The tobacco harvesting season is upon us and local growers say they are surprised by the crop turnout because early this spring the tobacco farmers were forecasting a good year, but it’s not as bright as originally hoped.
Farmers say a lot of factors have taken a toll on these tobacco plants, and now they are in a rush to make the best out of a disappointing situation. Tobacco fields across south Georgia and north Florida are reaching their peaks, and farmers are scrambling to harvest as much as they can from this year's crop.
Fred Wetherington, a tobacco farmer, says, "I think we're probably going to have a short crop, for a couple of reasons. We had a lot of tomato spotted wilt virus this year, early in the spring."
Once summer rolled around, the outlook improved as clear skies seemed to pave the way for a strong, healthy crop. Weather played a big part as it does every year with the tobacco crops, and farmers say because of heavy rains during the middle of the growing season, their time to get this tobacco into the barns has been shortened, putting more pressure on them to make good out of this crop.
Wetherington adds, "So it has really washed out the crop, hurt the root systems and it’s really shortened our whole season because the tobacco now is not going to be able to stay out there, so it’s just a race against time."
Despite the bad news, local tobacco farmers are trying to keep things in perspective.
"This won't be the worst crop we've ever had, by no means, but it certainly won't be a bumper crop."
And of course the tobacco farmers aren't the only ones who will feel the effects of this smaller crop, as any shortfall is also felt in the local economy. Farmers only have until mid-August to get these leaves into area barns. That's about two weeks sooner than most growing seasons.