Grief, Anger, and Cooperation

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sittingbear

Member
Jul 20, 2015
287
32
Everyone knows that the five stages of grief are shock, disbelief, anger, compromise, and acceptance. I have been stuck in the “anger” stage of grief over the demise of McClelland Tobacco Company for some time now. Not that I am angry at the McNiels necessarily, but I am angry over the situation. They did not close the doors due to lack of interest, but rather because of the loss of traditional tobacco aging techniques and, consequently, the unavailability of the high-quality leaf that defined their products. The loss of McClelland tobacco is a symptom of a larger problem, which is itself the result of economic and legislative forces.
Being stuck in the “anger” stage of grief means that I find myself unwilling to move into the “compromise” stage. This, combined with the large amount of literature I’ve read over the years on agrarian, community-based subsidiarity and civil disobedience, has got me thinking...
What would it take to form a non-profit co-op made up of dedicated smokers for the purpose of producing high-quality leaf and processing it using traditional techniques? The product would not be “sold,” since it is already owned by the co-op members from the beginning, thus avoiding FDA regulations. It would be more of a “hobby farm” supported by a large number of enthusiasts around the country/world who would be able to reap the benefits of traditional farming and production methods. It may even qualify as a cultural heritage program.
Of course, the co-op would have to start very small. Maybe not on a farm, per se, but rather in someone’s back yard. In fact, it wouldn't even have to be "official" in a legislative sense. Just amateur gardeners supporting one another. Knowledge and experience would be harder to come by. Blending techniques would also need to be learned. (I wonder if they cover these things in any of the old Foxfire books?) Of course, some of our own members are already dabbling in this sort of thing... (I’m looking at you, Cosmic!) I also know of at least one old-time blender in Chicago who knows how to process tobacco, not just blend it.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just pissing into the wind. But I like to brainstorm. It’s what I do.
Thoughts?

 

3rdguy

Preferred Member
Aug 29, 2017
1,437
45
Midwest
I thought they exited mainly because they just wanted out. Didn’t Pease state shortly afterwards there is no shortage of quality leaf? Maybe I am wrong.

 

ashdigger

Preferred Member
Jul 30, 2016
5,265
14
I cannot think of a more practical way to waste time and money than trying a boutique co-op for tobacco users. Maybe I'm the oddball here, but I can't see for the life of me how this would produce enough tobacco to even cover the cost of producing said tobacco. Tobacco isn't like moonshine.
I say resolve your anger with some Borkum Riff and move on to bulk Captain Black.

 

brian64

Preferred Member
Jan 31, 2011
5,142
34
As to whether it would work and be practical or not, I have no idea...but in a free country you could certainly try such an endeavor if you wanted to.
But in the current bizarre hybrid socialist corporatocracy we find ourselves in it would be targeted and eliminated as any number of other such farming co-ops have been.

 

carolinachurchwarden

Preferred Member
May 9, 2018
1,682
0
Raleigh, NC
I thought they exited mainly because they just wanted out. Didn’t Pease state shortly afterwards there is no shortage of quality leaf? Maybe I am wrong.
From what I read, it was as the OP stated. They could no longer source the leaf they had been used to getting due to most no longer processing it in the same way. They said that they could always source a lesser quality leaf and still continue producing, but that was not the same type of quality that all those who followed and loved the blends had been accustomed to. In the essence of maintaining that what they produced was the highest quality they could give consumers, they closed the doors in lieu of sacrificing that quality standard.
As far as trying to create a Co-Op, I could see many different issues with it if it were not managed appropriately. Starting in someone's backyard would be tough to produce enough tobacco for all those invested. Not to mention, who's yard? What's the guarantee that something wouldn't happen to a crop and cause it to go bad? Who's responsible for it? Too many questions that I don't think it could realistically work. Nice idea though.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
17,943
126
I understand why we have this misconception. The McNiels left behind a "Rosebud" sort of suicide note when they closed, and everyone takes that note as a fact. Maybe these people actually believed the things in that note, or maybe they just wanted a reason to justify their closing. But, high quality leaf is still being produced on a commercial level. In fact, the main ingredient in most cigarettes is red Virginias. It is produced by the ton... great quality also. In fact, the pipe community uses less of the highest quality red Virginias than any other means of smoking. It is used in chew, commercial cigars, snuff, all forms of smoking.
My interpretation of what that letter meant was that there was not a red that met the exclusive needs of making their one specific recipe. That does not mean that all that is left is low quality. That sort of thinking is known as binary thinking. If it is not a 1, it is a 0. When in actuality it is not a one linear scale of qualifying tobacco.
What I have found is that tobacconist aren't aware of what happens at the production or manufacturing level, because of teh history. Historically, the farmer grows, harvests, and cures the whole crop. They were the only ones who knew how to do this, and with slight variations in temperatures or humidity or light during the cure, a crop would differ in flavors. That does not mean that it rates on a scale of 1-10, more like a dewy decimal system, in that no crop was horrible, but it merely ranks as to what qualities it has.
Nowadays, the production is corporate, harvesting the crops themselves from leased farmers, and then using commercial flue curing machines to get more reliable cures to meet their needs. Casings applied, and then they sell to places like H&H, Sutliff, etc...
Now, tobacconists/blenders were unaware of how the curing happened, sometimes even casings applied. They just got these crops and were expected to make something out of them. They had no idea what made one crop of brightleaf a gold or a red or a brown. Maybe a few blenders know a little, but much of what happens in the industry is kept under hats.
There are also many groups of amateur farmers, growing homegrown tobaccos, very good (maybe great) quality of tobacco. Check out one of the many forums for that, plus youtube. Many many many homegrowers.
The problem, is that it is illegal for one of us to give, sale, or trade some of this to you. The tobacco companies have made this law to protect themselves and their interests. However, if you come to my house, I can let you smoke some, just like I can serve you a meal from my garden. I just can't let you take any away. And, I :::cough cough::: follow all of the US laws to the :::cough cough::: letter. So, don't start begging me. I just can't.
However, I can and will encourage all of you to try growing. Not, to hurt the tobacco industry, but to foster an appreciation for the leaf itself. So, much of what we know on this forum comes from just the crap they put on labels, which is merely marketing bullshit... ehh, well, an oversimplification of what is going on inside the tin. It is definitely not gospel. Plus, you'll get an appreciation for the unadulterated leaf. And, maybe one day, once the walls have crumbled and ashes to ashes we are free again, we can then maybe trade our homegrown leaf. But, hopefully that never happens.
But, as to that letter left behind by the McNiels... make of it what you will, but... none of the other tobacco companies are losing sleep.

 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
1,971
26
Whatever, their real reasons for shutting McClelland down, it's done, gone, kaput and not coming back. My guess is there was no one single reason but a combination of things that led to their decision. Nothing to be angry about, there are tons of other great tobacco blends to smoke. If you're angry, you should be angry at yourself for not accessing those other tobacco blends that are readily available.
Great idea though for starting the cooperative. I nominate you to head that up and get it going. Once you can show your business plan and financials, let me know and I'll consider "cooperating". Other than that, log into one of the site sponsor internet suppliers and start ordering some Virginia blends to smoke. It shouldn't take you long to find several that will sooth your anger.

 

bnichols23

Preferred Member
Mar 13, 2018
2,723
49
SC Piedmont
Hard to say, for me at least. I've got a few tins of their stuff left & of course there's always the stuff that surfaces regularly on fleabay. I liked their stuff (the Erik Nording blends & FM particularly of course), but I'm probably fortunate that I hadn't smoked it enough to acquire a dogged determinations about it. :)

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,540
139
Monterey Peninsula
Sorry for your loss and current state! But there are many fine blends out there.
But in the current bizarre hybrid socialist corporatocracy we find ourselves in it would be targeted and eliminated as any number of other such farming co-ops have been.
I'm a member of some co-ops, so am interested in the targeting aspect you mention. Could you elaborate or give some examples, please?

 

crashthegrey

Preferred Member
Dec 18, 2015
2,811
0
I'm with Cosmic here. From the letter and later comments, Virginia tobacco is not at risk, not even red Virginia. They had exacting standards for their particular style and recipe, and when that exact tobacco was not available, they did not want to produce something else, something that they would no longer consider McClelland tobacco. I choose to also believe that they were ready to be done. But that is a meaningless statement. All of this is, really. McClelland is gone and not coming back, and a coop won't fix that, nor will it work in all likelihood. Just keep enjoying what tobacco you can get, make sure you don't let those sales suffer because you miss something gone from the market, and let's make sure we support what we can.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
25,940
106
I was really unhappy to see McClellands close. Great tobacco, great folks. I do keep saying, correctly I hope, that this is the golden age of pipe tobacco in terms of numbers and availability of blends via online retailers. It may not last, alas, but right now I think this is so. So I'd enjoy it while we can, and not get stuck on disappointments that occur. In time, we may all have to satisfy ourselves, or not, with many fewer blends and much less convenient distribution. But now I say, make hay while the sun shines.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
17,943
126
It's been almost three years since I closed the brick and mortar part of my business, and when I go to the grocery store I still get people giving me angry, pissed off, opinions on my closing the biz. Like I have personally insulted them... or worse they think it was because the business was unsuccessful.

It's funny how the business is so much a part or extension of my own personality, and then this other person comes up and takes me closing the store as some sort of insult to them.
I see this now with McClellands. But, I guess with a product like tobacco, it is a little closer to home, because of the addiction factor. Can you imagine what it would be like if Camel Cigarettes ever closes up? People could get killed.

 

brian64

Preferred Member
Jan 31, 2011
5,142
34
Could you elaborate or give some examples, please?
I've seen and heard numerous such stories over the years, and have posted some here in the past. If you simply do a search on FDA farming raids, raids on co-op farms, raids on Amish farms, FDA farming sting operations, raids on organic farms, etc, etc, you'll have plenty of material to peruse at your leisure.

 

kcghost

Preferred Member
May 6, 2011
2,344
15
Whine all you want people, you were given plenty of notice. I left several hints of what was happening. Rosebud, my ass.

 

ashdigger

Preferred Member
Jul 30, 2016
5,265
14
Here's an example of government justifying it's power.
Now imagine it's an even more regulated crop, like tobacco.
https://m.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/nov/12/farm--table-event-turns-sour-when-inspector-crashe/

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
17,943
126
Yeh, overenthusiastic inspectors. I don't think that is the spirit of the law, nor would something like that happen everywhere.

In Alabama we have recently have been having pushes and pulls between lawmakers and whoever it is busting stores for selling CBD oils. They've even raided Walmarts for selling that hem,p string used in crafts like macrame and knitting. They will pass a law that makes it legal, and then whichever police force that is doing this will reinterpret the laws saying that it is not legal. From day to day, no one is sure which it is. Apparently the lawmakers want it to be legal, but the police do not. Go figure.

 

spartacus

Preferred Member
Nov 7, 2018
584
14
Mesa, Arizona
I'm with Cosmic on the grow your own. I have seeds in hand and plan to start germination in February. I expect it will take a few years if not more to understand what's going on. The growing is the easy part (I think). The drying/curing is the challenge.