Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Tobacco Is a Minnesota Cash Crop

            This past week I had the pleasure of presenting several farms in Sherburne County with their Century Farm designations.  As part of the program, I conduct a bit of preliminary research in order to introduce the farms.  An interesting detail came to light: in the late 1920s, tobacco was a significant crop in Sherburne County.  Think about this, a crop that is so closely associated with Southern farming, and a crop that is very labor intensive, and depletes the land so quickly, was introduced into Minnesota in the 1920s.

            I find the fact that tobacco was even grown in Minnesota to be remarkable.  Even more interesting is the total production of the crop.  In 1928, for the state more than 1.2 million pounds of tobacco was grown.  In two short years, that number had doubled to 2.9 million pounds.  I haven’t yet found the crop production for Sherburne County, but this does highlight the diversity of farming in the area.  For those of you that prefer footnotes, these number come from 1931 Yearbook of Agriculture published by the department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, page 702. 

            In Minnesota, 1930 appears to have been the high point of production.  By 1933, only 270,000 pounds of tobacco was grown in Minnesota, and the leaf was selling for only 3.2 cents per pound.  To further enhance the challenges of farmers, in 1936, the Department of Agriculture announced there was a 200 million pound above normal demand supply of tobacco leaf in the United States.

            In a very short time, tobacco farming in Minnesota ended.  Yet, the willingness of farmers to experiment with new crops is an interesting idea.  The very fact that this particular crop was grown in the state generates some fascinating questions.

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