Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agriculture and Extension Education

Major Professor

Carrie Ann Stephens

Committee Members

Kelly Tiller, Randol Waters

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine burley tobacco growers decision making processes as they pertain to labor usage during the harvest of their crop and adoption rates of mechanical harvesting technology in order to create a laudable document that could be used by those who disseminate knowledge in agricultural communities. This study sought to compare current conventional harvesting methods to mechanical harvesting methods to determine efficiency and affordability of each of the two methods for the tobacco grower. This study incorporated both survey data and focus group data in order to develop the findings herein. Survey data were used to examine burley tobacco growing regions in order to effectively site focus groups and to collect descriptive statistics on burley tobacco growers. Focus groups were conducted in Kentucky and Tennessee, the two major burley tobacco producing states in the southeast. There were 41 growers who participated in the focus groups with burley acreages ranging from 9 – 350 acres and years experience of tobacco production ranging from 3 – 60 years. The study revealed overall that growers were very satisfied with their conventional labor practices. The growers were reluctant to invest in mechanical harvesting technology due to uncertainty about the future of the burley tobacco market, inefficiency of the machines, cost of the harvesters and the availability of migrant labor. Survey data that were collected directly correlate with focus group findings, and recommendations for further study are provided in this thesis.

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