Burley tobacco is a very labor-intensive crop. The harvest is all done by hand. Because the leaves are so brittle, it can't be mechanized. The plants are cut down using a special tobacco knife that looks like a small hatchet. Then, using a sharp, cone-shaped, metal spike, five stalks are placed on a four-foot tobacco stick. The spiked tobacco is left in the field for several days so it will wilt and be easier to handle. Then it's loaded on trucks to be hung in barns.
The trailer loads of tobacco are pulled into the barn. Tobacco barns are designed with rows of wooden tiers about three feet apart, just the right width to hang the sticks of tobacco.
Then the sticks of tobacco are handed up to the waiting men
who hang them on the tiers
or pass them on up to the guys above them.
Up and up they go,
over and over again,
all the way to the top!
The tobacco will stay in the barn for six to eight weeks to cure. The leaves turn golden brown. On damp, rainy days in October, it will be taken down, stripped from the stalks and packed in bales of various grades.