LOOKING BACK: Tobacco growing in Brown County

Parts of this story are from a 1929 issue of the Hoosier Magazine.

There was no better paying or dependable crop for the hill farmer than tobacco.

It is one that never fails, when planted under the right conditions and properly tended. It has been the taxpayer, the mortgage lifter, the collage education fund for the children and the home builder for many Brown County landholders.

Drought may make the crop short but does not affect the quality of the product. Fifty thousand acres of land in Brown County is fertile enough for tobacco. This has never been worked to its full capacity. If the full quota of tobacco land were placed under cultivation, there would be a million-dollar output.

The phosphate in the clay soil of Brown County produces an exceptionally high grade of fine, flavored tobacco. Brown County bottom land along the creeks command highest prices on the markets.

Growing tobacco requires daily attention from the time the seed beds are planted in February until it is marketed the following January. Watering the beds, weeding, setting and tending the small plants, worming and suckering the larger growth, cutting and drying and lastly hauling it to the New Albany or Madison markets are some of the tasks of the “Long Green” producers in Brown County or anywhere else where it is grown.

Tobacco is usually marketed after the holiday season lull. The market is open from December 1 to March 15. Tobacco is a safe crop for the producer because it has few enemies to its growth. Wind frays it and turns the leaves so they might sunburn. Hail riddles the leaves, but the foresighted farmer protects himself against that by insurance.

The help problem, is as difficult to meet in the hills of Brown County as elsewhere, makes it impractical for one man to plant more than he can tend. Two acres is a large tract for one man. Where there are three or four boys at home, tobacco raising can be handled on a larger scale and a satisfactory crop produced.

To keep the land in fit condition to produce good crops, one crop of tobacco should be produced once in four years. This followed by rye, plowed under, clover and soybeans to recondition the soil is the customary plan for best results, highest grade product and best prices. Tobacco takes about the same substance from the soil as potatoes.

Since Brown County land only has 1 in 80 acres producing legumes, it becomes necessary for the owners to find some crop which will pay a good cash income. Tobacco is the cash crop of Brown County on many farms.

The Brown County History Center has a very nice display covering tobacco growing. Visiting hours at the History Center are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The History Center is at 90 E. Gould St. in downtown Nashville.

— Pauline Hoover, Brown County Historical Society