Don\'t grow, but still want to know
by David WIlliams
The 2008 Southern Farm Show was an event I waited for with great anticipation.
It is usually a very fine show in its own right, with farmers from all over the region coming down to Raleigh to see what was new and innovative. But this year was the first Southern Farm Show in which I got to take part—and got to meet the readers.
At the Southern Farm Show, one of the main reasons we occupied a booth was to get in touch with you and find out what you liked about the magazine and what you did not. And many of you made a beeline for our booth, full of feedback on what TFQ means to you.
Well, the free moisture checker we were giving away may have had a little to do with it. Congratulations to Brent Clayton of Roxboro, North Carolina for being the lucky winner.
I heard a lot of important opinions in my three days. A lot of the responses were positive, and we were certainly glad to hear that. A few comments were more informative and constructive, and we were equally glad to get that as well.
I learned a few things about you—things I thought I knew, but really did not.
First off, you all come from a wide area—the traditional areas, of course, from Virginia through the Carolinas and Georgia, all the way to Florida, and a smattering of folks from Tennessee and Kentucky. But there are some nontraditional areas for tobacco, like southern Ohio and Pennsylvania. One or two of you came all the way from Canada.
If it was as cold here as it is in Canada at this time of year, I’d be looking for other places to spend my time too.
Meeting you northern growers gave me a firsthand chance to talk to you about the desperate times tobacco farmers are having, trying to get a crop out as their government is trying to put them out of business while it refuses to provide an exit plan for them.
I spoke to a lot of families, husbands and wives mostly, who have been growing for many years and seemed eager for as much information as they could get.
And I spoke to a surprising number of people who answered the question “Do you grow tobacco?” with the response “I used to.” While many got out after the buyout, they remain interested in the business and in the people that stayed in it. I saw many that said they were no longer in tobacco, and I saw some folks with a twinkle in their eye as they remembered their time in the leaf—the practices, the long days, the hot evenings in the barn, the social event that was the auction.
They were the folks who changed their way of life, for whatever reason, and could not help but feel a pang of nostalgia for the days they gave up. Even those who cursed tobacco farming as a dirty, tough, miserable way to earn a living (or barely break even, as a few said) had their smiles as they recalled the barns and using stakes and working with their neighbors, their children and their neighbors’ children.
Don’t wait for another show if you want to talk with us—call us or e-mail us about what you want to see in upcoming editions. And feel free to hit us up on our Web site—www.tobaccofarmquarterly.com.
I will try to continue to provide the kind of magazine growers need and want. But I will also remember the looks of the ones no longer producing—and keep the excitement of their times within easy reach as well.
Tobacco Farm Quarterly