The History of Tobacco Farming in the Connecticut Valley

The History of Tobacco Farming in the Connecticut Valley

Tobacco farming in the Connecticut Valley has an extensive history. Today it produces some of the finest cigar wrappers like Connecticut Shade & Broadleaf.

The Connecticut River Valley includes the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and southernmost Vermont and is some of the most productive farmland in the Northeast. Tobacco farming in the Connecticut Valley has an extensive history.

 

17th Century - 19th Century

When the first European settlers arrived in the valley in the 1630s, tobacco was already being grown by Native Americans. The town of Windsor was founded in 1633 and was the center of the tobacco farming industry in Connecticut.

Tobacco from Virginia was being grown for pipe use. At this time, Virginian tobacco was more desirable than the Connecticut variety. The fertile soil and sandy loam from the 406-mile long Connecticut River along with the short, hot summers provided the perfect locale to harvest an abundant tobacco crop.

A variety of tobacco called Shoestring was originally grown in the valley and was eventually replaced with Broadleaf, a variety from Maryland.  Today, approximately 34,000 acres of Connecticut is covered by Windsor Soil.

By 1700, tobacco from the Connecticut Valley was being exported to ports across Europe. Connecticut Broadleaf came into favor in the late 1800s and into the 1900s because the leaf was so large, meaning you could get tremendous yields.  

At the time, the Connecticut Valley produced up to ten million pounds per year. The use of Broadleaf as a cigar wrapper began in the 1820s. By the 1830s, tobacco farmers were experimenting with different seeds and processing techniques.

In 1875, farmers planted the new tobacco variety known as the Havana seed. The crop produced a higher percentage of quality wrappers. In the late 19th century, the fine-grained Sumatra leaf was imported and grown in Connecticut.

 

20th Century - Today

Sun grown Broadleaf is dark, hearty, and relatively strong. In the 1890s and 1900s, Connecticut Shade, a hybrid of Sumatra, was brought to the area. At the time, lots of tobacco fields in Sumatra were covered by jungles and trees, so they were naturally shaded.

Farmers recreated the jungle effect by creating tents that were put up on River Street in Windsor. Under the cotton shade-leaf tents, sunlight is diffused and the air is humid, creating a milder, thinner and more delicate leaf.

During Prohibition in the 1920s, tobacco production peaked with over 20,000 acres of land in Connecticut harvested. The process of growing shade tobacco has changed little over the past hundred years. Tobacco fields are mapped out in a grid, set with posts and wires with a light synthetic fabric stretched across the crop.

Today, Windsor tobacco leaves are highly prized by discriminating, fine cigar makers in the industry. Connecticut Broadleaf is being grown outside of Connecticut in such places as Ecuador and Nicaragua. The true Connecticut Broadleaf relies much more heavily on the sedimentation and nutrient-rich soil of the Connecticut River Valley for its signature sweetness and strength.   

That’s why Connecticut Broadleaf is rarer and more sought after than its lighter Shade counterpart. Currently, the amount of tobacco being grown in the Connecticut River Valley is approximately 2000 acres.

 

Tasteful Cigar Recommendations

Liga Privada No. 9 from Drew Estate includes a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and remains one of the company’s most sought-after cigars. Another well-known cigar with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper is the rare Arturo Fuente Añejo.

The Broadleaf Maduro wrapper is aged in a cognac barrel, which gives it the qualities you’d be hard pressed to find in other cigars. Perdomo Champagne utilizes a silky, grassy, Connecticut Shade Grown cigar wrapper aged at least six years and showcases what it can do to enhance any cigar.

Even the budget cigar Brick House Double Connecticut from J.C. Newman blends a Shade grown wrapper and a broadleaf binder both grown in Connecticut. At the moment, the Connecticut wrapper, in either form, is one of the best tasting and best-looking wrappers available on the market.

 

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The History of Tobacco Farming in the Connecticut Valley

Comments

  1. Homer Boynton Homer Boynton

    I worked on a tobacco farm in South Glastonbury in the late 1940’ and early 50’s. It was hot and humid, as it always is in the Ct. Valley. That and the soil makes for a very unique cigar tobacco. The farm was owned by a man names Lew Stevenson - a great man to work for. He had about 20 to 30 acres under cultivation. He was at one time was First Selectman of South Glastonbury - for number of years.

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