Burley on my mind. . .

I loathe tobacco products and all of the grief that accompanies them.  With that said, burley tobacco has a special place in my heart and has been on my mind recently.  Can one have a fondness for one aspect and overlook the destructive side, or am I encouraging that which is harmful?

The process from seed to finished leaf has changed very little in the hundreds of years since our forefathers began growing it as a crop.  There is something “connecting” about this participation in the crop cycle.  Whether sitting on a setter on a beautiful May day, chatting with your fellow worker while keeping rhythm with the clicking of the wheel, or days later witnessing a miracle as those wilted, straggly plants rise to become a study plant.  A miracle that reminds us that we too are resilient.  All in the same manner as families and communities for generations past.

Burley is a beautiful plant — those broad green leaves topped with a most delicate pink flower.  And even more beautiful as it hangs cured in a barn; nothing compares to the rich, golden hue and earthy fragrance.  Each step of the process — just as generations before — cannot be done by one alone.  It requires community.  Burley forces one to cooperate with others.

For generations this crop has made the farm payment, or paid the taxes, or in some other way allowed the small farmer to continue with his passion.  These days are gone.  Although a few farmers still take the chance that their crop will be purchased for a fair price, most burley is moving overseas.  The economic loss is great, but also there is the loss of tradition and community.  The big empty tobacco barns a haunting sight.

When I pulled those golden leaves from the stalk in a warm, chatter filled room — enjoying participation in an age old tradition — was I contributing to the world’s suffering caused by tobacco products?

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