Way back in June 2015, I featured a few barns and some other photos from nearby Shade Tobacco farms. I’ll try not to repeat too much, but tobacco, grown under shade cloth, has been a staple of Connecticut’s agriculture industry for well over 100 years. Tobacco in general, was already being grown by Native Americans in CT when the first town, Windsor, was founded in 1633. Within 10 years, commercial production was underway. Over time, CT growers perfected a method of mimicking the growing conditions of the islands near the equator, by covering the tobacco fields in shade cloth.
We may have seen the last of those beautiful fields.
According to an article published in Crain’s Connecticut in September, Shade Tobacco’s dominance of the premium cigar wrapper market is being threatened by the more common broadleaf tobacco variety.
“Shade tobacco has historically been viewed as prestigious, and as a premium wrapper commanding higher market prices. After being viewed for decades as fit mostly for cigar binding, the bolder-tasting broadleaf is becoming increasingly popular as wrapper among premium cigar smokers and producers, according to Cigar Aficionado reporting.”
The tobacco farms will continue growing tobacco, but not necessarily under shade. Some cigar manufactures still prefer shade-grown wrapper leaves, but their demand is shrinking, as is the overall demand for tobacco products.
The tobacco farmers within a few miles of our house, are still growing tobacco, but they also have for sale signs on some of their fields. The field that is actually in our town, has been stripped of its shade cloth, poles, wires and all. It’s now an open field of cover crop grasses.
Before tobacco is no longer an industry in this area, I decided to get a few photos of the barns in use. This is not an easy task. Tobacco farm security is as effective, if not more effective as the Secret Service. I mean someone did walk into the White House about two years ago. I don’t think anyone is getting inside these tobacco barns when they have tobacco in them. I’ve seen the approaching black SUV while taking photos from the street between 6:00 and 6:30 am!
The tobacco leaves are picked, stitched together and bound to long wooden carriers. These are transported by wagon and then suspended in the tobacco barns to let the tobacco dry under controlled conditions.
The barns are built with long vertical slat walls. Every 3rd or 4th slat is hinged, and can be propped open to allow airflow. At other times, the slats are closed. At some point, the entire barn is wrapped in plastic and propane heaters are used to help dry the tobacco. I don’t pretend to understand the complicated process, but I do know that driving by the barns when the heaters are in use could convince you to start smoking. The aroma is heavenly.
Enjoy the photos in the gallery. Most of them were taken in nearby Windsor, CT, at the O.J. Thrall Tobacco farm. Some were taken in Enfield, CT, about 10 miles away.
This post is part of Thursday Doors, an interesting and fun series supported by Norm Frampton and several dozen door
freaks aficionados each week. If you want to participate, drive your tractor over to Norm’s page. Check out his doors, because he always has some very cool doors, and then look for the blue button. I think it has a frog on it. Click the button and you will land on the list of Thursday Doors participants. You can add your door(s) or you can poke around and see interesting doors from all over the world. I kid you not, all – over – the – world! Thursday Doors is an international thing!