Old times there are not forgotten -- Tobacco markets open this week
Down here in South Georgia any of us could have told you as much; we don't need an expert.
On 8-4 Tommy Irvin, Georgia's commissioner of agriculture, will be on his 36th annual tobacco tour, visiting markets here in Douglas and then onto Nashville. I probably won't go. A couple of years ago not going would have been similar to a kid missing a circus coming to town in the 50's -- you just didn't do it.
As noted in the Associated Press story, changes in the landscape of the golden leaf have turned a once ballyhooed event into almost an afterthought.
About 80 percent of the flue-cured crop in the past couple of years has bypassed the auction system, with farmers selling their crop directly to cigarette makers. That trend is expected to hold again.
Gone are the days when the opening of the tobacco markets was one of the most exciting days of the year. Buyers arrived in stylish cars to bid on tobacco that was world renowned. Farm families poured into town to spend more freely than usual. And growers in bib overalls gathered in the warehouses to hear the singsong chant of the auctioneers.
One thing that has not changed is the aromatic smell of tobacco. It still fills the auction warehouses and receiving points where farmers deliver contract tobacco.
"It still has a pleasant smell, and it still smells like money to most tobacco farmers."
I still think about the "smell of money" when I pass a tobacco warehouse in Douglas on my long Saturday morning run during this time of year. In the "old days" local merchants would carry farmers all year, knowing they would be paid when the cash crop came in.
The times, they are a-changing.