Pinsteps. Sugar in Oak Alley Plantation
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Over the past few centuries, sugar consumption has increased exponentially. In the 1700s, the average person consumed only four pounds of sugar yearly. By 1800, this number had risen to 18 pounds; by 1870, it had skyrocketed to 50 pounds annually. As sugar's demand increased, so did its price, earning it the moniker "White Gold" for its desirability and high cost. As a result, the average American consumes between 150-170 pounds of refined sugar yearly.

Compared to the 1850s, modern sugarcane farming is a more intricate process. Farmers use fertilizers, pesticides, and ripening agents to ensure a successful crop. They spray herbicides and fungicides on both established and new sugarcane fields, replacing the previous method of manual weeding. A notable change in modern farming is using a "ripening agent" sprayed in late August to early September. This chemical halts the cane's growth and forces it to produce more sugar, preparing it for harvesting.

Sugarcane has not undergone significant changes since 1850, and plants still grow for three years before replanting. However, modern farming techniques have dramatically increased yield. In 1850, planters could expect 1,500 pounds of sugar per acre, whereas today, that number has risen to nearly 8,000 pounds per acre. Farmers remove any remaining stubble to prepare for planting, rotate summer crops like soybeans to maintain soil nitrogen levels, prevent weed growth, and reshape rows. Planting sugarcane now involves mostly mechanized labour, with tractors pulling planters that drop stalks into furrows, cover them, and roll the ground. Within two weeks, new plants emerge.

Sugarcane harvest season, known as "The Grinding," was a time of intense work on plantations. The harvest took place between October and January, weather permitting. Waiting too long to harvest the cane could lead to freezing, causing the juice inside to deteriorate and become impossible to crystallize into sugar. Enslaved workers worked 18-hour shifts for weeks, cutting the cane, bringing it to the sugarhouse, squeezing the juice from the plant, and crystallizing it into sugar using a Jamaica Train. It was a 24-hour operation, and even at night, lights could be seen from the mill and far out in the fields.

The Sugarcane plantation's growing season was divided into two tasks: tending to the cane and preparing for the harvest. Planters tasked their slaves with removing weeds by hand since no pesticides existed. The workers used hoes to pull out grass and other plants that would otherwise compete with the cane for nutrients and water. Those not tending to the club would cut wood for the sugar mill or repair plantation roads. Planters understood that bad roads could halt the entire operation for days while repairs were made, and some, like Oak Alley, installed mule-driven railroads to solve this problem. By replacing cartwheels with railroad wheels and laying down tracks, planters ensured that sugarcane could be collected from even the farthest reaches of their plantations, regardless of the weather.

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Evgeny Praisman
Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie of May 20, 2021

It was an incredible adventure! Vacherie is a small St. James Parish, Louisiana, USA community. It is known for its historic plantations that offer visitors a glimpse into the area's antebellum past. One of the most famous plantations in the area is Oak Alley Plantation, renowned for its oak-lined driveway and Greek Revival-style mansion. Visitors can also explore the Laura Plantation, known for its Creole architecture and offers tours that delve into the history of the area's enslaved African American population. Vacherie is also a popular spot for Cajun and Creole cuisine, with many restaurants offering dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and po'boys.

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Evgeny Praisman (author)
Здравствуйте! Меня зовут Женя, я путешественник и гид. Здесь я публикую свои путешествия и путеводители по городам и странам. Вы можете воспользоваться ими, как готовыми путеводителями, так и ресурсом для создания собственных маршрутов. Некоторые находятся в свободном доступе, некоторые открываются по промо коду. Чтобы получить промо код напишите мне сообщение на телефон +972 537907561 или на и я с радостью вам помогу! Иначе, зачем я всё это делаю?
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