A Thousand Words: Sept. 27, 2011

Allensville graduate student Will Penick is experimenting with dark tobacco planted in untilled soil in comparison to nomal-tilled soil tobacco.  Even with farmers moving away from tobacco, Penick believes it still has a place in Kentucky agriculture.

Luke Sharrett

With six quick slices of his wooden-handled tobacco knife, Allensville graduate student Will Penick felled a row of experimental dark tobacco plants that took more than three months to take root and grow.

One of only a handful of WKU students who farm tobacco, Penick is a second-year agronomy graduate student and a third generation tobacco farmer.

“Pray for rain and thank God for everything else,” said Penick as he stood amidst his plot of experimental no-till dark tobacco on the WKU farm on Sunday.

“Tobacco got my family where we are,” Penick added. “It’s helped carry our family through. I’d like to pass on what I know to another generation, just like every other person in my family did.”

Though Penick won’t be able to sell his experimental crop, he will measure the leaf and stalk weights against a control plot of normal tilled soil tobacco for comparison.

“It’s a lot different from any other farming process,” he said. “It’s almost completely manual other than the transporting process.”

Even as a growing number of Kentucky farmers move away from farming tobacco in favor of corn or soy beans, Penick remains optimistic about tobacco’s place in his growing repertoire.

“They say if you like what you do, you’ll never have to go to work,” he said. “It has good times and bad times, but what doesn’t?”