Changing Economic Geography of Southern New England’s “Tobacco Valley”: Surviving in the 21st Century

Authors: Matthew McKay*, University of Florida
Topics: Economic Geography, Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: economic geography, global production networks, cigar tobacco
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The specific suburban/exurban municipalities of the prime agricultural lands of the Connecticut River Valley, at one time, entailed large-scale tobacco crop production as a substantial agricultural activity. “Tobacco Valley” encompassed open-field and “shade” tobacco farming that was dominant throughout much of the 20th Century, given that this type of tobacco had prominence on the rural landscape. The uniqueness of tobacco production in this area of New England was due to the soil conditions, topography, and micro-climatic summer seasonal conditions that provided an ideal growing environment for the major inputs utilized to manufacture high quality cigars. The tobacco inputs from the Connecticut River Valley provided wrappers and binders for finished cigars. Consequently, the inputs toward cigar manufacturing were transported elsewhere for final assembly in the cigar commodity chain (given that filler components would be produced in other tobacco-growing regions). However, property owners of tobacco (and other) farms witnessed falling revenues and profits during the mid-to-latter part of the 20th Century, thereby necessitating a transition of land toward becoming increasingly suburbanized. Yet, “Tobacco Valley” in New England has had an important role on the region’s economic geography, and certainly tobacco production has contributed to and been influenced by globalization, in addition to changing consumption patterns. With the decline of tobacco production after the 1960's at this particular spatial scale, despite the continued niche market being fulfilled at yet a smaller scale, warrants further investigation so as to better understand the changing land use patterns that have ensued.

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