After Tobacco: In Appalachia, Farmers Hope the Future is Organic Vegetables
This still looks like tobacco country. Tractors still slow traffic on the roads. An autumn celebration is still called the “Tobacco Festival.” And family farms still have the region’s trademark tall barns where the harvest’s giant green leaves once cured in the rafters until they were rusty brown and ready for market.
But despite decades of tradition, tobacco farming is on the wane in Appalachia. The elimination of government price supports and increased costs of production have prompted many tobacco growers to seek out new crops in order to get by. What some have found may change the face of agriculture in this remote region.
Rural Virginia seems an unlikely place to become a leader in the production of organic produce. But on an increasing number of family farms here, the wooden stakes that once held tobacco leaves high in the barn are being recycled to stake organic tomato plants that will supply farmers markets and high-end grocery stores across the east coast.
More than twenty varieties of produce are now grown on dozens of former tobacco farms across the region. In the video story you’ll meet Anthony Flaccavento of Appalachian Sustainable Development, a group that has been encouraging tobacco growers to go organic, as well as two of his early converts, local farmers who took a leap of faith and wound up reaping hard-earned rewards.
What do you think? Does locally grown produce have a future as consumers cut expenses? Is this a sustainable alternative for former tobacco growers? Know about a similar story we should look into on our cross-country road trip? Let us know in the comments below!