Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tobacco and Tennessee Agriculture

Black Cows and Snuff

Yesterday, I mentioned that I spent last week in Tennessee for a youth leadership conference. LEAD - Leaders Engaged in Angus Development - is planned each year by my good friend Robin Ruff. This year 207 participants took part in agriculture tours, learned a little bit about Music City, and developed their own leadership abilities.

We toured two Angus operations during the conference - Deer Valley Farms and Robert Elliot and Sons. Both places raise Angus cattle, however tobacco is also big business for the Elliot family, as it is for many farmers in Tennessee and Kentucky. He is what I can remember from this awesome tour.

This is a tobacco field. The plant is quite tall and the outside leaves where huge. The outside leaves are also worth the most. The top leaves in this variety can go into cigars, while the leaves closer to the bottom may be used in chewing tobacco. 

Tobacco is all harvested by hand, and will be handled a minimum of 14 times from planting through harvest. Once the tobacco has been cut it is put on these rods. 

A rod like this with five plants on it would weight around 30-40 lbs. 

It is then hung in barns. There are multiple rows of tobacco layered on top of each other. Once the barn is full, then wood and sawdust is layered in below and a fire is created. It is more of a smoke fire than flames. The heat cures the tobacco.

Another thing that was really interested is this young lady is holding multiple tobacco seeds in her hand. They are very, very tiny, and are usually pelleted before planting. Once pelleted they are larger in size and easier to handle.

Tobacco is an interesting crops not only because how labor intensive it is, but also we all know what the end product is. Something that really isn't that healthy for us. However, as one of the farmers that toured us put it, tobacco has probably saved a lot of farm families from starving. They rely on the income from this cash crop. Maybe it is a stretch to compare but a lot of people think beef or sugar is unhealthy. Are we going to try and but sugarcane farmers or cattle ranchers out of business. That's the great thing about living in North America is we get a choice.


  1. Your last sentence says it all!

  2. Really cool - thanks for sharing this unique experience and a different side of Agriculture ;)

  3. I am not a smoker by any means, but this is very interesting and very well put into a great story about a part of agriculture that most (including myself) wouldn't think about.


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