Southeastern exhibit spotlights strawberries’ regional role
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
by: Tonya Lowentritt
FRUIT REVOLUTION – Graduate research assistants from Southeastern Louisiana University’s Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies pose with the exhibit “Fruit Revolution: The Impact of Strawberry Farming on Southeast Louisiana,” located on the third floor of Sims Library. From left are Faith Allen, Blake Constant, and Sarah Pardue.
HAMMOND – On Nov. 13, Southeastern Louisiana University’s Center for Southeast Louisiana
Studies will unveil an exhibit that explores how a small fruit revolutionized the
economy and cultural identity of the Florida Parishes.
The exhibit titled “Fruit Revolution: The Impact of Strawberry Farming on Southeast Louisiana” emerged as the idea of three graduate research assistants at the center, said Director Samuel Hyde, who is also Leon Ford Endowed Chair and Professor of History at Southeastern.
“The students came up with the idea, extensively researched the topic, and performed 100 percent of the exhibit construction. All I and Assistant Director Keith Finely did was answer a few questions and comment on how great a job they were doing,” Hyde said.
Faith Allen, Blake Constant, and Sarah Pardue, with some assistance from undergraduate staff member Emery Foster and intern Bailey Hall, worked for nearly four months researching and constructing the exhibit, Hyde added.
The exhibit reveals that with the demise of cotton farming due to the arrival of the boll weevil and destruction of the timber forests, the region went into a sharp economic decline that had a devastating impact on society. The introduction of strawberries, which developed a unique flavor and texture due to the soil quality of the region, rescued the area from its economic malaise and brought other new industries with it, such as box and crate plants and refrigeration companies.
The emergence of the strawberry industry was not without controversy and conflict. One portion of the exhibit explains the heated dispute between unions, big industry, and small independent farmers.
“The controversy propelled some well-known regional figures to local stardom, including Congressman Jimmie Morrison,” Pardue said.
Allen said part of the challenge for the students was keeping the exhibit from becoming too large.
“Strawberries have had such a huge impact on the region that we had to place parameters on the size of the exhibit, or we would have worked on it for years,” she said.
The exhibit, located in the center on the third floor of Sims Library, will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. until noon on Friday. Constant said it promises to be educational and entertaining.
“I never knew such a little berry could have such a large impact on an entire state,” she added.
For more information contact the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at 985-549-2151.