Tennessee Mountain Stories

The Bean Shed: Part 2 of The Green Bean Phenomenon

                With just a little ambition (or hunger) it’s not too hard to come up with a profitable product or service – something you can do or make that other people might need, want or enjoy.  The challenge is marketing.  This is true today and it was surely true when snap beans began to sprout across the Cumberland Plateau. 

Clarkrange Bean Shed.jpg

                There were people who wanted the beans, they just had to be matched up with the farmers who were growing them.  Thus, The Bean Shed was born.

                On the east side of Highway 127, just south of the Clarkrange Baptist Church, Harry Martin donated land for the bean shed.  Some folks were skeptical of the success but many more were thrilled by the opportunity to market their produce.  (I don’t have the year that the bean shed was built, but would welcome that information from any of our readers.  Please just click on “comments” below.)  Two other sheds would soon be built in Clarkrange and several others across the plateau.  Jamestown had sheds operated by the Crooks and Beaty families.  Mr. Maddox had a shed in Crossville. 

                From the end of June, everyday saw local growers filing into the bean shed with trucks loaded with bags of green beans.  There were even instances of people carrying a bag of beans in on their backs.  Months of hard work were about to be cashed in.  Buyers gathered, carefully inspecting the half-bushel sample of beans that each farmer displayed. Then, an auction was held and the highest bidder loaded his own truck with the sweet vegetable and headed out toward the canneries. 

                This place was all business.  While there were a small handful of folks who gathered just to see the excitement, mostly everyone was there with a mission.  For the children though, it was always a great adventure to make a trip to the bean shed.  Teaming with people, both neighbors and strangers, this beehive of activity felt like the fair and their day’s hard work was quickly forgotten as they watched it all.

                This economic center of the community was in operation until about 1961.  By then, the scale of production had outgrown the auction scheme of the bean shed and buyers were making their purchases directly from the farmers and loading them in the fields.  With the addition of tractors for planting and tilling, then the miracle of the mechanical picker, farmers that had been planting 5 – 20 acres were now counting acreage by the hundreds.  At this time, brokers began buying crops directly from the farmers and transporting them directly from field to cannery.

                I wonder if any of our readers ever remember visiting one of the bean sheds.  We’d all love to hear your account.  Just click on ‘comments’ below.