The above photo shows a bittersweet industry for North Carolina: Tobacco. The state has a love/hate relationship with the product. We love the revenue from crop to finished product; we hate the physical consequences of first- and second-hand smoke.* In the USA, North Carolina is number one in tobacco production with a 2010 farm income of $582 million dollars and 166,000 acres dedicated to the crop. Tobacco's economic impact to our state is over $7 billion dollars (reference). That's a lot of revenue impacting and sustaining our population, any way you look at it. Smoking rates are slightly lower in North Carolina than the national average. Nationally 19.5% of high school students and 20.6% of adults smoke; in North Carolina, the numbers are 16.7% and 19.8%, respectively. Still 20.2 million cigarettes are bought or smoked by kids in North Carolina each year and 416,000 are exposed to second-hand smoke (references here).
The acreage in this photo is on Burlington Road, not too far from the praying hands we featured on Sunday. These workers harvested tobacco from early morning to early evening on Saturday. It was a good day for it. Before the leaves are dried, the stems are sticky and wet. From the smell, you would never suspect the crop is tobacco. The leaves smell tart and pungent, almost like collards. As quickly as land is being developed for commercial use in Guilford County, if your want to see these old-time, rural scenes, you'd better plan your day trips sooner, rather than later.
*Please follow the links in this sentence. You will enjoy the photos.