A strange plant is growing near the tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberry in Thomas Parson’s garden – bulky tobacco leaves.
Influenced mostly by constantly increasing tobacco taxes, he decided to grow his-own tobacco, becoming another member of ever-growing community of tobacco growers, who turned their heads to their back yards in order to save money.
Parsons said that he used to pay $50 for a carton of cigarettes; he bought the seed for $10.
“I just want to supply myself with a quality tobacco, and stop spending enormous money on smokes,” Parsons explained.
So, smokers, especially those who live in suburbs and rural areas planted Virginia Gold, Yellow Twist Bud and many other sorts of premium tobacco.
Though the overwhelming majority of smokers still visit tobacco stores, the tendency started in spring when federal cigarette tax was increased by 62 cents. Hefty taxes were as well implemented on other tobacco products, so tobacco industry hiked prices to cope with lost revenues.
Many seed sellers have admitted a more than tenfold raise in sale volumes, whereas uncertain number of smokers found a much less expensive way to satisfy their nicotine cravings during recession. The average price of cigarettes across the country is $4.5 per pack, while growers can have the same amount for less than 30 cents.
This is the newest make-it-yourself drive emerged this year as people find ways to cope with job and salary cuts. Similar movements include repairing cars, cutting the grass and changing used clothes to save extra money.
Since the tobacco crop is grown for personal consumption, the FDA is not entitled to regulate such back-yard-grown tobacco. Many tobacco growers admit to use the crop for roll-their-own- cigarettes, others say they will use it to make cigars or snuff.
Online seed store www.Seedman.com reported selling about 100,000 packs of tobacco seeds within last five months, in comparison to 22,000 overall in 2008, according to executive Jon Jimson.
A grower who bought one of Seedman’s Turkish blends for up to $25 could get enough tobacco for smoking a pack per day for up to 3, 5 years, said Jimson.
But, growing and harvesting tobacco is a difficult task even for experienced farmers. The diminutive seeds should first of all be grown in a box in an enclosed space and then transplanted in order to prevent the plant from freezing in the cold soil.
A seed planted in spring should be grown, cropped and placed somewhere to dry. It would be ready for use in late autumn. Several agitated growers even used a microwave oven to speed up the drying process. For the most fastidious, the leaves may be left to age like in case with wine for several years in order to obtain more strength.
People looking for advice can visit a specially launched web-site howtogrowtobacco.com, where they can find tips on growing, cropping and drying precious leaves, and share their opinion about smoking bans, growing prices and other issues.
Many growers are afraid of speaking with the media about their crops, as they are scared that they would be regarded as pot growers. Others, on the contrary, feel a particular pride, showing pictures and telling stories about their “masterpieces”.