New deal sets up option for tobacco farmers

Published 8:30 am Friday, March 15, 2024

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Late last month, one farmer-operated enterprise launched in the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative, designed to help growers sell their eggs to stores. Now the same is happening for Charlotte County tobacco farmers and those in surrounding counties. 

Jim Eggleston has been a tobacco warehouseman for several decades. Realizing it’s hard for a lot of farmers to sell, both locally and throughout the region, he’s put together a partnership. Working with his wife Mary Clayton Eggleston, Jim has partnered

 with Golden Leaf to sell flue-cured tobacco. 

For those who may not know, Virginia produces more than one-fourth of the nation’s flue-cured tobacco. Why does that matter? Flue-cured tobacco is what goes in cigarettes. So if you’re smoking today, there’s about a 1 in 4 chance your cigarette has tobacco grown here in Charlotte or nearby. Specifically, you can only find flue-cured tobacco grown on farms in Lunenburg, Charlotte, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Halifax, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties. If it’s not in Southside, it’s not a flue-cured plant. It’s the heavier soils, Charlotte farmers say. The soil in this area helps produce a stronger product. 

And when we say flue-cured, it refers to the type of curing barn used to dry or “cure” the tobacco leaves. Flue-curing barns contained a chimney-like flue with an externally-fed tinder box that allows the tobacco to dry out slowly without exposure to smoke. That lets the temperature rise slowly, releasing the excess chlorophyll and moisture while still retaining the tobacco leaf’s natural tannins. That’s what creates the slightly sweet, mid taste and smell you’re used to with smoked tobacco. 


Under this partnership, growers can sell directly to Golden Leaf. Mac Bailey, Golden Leaf CEO, made it clear in a statement that this is a little different in that he’s not forcing growers to grow certain amounts or hit any minimums. Instead, “Golden Leaf Tobacco is offering competitive incentives for farmers who deliver their contracted amounts. (It’s) an alternative to growers who have been excluded from the contracting system or have not received a contract,” the company said in a statement. 

Basically, you make a promise to deliver X amount. The growers contact Eggleston and set how much they’re able and willing to deliver. Then in turn, the farmers would drive down to Mecklenburg County, where Eggleston gives them a timeslot to come to his Clarksville warehouse and drop off the product. Then in turn, Eggleston delivers the tobacco to Golden Leaf. Interested Charlotte farmers can contact Eggleston to discuss details at 434-489-4295.