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Tobacco crops shown off at fair

Five 4-H members entered plants to be judged

ROME TOWNSHIP — While the Lawrence County Fair is best known for its animal shows and auctions, some 4-H members still take time to produce and display the region’s first cash crop.

Market tobacco judging and interviews took place on July 8 during pre-fair events at the 4-H shelter. In total, five entrants participated.

The grand champion in the competition was Griffin Fuller, while reserve champion was Bailey Fuller, both are of the Gingham and Denim 4-H club. Griffin was the grand champion in 2015 and reserve champion in 2016. Third place went to Grace Stallo, of the Greasy Ridge Gang, who comes from a multi-generational farming family.

Her grandmother, Jeri Stallo, said tobacco was a major money-maker for the region in its heyday. Her grandson, Wyatt Stallo, was last year’s grand champion and her family always takes part in the event.

“We try to keep the tradition alive,” she said, noting that it is the only crop at the fair.

“Some fairs have soy and other things,” she said.

Preparation of the crop is a multi-step process, and involves a lot of work.

“You have to hoe it a lot,” Grace said.

Jeri Stallo said the plants are started in a floating planter and then transplanted later to the ground.

After it is harvested, the tobacco is hung to dry and then tied in clusters, like the ones that were on display at the 4-H shelter throughout the week.

She said judges look not just at the size of the leaves, but also the thickness and quality.

Entrants in the competition are able to sell their crop in the small animals auction at the end of the fair.