-machinery, planting procedures, irrigation, harvesting, weeds and insects and the chemicals used to control them. He even visits the spinning mill where Zack's cotton is processed. His matter-of-fact approach does not make for exciting reading, but he paints a sympathetic picture of Zack, a practical, resilient man who must contend with the vagaries of the weather, unreliable hired hands, broken machinery and the realization that the government subsidies that keep him going may soon vanish. At his best, Helferich provides valuable insights into the historical and cultural significance of cotton in the United States and the implications of the transition from slave labor to the sharecropping system, "a more insidious method of binding the workers to the land." When mechanical pickers replaced hand labor, many sharecroppers flocked into cities, he observes, leaving the Delta region with a continuing legacy of poverty and racial inequality. Zack treats his hired hands fairly, but, as the book makes clear, not much has changed in the past half century for the children of the Delta's black sharecroppers. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Former editor and publisher Helferich (Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey That Changed the Way We See the World) tells the story of a plant, a region, and a people as he recounts a year in the life of Mississippi Delta cotton farmer Zack Killebrew. Sometimes referred to as the "most southern place on Earth," the Delta is known for its history of racial inequality spurred in part by the economics of cotton. Technological change has now made cotton farming less labor-intensive, but this comes with its own problems, which fall hardest on small-scale farmers like Zack. In addition to telling Zack's story, Helferich explains farm activities and details their related practices, history, and technology; he chronicles cotton growth, slavery in the Delta, herbicide application, modern farm machinery, and cotton in the world economy. Sources are listed for each chapter, and the bibliography is useful. Helferich will keep readers wondering whether Zack will be able to endure another year in the face of a separation from his wife, tornadoes and storms, and Hurricane Katrina. Recommended for libraries serving agricultural communities and those with regional interest.
- Counterpoint Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.90(d)
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