Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tough Summer for Tobacco Crop

It's a sight you'll find up and down the Connecticut River Valley, field after field abandoned or already harrowed.

"It's like a ghost town," said Allan Zuchowski. "It's like a spaceship came and took all the farmers away."

It's not the farmers that are gone, but instead their tobacco crops, a result of a very cold and wet summer.

Zuchowski, a farmer in Hadley, has lost seven acres worth.

"It pays the bills. It replaces the equipment. It keeps up the buildings," he said.

Wally Czajkowski, another farmer in town, has lost 30 acres.

"It's just a big hole in the middle of our season," he said.

It's leaving a big hole in Czajkowski's wallet. His tobacco crop makes up a third of his income.

Both farmers say it's a combination of factors that have led to the devastating loss. Four diseases attacked the crops early in the season, and the cold and wet weather made it too difficult for the plants to fight them off.

One virus many tobacco farmers are dealing with leaves spots all over each leaf. When cured, the spots become holes, and the leaf becomes useless.

"Tobacco is a job that requires many hands and many hours and those hands are idle now," said Zuchowski.

"There's going to be a lot of unemployed farm workers this fall," said Czajkowski.

Both Zuchowski and Czajkowski are now paying close attention to their other crops. They must now rely on those to make up for the loss of income.

But both say they're not giving up on tobacco.

"We'll just try again next year," said Czajkowski.