Has anyone ever grown tobacco?
Having grown up on a tobacco farm in eastern NC, you covered a lot of territory
about the tobacco. However, your post talked about burly but in eastern NC, the
tobacco is flue-cured.
Instead of waiting until September, flue-cured tobacco is typically harvested
one leaf at the time as the leaves ripen. Most farmers I knew tried to cover
all their fields at least once a week from mid-July until the last leaves were
harvested in early September. The first leaves harvested are called "sand lugs"
since being on the bottom of the stalk, those leaves were usually covered with
sandy soil. Choice leaves were in the middle of the plant (usually graded as
"wrappers" at the sale) and the top, smaller leaves were "tips."
After you pulled the leaves off the plant and put them in a trailer, the
trailer was taken to the barn where the leaves were "strung" on a stick. Women
and children did the barn work with the children preparing bundles of three or
four leaves to hand to the adult "stringing" the tobacco. You had to keep the
string tight and not loop it too far down the leaf. These sticks were then hung
in the tobacco barn where it was cured. It takes a special skill to properly
cure of barn of tobacco.
I guess I could go on about how it was done but these are more mechanized these
days. Farmers are limited by allotments and poundage restrictions as to how
much they can produce. Raising and harvesting tobacco is definitely putting
your faith out there since a hail storm could ruin it all in less than ten
minutes. We won't even get into the hard work of irrigating or dealing with
acres of plants blown over during a thunderstorm.
It's a hard way to make a living, just like most agricultural crops. But it
will teach you to appreciate air conditioning and many of the other
conveniences of city life.