Segments in this Video

Change in the Old Belt (01:50)


Tobacco farmers have fallen on hard times. Tobacco regions are Virginia's most impoverished and poorly educated areas. An expert explains why farmers in this film are telling their stories.

Tobacco Was the Gold (04:40)

In 1612, John Rolfe tobacco seeds produce a more desired leaf and tobacco export becomes the economic salvation. Tobacco is valued as currency. Colonial landowners purchase slaves to meet tobacco demands.

Opened Up This Country (03:15)

The dominance of self-contained plantations slow urban development in Virginia. Tobacco cultivation moves westward; rivers are the means of travel. In 1730, a tobacco inspection law passes. Danville, Virginia is created to obtain an inspection station.

A New Type of Tobacco (02:02)

In the mid 1800's Bright Leaf develops a new type of tobacco. Experts discuss curing tobacco to produce a gold leaf.

The Birthplace (03:12)

Flue-curing tobacco produces a milder tasting leaf, encouraging a transition to cigarettes. Experts discuss the old ways of farming and curing tobacco. In 1858, Danville, Virginia creates a tradition of selling loose-leaf tobacco.

I Didn't Have Anything (04:23)

Tobacco is an integral part of recovery after the Civil War. The labor vacuum is filled by share cropping and tenancy. Freed blacks and poor whites fall into tenancy. Tobacco farmers recall their early beginnings.

A License To Grow (05:34)

Flue-cured tobacco production spreads down the east coast. We see archival footage from 1947. The tobacco program establishes a quota. Experts discuss the allotment's impact. Many farmers have little education.

A Common Thread (06:29)

Tobacco production increases by the 1940s; most labor forces are families. Farmers discuss their farming heritage. Tobacco farming shapes the area's culture and rural farm life encourages larger families. We see a tobacco harvest.

The Tobacco Market (01:36)

Tobacco farmers recall their time in the market as a child. The tobacco market is also a fair. We see archival footage of a market.

Most Perfect Leaf (02:15)

A retired tobacco farmer recalls festival competitions. South Boston, Virginia hosts the National Tobacco Festival from 1935-1941. In 1946, the festival moves to Richmond, Virginia. A woman recalls being Lady Nicotine.

A Musical Flair (03:11)

Tobacco harvest means auction time. Chiswell Langhorne is the inventor of the auctioneer's chant. The winner of an auctioneer competition discusses his experience. We see brief clips of tobacco auctions.

It Is Change (01:01)

Computers take the place of auctioneers at tobacco markets. Former auctioneers are disheartened at the loss of the auction tradition.

A World Atmosphere (10:10)

Tobacco farmers face the economic hardship of the world market. Tobacco farmers discuss the impact of quota reduction. A weak tobacco program and public attitude hurts farmers. Experts discuss a free market system.

The Ending of An Era (01:59)

In 2004, the Tobacco Buyout is signed into law. Tobacco farmers reflect on the impact of the law; they face difficult decisions. Farmers consider the future of farming.

You Won't Ever See It Anymore (02:16)

In the Old Belt, a way of life is fading. Farmers discuss the changing landscape.

Credits: Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the Tobacco South (01:43)

Credits: Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the Tobacco South

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Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the Tobacco South

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The tobacco farmers of the Old Belt of Virginia represent a history and a way of life that began with the founding of Jamestown and the colony of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay. But tobacco farmers in Southside Virginia, like coal miners in Appalachia, have come upon hard times. Declining quotas, production moving overseas, society’s changing attitudes, and the 2004 tobacco buyout have radically altered the cultural landscape of the Old Belt, the birthplace of bright leaf tobacco. This program traces the history and culture of tobacco in Virginia, providing a basis for studying past and ongoing socioeconomic changes, from the era of slavery to the present. Combining extensive archival materials with interviews and oral histories conducted with several Old Belt tobacco farming families, the film examines the impact on local communities and allows farmers to tell their stories—not for sympathy, but to shed light on a cultural paradigm shift occurring in the tobacco industry, and in agriculture throughout the United States, today. (56 minutes)

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL50566

ISBN: 978-1-61753-244-3

Copyright date: ©2005

Closed Captioned

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