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One Tough Leaf

Dark cigars are hot, and that calls for dark, rugged Connecticut broadleaf
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 3)

Brown spot is a fungus that lives in the soil. When the soil is agitated, the fungus can be splashed onto leaves, where it becomes airborne and spreads. On plants, it leaves a caustic brown spot that discolors the leaf and can even cut a hole in the plant. Heavy rains can activate the fungus, and Fraize says the high-powered sprays used to fight blue mold may have splashed the brown spot out of the soil and onto his plants.  

"We've never been hit with it this hard before," says Fraize. "It used to make just freckles on the leaf, but now it's all over the plants. It's on the trees and everything, not just on tobacco."   Broadleaf men weren't optimistic about the outcome for the 2000 crop. "It could end up just as bad as the blue mold of '97," says Dunn, referring to an outbreak that ruined much of the broadleaf crop.  

The tobacco farmers of the valley know not to make too much of one bad year. "That's agriculture," they say with a shrug. Good crops and bad crops come and go. It's the nature of the business.  

On a better day, a day without brown spot or blue mold, Ben Nascimbeni, the owner of Meadow View Farm in Southwick, Massachusetts, is standing on a small ridge, looking over his 29-acre plot of young broadleaf. A large man with an ever-present smile, Nascimbeni is waiting on his plants, judging when they'll be ready for topping. The plants are small but hearty, standing proud and wide in the sunlight.  

"We're pleased so far," he says, speaking in the cautious tone familiar to all farmers.   Behind him, the rusted blade of a tobacco hatchet lies half-buried in a thick beam. The tool looks as if it could be 100 years old, but in a month, it will be pried from its perch and swung at the mature tobacco.  

"There's very little you can do to modernize this process," says Nascimbeni, standing with his hands in his pockets. He waits for the coming harvest, and hopes for the best.

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