A look at the Tennessee Tobacco fields

Have I mentioned that tobacco is a new crop to me since moving to Tennessee? Pretty sure I was one of the “new” folks wondering why that barn was smoking! Tobacco is still a big crop in Tennessee; both burley and dark fire are grown across North Central and Eastern parts of the state.

This past weekend while I was out doing forage measures in the pastures of our North Middle TN farm, I got a brief tour of the tobacco crop which is in the middle of harvest. The University has some air cured and barn(?) cured tobacco on the farm and I got to see a little of both. I even got to walk in one of the barns that was on fire and learned it’s just sawmill boards and sawdust on fire, the smoke and heat is what cures the tobacco. It can take several fires to cure tobacco.

Tobacco barn

The burley tobacco is the lighter green, taller variety in these photos. It’s mostly used in cigarettes. Many U.S. cigarettes are a blend of a couple U.S. varieties and an overseas variety of tobacco.

Burley tobacco plant

The dark fire tobacco is what’s used in chews and cigars. The leaf is what actually makes the wrap around the cigar.

Dark fire tobacco plant

I’m not sure what other uses there may be for tobacco. I’m sure there’s some sort of research into use for biofuels. The government has heavily regulated the tobacco markets and manufacturing, so the U.S. crop isn’t near as large as it once was.

Tomorrow I’ll have a guest post by David Hayden who actually grew up farming tobacco and studied it in college. He has some great insight to the growing season for tobacco and some of the difficulties farmers face when growing the crop. Be sure to tune in!

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Have you ever seen a tobacco crop in the field?