My dad was born in the 1930s, and he remembers his family participating in sharecropping when he was a young boy. They had a nice landlord, so they didn’t have any problems with survival or debt.
The farm on which they worked had a small house that the landlord let my dad’s family live in. They paid the rent in crops, so they didn’t have to worry about making extra money.
Even during a particularly rough year full of drought, they were able to make it through the winter on the few crops they had, because the landlord saw that they were in need. Since he had plenty of money, he let them keep the majority of the crops that year.