Growing Tobacco: When Seeds Become Smoke

Even though remnants of the government may be around and causing their own form of mischief for anyone that escapes the clutches of FEMA camps, cash and a centralized currency will most likely be useless.

While many will resort to looting and crime, eventually these elements will be weeded out and a barter system will arise. If you do not want to offer a survival oriented service (such as gunsmithing, security patrol, food preparation, equipment management, sanitation, auto repair, or making clothes), then growing and trading tobacco may be of interest.

Historically speaking, the tobacco trade was extremely important and in many places was a form of currency that was even more valuable than anything the governments issued. No matter how bad the coming collapse winds up being, there will always be people in desperate need for a pinch of tobacco or a cigarette.

Basics of Growing Tobacco

In order to grow tobacco for survival purposes, you should start off with heirloom seeds. While hybrids may produce more specific plant types, only the heirlooms will guarantee viable seeds from generation to generation.

Most people start tobacco seeds indoors. They should have good lighting and be kept in well drained, but moist soil. When planting seeds, do not bury them, since they will not germinate in the dark.

When growing tobacco, they will need strong sunlight for most of the day. Try to choose a spot where the light is 1000 LUX or greater. It is also important to choose acidic soil, since these plants do not tolerate alkaline or neutral pH soil.

During the growing season, you can add fish meal and other fertilizers to improve leaf size and quality. Hydroponic methods can also be used as long as you keep the pH of the water and soil in the acidic range.

It is also very important to keep common tobacco parasites out of the growing area. This includes nematodes, which can be avoided by planting marigolds with tobacco.

Also, you should not plant tobacco in the same place more than two years in a row because it tends to drain the soil of nutrients very quickly even as parasites build up.

Developing Tobacco Products

Most people that seek to trade something for tobacco may know how to roll their own cigarettes. On the other hand, there are some other products that you might want to prepare that will help you gain a good reputation and also help you command higher trade amounts during the barter process.

This includes:

  • Cigars and tobacco for pipes
  • Pesticide that can be used to get rid of aphids and slugs


TobaccoTobacco is a useful crop to grow in a post crisis scenario because it already has a long standing reputation for being valuable in trade and barter situations. It is fair to say that tobacco contributed to the rise of many civilizations and can easily be used again as a key trade item for both citizens and larger groups of people that begin to form new governments.

Aside from that, tobacco is also an ideal pesticide that you can keep on hand to use when other organic methods may fail.


It is very important to realize that many people currently smoking cigarettes and cigars may not be well enough to survive large scale riots or other situations that would eventually turn them into good customers. Aside from that, there are some other problems you may encounter when trying to grow and use tobacco for barter purposes:

  • Land and other resources that you use for tobacco will not be available for more important crops dedicated to medicine, food, and textile production.
  • Looters and rioters may target your farm or bug out location because they will want to steal the tobacco. This means you will need to dedicate a larger amount of resources to defending your crops and keeping your location safe.
  • The value of tobacco may shift downward during years when availability exceeds demand. You will need to learn how to balance this by knowing how much to store for years where problems occur that prevent adequate crops.

How to Trade Using Tobacco

The steps associated with bartering tobacco are not so different from what you would use to trade any other product.

First, you must have a good idea of how much demand there is for tobacco, and then how many other sellers are available to meet that demand. You can enhance trade value by offering a better product, and also by offering novel products or services that competitors would find it hard to beat.

For example, if you know the chicken farmer up the road favors pipe tobacco with a certain flavor to it, make it your business to produce a compatible blend. From there, you can set up an arrangement where you automatically deliver a certain quantity per month in exchange for a set number of eggs. Once you establish a good relationship with a trading partner, do what you can to keep that trade balanced, fair, and long term.

To someone with a business oriented mind and an eye for valuable crops, tobacco may look very appealing in a post-crisis world. In order to get started, you can practice growing tobacco now and learn as much as possible about different blends and uses.

You should also hone haggling and other negotiation skills so that each trade helps you get what you want as well as ensure a good flow of repeat trades with the same partner.


This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.


Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • It’s so ironic you mention this crop as “valuable” in a post-collapse society.. A few days ago I was discussing scenarios with a stranger about the troubles smokers are going to go through if that nicotine urge hits, and all the stores and gas-stations are looted. I can almost guarantee that the first thing ripped off the shelves if society collapses, WILL NOT be food. It will be all the tobacco and alcohol

  • You have to be careful about raising tobacco as it can harbor viruses that can affect related crops like tomatoes, potatoes and egg plants. It should not be in the same rotation with them.

  • To get started now, to learn and to supply personal needs is maybe a good idea depending on the LAW. Tobacco is heavily regulated and anything over a few plants? is illegal.
    I wouldn’t want to draw extra scrutiny from BATFE. The T is for Tobacco.

    • Does anyone know how many plants are the legal limit?

      • All you want, just for your own use.

    • Actually, you may grow as much as you want to for your own use , it is not illegal.
      The problem is selling it or trading it for anything of value.
      You have to have to register and pay taxes on it or the batf will come calling.

  • This is a good article. I do not grow tobacco, but I have long considered it a huge barter item. That and alcohol. It does not matter how bad the human misery index gets, people will just want these things more than ever. It will be one of the last luxuries. Throwing a carton in the cart once in awhile and storing it in a vacuum pack may pay off big time, at some point. The same for a bottle of liquor.
    Just being able to grow things and make things and being handy in general are the best things you can have. Become a jack of all trades, if you can. Buy those Stanley do it yourself books on electrical, plumbing, etc. Books are excellent things to have. Hard drives crash, power can be lost, disks can be damaged.

  • Given the soil type needed it won’t grow most of the country where it is not already grown. There will be spots of course but they are also the place to grow blueberries etc.

    • No problem a little viniger or sulpher wont fix.

  • Where do you get the seeds?

    • need to know more, growing season, in the upper mid west
      where to get heirloom seeds

    • You can google for those seeds and buy online.

  • Carmella,
    You should never have printed this article without doing thorough research. Your research is flimsy, and on the subject of tobacco DEADLY TO ALL READERS. You don’t know what you are talking about. You are a dumb non-smoker (I’ve smoked for 45 years), and a worse than dumb grower of plant-life commodities. You should have at least read Wikipedia that everyone else can read, while bypassing your sponsor: ‘suicidal’pedia (who apparently “as dumb as you printed this article without checking your research). NON-CURED TOBACCO IS “quickly” DEADLY TO ALL USERS! You failed to talk about curing tobacco. Have you never seen a picture of tobacco in a tobacco shed, drying? It isn’t hanging there just waiting to turn brown (like, in the sense of dehydrated). It is curing so that the deadly toxins in tobacco mutate (so to speak) into compounds that are not deadly to smokers. Well, Carmella, how many people will now literally die as a result of reading your article and assuming you know what you are talking about, which you don’t? I figure you just killed a thousand people, most of them dumb-F teeanagers. I hope you are happy, you PoS.

    • Radarphos,

      Sorry – but I think you misread your own “research” from Wikipedia. I quote from the paragraph on curing:

      Starch is converted to sugar, which glycates protein, and is oxidized into advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), a caramelization process that also adds flavor. Inhalation of these AGEs in tobacco smoke contributes to atherosclerosis and cancer.[34] Levels of AGEs are dependent on the curing method used.

      Your comment:

      In the wikipedia entry – they basically say sugar is converted INTO deadly compounds (AGES). That means the poisons were NOT present in the non-cured state, but ARE present in the cured state (as in the one you’ve been smoking for the last 45 years)

      Here is another article on tobacco – it is deadly no matter whether it is cured or not – so you got half right; but not based on “wikipedia”

      Finally, this article explains why uncured tobacco is deadly. It is because of the ammonia content. Some people smoke it uncured to get a buzz or get high – and yes – that can be dangerous and deadly. NOWHERE IN MY ARTICLE DID I SUGGEST IT IS APPROPRIATE TO SMOKE OR USE UNCURED TOBACCO FOR CONSUMPTION.

      Also – the goal of this article was to discuss GROWING tobacco (not curing it,or I would have used the word “Curing” in the title) and some ideas about using it as a cash crop in a survival situation. It is not the end all guide on this topic, nor was it meant to be.

      • Hi All;
        Maybe I’m the only reader who has actually participated in planting, growing, harvesting, and curing tobacco. The two types I have experience in were grown in the Connecticut Valley (Central Massachusetts). “Field tobacco” was grown in open fields on a scale of several acres per field. It was harvested by cutting off the whole plant (over 6′ tall, not convenient to grow indoors), spearing five plants each on wooden laths, and hanging the product in a multi-tiered barn. “Tent tobacco” was grown in large fields, also, but the fields were covered with white loose fabric to filter out some of the sunlight and protect from winds and hale. This type was harvested a few leaves at a time, strung on a string, supported by a lath and hung in barns, as well. The latter method is obviously more laborious and capital intensive. In any case, after the leaves are dried (change from green to tan colored), they must be humidified, so that they can be handled, and packed. This happens in mid-winter. In the case of the field tobacco, the first function is to strip the leaves off the stalks, before packing. In the case of tent tobacco, the leaves must be removed from the string, before packing. In no case is tobacco deadly poisonous or toxic, per se. Obviously, the long term effects of smoking are another story. The end product of the tobacco was as follows: Tent tobacco went to fill cigars. Field tobacco was wrapper leaf for cigars. Cigarette tobacco tended to be grown in the southeast United States, and I have no experience with that industry. As far as the suggestion to grow it for barter, it may be a good idea. I have only touched the surface here. There are many nuances involved in growing tobacco efficiently. Get some indepth advice before starting.
        Cheers! Stu.