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Supporting sustainable agriculture is part of our commitment to reducing our footprint on the Earth and protecting our natural resources. So when we contract directly with independent farmers, we promote earth-friendly practices to grow our premium tobacco.
To receive organic certification, the tobacco farmers follow a strict, labor-intensive growing regimen. Our organic tobacco is grown without the use of pesticides and fertilizers that are prohibited under the NOP.
In the early 1990s we started our earth-friendly tobacco growing programs, which include our organic program. These programs teach participating farmers how to grow tobacco while promoting sustainable, earth-friendly practices. Because of these programs, farmers have seen recovery in area wildlife, including butterflies and wild turkeys.
We have our own in-house leaf experts, the most knowledgeable in the industry. Our leaf experts know the ins and outs of inspecting, weighing and measuring for moisture content — much of what makes high-quality tobacco. But that isn’t the most important part of their job. They meet with farmers contracted to us to consider ways to improve their growing practices and provide the highest-quality whole leaf tobacco. They visit farmers throughout the growing season to help them find earth-friendly solutions to complex farming issues.
We contract directly with small, independent farmers to grow tobacco certified as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Currently, our growing program is producing millions of pounds of organic tobacco annually.
In order to encourage farmers to convert from conventional tobacco growing methods, we pay growers a premium for organic tobacco, compared to what they’d receive for conventionally grown tobacco. The higher price paid for organic tobacco not only encourages farmers to think positively about sustainable agricultural practices as an alternative to conventional agricultural techniques, but also offers them an opportunity to maintain the economic viability of their small farm holdings by using organic methods.
Organic farmers rely on healthy soil first and foremost to grow successful crops. To develop healthy soil, organic farmers use organic compost, which recycles plant and organic waste materials. When manure and food waste or scraps are composted, micro-organisms (bacteria, earthworms) break down and digest raw components of the waste. This metabolic activity generates temperatures of 131 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit, which in turn kills disease-causing bacteria and weed seeds.
Whenever possible, organic farmers use cover crops that add nutrients to the soil and attract beneficial predatory insects to feed on pests. Typical cover crops that are grown and then tilled into the soil include Austrian field peas, bell beans and vetch. These cover crops add nutrients, such as nitrogen, as well as organic matter, to the soil. Cover crops that attract beneficial insects include sunflowers and marigolds.
Organic farmers sometimes add natural minerals to help improve soil consistency and pH balance. If farmers need to lower the soil pH (make it more acidic), natural, mined sulfur may be added. To raise the soil pH (make it more basic), powdered limestone may be added. The ideal pH range for most production crops is between 6.0 and 7.0.
Planting the same crop over and over in the same field depletes the specific nutrients needed by that crop. Organic farmers carefully rotate their crops every season to avoid this condition, known sometimes as soil lock. If a certain crop depletes nitrogen, the organic farmer will grow a crop that adds some nitrogen to the soil the next season. For example, peas and beans both add nitrogen to the soil in which they grow.
Given our unique relationships with the growers we contract with, it made sense that we would look to our U.S. farmers to help us create a premium, whole leaf tobacco blend exclusively featuring tobacco grown in the United States. Generations of farmers and communities built their lives on tobacco crops grown in the ideal climate and soil conditions of the Southeast. We celebrate their heritage and help support their future with our two 100 percent U.S. grown tobacco cigarette styles and our 100 percent U.S. grown roll-your-own tobacco.