Jimbo Eggleston, a leaf buyer at Hail & Cotton, is a graduate of the Agricultural Business Management and Agricultural Institute programs at NC State. His current role has allowed him to help farmers start growing Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco in North Carolina and Virginia.
“Bringing a new tobacco to an area gives farmers the opportunity to try something new to diversify their farming operation and to increase profitability on the farm if you can grow high-quality leaf,” Eggelston said.
A highly in-demand crop, Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco is an air-cured tobacco, meaning that you cut the entire stalk rather than the method of pulling the leaves by stalk position that farmers in North Carolina and Virginia use for flue-cured tobacco.
With the help of Hail & Cotton, farmers have found creative solutions to the lack of existing infrastructure for air curing.
“One of the farmers who is trying this for the first time this year in Eastern North Carolina is using old chicken houses and hanging the tobacco in there,” Eggleston said. “It works great as a curing structure.”
As a leaf buyer Eggleston is responsible for purchasing tobacco and identifying the quality based on the company’s standards. They also visit farmers during the growing season and process the crop after purchasing it.
“This time of year, the crop is coming in, so farmers are selling their tobacco,” he said. “Out on the buying line, receiving makes up most of my day. From August until early November, we are purchasing the flue-cured crop, then after we are finished with the flue here, I go to Tennessee and Kentucky to work with the burley tobacco, and the job role is the same.”
Eggleston grew up in Danville, Virginia, where his father, uncles and grandfather all worked in the tobacco industry. At an early age, he knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps and pursue a career in tobacco, something he was able to accomplish with the help of the Ag Business program and the Ag Institute.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without NC State,” he said. “They are a leader in agricultural education. The networking events hosted by NC State were beneficial and exposed me to North Carolina’s agricultural economy.”
The hands-on nature of the Ag Institute and Ag Business programs also greatly benefitted him. When Eggleston had the opportunity to travel to Brazil in 2019 to work with the tobacco crop there, the background knowledge from International Agricultural Trade with Professor Ivan Kandilov came in handy.
“It prepared me for the role I’m in today,” he said. “International trade is very much what we do, and Dr. Kandilov’s course was eye-opening. I learned things at NC State that I see today as a professional.”
Eggleston’s advice for Ag Business students is to take advantage of the career fairs and events that NC State hosts within the college.
“The companies and opportunities are there,” he said. “I had a few interviews simply because of the career fairs that were hosted by the college.”
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