Raising dark fired tobacco chronicled in song, documentary

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

When Michael Breeding of Lexington set out to score his newest documentary about dark-fired tobacco, he knew he wanted a theme song to symbolize the hard-working farmers of south-central Kentucky, including Logan County. After months of searching for a theme, he stumbled on an original composition commissioned from singer/song writer, friend and fellow Kentuckian Beau Haddock, a tune familiar to every Kentuckian, yet scored so very differently.

The tune was My Old Kentucky Home. “It was nothing like I had ever heard,” recalls Breeding. “Most arrangements of this melody are corny, simplistic, predictable and too cliché-ish for my taste. Beau is gifted and his arrangement really makes you think about the words and times in which it was composed.”

Beau Haddock recorded the song in his cabin in Scott County next to a fire ablaze in a wood-burning stove. The aromas were all too similar to those of his childhood home of southcentral Kentucky where dark-fired tobacco is grown and cured by building fires in the barns. “I was really trying to capture the true feel and meaning of the song that was intended by Foster,” saysHaddock. “Stephen Foster’s writing during that time period was so sensitive to the problems and difficulties of the day. It was an honor to produce this after all this time. His songs are timeless.”

Little is known about dark-fired tobacco and its production process but soon the world can see the processes of producing dark-fired tobacco from start to finish in a new documentary, Farming in the Black Patch.

“We started out producing the history of dark-fired,” says producer/director Michael Breeding. But for Associate Producer Bobbie Smith Bryant, the purpose for the documentary went much deeper. For her, it was all about preserving a culture that is fading from the western Kentucky landscape. Bryant’s work to spotlight western Kentucky’s traditions has evolved to film making after publishing her books, Forty Acres and a Red Belly Ford: The Smith Family of Calloway County, and Passions of the Black Patch: Cooking and Quilting in Western Kentucky.

“As I learned more about our family’s history, I discovered that we have 10 generations of ancestors that grew tobacco in western Kentucky. Our family, like so many others in the region, has made a living from working tobacco-and we still do. It has paid for our homes, our education, our entire way of life,” Bryant said.

The end result is a film mixed with both visions. In the film, the story traces the arduous task of running and operating a modern tobacco farm by following Billy Dale Smith, Josh Smith, and William H. (Billy) Smith Jr. of Calloway County, Ky. for over two years. Along the way the audience learns the process of dark-fired tobacco cultivation. Other western Kentucky farms and famers are featured in the film. including Scott Lowe, Steve and Craig Carraway, Danny Cunningham and JohnMichael Puckett.

“It’s sort of history lesson meets reality show,” says Breeding of the production.

Farming in the Black Patch will premiere on KET, The Kentucky Network on Feb/ 11 at 8 p.m. CST. Subsequent broadcast schedules are available by visiting www.ket.org.

Beau Haddock’s haunting rendition of My Old Kentucky Home can be heard by visiting www.farmingintheblackpatch.com or the song can be purchased at iTunes. Other selections from Beau Haddock’s Magnolia CD are also featured in the documentary.

Farming in the Black Patch was funded by private donations including sponsorships from Hutson, Inc., McKeel Equipment Company, Murray State University, Christian County Historical Society and Tennessee Farmer’s Cooperative.


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