Local News

Farmers Looking to Tobacco Alternatives

Posted September 18, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Cotton plants are about the only traditional crop you'll find on Benny Bunting's farm these days. The second generation tobacco farmer is moving away from what used to be good moneymaker, to try something very different.

Bunting's latest projects may turn heads down on the farm, but he believes tobacco farmers are going to have to be innovative to survive. His latest effort is a small-time fish operation for people concerned about polluted rivers.

He hopes they'll soon bring top dollar. But start up money can be a problem. Most local banks are glad to lend money for tobacco, but non-conventional crops are often considered too risky. Bunting was turned down the first time he asked for money.

"(The bank) said because it does not conform to agricultural production in surrounding communities," explains Bunting. "So they weren't going to go into any type of alternative production."

But as these new ideas turn a profit, he expects banks will be more willing to help. Bunting says now is the time for concerned farmers to test the waters.

"In the future we might not have that option. We might be forced to, so we're better off now exploring for additional resources of information to augment our loss of tobacco income."