The Van Praet Family
Pete and Georgette purchased their farm on Jane Street bordering Bothwell and Thamesville in 1958. The farm was already established as a tobacco farm. Both of them grew up in the tobacco fields in Delhi, assisting their parents growing the Green Gold.
Pete and Georgette both worked in the tobacco factories in Delhi before moving to Bothwell. Pete made twenty dollars a week there. He stayed behind in Delhi when the family moved to Bothwell in order to work several more weeks in the factory as this meant grocery money for more a month or two.
The 1st year on the farm in Bothwell was good as they sold their tip tobacco in the first shipment. They graded the tips first as there was no room in the old barn to pile the tobacco so it was left in the aisles. The first shipment they made was the tips for which they received a good price. The companies did not want the tips in later shipments and paid only about 4 cents a lbs. Pete and Georgette were able to make quarter crop payment on the farm and had some money left for the next crop.
Pete VanPraet, Gerry Demaiter, Jerry Mezenburg and Paul Pynaert were the first tobacco grows in Bothwell to try growing tobacco in trays for plug plants. All except Paul went to PEI to see how it was done there. The trays were bought in Florida and 2 railway cars of trays were shipped to Bothwell. Some people had tried trays in Delhi but were not successful with it.
Pete changed to bulk kilns in 1973 with four kilns. They liked it so much that they added 4 more in 1974. It took away the extra work of re-piling tobacco into the barns. They did not buy an automatic harvester as they had stopped growing before the harvesters were efficient to operate. They did use a rider for the primers. They hired mostly local help when they first grew tobacco in Bothwell – later depended on labours from West Trinidad and Jamaica. Some came for many seasons.
Georgette always tyed tobacco or worked on the machine in harvest and hired someone to cook for the harvest gang. Later they moved the shares from the Pete’s parent’s farm from Delhi to Bothwell for more acreage. They sold the farm to Jerry Messenburg in 1994. Stayed in the farm house for one year while remodeling house from Georgette’s father in Thamesville.
As a young child, Georgette went on strike against her parents because her sister who was four years older received $1.50 per week, while Georgette was only being paid $1.00 per week. She did get her raise in pay but then was responsible for getting her own clothes. Pete was getting $5.00 per week for working on the home farm when he was dating Georgette. It cost them 50 cents each to go to dance in the Belgium Club and a few more dollars for some food. Pete always hoped that Georgette would always say no when he asked her if she wanted a drink after the dance for then he would have been broke the rest of the week.Pete worked for his parents on their tobacco farm as a young man. When he was 14, his father fell ill in the harvest time, so Pete had to shoulder the responsibility of running the family farm, which included curing the tobacco. At the age of just 14, this was an enormous undertaking for tobacco was still very labour intensive, with the threat of the wood burners destroying their future.
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