The demand for luxury tobacco has gone way up in recent times and as a result, Pennsylvania is now the only state that has increased the amount of tobacco production through farms by 28% between 2002 and 2007. Meanwhile, in other parts of the nation, southern plantations in particular, production have dropped by 72 percent.
Norm Conrad, an educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension says that “They [R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris] are buying our tobacco.” ”Barns are good for curing, the farmers have the know-how to handle the plant and the air-curing knowledge needed to dry out the leaves and decrease the nicotine content,” says Norm.
Norm also attributes the success to the large Amish and Mennonite presence – with their affinity towards intensive farm work. Many are Amish and Mennonite with large families capable of handling the labor-intensive, back-breaking work, he said.
Tobacco has become lucrative for farmers . Although it fluctuates in price, Tobacco produces gross income of $3,000 to $5,000 an acre, which is beneficial even for smaller family farms. One such family is the Simes. They say, “[it's] call[ed] the mortgage payer, because for many farmers, this crop helps pay for the farm […] but the type of tobacco we now grow isn’t suited to cigarettes.”
Well, if it isn’t for cigarettes, something tells me that this fine tobacco is going to be used for something far better.