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When the bean crop ruled Johnson County agriculture

It is an evening in late May when I am writing this column and it has rained very hard during the past three or four hours. There is a lull in the storm for now, but more rain is predicted for tonight. The ground is already saturated with water from thunderstorms earlier in the month and I hope there will be no serious flooding to follow this most recent storm.
I was just thinking that one of the most important occupations in the world is farming. The farmer feeds the world and without his hard work and long hours producing an abundance of food and fiber we would indeed be in “a heap of trouble.”
One of the most important concerns of the farmer is weather. In many occupations there is a measure of control over the factors that make up whatever enterprise is being undertaken. Not so with the farmer. One of the most important worries of the farmer is the weather and no one can control that. So, the farmer sows the seed and plants the plants. He takes care to provide the right kinds of fertilizer, prepares the field in just the right way, cultivates and works hard to raise his crops. But, unlike many businesses he must contend with weather as a factor in the final outcome. The farmer’s investment and consequently the profit from his land depend a great deal on the weather.
America was primarily an agricultural country in the early part of the 1900s. Now, there are fewer farms and fewer farmers but through modern innovations the American farmer is producing much more than in an earlier time.
As I thought about farming in general, I began to specifically think about one of the most important crops of Johnson County in an earlier era: green beans. Some of our younger folks and newcomers to Johnson County may not know that Johnson County was once called “The Green Bean Capital of the World.”
That designation followed from the many acres of green beans that were raised in the county. Fields large and small were plowed, and planted in beans. At one time there were two bean markets in Mountain City where beans were purchased and shipped to many places. Although the growing of green beans in Johnson County started out slow in the ‘30s, acreage increased rapidly and by the ‘50s the green bean was king. Other commodities were grown but beans were the most prominent. There were about 3,400 acres of beans planted in 1954. Picking beans was a tiring, hot, labor- intensive process and while many folks were glad to get the work then for 50 cents per bushel picked, it became increasingly difficult to get pickers. Machine picking was not possible due to the terrain in Johnson County. So, the bean business finally died out.
Getting back to the weather, I noted that about mid-May or a little later was the time farmers began planting their bean crops and some planting came even as late as July 25. While a few other varieties were grown, the Tendergreen was the most popular variety planted in the fields of Johnson County.