The Tobacco Farm Life Museum - Micro Adventure

If your travels have taken you through the "Old North State," you've likely driven by, through, or around a tobacco farm. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum pays tribute to this golden leaf crop that was largely responsible for rebuilding North Carolina after the Civil War. Tobacco continues to be the state's largest cash crop with almost 153,000 acres devoted to farming it.

Tobacco Farm Life Museum
GPS:
35.60072, -78.11737
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Micro Adventures

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly (exit 107 off of I-95) sits on a 5th generation working tobacco farm which gives the operation some major credibility when it comes to promoting its stated mission to "preserve the cultural heritage of the North Carolina rural family." Their 150-acre operation produces around 400,000 lbs of cured leaf tobacco, 80% of which is exported to Europe and Asia.

Indoor exhibit featuring different brands of cigarette packs at Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina

Watch the 15-minute introductory film, which rather than promoting tobacco use, covers the labor intensive process of modern tobacco farming. There are way more steps and chemicals involved in growing tobacco than one would imagine, but, in a nutshell, the plants get their greenhouse start from seed in mid-February while the soil is being prepped, go into the ground late April, and after four timed harvests, fill the curing barns in September. Modern practices have reduced labor from 900 man hours per acre to 60 man hours per acre.

Indoor exhibit of tools and wagons for tobacco farming at  the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina

The six-thousand square foot exhibition hall of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum is devoted to the life of the tobacco farmer between the years 1870-1940 with period artifacts including farm tools, textiles, household, and leisure items – giving you a historical window into a simpler time on an eastern North Carolina rural tobacco farm. Exhibits and dioramas highlight various aspects such as  growing tobacco, soil conservation, tobacco warehousing, auctions, transportation, textiles, education, religion, and community life which helps you understand just how deep a cultural impact the crop has had on the state – no matter how you might feel about the end-product.

Reproduction pack house at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina
Iredell Brown Farmstead kitchen at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina
Log-and-mortar building used as a tobacco curing barn at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina

The outside portion of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum takes you on a self-guided tour of the Iredell Brown Farmstead. Most of the buildings are over 100 years old, which gives you a glimpse of a typical early 20th century farmstead. Highlights include the kitchen of the original Iredell Brown homestead from 1884 which housed Brown, his wife, and five children who made the most of a very, very small space when compared to modern standards.

Outdoor self-guided tour of Iredell Brown Farmstead at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina

Later, Iredell built the “Great House” which was completed in 1911 – a simple turn-of-the-century farm home with no plumbing. Electricity was added in 1936, a refrigerator in 1947, but plumbing was never added. The family continued living there until 1960. Other structures on the property include a smoke house, milk shed, reproduction well, tobacco curing barn, pack house, and a charming one-room school house.

Outdoor exhibit of Iredell Brown homestead wooden house at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina

Tobacco Farm Life Museum

Things to Know: 

  • Hours: Tue-Sat 9:30am-5pm Closed Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving (Thur/Fri),  Christmas Holiday (Dec 24-Jan 15)
  • Admission: $8/adult;$7/seniors; $6/children & students – AAA/military discounts
  • Tip: additional events and workshops available throughout the year
  • Address: 709 North Church Street, Kenly, NC 27542
  • Phone: 919.284.3431
  • Suggested time: 1-2hr

Consider getting take out at Parker's Barbecue (cash only) in Wilson for authentic Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue and eating it at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park just down the road from them.

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Exterior view of a one-room school house at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina
Interior of one-room school house at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly, North Carolina
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194
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*Tent campsites only; accurate at time of publication
709 N Church St
Kenly
North Carolina
27542
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