Why grow tobacco?

Odds are if you are on this page you might have an inkling of who I am, however, if you don't... My name is Jeremy Shenk. I am a freelance jack of all trades (shopify ecommerce | web dev | photo/video and more...). I live in North Carolina with my drop dead gorgeous wife and two kiddos. We manage a small homestead of 2 acres focusing on goats milk, meat rabbits, ducks and turkeys and a large garden! But that's enough about me... Let's talk tobacco!

The history of tobacco paints a clear picture of human nature, and our need for Jesus. Anything can be twisted, misused and masked by greed.

Slowing life down and enjoying a cigar or tobacco pipe, contemplating your day... Noting things that went well, reflecting on the elements of your characture and actions that need to be nurtured... Quiet reflection is critical in ones relationship with Jesus and crucial for bodily and mental health. The constructive use of tobacco has been so tainted that we have lost sight of any benefit aside from those filled with greed, or the desire for a quick fix of nicotine.

Shortly after the introduction of tobacco to Europe, physicians (who at first praised and prescribed appropriate usage of tobacco) began to be angered by its use. Individuals who subscribed to a tobacco pipe were just simply not in need of physicians.

Thus tobacco has been, over the course of history, tied to greed. Used to fund essentially all major wars, to line the pockets of companies so greedy that they produce something so grotesquely riddled with chemicals all for the sake of money.

Growing tobacco and sharing my experience, my thoughts and learning is a passion project. I am a lover of old traditions of the past, of learning of the mistakes and successes, the good and the faulted. I find the best ways for me to share Christ's love with people around me has always been through my gifts, passion and how I live my life. How I father, how I carry myself in my marriage.

Enjoy the journey with me. Learning long lost simplicity... Long lost thoughtfullness and introspection... Knowing the art of kindness... Leading your family well.


"Well, it keeps my hands busy and my mouth shut."

- Anonymous, regarding smoking a pipe

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions 'on the further shore,' pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There's not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn't be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! 'Things on this side are not so different after all.' There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”

― C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation

Seed Starting

February. This is the time to start seeds for this season! I use a very simple setup to start my tobacco seeds.

A simple seed starting tray (with a humidity lid), sterile organic seed starting soil, and a delicate hand.

Enjoy the video below to take a look at how easy it is to get started!!!

p.s. remember... these seeds are TINY... you don't need to cover them with soil!

Varieties I’m Growing

For the 2023 growing season I have selected to grow Virginia 116, Bursa and Punche varieties. I may also add Prilep and some Cuban varieties, possily Crillo 98 and Havana 608 for example.

Choosing which varieties to sow should be based on your personal desire for the final use of the leaf. Are you a pipe enthusiast? Do you enjoy relaxing and contemplation over an evening cigar? Do you want to enjoy a cigarillo while working in your garden?

Each tobacco variety lends itself best in different ways. I chose Virginia 116 to use as the primary leaf in my pipe tobacco blend this season. Virginia 116 is a easily air cured gold leaf tobacco that is suited perfectly to a mild pipe blend. Pairing with the Virginia 116 I chose Bursa tobacco, a Turkish tobacco that is a high producer of leaves. Chosen to add spice, additional sweetness and delicious aromatics to my pipe blend.

My more "experimental variety" this year will be Punche. It is a fast maturing variety (35 days till possible harvest). It is a smaller plant yielding higher nicotine content. I'm unsure of the flavor it will produce nor the curing process I'm planning to use as of yet. And that is part of the joy of growing tobacco. Exploration and discovery is valuable in so many ways.

The varieties I have not yet ordered seeds for are Cuban cigar tobacco varieties that I am very excited to try my hand at this year. The harvest, curing and fermentation process for cigar tobacco is a much more intricate and delicate process than pipe tobacco. I am certain it will take me many seasons to come close to a quality result. But this will bring joy, learning and wonder at God's amazing creation. It will spark coversations and provide opportunities to put on display God's creation to others in ways they have never experienced.

3/13/2023 : Journal Entry

Seeds have been sown... God's wonderous design of germination has taken hold. The seedlings are looking very strong. They will spend the next month+ inside, awaiting the risk of frost to pass. I will transplant these into my tobacco beds around the end of April.

4/20/2023 : Journal Entry

My birthday has passed (4/18) and I got to enjoy plenty of nature over the past week, but now onto farming! I have begun the process of "hardening off" my seedlings. When seeds of any variety are started indoors and even in a greenhouse, they are protected from the suns UV rays. Directly transferring indoor seedlings to full outdoor sun is a recipe for instant loss of your hard work. Slowly allowing your seedlings to sit outside when there is no risk of frost, under cover from direct sun (porch etc) is how this process begins. Increasing the amount of exposure over a week or two should allow your plants to acclimate to the sun. Within the next week or two my seedlings will soon be planted in my tobacco beds!

8/24/2023 : Journal Entry

It's now well into the growing season and just at the beginning of harvesting! The plants have been in the ground for about 3 & 1/2 - 4 months, enjoying fertile soil & full sun!

I have decided this year to let my plants go to seed rather than "topping" them. "Topping" is the practice of removing the cluster of flower buds from the plant and then removing the subsequent "suckers" that will follow after topping. Allowing the plant to divert all of its energey to the leaves. However, I want to harvest not only leaves this year, but also seeds so I can become a more sustainable grower.

My growing plans this year were somewhat altered when I accidentally dropped a few of my seed trays... I ended up with I believe only Virginia 116 (a burley type), Bursa (a Turkish variety) and Prilep (an oriental type). I may attempt to grow some cuban varieties yet this year, late into the season, in our greenhouse.

This year I am taking the approach of harvesting individual leaves as they become "ripe" (starting to yellow and will "snap" off the plant easily). I then hang them to sun cure for a day. The following day I move the leaves into my well ventilated shed to continue air curing.