The Randlestown Experiments

The Randlestown experiments were the object of much curiosity from the other landowners. The employment of a government departmental advisor – a Kentuckian, Mr. Keller, in 1905 - prepared the way for an expansion of the experiments. The period 1904 to 1913 saw twenty persons in seven countries licensed to grow tobacco.

While Everard committed himself to growing twenty acres on his estate, he also canvassed for growers for ten acres among his tenants, offering a £20-an-acre profit to any of his tenants willing to grow the crop. A reluctance on the part of his own tenants to take up such a lucrative offer may have some foundation in the perception of Everard as an 'innovator' or 'inventor', or in fact that the Randlestown estate was at that time (1903) affected by the Land Acts and further sales were imminent.

An initial cautious reception of neighbours and tenants quickly gave way to a more ready acceptance as Everard carried the initial cost of providing barns for saving and curing the crop and marketing the final produce. The crop's success in poor soil conditions led to increased interest, and growers noticed that the whole farm of the tobacco grower was in better condition than that of the farmer who did not grow tobacco.

The labour intensity of the crop is lost perhaps in the grim statistics of 748.5 hours manual labour required per acre, yet it is readily brought to life by the memories of estate workers recalled in the Weekender newspaper in August 1993 that "forty or fifty women could be called in to cover each plant with a handful of grass at the slightest danger of frost".


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