For this installment of First-Person Shooter, we called up our friend David at Hestia Tobacco and asked him if he could send some cameras to any friends in the cigarette hustle. He passed along two disposables to his friend Eddie Callahan, owner of the Opie Tobacco Farm in Durham, North Carolina.
Eddie's family has been in the tobacco growing and harvesting business for over four generations, though he doesn't smoke himself (nobody in his family does, apparently). Regardless, the farmer and well-trophied fox hunter has grown tobacco his whole life, and continues to do so with his own sons, selling the crop to several small cigarette companies throughout the country as a member of US Tobacco Cooperative Inc, a cooperative for tobacco farmers. He says Opie is "above-average" in size, and also that the company is not known as a "Big Tobacco" operation.
On top of shooting a few pics of his sons and employees harvesting tobacco plants, Eddie also took some photos of the tobacco aging process and the large tractors he uses to sort and harvest his crop. He even hand-wrote his answers to our questions and mailed them.
VICE: What's a typical day like on your tobacco farm?
Eddie Callahan, Tobacco Farmer: A typical day on a tobacco farm in mid August usually consists of harvesting green lower stalk tobacco, removing suckers [plant shoots that grow from where the branch of a plant meets the stem] if needed, and irrigating if needed. Also loading, hauling, and selling tobacco.
How long does tobacco take to grow?
Tobacco, from harvest to cigarettes, takes two and a half to three years to process, age, blend, and manufacture into cigarettes. Tobacco, once in the ground, is about a five to five and a half month process to grow and harvest. Also, tobacco from the seed to transplanting takes an additional two months.
What got you into tobacco farming? How long have you been farming for?
My family is the fourth generation of farmers, passed down from our great grandfather. I've been farming all my life, although, I was gone from the farm for four years while at Virginia Tech, but still worked on the farm in the summers.
I see a mountain of trophies in one of the photos. Whose are those?
The trophies are from fox hunting. Hunting has been part of our family from the beginning.