Tobacco

The tobacco industry has gained a rather unfortunate reputation within the past few decades. Years ago, tobacco farms and farmers were considered to be one of the primary sources of income for a small city or town because of the success and popularity of the industry, however such perception has changed, and within contemporary society tobacco and tobacco farmers are scrutinized because of the known dangers of cigarettes.

I thought I would compose a post addressing the ways in which tobacco is grown and farmed in order to generate some insight about this industry. My father was actually recently featured in a agricultural magazine along with his brother, and through means of a photo essay the ways in which they farm tobacco is displayed. You can see such magazine here: http://www.betterfarming.com/flippingbook/betterfarming/2016/november/files/assets/basic-html/page-1.html

Beginning in March, tobacco seeds are planted in styrofoam trays by a planting machine, and such trays are placed in a greenhouse. The seeds are watered, heated and clipped (in order to prevent them from becoming too large to be planted in the ground), and are typically planted in the ground by a planter in May, with some re-planting done by hand (any plants that did not enter the soil successfully). Once the plants are in the ground, they are watered by either rain or an irrigation system using pond water, topped (flower-like growths are removed from the tops of the tobacco plant because they rid the plant of nutrients) and suckered (small growths are removed from the tops and bottoms of the tobacco plant because they suck nutrients from it). Around August, Harvest begins, and a harvester travels up and down the rows of tobacco, picking leaves from the stalk (bottom to top). One person drives the harvester, and another person sits within the harvester within a bin (which holds the tobacco leaves). Once the bin is full, it is removed from the harvester, moved to a trailer and is brought out of the field by a truck, which tobacco farmers refer to as a boat. Once the bin arrives at the farm, there are metal pins placed in it to prevent the leaves from falling out, and the bin is put into a kiln, a small building that heats the tobacco to cure it. The tobacco typically remains in the kiln for 9-12 days, and once it is cured it is removed, brought into a barn and sorted. The sorting process is called grading, and black leaves and garbage are removed from the tobacco as it passes down a conveyer belt. Green and dark brown/reddish leaves are separated and baled last, and the remaining leaves are pressed and bailed into 600 pound bales of tobacco, which is eventually sold to be made into tobacco products.

Tobacco farming is quite a process, and it is arguable that not many persons are aware of the work required to farm this crop. The work has become simplified over time because of technological advances, but it is still a tedious industry, and tobacco farmers deserve a lot more recognition for their labor than they tend to receive.

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