Abstract

The Georgia peach boom around the turn of the twentieth century was often hailed as a successful experiment in diversification. Peach growers, the story went, threw off the tyranny of King Cotton by pledging their allegiance to the “Queen of Fruits.” This portrayal is partly true; unlike other proposed alternatives to cotton, peaches flourished in many places. But the history of the “labor problem” in the Georgia peach belt makes it clear that peach production depended on the cotton economy. Peaches required large amounts of labor only at harvest time, which came during a lull in the cotton season. Thus, for many years, growers found a ready labor supply in a rural population otherwise at loose ends. As this population relocated to cities, and as cotton farmers mechanized their operations, peach growers turned increasingly to the federal government to help shore up their workforces.

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NOTES

1. On the invisibility of migrant farmworkers, see, Daniel Rothenberg,
With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today
(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
2000
),
xxii
,
6
. I would like to thank Paul Sutter, Shane Hamilton, members of the Workshop on the History of Agriculture and the Environment, Julie Wiese, and three anonymous reviewers. For opening their offices, homes, and lives, I thank the residents of middle Georgia who gave interviews.
2.
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Fortune Magazine
(
Feb.
1932
):
37
.
3. Scholarly studies of the industrialization of agriculture that emphasize the triumph of capital and resulting unequal social relations, include, Cletus Daniel,
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(
Ithaca
:
Cornell University Press
,
1981
); Carey McWilliams,
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(
Boston
:
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,
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). Works that discuss the commodification of nature specifically, include, William Cronon,
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(
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:
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,
1991
); Douglas Sackman,
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(
Berkeley
:
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,
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(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
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). More ambivalent approaches, include, Deborah Fitzgerald,
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(
New Haven
:
Yale University Press
,
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); David Vaught,
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(
Baltimore
:
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,
1999
); Cindy Hahamovitch,
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(
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:
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,
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),
200
.
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,
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,
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,
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:
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,
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:
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,
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:
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401
.
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10
:
384
. For more on the founding of FVSU, see, Donnie D. Bellamy,
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(
Virginia Beach, Va.
:
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11.
“Testimony of Mr. J. H. Hale,”
10
:
376
.
12. Robert Dickey II, interviewed by author, Feb. 22, 2008, Musella, Ga., notes in possession of author.
13. Thomas H. McHatton,
“The Peach Industry of Georgia”
(
master's thesis
,
Michigan Agricultural College
,
1921
),
36
; C. J. Hood,
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37th Annual Proceedings of the Georgia State Horticultural Society
(
Atlanta
:
Georgia State Horticultural Society
,
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),
36
.
14. McHatton,
“Peach Industry,”
36
.
15.
“Testimony of Mr. J. H. Hale,”
376
77
; Wallis Hardeman, interviewed by author, July 29, 2008, Fort Valley, Ga., notes in possession of the author; McHatton,
“Peach Industry,”
38
; Henry Perkins Stuckey and Paul Wilber Chapman,
Southern Horticulture
(
Atlanta
:
Turner E. Smith and Co.
,
1944
),
85
.
16. Oliver Bateman, interviewed by author, Feb. 22, 2008, Macon, Ga., notes in possession of the author; Allen Tullos,
Habits of Industry: White Culture and the Transformation of the Carolina Piedmont
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
1989
),
12
; William P. Jones,
The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South
(
Champaign
:
University of Illinois Press
,
2005
),
1
.
17. Stoll,
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,
124
25
.
18. T. G. Standing to Conrad Taeuber, May 12, 1942, quoted in Pete Daniel,
“Going among Strangers: Southern Reactions to World War II,”
Journal of American History
77
(
Dec.
1990
):
889
; Jason Morgan Ward,
“‘Nazis Hoe Cotton’: Planters, POWs, and the Future of Farm Labor in the Deep South,”
Agricultural History
(Fall
2007
):
471
72
.
19. Dewey Bateman, quoted in Willard Neal,
“When Georgia Peaches Pay Off,”
Atlanta Journal Magazine
,
July
11
,
1948
,
22
; Bateman interview, Feb. 22, 2008.
20. Louis Kyriakoudes,
“‘Lookin’ for Better All the Time': Rural Migration and Urbanization in the South, 1900–1950,”
in
African American Life in the Rural South, 1900–1950
, ed. R. Douglas Hurt (
Columbia
:
University of Missouri Press
,
2003
),
20
21
; Gavin Wright,
Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil War
(
New York
:
Basic Books
,
1986
),
7
8
; Günther Krohm to Dewey Bateman, Sept. 10, 1947, letters in private collection of Oliver Bateman, Macon, Ga.
21. Werner Volkmann to Dewey Bateman, Apr. 29, 1947; Friedrich Drüner to Dewey Bateman, Feb. 23, 1947, letters in private collection of Oliver Bateman, Macon, Ga.
22. Ibid.
23. Rûdolf Bergmaier to Dewey Bateman, Mar. 29, 1947, letters in private collection of Oliver Bateman, Macon, Ga.
24. Dewey Bateman, quoted in Neal,
“When Georgia Peaches Pay Off,”
22
; David Griffith,
American Guestworkers: Jamaicans and Mexicans in the US Labor Market
(
University Park
:
Pennsylvania State University Press
,
2006
),
32
33
. Cindy Hahamovitch best develops this notion of the government as labor padrone in Fruits of Their Labor.
25. Melissa Walker,
“Shifting Boundaries: Race Relations in the Rural Jim Crow South,”
in
African American Life
, ed. Hurt,
107
. Tractors are not the only measure of mechanization, but they are one of the only constants in the agricultural census from 1920 through 1978.
US Census of Agriculture
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1920–1978
); Craig Heinicke and Wayne A. Grove,
“‘Machinery Has Completely Taken Over’: The Diffusion of the Mechanical Cotton Picker, 1949–1964,”
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
(Summer
2008
):
70
,
72
; Donald Holley,
“Mechanical Cotton Picker,”
EH.Net Encyclopedia
, ed. Robert Whaples, http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/holley.cottonpicker (accessed Oct. 16, 2009).
26. John Mebane,
“Labor Deficiency Perils Year's Crops,”
Atlanta Journal
,
June
22
,
1947
,
10B
; Kyriakoudes,
“Lookin' for Better All the Time,”
26
. Census statistics reveal a dramatic decrease in the number of tenants in the postwar South: from 942,655 white and 506,638 black tenants in 1939 to 118,153 and 18,235, respectively, in 1969. Pete Daniel,
Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures since 1880
(
Urbana
:
University of Illinois Press
,
1985
),
248
.
27. Bateman and W. M. Brake, quoted in Neal,
“When Georgia Peaches Pay Off,”
23
.
28. Joseph H. Baird,
“Is Georgia ‘Peached Out’?”
Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine
,
June
6
,
1971
,
36
; Steve Oney,
“Peaches: Picking Through Facts and Fantasies About Georgia's Famous Fruit,”
Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine
,
July
1
,
1979
,
10
;
US Population Census
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1930–2007
). Bibb County is home to Macon, the largest city in middle Georgia. The rural counties included are Crawford, Houston, Macon, Peach, and Taylor. Dickey II interview; Oliver Bateman interviews, Feb. 22, July 29, 2008.
29. R. M. Smith and W. B. Wood, quoted in Hugh Park,
“Red-Gold Peaches Big for Picking,”
Atlanta Journal
,
July
22
,
1965
,
1
,
23
; Bateman interview, July 29, 2008; Bill Wilson, quoted in Baird,
“Is Georgia ‘Peached Out’?”
34
35
.
30. Rosa Mae Lucas and Anola Jordan, quoted in Rob Levin,
“Georgia's Peach Crop Hot Prospect for Pickers,”
Atlanta Constitution
,
June
20
,
1984
,
7A
; Marvin Crafter, quoted in Hollis R. Towns,
“The Enduring Peach: Flourishing Fruit Still Packs Punch as a Symbol,”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
,
Aug.
15
,
1993
,
8D
; Hal Lowman, interviewed by author, July 20, 2009, Fort Valley, Ga., notes in possession of the author.
31. Lois Banks Hollis,
“The Political Orientation of Blacks in Three Bi-Racial Predominantly Rural Counties in Georgia: The Cases of Brooks, Burke, and Peach Counties”
(
PhD diss.
,
Atlanta University
,
1975
),
167
; Lawrence J. Hanks,
The Struggle for Black Political Empowerment in Three Georgia Counties
(
Knoxville
:
University of Tennessee Press
,
1987
),
98
,
100
.
32. Dickey interview, July 28, 2008; Bateman interview, Feb. 22, 2008.
33. Bateman interview, July 29, 2008. Hahamovitch has documented the East Coast migrant stream in Fruits of Their Labor; Dickey interview, July 28, 2008.
34. Al Pearson, quoted in Oney,
“Peaches,”
14
.
35. Helen Rhea Coppedge, quoted in
“Georgia Peach Dedicated,”
Fruit (Bryan, Tx.) South
9
(
Jan.
1988
):
6
.
36. John D. Studstill and Laura Nieto-Studstill,
“Hospitality and Hostility: Latin Immigrants in Southern Georgia,”
in
Latino Workers in the Contemporary South, Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings
, ed. Arthur D. Murphy et al. (
Athens
:
University of Georgia Press
,
2001
),
73
; Bateman interview, July 29, 2008. Ochoa is not the family's real name, and the authors refer to Peach County as “Fruit County” and Fort Valley as “Peachtown” throughout the piece. The authors' dates are unclear—they say the Ochoas came northward in 1981, but the Big Peach was constructed in 1986, suggesting either that the Ochoas came up much later (perhaps after the 1989 freeze); that the family invented the Big Peach part of their story later; or that there was an earlier version of the Big Peach, perhaps a painted water tower.
37. Bateman interview, Feb. 22, 2008.
38. Laurie Moses,
“Chop Evans: Hot on Hydrocooling,”
American (Ohio) Fruit Grower
(
June
1992
):
4
; Johnathan Burns,
“Field of Dreams: Migrants No More, Hispanic Farm Workers Make Midstate Home,”
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph
,
Aug.
14
,
1997
,
1B
; Studstill and Nieto-Studstill,
“Hospitality,”
79
.
39. Studstill and Nieto-Studstill,
“Hospitality,”
79
; John Brown, quoted in Peter Applebome,
“Georgia Harvester is Fined $1 Million in Alien Smuggling,”
New York Times
,
Feb.
8
,
1992
,
1
; Arthur Brice,
“Action Against ‘Pillars of the Community’ Shocks Residents,”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
,
Feb.
8
,
1992
,
5B
; Jeffry Scott,
“Lane is One of Georgia's Biggest Packing Companies,”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
,
Feb.
8
,
1992
,
5B
.
40. Jorge Durand et al.,
“The New Era of Mexican Migration to the United States,”
Journal of American History
86
(
Sept.
1999
):
521
22
; Dickey interview, July 28, 2008.
41. Bill McGehee, quoted in David A. Goldberg,
“Migrants' Boon, Farmers' Burden: Amnesty Law May Create Farm Labor Crisis,”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
,
July
31
,
1989
,
4A
; Durand et al.,
“New,”
523
; Robert Carrazco Jr., interviewed by author, July 28, 2008, Musella, Ga., notes in possession of the author; Burns,
“Field of Dreams,”
1B
.
42. Thomas P. Fischer, quoted in Deborah Scroggins,
“INS fines Georgia Firm $1.2 Million,”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
,
Feb.
8
,
1992
,
1A
; Fischer, quoted in Applebome,
“Georgia Harvester,”
1
.
43. Evans, quoted in Moses,
“Chop Evans,”
4
; Evans, quoted in Towns,
“Enduring Peach,”
8D
.
44.
Health, Education, and Human Services Division
,
“H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker Program: Experiences of Individual Vidalia Onion Growers,”
B-28097 (
Washington, DC
:
GAO
,
1998
),
9
;
Dickey interview
,
July
28
,
2008
.
45. Dickey interview, Feb. 22, 2008; Statement of Chalmers R. Carr III,
House Committee on Agriculture
,
Temporary Guest Worker Proposals in the Agriculture Sector Hearing
, 108th Cong., 2 nd sess.,
Jan.
28
,
2004
,
47
.
46. Robert Dickey III, interviewed by author, July 17, 2009, Musella, Ga.; Lawton Pearson, interviewed by author, July 10, 2009, Lee Pope, Ga.; Dawson Morton, telephone interview by author, Sept. 9, 2008, all notes in possession of the author.
47.
Dickey interview
,
Feb.
22
,
2008
; Jeffrey H. Cohen,
The Culture of Migration in Southern Mexico
(
Austin
:
University of Texas Press
,
2004
),
111
,
121
; Leon Fink,
The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South
(
Chapel Hill
:
University of North Carolina Press
,
2003
),
168
69
; Griffith,
American Guestworkers
, Chpts. 3 and 4.
48. Angelo Surez, quoted in Towns,
“Enduring Peach,”
8D
; Carrazco interview, July 28, 2008; Tony Barajas, quoted in Sally Scherer,
“Taking Root: One Family's Journey,”
Macon Telegraph
,
Aug.
6
,
1995
,
8E
.
49. Bill McGehee, quoted in Jodi White and Sally Scherer,
“‘Invisible Work Force’ Lacking Necessities,”
Macon Telegraph
,
Aug.
6
,
1995
,
9A
; Helen Hudson, quoted in Burns,
“Field of Dreams,”
1B
; Carr statement, Jan. 28, 2004. This pattern of paternalistic protection of migrant workers by local whites receives a more thorough treatment in Julie Meira Wiese's fascinating (but too recent to fully address here) dissertation,
“Fighting for Their Place: Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the US South, 1910–2008”
(
PhD diss.
,
Yale University
,
2009
).