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ing interesting account of it, based on a visit made a year later.
The tobacco lands of the Fort Meade region are very light, deep, sandy soils, finer in texture than those of the Connecticut valley, and contain some humus. They have been covered, from time immemorial, with a growth of wood, the best of them with oak, hickory, live oak, magnolia, etc. At the time of our visit, no rain had fallen for many weeks, yet the soil was damper in appearance and feel than our Connecticut soils after two weeks of dry weather. Nevertheless, the company has put in an irrigating plant and uses it during the growing season.
The seed beds made on new lands, protected from light frost by the surrounding timber, and fertilized only with the ashes of the wood and trash cut to clear them, are sowed in January. On Jan. 15, some beds were not yet sowed, in others the plants were an inch high and were being weeded. The plants are set in the field early in March, at the rate of about 15,000 per acre. Native Cubans do all the work on the crops, which are cultivated wholly by hand, with short-handled, very heavy hoes. The only fertilizer used is Peruvian guano, at the rate of about -150 pounds to the acre. The land appears to be kept clear of weeds, and the plants are hilled up, but not quite as much, perhaps, as in Connecticut. The irrigating is done from standpipes six or seven feet high, with a spraying fixture which distributes the water (Fig. 126) over a circular area about sixty feet in diameter. The plants are suckered, and after topping have only eight to ten leaves on the average per plant, more leaves being left on strong plants than on feeble ones, and more on strong soil than on poorer land. It is stated that the plant, at harvest time, has the shape of an inverted cone, the top leaves being the largest, as appears in Fig. 127.
The first harvest is gathered early in June. The growing stalks are cut in sections, each carrying two leaves, and are hung on poles in the field, astraddle as it were, and close together. A preliminary sorting is done in the field, leaves of like character being hung on the same pole. These poles are carried to the curing barn by hand and put up for the barn cure. The bar us built in the tobacco field are considerably smaller than those in New England or Pennsylvania. There is no arrangement for supplying artificial heat or moisture in the barns. The wrappers are kept housed till cured, but the fillers are occasionally brought out and hung in the sun aud air during a part of the day, and always housed at night. During barn curing, as well as in the sweat, the crop is closely watched by the experts. Pole burn seems to be unknown. The whole process of sweating, "betuning," etc., requires considerable skill and experience, is a secret one, and naturally I made no inquiries regarding it.
When the first crop is cut, a sucker is left on the sunny side of each stalk, and this immediately starts to grow, and produces a second crop, sometimes in fortyfive days, being already provided with a strong root system, and favored by the rains, which are more abundant from June on, through the summer. Even a third crop may sometimes be grown from the plants first set in February. Meantime, new seed beds have been made and the land is planted with tobacco a second time :n September, and this is harvested in November or December. Under very favorable circumstances, a second (sucker) cutting may be made from the planting. The first cutting of each crop consists chiefly of wrappers. The second and third are for the most part fillers. It is stated that an acre of land should produce at least 1250 pounds annually, of which one-half should be wrappers. As none of the company's tobacco has yet been sold, no definite statement of price can be made. It is believed that it will command the same price as the best grades of imported Havana. This company was organized in January, 1896. Since then it is stated to have cleared 100 acres of land, and to have harvested and cured the tobacco from this area. The crop harvested in June has been fermented, and I smoked cigars made wholly of this stock. It is not yet regarded as ready for manufacture, however. The cure is not complete till May, and the tobacco should then "age"a year before it will be at its best. Tho company itself will double its acreage in 1897, and has opportunity for unlimited extension as soon as capital ia secured.
Many farmers see in this enterprise a very hopeful outlook for men of skill and energy, and are preparing to grow tobacco under contract with this company. The terms of the contract are, in general, these: The farmer provides the land, barns and fertilizers. The company provides the laborers, to bo paid by the farmer at the rate of one dollar per day for each working day, and a foreman to handle the men, also paid by the farmer. The work is also supervised by the manager of tho company, without charge. The company sweats the tobacco and prepare it for market in the Cuban style, and for this receives one-third of the crop.