People Grow Their Own Cannabis, Why Not Their Own Tobacco?

My neighbor’s son (a grown man, don’t be thinkin’ “teenager”) started a tobacco business a few years ago, here in Ohio. I only found out about it because my neighbor had some huge tall tobacco plants in his garden. I think maybe they were parent plants for his son or something. Just for him to tinker with perhaps?

I assume the son had a much bigger crop of plants elsewhere, where he lived.

While the guy did grow tobacco, as far as I know he sold the plants. He didn’t do any of the curing or additive-ing or cutting of the final product. As described above by several people, those things take a whole different set of skills and space.

I don’t know if the neighbor’s son smoked stuff that he had cured and cut himself. I bet he tried it a few times but instead got some finished product from the people he sold it to.

There’s a lot of hobbyist tobacco growing in Virginia and small scale commercial. Virginia has a long history of tobacco cultivation, and one of the major varieties of tobacco “Virginia flue-cured” highlight the importance the commonwealth has had in the industry. That being said it’s been probably over 150 years since Virginia lead the country in production–North Carolina produces vastly more than VA as does Kentucky. Ironically much of the “Virginia” type of tobacco is actually grown now in South America.

The hobbyist growers I’m familiar with typically plant a small amount of tobacco usually in addition to larger plantings of typical “hobby farm” crops, and they often have a curing shed on site and are basically just making it to roll cigarettes in small number. I don’t actually know if it’s even possible to very easily sell tobacco produced like this.

The growers I know who are doing it professionally it’s very different from most professional agriculture. Unlike many other crops where you do what you do and produce your product, then sell it on the open market, commercial tobacco growers have a very close relationship with companies like Philip Morris. PM generally enters into contract to buy all of their production, and sometimes will even invest in making facility improvements to the farm. Meanwhile, unlike most farmers growers for the big tobacco concerns are tightly regulated by the company, they require you to adhere to certain farming practices, plant specific seeds and etc. Profits tend to be healthy per acre, and farms are smaller than you imagine. I know guys who grow commercially for PMI who have between 50-100 acres. The big hitch with tobacco is harvesting it is more labor intensive than crops like wheat or corn which can be easily harvested with a big combine, but the profit per acre is often more than an order of magnitude larger.

I think it was The Case Against Sugar that mentioned that one thing that made the cigarette market take off was that adding sugar became a step in curing tobacco. The claim was that this actually made the tobacco acceptable for the wider market instead of just a few die-hard smokers. (Of course, the book is determined to argue to the end that sugar is the devil incarnate, the root of all evil in the world, so maybe an exaggeration). But the point would be that without the special curing process involved, the result may not be palatable.

The other point is volume. A small baggie seems to last people (or at least the ones I knew back when) several days or weeks. Smokers I knew (may they rest in peace) however, went through the equivalent of a baggie in a day or less. You better be prepared to do a lot of work to bypass the local tobacco supplier.

There are articles on the internet about growing, harvesting, and curing your own tobacco. You would need more than a backyard to do it, but frankly it sounds less complicated than making wine, and lots of people make their own wine. Tobacco is cured by air, heat, or smoke, depending on the intended end product, baled, and then aged for one to three years before use.

Considering the amount of hand trimming involved in almost anything with serious bag appeal, I would say cannabis is ALOT more work than tobacco.

I grow marijuana (Legal here CA) and have been considering exploring growing a few tobacco plants just because many of my friends are smokers and the novelty of extremely inexpensive smoking material is appealing on a lot of levels. Tobacco seeds are literally pocket change. $10 in seed could easily fill an average backyard with tobacco plants.

A guy growing tobacco and rolling cigars.

I seem to recall the Failing New York Times had an article on people in the city growing and rolling their own. Some tobacco stores had cigarette machines they could use. Ornamental tobacco is widely grown of course.

Volume is definitely a big factor. Here is a link to the number of cigarettes smoked on an average day. The highest percentage of smokers go through between 10 and 19 cigarettes a day. The average toker would find it difficult to imbibe that much.

Right. It’s the same reason people grow their own tomatoes, but not their own wheat.

Another factor is safety, you can get sick from handling raw tobacco.

Can’t they just wear gloves?

I just remembered this story from a few years back in the N.Y. Times, about a woman growing her own tobacco in Brooklyn.

“Planted in 2009, her first crop— 25 plants of Golden Seal Special Burley tobacco — produced nine cartons of cigarettes. Ms. Silk would have spent more than $1,000 had she bought nine cartons in parts of New York City. Instead, she spent $240, mostly for the trays, the buckets and plant food.”

The quoted cost does not include the labor involved. I suppose it’s worth it to smokers who want to “give the finger” to authorities.

Way back I grew (as a curiosity) a few plants of a tobacco variety supposedly grown by Lakota Indians. I can attest (that for me, anyway) handling a small number of tobacco plants does not give you nicotine poisoning.

Growing tobacco is boring :slight_smile: I’d rather spend all the afford on growing girl scout cookies and have a good time after.

Seriously. I bake my own bread, but I buy bags of flour, I don’t grow my own wheat.

I once went to the Kentucky State Fair (and yes, it is called that, it is not called the “Commonwealth Fair”; they also have “State Police”). There are rooms full of huge tobacco leaves on display, and they are impressively huge. There are signs that warn you not to touch.

Note: RivkahChaya did not bump this thread. It was bumped by a spammer, whom I have nuked.

I’m 99%+ certain the answer is in economics. Tobacco is available easily and cheaply all across the nation. Other than for hobbyists - and hipsters, I suppose (are they still a thing? I’m old.) - why would someone go to the trouble of growing one’s own?

I’ll go further, though, and say that this will also happen with marijuana. Once we rationalize the marijuana laws in the USA it will turn into another commodity crop and prices will drop and efforts will be made by big growers and distributors to find the exact type of weed to maximize profit. This will lead to a drop in home growers and distributors as more people are able to buy tubes at 7-11.

One step further, we’ll suddenly see an effort to work against secondhand marijuana smoke and large-scale studies about smoking weed and lung cancer.

In short, we’ll be where we currently are with tobacco products. But it’ll be even smellier than normal. I’ve always found weed to be more pungent than tobacco. Neither is pleasant, though.

Yeah, but the worst pot I ever smoked was still pretty good, so there is that.