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Ringgold County Family Raising Tobacco in Iowa

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MT. AYR, Iowa- There is a new cash crop growing on one southern Iowa farm: tobacco. When Dave Breneman brought his family to Iowa a couple of years ago, he brought his family history of raising tobacco in Pennsylvania.

"It’s definitely a cash crop you can make thousands of dollars an acre of it, it has to be raised right, it’s not a science but you have to know what you’re doing," said Dave Breneman.

Tobacco does grow in Iowa. However, it is a radically different crop than corn or soybeans.  It is a very labor-intensive crop.  It is planted by hand, weeded by hand, and cut and hung, all by hand.

The crop can be profitable for those who know what they are doing.  A an acre can raise $5000 worth of tobacco, and for the top-end quality used for cigar wrap it can go as high as $7,000 an acre.

"I grew up on a poultry and crop farm was born and raised around tobacco my whole life," said Jenifer. "When we decided to move to Iowa, my Dad said you’re going to raise tobacco."

Dave Breneman said that he would love to show people how to raise tobacco, but first you must come to work with him for one season to see the intense labor that is involved.  Breneman said some people came to help, once, and never came back.   It is a lot of hard work.

"Some people think quality time has to be going to the amusement park," said Dave. "It’s not, it’s just being together,and tobacco keeps you together, cause you’re working it most of the year."

Dave said it takes the family all pulling together at the same time to get the crop in the ground, weeded, and cut for harvest, hung to dry, and then baled to ship to market.

The tobacco farmers sign a contract in January, plant in June, harvest in August, and hang the tobacco to dry in barns on their farm. In November the tobacco is stripped a baled, to be sent to tobacco brokers in Pennsylvania.

If you'd like to know more about what the Brenemans are doing call: 641-464-2765. The family also welcomes visitors at the farm just north of Highway 2 west of Mt. Ayr.

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