Tobacco farming in Ohio has been shrinking for years, with fewer tobacco farms producing less tobacco and playing an increasingly smaller role in the state’s economy. According to tobaccofreekids.org, in 2005, the $10 billion buyouts of tobacco farmers and quota holders as part of the termination of the federal tobacco price support program sharply accelerated these trends. Smaller family tobacco farms are no longer the rule but the exception as larger agribusinesses have taken their place.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were 77,805 farms in Ohio, 82 of which were tobacco-producing farms. This is a large decrease from the 2007 report of 75,861 farms in Ohio and 475 being tobacco-producing farms.

According to the census, in 2012, Adams County was home to 81 tobacco-producing farms, the largest amount of tobacco farms in the state. Brown County had the second-largest amount with 77 farms producing tobacco. Clermont, Highland, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Lawrence, Gallia, Jackson, Greene, Wyandot, Monroe, Medina, and Jefferson also remained.

According to the 2017 census, only 7 counties were producing the cash crop. The census states that out of 7 counties, Adams County remained the county with the largest account of producing farms. In addition, Brown County remained the second largest.   At this time, it is not clear how many tobacco farms are left in Ohio as updated information will not be released until 2022, but many conclude the numbers will lower. 

Although the number of farms producing is low, the history of the once-successful crop can still be seen at the Ohio Tobacco Museum in Ripley, Ohio. Established in 1988, the Ohio Tobacco Museum is located in a Georgian style house, which dates to the 1850s. One of the home’s owners was the Espey family, which owned the Espey Heavy Munition Works in Cincinnati during the American Civil War. This business manufactured cannons, including three cannons that Ripley residents used to defend their community, for the Northern war effort during the conflict.

The Ohio Tobacco Festival in Ripley is the home of Ohio’s only tobacco museum.  The many exhibits and displays educate attendees on the tobacco heritage of Southern Ohio.  Photo: Jason M. Francis 

The Ohio Tobacco Museum is the only museum dedicated to tobacco in Ohio. The museum consists of several rooms, with each room having its own themed display. Among the rooms are the “History Room,” which traces tobacco’s history in southern Ohio, the “River Room,” which describes the Ohio River’s important role in Ohio’s economy, and the “Tobacco Farm Tool Room,” which consists of various implements that farmers have used to grow tobacco.

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