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Well, we are in the middle of harvesting the tobacco crop. That is depending to whom you speak. According to my organic certification, tobacco isn't harvested, technically speaking, until the leaves are removed from the stalk, which won't happen for two or three more months. We are in the process of what's called "housing". This is where we cut the stalk in the field and spear them on a stick, six stalks of tobacco to each stick. The sticks will then be gathered and hauled to the barn to hang until they are cured. An acre will have about 1200 sticks and a good cutter can cut about 500 sticks or more a day, a few folks can cut a thousand or more. I am not in either category and will average three to four hundred in a day. Just a couple of weeks ago I was satisfied that we had the best crop we had raised yet. We had finished breaking the blooms out, or topping, and we had sprayed for suckers. I had opted to let the tobacco stand a while, as the longer tobacco can stand in the field after topping, the more weight it will put on. Suckers didn't seem to be much of a problem and I figured we could use the extra weight. Of course we have had a very wet year in my area and that has caused some problems. The number one and most obvious problem is, once I couldn't get in the field to cultivate, the weeds took off. We are currently weed eating every other row, or what is called a stick row, as the plants from two rows are cut at a time to go on a stick, and that way the cutters can find the sticks with little trouble, but still, the morning glories tear the leaves and that will cost me when it comes time to strip the leaves and grade them. The other problem is a disease I had not seen in our crop before. It's is called Bacterial Stalk Rot and is caused by the bacteria getting in wounds on the plant and causing it to rot. The bacteria is mainly seen in wet weather, which we have had in abundance, and occurs most often after breaking out the tops and removing suckers. The suckers that are killed by contact sprays, which is what we use, will rot in the leaf joints and cause leaf loss if there is too much moisture. So, I've gone from a really good crop to, what I'd call so far, an okay crop. We know more in a few months. I'm just glad to be getting it in and bracing up to turn the field and get out the cover crop. In another field the deer have found my Floriani Red corn, and seem to approve of the flavor. Apparently deer have a taste for Italian food too. I'm starting to think the only real way to control the varmint problems is to plant more so that there will be enough for them as well as for myself. I just wish they'd consider helping with the weeding and cultivating as much as they do the harvesting. Still making shingles in my spare time, and I think I'm now even riving shingles in my sleep, so the spare time isn't as common a commodity as it once was.

NoraWI says 2016-08-31 10:46:52 (CST)

So sorry to hear that your *excellent* crop of tobacco will turn out to be only mediocre, Jerry. Here in southwest Wisconsin, especially around the town of Viroqua (Vernon County seat), tobacco used to be a "mortgage paying crop..." a lot of hard work that brought a very good return. About 20 years ago, the federal government took away the tobacco allotments from the many fractional acreages, which was all that we had here in our small, tight valleys. The tobacco auctions ceased and the wonderful auction building in Viroqua was closed and then sold. No tobacco is now grown. Even the tobacco barns were dismantled and sold off. It was a hard hit on our marginal, mostly dairy economy. Yes, things do change... sometimes a little and sometimes a lot... in a lot of different ways.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2016-09-01 08:14:28 (CST)

We bought our farm the last year of the tobacco allotment system here. The farm came with a 2500 pound base. There was a man came around buying up bases; speculating on the allotment system lasting a few more years. In order to get the base buyout, one had to have had the base and used it for at least three years. We wouldn't have qualified and wouldn't have gotten anything. I didn't know that at the time, but I figured I wasn't going to grow tobacco anyway, so I traded him the base for four cows and calves and a limousine bull. That was our start into grass fed beef. Then the next year the buyout came through and that guy didn't get anything other than the one crop he grew on the base he got from us. Trading my base was one of the best deals I've ever made! We grow organic tobacco now and our contract or base is directly with the company and is negotiated every year after selling the previous year's crop. Some years I make my goal and some years I don't. Every year I swear it's my last crop, but I think it's harder to quit growing the stuff than it is to quit smoking it. I'm starting to think I would be ahead to try growing green beans or something like that. I like growing the tobacco, but it's a crop that one person can't do all the work. It's gets harder every year to find help and it's actually a little humiliating (at least to me) to go door to door begging people to come help get the crop in. I pay well, but that doesn't seem to help any. I currently pay 15 cents a stick for cutting and a good cutter can cut 600 to 1000 sticks per day. I pay 10.00 per hour hanging the crop in the barn and usually feed them two meals too if they work a full day. No one wants to do farm work any longer. I sell my crop in Lexington. There is only one warehouse there now, where there used to be warehouses on both sides of the highway for over a mile. They've all been replaced by office buildings. While anti smoking folks applaud the loss of the industry, the only people to have benefited from the buy out seem to be the tobacco companies. They closed the warehouses and moved most of the contracts to China and Brazil were the crop can be bought for slave wages. I don't smoke, nor use tobacco and wouldn't encourage anyone else to, but it is a dependable and well paying crop well suited for small acreages.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2016-09-02 08:42:59 (CST)

I understand the nostalgia around growing tobacco, but it really is a crop that has no societal value.
But then, a lot of stuff is grown because farmers like to grow it, not because it is necessary. Take corn for example, too much of it is grown, with high input costs, tiny profit margins or none at all. I don't even want to think about what wouldn't be necessary to be grown if we didn't waste so much food in this country - close to 40% if one counts all the waste that occurs on the way from the farm to the consumer at the end of the entire chain. On the other hand, we have a lot of people who live with the anxiety where the next meal would come from.
We even waste people - this morning I saw on Ag-Day that Case IH is developing a tractor without cabin, to be driven from a computer in the office. As if we needed another invention that makes people superfluous. Wendell Berry asked in one of his essays " What are people for?"

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

NoraWI says 2016-09-03 07:34:06 (CST)

My son saw a Kubota skidsteer demonstration nearby where it was guided by GPS and didn't need a person to run it. One entered the parameters of the area to be covered and the action required and it just went to it. In this case they were clearing an old building site.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2016-09-04 08:39:37 (CST)

Ah yes. Technology to free up people's time from the need to work. To do what exactly? Watch more TV? Shop? Masanobu Fukuoka said, "Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living." Much we could learn from this.

Of course, if we eliminate people all together those machines can go do other things rather than growing food for people.

But yes, many farmers are enamored by having the latest electronic gizmo, as if new somehow means better. A local farm hand was bragging to me how he watches movies on his phone while "working" since all he has to do driving his big machine is, turn around at the end of the row since GPS guides the thing. I told him, my mules have enough sense to turn around at the end of the row on their own, so I wasn't impressed. (He didn't get my humor.)

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2016-09-10 09:24:56 (CST)

Most things need the gentle touch of mans hand to turn them on & off. I laugh at the though of not watching my team at all times when mowing just to make sure they don't wander off. I would like to see what happens with that tractor when a thunder storm comes along. I have seen a computerized truck was close to being struck, It died then started up that off set all settings instead of being governed at 65 mph it would run at least 85 mph.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2016-09-12 08:15:34 (CST)

I personally think we are seeing a generation that puts far too much trust in technology but that's just me. I'm intrigued though, with the idea of how to get more people into doing farm work rather than saving them from it. Perhaps, instead of "robot" tractors research should be done on "alternate reality" equipment so that the farmer thinks he's at home in a recliner, or perhaps his favorite bar or a strip club, rather than sitting in his tractor cab. There could be a whole assortment of selected scenarios that could play out, sort of like the Holodeck on Star Trek. The farmer, instead of cultivating, could think he is driving a race car or an airplane. Perhaps instead of plowing he might appear to be sailing, or even on a cruise. All sort of scenarios could be played out, without the participant even knowing he is actually accomplishing the dread act of work!

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2016-09-12 20:16:41 (CST)

Lots to think about here, or perhaps try to forget.
I can only relate by having horses that were voice broke so we could pick up hay bales. They were good enough that I could open the gate, step them through it say whoa and close the gate. They would wait for me to get on and start up again when told...for me, that is as driverless as I ever want to get.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2016-09-13 13:24:09 (CST)

Ralph, you've hit the nail on the head. If the goal of technology is to make work effortless, a good team with whom a teamster has a near-telepathic connection and an unerring mutual trust is the epitome of that goal and it achieves it with far greater simplicity than anything new "innovation" can offer.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2016-09-13 20:07:21 (CST)

Brian, I couldn't agree more.
Now, consider the payments on such nonsense, the price of fuel etc.
Sure, it can do more acres in a day....but at what cost to our business. How many farms and farmers will be replaced by the behemoth machines.
I sure don't want to hijack this thread, but every since the 1970's when we were told, "get big or get out" ....and some still swallow the crap their pushing...not me.
I only have to look at a local Amish community to see thriving farms and farmers along with healthy commerce as they support one another. It is nothing is the way small farmers worked together when I was a kid...Yep, things sure change!

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2016-09-14 06:45:30 (CST)

I'm constantly pointing out to folks about how the Amish are the fastest grow segment of farm families, but most of my farming friends don't want to hear it. There really is a "get big or get out mentality" in my area. I've always said we really need to encourage more young people to get into farming, rather than put more acreage in the hands of fewer "farmers". I had this discussion with a friend who was visiting from France just this weekend. He was complaining about France's ban on certain chemicals and their moving toward more organic types of farming. He expressed the believe that "we can't feed the world like that". I personally don't believe we do feed the world, not in the sense he meant, and that "the world" should be encourage to feed itself, so to speak. There is no reason for us to ship chickens to China to be packaged and sent back, or import foods that can be grown nearer to home. It makes no sense to put control of ones food source in the hands of foreign agents. I don't know what it will take to reverse the idea that we shouldn't work or get our hands dirty but I suspect it will take cataclysmic circumstances. I asked my friend what did he think would come of agriculture when the oil runs out. His first response was, "What does oil have to do with agriculture?" And when I explained the use of petroleum to drive most of agricultural machinery as well as to manufacture most of the fertilizers and chemicals used, his response was "They'll figure that out when the time comes." I prefer not to wait on "they" but to extricate myself from the system and become more independent.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2016-09-14 08:15:07 (CST)

Not so long ago, I had a local tell me there's a saying that, if you don't farm at least one hundred acres, you're not a real farmer. I laughed at him and said, this must be disappointing news to the Amish since the average Amish farm in the US is "only" eighty acres.

The irony is, these "real" farmers are losing money. Badly. With the "break-even" point for profitability being close to $4/bushel and corn trading closer to $3/bushel, the 94 million acres planted into corn this year is a losing proposition. Unless you're a commodities trader on Wall Street. Since that's where the real money is made in industrial agriculture.

The whole "feed the world" mantra is nonsense. The majority of corn/beans grown in the US is for industrial/non-human food purpose. I guess Wendell Berry was right when he quipped to (I believe) Ag Secretary Earl Butz boast about how the average Big Ag farmer feeds 125 people. Said Mr. Berry, "...But you have to slice him mighty thin."

"Get big or get it?" If I recall, it was the small mammals that survived the ice age. I prefer to stay small, thank you.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2016-09-14 13:29:03 (CST)

As I mentioned before, when farmers today proudly say that one farm feeds on the average 166 people ( by the way, the number comes from dividing the US population by the number of farms) as opposed to much lower numbers in former times, and when this is taken as an indication of the increased efficiency of farms, I can only say, look at it from the other end: It takes so many more consumers now to support one viable farm than only 50 years ago. The efficiency increase has to be measured against the huge increase in purchased inputs, from fuel to machinery, from fertilizers to pesticides, and then you will see that it is not so impressive. In fact, it leads to fierce economic competition till" the last man standing". That is not intelligent farming, nor does it serve rural communities, apart from the environmental destruction and animal cruelty that comes along with it. The world will be much better served with many small farms, which use more biological power (muscle), can take care of the land with fewer purchased inputs and on the whole have a much higher production per unit of land( 0f course not per man hour) than mega-farms. The latter ones want to work with as few people as possible in farming, the former ones give many more people purpose and work.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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