Tobacco Farming Jobs
The tobacco industry has undoubtedly shrunk over the past few decades, with growing health concerns about smoking. However, this part of the agricultural industry is still thriving in the United States, as tobacco leaves are still needed for both American tobacco companies and exporting.
Some farms sell the raw products to larger companies, while others take care of the curing process before selling it to be made into tobacco products.
In early spring, tobacco seeds are scattered over soil and protected using cold frames or hot beds, which prevents destruction by beetles and other bugs. Around April, workers transplant the tobacco into fields. Machines are used to dig holes and drop each plant into the soil. At this point, the plants may also be fertilized with apatite. Although not common in other countries due to the health risks associated with the chemical, apatite changes the taste of the leaves, which many people in the United States find desirable.
During the growing season, most farms have workers “top” the plants – remove the flowers. Farms may also hire workers to prune the plants, removing leaves that can’t be used for tobacco production to ensure that the useful leaves grow as large as possible. Harvesting the leaves is done by hand on some farms, while other farms use machinery to collect the leaves. Most growers harvest each field every times, as the leaves mature at different rates, starting at the bottom of the stalk. One some farms, chemicals are applied to the fields to quicken the rate of maturing, which means that more leaves can be harvested in one pass-through.
Tobacco can be cured in four ways: by air, in fires, in flues, or in the sun. Some farms hire workers to bundle and hang tobacco for one of these curing processes, while others just have workers package the leaves and ship them to mass producers, like cigarette companies. From there, the leaves can be used to create a number of products, including cigars, snuff, and chewing tobacco. Most farms in the United States don’t manufacture these products; they just sell their leaves or the cured tobacco to larger companies.
Pay rates as a tobacco farm are often comparable to rates at grain farms, so you can expect to start at minimum wage. However, since many farms do much of the work by hand, tobacco farms often need a higher number of workers throughout the year, so you have a better chance of finding a full-time or year-round position on a tobacco farm than on other types of crop farms. In some locations, there are age requirements to work with the plant, so you might not be able to get a job on a tobacco farm if you are under 18.