My life with the big green leaf
It was 1981, and a young man was driving down a two-lane road in eastern North Carolina. He had heard that on this particular stretch of road, travelers would often find themselves going much slower than they would like as farm equipment traveled from field to field on the road ahead of them. That warning snapped to reality as green John Deere equipment crawled along the blacktop, slowing the young man’s progress.
While the delay was a bit distressing, the young man used the spare time to take a glance at the crops growing in the fields as they passed by. The predominant variety was a green plant with large leaves, some of which were beginning to yellow on the stalks.
The young man had been around farming before, but he was from a part of the country known for its peanuts. This big, leafy thing was new to him. What kind of crop was this? Why did it require so much equipment? And why were the farmers seemingly letting the leaves wither on the stalk?
A mild fascination began to creep into his imagination. He must know more about this new crop.
That was my introduction to the golden leaf, some 25 years ago. As the time has passed, we have become casual friends, this plant and I.
Year by year, I have watched it grow in the hot summer sun in a field across from my home. I casually observed as tractors set plants, cultivated and sprayed. I watched as it was topped and suckered. I took careful notice of how the tobacco was harvested from the lugs on up the stalk and how the leaf was set into bins and trucked off to the barns.
I will lean heavily on those elementary observations as I begin my duties as the new editor of Tobacco Farm Quarterly.
I have big shoes to fill, coming after an agricultural writer and editor as skilled and knowledgeable as Matt Mullen. Matt recently left TFQ for a position at Quarry Integrated Communications, where he will be looking after the BASF account. His contributions to TFQ were numerous and long-lasting, and his presence will be greatly missed.
I come to you as an expert on reporting, not on tobacco. I am learning as fast as I can, taking those first rudimentary lessons and using them as a base to branch out into topics of importance to you and information aimed at helping you become a more successful grower.
I would be foolish to try and tell farmers how to grow tobacco. That is not my intent. My goal is to help you by providing a valuable tool and work resource that you will enjoy reading. Memories of the value of that green plant to those who grow it stay in my mind. I want to keep that importance—that value—at the forefront of what I do as we bring you the many and varied stories of the golden leaf.
I will try to keep my burley separate from my flue-cured and do all of you proud.