New book sheds light into west Kentucky tobacco farming
The Courier-Journal says 70 percent of tobacco farms in Kentucky have closed in the last decade. Some of that is attributed to the Tobacco Buyout of 2004 and increased awareness about the health risks of smoking.
In spite of these things, a local family farm that planted its first crop in 1832 is defying those odds. Bobbie Smith-Bryant takes a lot of pride in her family’s 1,100 acre farm.
“Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee are the only places almost in the world that grow this kind of tobacco,” Bryant said. She’s talking about dark tobacco, the family’s staple crop since 1832. And even though it only takes up 55 acres, it’s still number one.
Bobbie’s brother, Billy Smith, who actually farms the land, says what separates tobacco farming Western Kentucky from others it’s a process called dark firing tobacco.
“We literally build fires in our barns and we smoke the tobacco much like you would smoke meat,” Bryant added. This process makes dip, snuff, and chewing tobacco. Bryant says telling her family’s story has been important to her since she was 23, when she developed an interest in genealogy. She says she has learned a lot about her heritage from writing these books. “We have a long line of these people that have loved the land and cared for it and it has been the way of life for us.”
In 10 generations, the Smiths have seen good and bad times. But, Bryant says one thing hasn’t changed. “There is a distinct aroma about the Barnes and about the way we cure our tobacco.”
She hopes her books will raise awareness about the black patch region and how important tobacco has been to western Kentucky.
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