Tobacco Farmers Transitioning to Diversified, Sustainable Agriculture (Video)

piedmont local food photo

Image credit: RAFI USA

Given the environmental and social impacts of smoking, most TreeHuggers are not huge fans of tobacco. (Cheap, biodegradable solar grown from tobacco still seems a ways off.) But what to do with all that land that was once used for growing tobacco, and what about the communities who depended on it? An enterprising community of farmers is busy finding alternatives and—from online farmers markets to solar-powered pumps—they are advancing the cause of sustainability in the process.

Piedmont Local Foods from RAFI-USA TCRF on Vimeo.

Francesca Hyatt of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) writes about her visit to Rockingham County, NC, where farmers have been busy navigating the post-tobacco agricultural landscape to diversify their activities and find business models that offer long-term resilience.

From the owner of River Birch Vineyards who is coordinating a group of local fruit growers to produce juices and other value added products, through the online farmers' market of Piedmont Local Food, to a young farmer and former marine who has received grant funding from RAFI's Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund to install a chicken tractor and storage facilities on his families farm, it really does seem like are exciting innovations going on at every turn.

Much like the Cotton of the Carolinas program that's exploring "Dirt to Shirt in less than 700 miles", it seems that the crises faced by many traditional agricultural sectors are also an opportunity for innovation. Given the potential for agroecology to increase global food production, it seems that the notion of "get big or get out" is starting to feel a little out dated. "Get nimble, or get out" might be more appropriate...

Disclosure: I worked with RAFI on their annual report this year as part of my day job.
More on Agroecology and Sustainable Farming
Small Scale Agriculture Can Double Developing Nations' Food Production
Local Cotton for Local T-Shirts: Dirt to Shirt in 700 Miles
The World Needs a Farming Revolution, Declares UN Report

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