Jimmy Carter Lived the Weed Nightmare

Our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, grew up on a peanut and cotton farm long before herbicides were available to manage weeds. In his autobiography, President Carter recounts the nightmare of trying to control weeds with tractors and hand labor.

“Our part of Georgia receives about fifty inches of rain during an average year, mostly during the spring and early summer… However, depending entirely on draft animals and hand labor, small variations in the rain pattern could be devastating. … The dry ground permitted the mule-drawn cultivating plows and hoes to restrain the ever-encroaching weeds and grass. However, when no plowing was possible because of several successive days of rain, the noxious plants were uncontrollable. Something like the terrible creeping and oozing things in horror movies, Bermuda grass, coffeeweed, cocklebur, Johnsongrass, beggar-lice, and nut grass would emerge from what had been a cleanly cultivated field, and in a few days our entire crop of young peanuts and cotton could be submerged in a sea of weeds. Often, despite the most heroic efforts by the best farmers, parts of the crop would have to be abandoned. Although partially salvaged, the remaining young plants were heavily damaged by the aggressive plowing and hoeing. During these rainy times, Daddy would pace at night, scan the western skies for a break in the clouds, and scour the community, often far from our own farm, to recruit any person willing to hoe or pull up weeds for day wages.”

Author: Jimmy Carter
Publication: An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood. 2001. Simon & Schuster, New York.

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