Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Walter "Tom" Thomas King, July 31, 1992

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:22 - Approaching King

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Partial Transcript: This is David Rotenizer with the University of Kentucky Family Farm Oral History Project, Cane Creek Study Area.

Segment Synopsis: Rotenizer describes the terrain of the Lower Cane Creek area as he approaches King. The interview is conducted outdoors.

Keywords: Flood; Logging; Lower Cane Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Farm life; Mountain life

00:04:34 - State of the land

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Partial Transcript: Hello Tommy, how ya doing?

Segment Synopsis: King describes the activity he is doing -- cutting buckeye trees. He talks about the ownership of the land where he is cutting trees. He describes the fencing around the land and how it was done. He explains why he has to take bark off the trees that are cut down.

Keywords: Cutting trees; Felling trees; Fences; Leasing; Ohio buckeye trees

Subjects: Agriculture; Farm life; Logging; Lumber trade

00:09:44 - Cattle and farming

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Partial Transcript: You've got cattle in here now?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the cattle he owns. He says that there is a water gap in the fence that could be a problem for cattle during floods. Sometimes one of the cows jumps over the fence. He also has goats. He talks about the different kinds of crops he grows, mostly to support his livestock.

Keywords: Animals; Cattle; Crops; Fences; Flooding in Cane Creek (Ky.); Tobacco farming

Subjects: Agriculture.; Cattle; Livestock; Tobacco farms; Traditional farming

00:14:19 - Impact of rain on crops

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Partial Transcript: Well all this water we have been getting in rain, is it going to be a problem for your crops this year?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the effect of heavy rain on his crops. While the corn will not be affected, it will have an impact on tobacco crop. He says "ditching" the low places helps, but he cannot do it in some places. He also talks about his hog farming. He thinks the hog market doesn't look very good now since the price of hogs per pound is decreasing.

Keywords: Effects of heavy rains; Farming in Cane Creek (Ky.); Impact of rain on tobacco

Subjects: Agriculture; Traditional farming

00:16:39 - Farm equipment / auction

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Partial Transcript: And how about your farm equipment, how is, how is that running?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the major repairs he has had on farm equipment. He talks about getting a junk disc mower from an auction and working on repairing it. He describes the auction where people bring things they do not want and sell it.

Keywords: Disc mowers; Farm equipment auctions

Subjects: Auctions; Farm equipment

00:18:52 - Tobacco / surrounding land

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Partial Transcript: Well, how, how are tobacco prices looking for the fall harvest?

Segment Synopsis: King thinks the tobacco market will be a lot like last year. He starts selling tobacco in January. The farmers cannot hold on to the tobacco for a long time because they need money. He talks about the area surrounding the place where they are. They talk about a house near King's land and how it will be torn down.

Keywords: Tobacco farming; Tobacco farming in Cane Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture; Traditional farming

00:21:58 - Farm supply stores

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Partial Transcript: I noticed your hat there, Smallwood's, uh, Farm Supply?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about a farm store called Smallwoods where he likes to shop. He buys all of his hog feed from Southern States in Stanton, which will be going out of business soon. He describes the family that owns many stores in the area.

Keywords: Farm stores; Farm supply stores

Subjects: Agriculture.; Farm equipment; Farm supply industries

00:25:24 - Improvements / precautions

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Partial Transcript: So that's where--is this a wet water spring next to us here on the hillside?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the kinds of improvements he is planning to make on the property. He would have to cut down many trees there since they have no use. He talks about the precautions he has to take. He has to make sure that the cattle don't get into the corn field or eat wild cherries. The buckeye trees are also harmful if eaten by the cattle, so that is why he wants to cut them down. He explains why he doesn't want a fence between the woods and the pasture. The woods would be good for the cattle for various reasons.

Keywords: Buckeye trees; Poisonous trees; Wild cherries

Subjects: Cattle--Handling; Farms, Small

00:30:12 - Neighboring properties

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Partial Transcript: Is there any timber in here worth selling?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the person who cleared much of the forest in that area. He talks about the various pieces of land that could be up for sale. He also talks about his neighbors. Buckeye trees do not make for good timber but can be used as firewood.

Keywords: Buckeye trees; Pastures; Timber

Subjects: Cattle--Handling; Farms, Small

00:32:57 - Property / fencing

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Partial Transcript: And how many acres do you have on, on this side of the road?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the size of his property. He describes his plan for the winter--he is going to get some fencing done since there isn't much farming going on at that time. It is better to cut trees during winter because the chain saw doesn't get hot and the trees are easier to cut. He talks about the different kinds of saws he has.

Keywords: Chain saws; Cutting trees; Winter work

Subjects: Farms, Small; Fences; Logging; Lumber trade.

00:35:54 - Tobacco / natural signs for planting and harvesting

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Partial Transcript: Well this year when did you start getting your, uh--start working on your tobacco?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the process of planting tobacco. It doesn't take much time to start them - probably 2 acres a day. He talks about the different phases of tobacco farming in his part of Kentucky. He favors late tobacco. There are many factors that change the schedule. He also talks about the signs that help decide the day of planting crops and other steps in farming.

Keywords: Farming decisions; Steps in tobacco farming; Tobacco farming; Weather signs

Subjects: Agriculture; Tobacco farms

00:40:02 - Corn

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Partial Transcript: Well how is your time table with, um, with, uh, corn and soybeans?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the timetable for corn and soybean farming. The type of corn seeds you buy depends on the planting schedule you have. He talks about why this year he planted corn a little late. He probably will slow down a little next year, since there is a lot to be done.

Keywords: Corn farming; Farming schedules

Subjects: Agriculture.; Crops; Farms, Small; Traditional farming

00:42:28 - Hogs and cattle

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Partial Transcript: Are you going to keep up with the same volume of, of hogs or are you going to try to get more into cattle?

Segment Synopsis: King is going to have a lesser number of hogs because the market is not good. New technology means that some farmers/businesses are able to have confined places that make the prices go down. He thinks that it is helpful to have hogs in places where you can grow more corn, since it keeps down the feed costs. He has to go more into cattle. He thinks Kentucky can handle twice the number of cattle they have right now, but for various reasons it doesn't. Only a few people do cattle farming. He talks about the people in the area who own cattle.

Keywords: Cattle; Cattle farming; Cattle market; Hogs; Pig farms

Subjects: Agriculture; Cattle--Handling; Food animals.; Livestock.; Traditional farming

00:46:19 - Future of tobacco

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Partial Transcript: How much does it cost to lease land out around here?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the average cost of leasing an acre of land in the area. The land he leased is one of the best in the county. He talks about the future of tobacco, particularly the issue of people suing tobacco companies. He thinks this will affect tobacco farmers. He doesn't think people have a good alternative, except cattle, if tobacco farming is not viable. Truck farming is also not a good option.

Keywords: Lease costs; Leasing farmlands; Tobacco farming

Subjects: Agriculture; Tobacco farms; Traditional farming; Truck farming

00:50:26 - Bills and expenses / government

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Partial Transcript: Well what are some of the most, uh, pressing I guess, I guess farm bills you have to, to deal with?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the different items for which he is regularly paying: feed, fertilizer, lime, seeds, etc. He borrows money to pay for these and then pays it back with the money from selling the produce. He doesn't get any special interest rate. He thinks the government does not help much -- at least it doesn't work for him. He thinks the government should stay out of farming. He describes one government intervention that did not have good consequences. This intervention was related to testing pigs for some kind of rabies.

Keywords: Bills; Farming expenses; Farming loans; Government interventions; Government regulations; Pig farming; Regulations on pig farming

Subjects: Agriculture; Agriculture--Economic aspects--United States.; Agriculture--Finance; Cattle--Handling; Family farms--Finance; Government

00:58:08 - Concerns about farming--Machinery

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Partial Transcript: Well what else are they doing that's kind of rough on you?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the concerns he has for the future of farming in Kentucky. He thinks the price of machinery is going up and there is new machinery coming out frequently, so that most farmers in the area cannot keep up with the technological advancement. These technologies are geared towards big farms, not the small ones, like in the Cane Creek area. But they still have to compete with big farms. There are various geographical features that are responsible for the comparatively lower production level.

Keywords: Agriculture machinery; Farmers in Cane Creek (Ky.); Geography of Cane Creek (Ky.); Technology in farming

Subjects: Agriculture; Farm equipment; Farm mechanization

01:01:26 - Concerns about farming--Profits

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Partial Transcript: Are people going out of farming here much?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about his concern regarding fewer farmers in the area. Younger people, he thinks, do not want to work so much as the older people do for the amount of profits they get. He points out the increasing cost of equipment and the steady prices of produce to show why it's difficult to be a farmer. He doesn't want to buy any new farmland.

Keywords: Future of farming; Profits in farming; Profits in small farms

Subjects: Agriculture; Agriculture--Economic aspects--United States.; Agriculture--Finance; Family farms--Finance; Farms, Small

01:04:47 - Work schedule / farming information

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Partial Transcript: W, w, what's your average day like now? How many hours you putting in?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about his daily schedule, which depends on the weather. He works around 10-12 hours a day, all year long except winters when it gets dark quickly. He doesn't take any vacations. He is not a member of any farming association, but he gets a few farming magazines for free. The extension agent is on radio for 15 minutes every morning to advise people. It's a popular radio show.

Keywords: Extension agent; Farm life; Farming information; Radio program on farming

Subjects: Agriculture; Country life; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

01:14:50 - Cows

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned your, your cows are, are part Simmental?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the breed of cows he has. He started buying them 15 years ago and has been breeding his own stock. He talks about the division of work between him and Gary. Gary takes care of the tobacco farming and he does the rest of the work on the farm. He talks about another partner and sharing the profits.

Keywords: Cattle farming in Kentucky; Cows; Tobacco farming

Subjects: Agriculture; Cattle.; Farm life.; Farms, Small; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

01:18:38 - Plans

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Partial Transcript: Is it dangerous for the cows to be up here around those trees now or?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the various projects he needs to complete in the next few years. Cleaning up the area would mean that he can do less farming.

Keywords: Farming in Kentucky

Subjects: Agriculture; Farms, Small

01:22:02 - Cattle / lease

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned you had a--there--well there are three herds of cattle in Cane Creek.

Segment Synopsis: There are four herds of cattle in the area including one of his own. King talks about the different kinds of cows other herds have. There aren't enough cattle in the area. He talks about the different things people farm. He describes the details of the leases he has, describing in detail one particular leasing arrangement he has.

Keywords: Cattle; Leasing farmland; Types of cows

Subjects: Agriculture; Farms, Small; Land use, Rural.; Livestock.; Traditional farming

01:28:24 - Changes in the farm / government programs

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Partial Transcript: Now when, when did the farm start going down?

Segment Synopsis: King talks briefly about the history of the farm. He also talks about future plans for the arm. He talks about the government programs in the area to help farmers. He says that these programs involve farmers paying a lot of money over a long period of time, which he doesn't like.

Keywords: Barns; Farming in Cane Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture; Farms, Small; Traditional farming

01:32:29 - Profits / calling cattle

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Partial Transcript: You'll keep this the way it is? You're not gonna improve?

Segment Synopsis: King talks about the profits he can make from the cattle he has. There is also a lot of cost involved, so he will probably make $10,000 in the end. He also talks about beehives he has and why he isn't going to have more of them. He demonstrates how he calls his cows and his hogs.

Keywords: Calling cattle; Calling sounds for cattle; Pastures in Kentucky; Profit in raising cattle; Profits in cattle industry

Subjects: Agriculture--Economic aspects--United States.; Agriculture--Finance; Agriculture--economics; Family farms--Finance; Fences; Livestock.; Traditional farming