I started out in my OSU Extension career in August 1998, and one of the things I was asked about in my interview for the job was my working knowledge of tobacco. Over the years, I have been on several farms in Brown County, and later Adams County, doing research and demonstration plots with cooperating farmers.

Tobacco was king back then. Adams and Brown counties were big producers of burley tobacco, ranking first and second in the state in pounds produced, with Ripley having four warehouses and the only market in Ohio. Gallia County was the county that did not fit in this little pocket, as Gallia, along with Clermont and Highland, made up the top five counties in the state. Adams and Brown made up close to 2/3 of the entire Ohio production in the 1990s.

How things have changed.

I recently talked to University of Kentucky Extension interim director and former tobacco specialist Dr. Gary Palmer. We talked about those “good old days” of doing on farm research. Palmer stated that you can drive through the commonwealth during the growing season and might not see one tobacco patch these days. That is a change.

UK tobacco specialists were great to help with the local projects here in southern Ohio. There are several specialists that I have heard about but did not know. I am sure if you remember Jim Wells working with Extension and/or at the Ripley experimental farm as it was called locally, you remember the name Ira Massey. I never met Massey but have heard the name frequently.

However, the names like Dr. Palmer, Dr. Bill Nesmith, Dr. Paul Denton, Dr. Will Snell, Dr. Kenny Seebold and Dr. Bob Pearce might ring a bell. Dr. Snell is still involved in ag economics and tobacco. Dr. Denton is still involved a little with GAP connections but the only one still heavily involved and still making frequent trips to Ohio, as is Dr. Pearce. Dr. Pearce teaches and puts together the production part of many of the GAP meetings for producers throughout Kentucky and helps me here in southern Ohio.

To say things have changed in those 20 years with tobacco production would be a major understatement. The health concerns are clearly a part of that change, but not all of it.

Tobacco is now grown in other parts of the world. It is grown cheaper. The rules and regulations are more and more of an issue for producers each and every year. While the rules and regulations are steadily increasing yearly, the price is not. The cost of production is increasing, but the need for burley is not.

I was on a farm on Monday. The farmer has raised tobacco since he was in high school. He has bought and paid for equipment and land with the money he has made from producing tobacco. I talk to this farmer on a fairly frequent basis. His frustration with the crop and the industry has been building for years. Every time we have talked about tobacco over the years, I have heard the end of him being a tobacco producer in his tone and words more and more every year.

On Monday, I did not have to read between the lines. It was very clear as we talked about prices that were less than the prices I remember getting when I was in high school for my crop ($1.66 in early 1980s). A crop that has been very difficult to get down out of the barns to strip added to his frustration (can’t fix the weather).

The words, “this is it, my last crop” came out. I heard it, but sometimes frustration will push words out that we later re-think. The next thing made me think, not this time. As one of the guys in his stripping crew came out of the stripping room and went toward the bundles of unstripped tobacco, he disappeared behind some equipment. The next thing I heard was a chainsaw start up. I said, “what is he doing?”

The producer said, “We are cutting up the sticks by the bundle to use for firewood, I told you I am done raising tobacco. I will not need the sticks. For that matter, when we finish stripping this crop, on the last day I am sawing up the presses and burning them, too.”

I think he has made up his mind, he is done.

Well, this grower will not need a GAP training for 2018. I am not sure how many growers are left at this point. I have heard many growers state that they, like Lou Piniella when managing the Reds used to say, “I have seen enough.”

For those still needing GAP, there are two opportunities on Feb. 22. The first one is in West Union at Frisch’s at 1 p.m. You must call Barbie to register by Feb. 21 at (937) 544-2339.

The second session is at Maysville Community and Technical College at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22. No pre-registration on this one.

I have a later one scheduled in Georgetown at the Southern Hills Career and Technical Center on Hamer Road. This one will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20. You will need to call Cindy at the Brown Co. OSU Extension Office to register for this one by Monday, March 19, at (937) 378-6716.

Other GAP opportunities can be found online at www.gapconnections.com.

Dates to remember

• Feb. 12 – Pesticide Testing at the Old Y Restaurant at noon. Pre-register by calling ODA at (800) 282-1955 or online at http://pested.osu.edu.

• Feb. 20 – Adams County pesticide re-certification at Frisch’s starting at 5 p.m. Three hours of pesticide and one hour of fertilizer re-certification. Must pre-register.

• Feb. 28 – Brown County pesticide and fertilizer re-cert at Southern Hills Board Office at 11 a.m. Must pre-register.

• March 2 – Highland County pesticide and fertilizer re-cert at Southern State Community College in Hillsboro at 11 a.m.

• March 5 – Farm and Family Night at Maysville Community and Technical College.

• March 20 – GAP for Tobacco at Southern Hills CTC in Georgetown at 7 p.m. Call Cindy at 378-6716 to register by March 19.