For years I have driven through the heart of the Pioneer Valley, midway between Connecticut and the Vermont– New Hampshire borders, for a slew of reasons. Recently I’d read Pairodox Farm‘s, (one of my favorite farm blogs), post about Tobacco sheds and drooled over the gorgeous photos, knowing I’d get my fix when I drove my daughter back to school. I’ve always wished to stop and explore the sheds that dot the landscape, and this past week was thrilled to find the above pictured buildings in service.
I’ll admit that I was also dismayed at the thought of the continued harvest of a known carcinogen.
I imagine the buildings in use for harvest festivals, storage of other crops or livestock, quilt shows…. I have this wonderful picture of the interior hosting celebrations, like in “Barn Dance” by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Ted Rand, a children’s book which I used to read to my own when they were littles….
I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to explore the building up close, stealing a little time from our itinerary without much fuss from my passengers.
This countryside has been the prime tobacco-growing region of Massachusetts since the 1800s. In 1964 Massachusetts and Connecticut grew more than 8,000 acres of shade tobacco leaf, used to wrap fine cigars. Processed wraps replaced the leaf in the 1980s, and the industry began to decline.
However, tobacco cultivation is one of the few segments of the Connecticut River agriculture that has relatively thrived in the recent past. As a result of this, beautiful weathered tobacco sheds still stand in the midst of the broad valley, the soft hills rising in the background. These single purpose farm buildings were, and are, essential to curing the cash crop where the soil and climate are perfect for cigar-tobacco. Large leaves dry and cure in these long, windowless buildings with pitched roofs.
A variety of types of ventilation are accomplished via various hinged and gabled doors, vertical siding with side-hinged vents and gable doors, horizontal siding with top hinged vents and gable end doors, or a series of large doors along one of the long sides of the building with the other sides of the building vented.
After harvest, bound tobacco leaves hang to gently dry in bunches from the rails inside.
Distinctive, attractive and purposeful.