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Forget marijuana, grow chickpeas. April 30, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Looking to make a little money off the back 40? Wondering if pot is poised to be the new cash crop, taking over from tobacco? According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, you’d be better off thinking about hummus.

Say what?!! Well, if you’re like Silence Dogood and our friend Ben, you always have a tub or two (or three) of hummus in the fridge, so you can salve your conscience if the munchies strike by dipping some veggies like carrot sticks, celery and broccoli florets in the good-for-you chickpea spread instead of reaching for the Tostitos or Triscuits and cheese. Apparently, we’re not the only ones: Hummus is now a $500-million-plus business in the U.S. alone.

But America’s hunger for hummus has created a little problem: We’re not growing enough chickpeas to meet the demand. And most of the chickpea crop is grown on the West Coast, leading hummus producers to worry about what would happen if the localized crop were to be wiped out.

As a result, farmers in Virginia are being urged to consider switching from growing tobacco as their cash crop to growing chickpeas. This may sound crazy to the non-farming segment of the population, but it makes perfect sense to our friend Ben. My ancestors in Kentucky had a dairy farm. The dairy operation broke even every year. What made a profit was the cash crop: burley tobacco. A few acres of burley made the difference between a little cash in the bank and no cash. It allowed my grandparents and their predecessors the luxury of continuing to farm the land.

It has been a long time since we grew tobacco on our land, and a long time since the farm did better than break even. Perhaps chickpeas might bring it back to profitability. Or at least pay for our friend Ben’s hummus habit.

(To read the article, look for “Hummus Conquers America” at http://www.wsj.com.)

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