The Connecticut River Valley

Nate Simonds
The Connecticut River Valley has long been recognized for its prominence in producing Connecticut broadleaf, shade, and Havana wrappers for the tobacco industry. However, this season has been even more difficult for the region's tobacco farmers due to persistent rains and overcast skies caused by Canadian wildfires.

Jon Foster, a tobacco farmer from Dunn and Fostery, acknowledges the trying nature of this year's conditions. "It has been a challenging year, but that is an inherent aspect of the profession. Unfortunately, it appears to be another wet year for us." Too much rain takes away the flavor and robustness of the tobacco, resulting in a thinner leaf that is less suitable for maduro wrapper production. A thicker leaf is needed to hold up to the longer fermentation process used for Maduro leafs.

Nick Melillo, the proprietor of Foundation Cigars headquartered in Ellington, Connecticut, echoes the sentiments of other farmers in the region. He states, "The weather has certainly impacted the crops here in Connecticut. Many farmers have experienced an excess of water, which has posed its own set of challenges."

The Connecticut River Valley is known for its fertile and nutrient-rich soils, owed to its origin to the retreat of glaciers thousands of years ago. Stretching over 400 miles, the Connecticut River is the longest river in New England, flowing from Pittsburg, New Hampshire, down to the Long Island Sound, traversing four states and serving as a dividing line between New Hampshire and Vermont.

This year, the region experienced unusually heavy and prolonged periods of rainfall, leading to flooding in various tobacco-growing areas. Consequently, the Connecticut River and its tributaries received much more water, impacting farmlands along its course. According to reports, "hundreds of acres of crops" have been severely affected by the flooding. For Jon Foster and other farmers, the situation has been particularly challenging. While some fields have experienced direct flooding, others are grappling with persistently wet conditions, leading to potential losses in certain areas. Striking a balance between providing adequate moisture for crop growth and avoiding excess water has always been the art of farming, this year's conditions have exacerbated the complexities of tobacco farming. In addition to the significant rainfall, farmers have also had to contend with the influence of Canadian wildfires, occasionally blanketing the region with smoke and dimming the skies.

Last year's broadleaf crop had been promising, with favorable conditions leading to an excellent yield, particularly for maduro wrapper production. However, the excessive rain experienced this year is anticipated to result in a smaller crop. Jon Foster estimates that the 2023 crop may be approximately 20 percent smaller than the previous year's yield, a matter of concern for all farmers in the region.
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