Ann K. Ferrell became interested in the cultural meanings of tobacco production while living in Kentucky in the late 1990s and early 2000s. During this period, the $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) was reached between the four largest American tobacco companies and forty-six state Attorneys General, and there was increasing talk about an end to the federal tobacco program. Both events would have widespread implications for Kentucky farmers, as well as for Kentucky’s economy and culture.
Ferrell began research on this project in 2005, with intensive fieldwork during the 2007 crop year—January 2007 through February 2008. During this period, Ferrell spent time on farms, observing and at times participating in tobacco production and, between 2005 and 2008, she conducted recorded interviews with farmers and members of farm families, tobacco warehousemen, university agricultural professionals, and other members of tobacco communities.
Ann K. Ferrell is Associate Professor of Folk Studies at Western Kentucky University. She continues her research with Kentucky farmers.