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Tenant Farming Labor System

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Tenant farming, which replaced the slave-based agricultural system in the south, enabled farm laborers to rent ground from landowners for a percentage of crops (called crop rent) or cash payments (called cash rent).

Terms of contracts varied, dependent on whether the laborer owned any equipment or purchased his own seed and supplies.

Crop rent contracts generally required that one-fourth to one-third of the crop be paid to the landlord.

Sharecroppers, at the lowest rung of tenant farming, lacked equipment and capital, which had to be provided by landlords. Thus, they received a smaller percentage of crops, typically 50 percent.

Plowing Mules Image
Some tenants owned their own mules and equipment, which enabled them to negotiate better contracts.

Photograph by Curtis Duncan
Courtesy of Arkansas State University Museum

Arkansas Delta:  Early Years

Pre-Civil War:  Enslaved Labor

Tenant Farming Labor System

Hard Times for Farmers

The Agricultural Adjustment Act

Southern Tenant Farmers Union

The Union's Legacy



Southern Tenant Farmers Museum

117 Main Street, Tyronza, Arkansas 72386

Telephone:  870-487-2909;  Fax 870-487-2910


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 regarding this site to Linda Hinton                                                                         Return to Arkansas State University Home Page