Dawn was rubbing against the windshield of my ancient RAV 4 as I negotiated a seldom used, overgrown path next to a corn field. A very angry thunderstorm had slowly snailed across the area overnight dumping biblical amounts of rain. I had stopped just short of an almost washed out causeway over a drainage ditch that had not drained. I decided not to chance it. Getting old slowly robs you of your confidence. I grabbed my cameras and legged it the rest of the way. I was sure that just around the corner of the treeline on the left was the goose that laid the golden egg, or, in this case, a golden sunrise amidst a cloudy sky over a large tobacco field. I was not disappointed.
I’ve always dreamed about living within driving distance of Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, but one plays the cards they are dealt. My hand, such as it is, “ain’t” too bad. The picturesque North Carolina Coast is nearby, but on this particular day, tobacco fields were on the to-do list. I’ve had good luck licensing shots to various tobacco foundations and branding firms over the years, the great majority of which are overseas. Smoking, I suppose, is still very much in vogue there. Mind you, I’m no great fan of tobacco. One of the hardest things I ever did was kick the smoking addiction. My wife grew up on a small tobacco farm and says you would be hard pressed to find a more miserable way to earn a living. Having said that, I submit that tobacco has a certain artistic quality to it. The huge green leaves which slowly morph to a golden brown as the plant ripens along with the pink flowers make for a very pleasing scene.
I donned a long sleeved shirt before venturing down the row. Skin coming in contact with tobacco, particularly when it is wet after rain, is a must to avoid. My wife has many stories about nicotine poisoning when she was a young girl. Those memories led us to get out of the tobacco growing business more than a decade ago when I retired from broadcast news. Our crop this year will be cotton; to my mind, one of the more picturesque of farm crops. There is just something about a field covered in white at sunrise. Stay tuned.
I apologize for being AWOL last week. I suffer from Pudendal Neuralgia. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say, there are good days and bad days. Last weekend was not good. As I’ve learned in my old age, learn to enjoy your struggles. As always, thanks for the look and have a good week ahead. See you next time.
Blooming tobacco in an Eastern North Carolina farm field. Tobacco isn’t what it used to be in North Carolina but it is still very much in evidence. This was a small patch or allotment on a small farm near the coast. The flowers will be removed; “topped” is the word used in the field. It allows the plant to fill out and mature. Leaves are harvested from the bottom up. Thanks for the look and have a good week ahead.
Sunset in a nearby tobacco field. The plants are beginning to sprout their pink, trumpet-like flowers which will soon be “topped”, or chopped off. We stopped growing tobacco on our farm a decade ago to go into cut flowers and we have no regrets.
Back to the Mainland for this one. This is newly planted tobacco on a neighboring farm. We sold our allotment some years ago to go into the cut flower business. Allotments are long gone now. The big tobacco companies buy direct from growers, many of whom lease land on other farms. Tobacco is no long King here but an awful lot of it is still grown in North Carolina. I shot this right at sunrise and the temperature was just shy of 80. 95 right now with dripping humidity which sends the heat index to 102. Stay cool my friends.
I never thought there would be much of a market for tobacco photographs. It’s the health rap of course. All the anti-smoking campaigns and so on. I was wrong. I put a couple of shots of tobacco plants at sunrise on my website and sold three framed prints within a week. Two were purchased by a tobacco buyer here in North Carolina. Understandable. The other to someone in California. Perhaps they saw some artistic merit in the shot. I’d like to think so. I then put a few shots of flowering tobacco up and sold those rather quickly. Other shots have also sold well. Cards even. So there you go. Contrary to what you might think, Tobacco is still a big crop here. The field in this shot is near our farm. I have no doubt the farmer is a contract grower for one of the big tobacco companies. Not just in North Carolina either. I read somewhere that Tobacco is grown in Connecticut for Cigar makers. Who knew?
We stopped growing it here on the farm shortly before my wife and I moved down from Virginia but I have a long history with Tobacco. I remember when my father would drive us to Richmond in the 50’s, we’d pass by the huge American Tobacco Company Plant on US 301. One of their tobacco warehouses was right on the highway. Out front, facing the highway were e were two huge packs of Lucky Strikes in a reclining pose with the caption, “Quiet, Tobacco is Sleeping”. The toughest thing I ever did in my life was quit smoking when I was 39. That was before all the nicotine patches came out. I chewed toothpicks and drove everybody crazy. It was six months before I stopped dreaming about cigarettes. Health-wise, it probably saved my life. So you’d probably think I would be the last person with a camera who would want to take a shot of the dastardly weed. Not so. I find it a most interesting subject. The texture, the different shades of color, the shape. I find it a rather artistic plant. I just didn’t think many would want pictures of it. Thanks for the look and the read….And, have a great weekend.
Tobacco at Sunset in Eastern North Carolina. There is still a lot of this grown even though many farmers participated in the government buy back program years ago and gave up their allotments. Thanks for the look and have a great evening.
Daybreak on a small tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina. While there are many small farms across North Carolina, there are very few small farmers who still raise tobacco. Many got out of the tobacco business some years back during the tobacco buy back program. Many of the small growers who stayed in the game lease out their tobacco allotment to mega growers but I’m told the family that owns this farm still operates independently. In addition to Tobacco, they also grow either cotton, soybeans or corn. Its a hard life with limited income. A photograph of a fading America. Shot for a magazine article on small farms. Nikon D600 with a 24mm lens. Thanks for the Look and have a great evening.
By the way, the big storm for which we were bracing was pretty much a no show. There was a little rain but not much wind. Sometimes we get lucky.