The 2021-22 Guide to Richmond Hill, Georgia 2021-22 - Page 95

Although Richmond Hill has a rich history freckled with industrial farming from Henry Ford to Rayonier , it lacks but one mystery : the region ’ s oscillating cash crops .

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hortly after Ford ’ s colonization of the land in 1925 , the once profitable rice fields were rehabilitated for iceberg lettuce , which flourished in the brackish soils of the adjacent marsh . In a subsection of Franklin Leslie and Lucy Bunce Long ’ s , The Henry Ford Era at Richmond Hill , Georgia , it was recorded that between 120-145 acres of lettuce were planted among the reclaimed rice paddies per year . An excerpt reads that “ customers often told us that [ the lettuce ] was pre-salted . It was so good that when we were packing it , the workers sometimes took along a jar of mayonnaise and ate a head at lunchtime .”
Shipments supplied local markets and fed families all along the east coast for ten successful years until , suddenly , production stopped altogether . Could it have been the process to convert viscous fields into those fit to sustain lettuce ? Ford was known to have implemented a large , auger-type water pump to expel over 20,000 gallons of water per minute away from the fields and into the nearby river ; “ even an inch of rain would put over eight million gallons of water on the field ” for which the pump had
to distribute lest the crops be ruined . Or could this repetitive , mass jettisoning of cash crops be that they were too laborious ? Lettuce growing and cultivation was intensive , “ often reflecting the hard work conducted on the former rice plantation in the 19th century .”

Truthfully , the area ’ s agricultural sterility lies in the decisions of its owner . He or she remains the stipulator , and can just as well abandon one cash crop for another , more increasingly popular one . Perishable commodity farms are still nearby ; today , there are no large farms in Richmond Hill , save the abundance of timber and pine trees grown by Rayonier . There is no doubt that large-scale farming has given way to urban sprawl : a successful crop of another kind . This past century has inaugurated hosts of developing neighborhoods , golf courses , and commercial space as Richmond Hill ’ s main cash crop . As members of the community , we are just as much a consumer as ever . So , what happened to the lettuce ? You might just be sitting on what remains .

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