Thursday, October 1, 2009
Fall harvest: Tobacco
It could have been 1950 in that warehouse, the only thing painfully missing was a fast talking auctioneer. There are still a group of men who inspect the tobacco brought in from the various farms around NC who, once they accept the leaf, place it on a conveyor that passes under an impressive machine that determines the weight and moisture content and then spits out a price per pound to be paid. As advanced as some systems have become, this is one area where one still needs to see, touch and smell before they buy. The smell is like no other. When I was a kid, it was on the breeze constantly. Today, I still can catch a whiff from time to time if the wind/humidity/time of year all come into alignment perfectly. This part of the industry is steeped in tradition and ritual. So far removed from the decisions made in rooms high above street level that placed the industry in the cross hairs. Good, bad or ugly, this remains an integral part of the economy on which no less than 37 states (yes, they all issued debt to be repaid from payments from the MSA to balance their budgets - including California) and our federal government depend. Oh the tangled webs they weave.