Admittedly, I’ve been pretty distracted the past day or so with the piece in The Atlantic.
This journey has been (and remains) tremendously frustrating, and to have a piece “vent” for us in the national media like this feels pretty damn good, frankly.
But back to my time below the Mason-Dixon line:
After my breakfast with our tobacco broker, I drove up to a small little town North of the Research Triangle, and hopped in a car with a man I actually did meet once before. In a prior life, he worked intimately for tobacco companies with Congress.
As we drove the broken roads to Southern Virginia, he glibly regaled me with stories of the farmer buyout, and other Congressional victories (Aside: for those unaware, the Feds used to control how much tobacco a farmer could grow. Farmers had to pay for this license, essentially. As tobacco acres dwindled, the value of these licenses dramatically dwindled. Thus predicating the buyout. Farming of tobacco is no longer regulated this way).
He saved many farming families from economic ruin. And while my libertarian predilections balk at such governmental buyouts, this one was predicated upon the gov’ts own initial taxing and regulating, so …
Our conversation meandered from one Congress to the next, and his memories of most of the names and faces of those I openly scorn for their inability to legislate. His vantage point proved a fascinating introspection into the House of federal power.
But more importantly, I remain captivated by his knowledge of the rolling hills of the Piedmont. Of tobacco, he spoke of the striations in earth, and the clay in the ground like a French sommelier would speak of a disparate wine’s terrior. Some produced more hearty tobacco. Others more fragrant. And this would change from one mile-marker to the next. He knew them all.
Truthfully, I’d never fully understood just how much character and nuance a single tobacco plant can have!
We did eventually get to Virginia. And the meetings were all tremendously successful.
But the journey there remains the most fascinating part.