Growing up in Kansas I was surrounded by fields of wheat and milo.  Life in Nebraska and our travels around the midwest has shown me the beauty of corn and soybeans.  One crop I’m NOT familiar with?  Tobacco.

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Burley and dark, they’ve got it in Kentucky.

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Tobacco is seeded in greenhouses, then transferred to the fields as small plants.  These plants, usually around 8″ tall, are individually loaded into the planter by hand.  BY HAND, people.  Absolutely no disrespect to any tobacco farmers, but that seems really inefficient considering the technological advances that have taken place in other sectors of agriculture.

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Burley, pictured above, is used primarily in cigarettes.  Its vibrant lime green color was brilliant against the blue skies and darker green corn.  Crops are just pretty, really.

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When it’s time to harvest, the entire tobacco is cut off at the base by a tobacco knife.  This original method of hand-cutting tobacco is still in wide use today.  Again, this just seems really inefficient.  Also seems like a trendy marketing phrase the industry could leverage.  “Hand cut” could become the new “naturally raised.”

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Side note – the leaves near the bottom of the plant are sold lower-grade tobacco than the leaves at the top.

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(The workers were nice enough to answer my nosy questions about what they were doing.  Thanks, guys!) So the cut plants are left on the ground to wilt for a few hours, then the leaves are staked for further drying and left in the field for a few days.

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The sticks are then moved to a tobacco barn for further drying.  (Dark leaf tobacco shown here.)

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Curing tobacco leaves are sensitive to changes in moisture content so various methods of ventilation and heat control are used to help regulate the humidity in the barn as the leaves dry.

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Wikipedia tells me that tobacco can be planted ornamentally, too.  Its flowers are pretty.

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These flowers are cut off before the plant is harvested, though, in a process called “topping.”

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Dark leaf tobacco, pictured above and in the barns, is higher quality and used for cigars and chew. Its leaves are smaller and a more consistent green color than burley.

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I’m not a smoker/chewer/dipper and I certainly don’t advocate the use of tobacco, but it was interesting to learn about how tobacco is grown and harvested.