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Barns, Barbecue, and Bales of Cotton: A Rural Retrospective

Jeff Dennis is a
Lowcountry native.
Read his blog at

All regions of the Palmetto State share ties to early economic roots associated with agriculture. Some choose to hold on to and embrace this rural heritage despite the trends of modernization that are shaping today’s economy. A unique partnership between Clemson University and the S.C. Farm Bureau has produced a coffee table book that celebrates iconic barns, the products derived from local agriculture practices, and how slow cooked barbecue is a cornerstone of the rural lifestyle.
The book titled Barns, Barbecue, and Bales of Cotton has multiple contributors both for the text and the photos. Kirby Player is the book’s editor, and is in charge of the student relations and recruitment at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson. Player is a farm boy raised in Lee County, watching row crops stretch from treeline to treeline each and every year from planting time until harvest. He attended Clemson University and graduated in 1983, and after a short stint in the private sector, he has been working at Clemson’s Ag School for the past 25 years.
“Photographs were accepted from the public for nearly a year and a half for this book,” said Player. “We also sought images from the South Carolina office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.” The photos that appear in the book convey a pictorial history of rural South Carolina that will leaver older readers reminiscing, while raising awareness with younger readers about possible agricultural career paths. A mission of this book is to protect the rural past, but to also promote the rural future.

Editor Kirby Player with Barns, Barbecue and Bales of Cotton. Photo by Jeff Dennis.

“The sale of this book will raise money to fund much needed agricultural scholarships and to meet other academic needs in the areas of agricultural production,” said Player. “Without the financial support from The South Carolina Farm Bureau Foundation, this book would not have been possible. And the Dean’s Office and support staff at Clemson’s College of Agriculture have been vital in the efforts towards producing this book.”
Player credits his wife as being his cheerleader, but Player himself is upbeat and gregarious when talking about this book. “I worked with the South Carolina Barbecue Association for the section on the fun and fellowship of cooking,” said Player. “Their President Lake High Jr. contributed his expertise, and his strong personality is as flavorful as the best barbecue in South Carolina.” The book shares how different regions of the state are home to certain cooking styles, and includes ten recipes for each style of barbecue and all the fixin’s too.
The section about the products of S.C. agriculture covers beef cattle, corn, cotton, dairy, poultry, peaches, soybeans, tobacco and other commodities. Colleton County is one of the areas of the state that still maintains its rural and agricultural identity today. For instance, early English settlers in South Carolina recognized how well suited the Lowcountry region was for the production of beef cattle. Large herds belonging to plantations and the cattle drives associated with them, have changed over time into the smaller family-owned farms that still dot the landscape.
A large section of the book is dedicated to old wooden barns, which are viewed by some as a sort of rural library, housing all manner of historic information. The Lowcountry is one of the four regions of the state highlighted including corn cribs, pole barns, mule stalls, tobacco barns and hay barns. This book makes it easy to view and appreciate the large variety of these rural structures that are constantly locked into a battle with the elements and father time.
Especially gratifying are the pictures that show families in the barn photos, since these old barns were no doubt the focal point of agricultural livelihoods for multiple generations. Newer more modern barns may be more practical when it comes to storage of expensive farm equipment, but these old wooden barns are still quite functional as a place to keep ties with the past, especially regarding the talented carpenters that built these venerable structures that can last for 100 years of more. No sir, they don’t make them like they used to!

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (330 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com