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Growing Tobacco in the Wissel Area

The chimney has to smoke

The area around Wissel is sandy. Next to the village are the only river dunes in North Rhine-Westphalia. As a nature conservation area they are extraordinarily valuable to a wide variety of animal and plant species, but that is a very modern view. Sandy soil is no fun for a community that practises arable farming. Hardly anything grows. Around 200 years ago, however, settlers from the Palatinate brought a new plant with them that grew quite well in the specific conditions of the Wissel soil. That was the start of tobacco growing in Wissel. Tobacco needs warmth. Now, the Lower Rhine is hardly well-known for its sunshine hours - we are quite a long way from the Kaiserstuhl (the warmest area of Germany). But the sandy soil around Wissel is relatively dry and in the sun heats up more quickly than the heavier, fertile arable soils. Tobacco was an important source of income for the farmers. Even if they could not make a living from it because they had too little land, it was a nice little supplementary income. It's a little bit like evolution - a locational disadvantage can actually become an advantage with the right trick (in this case, the right plant). In the heyday of the 19th century, 18 hectares were used for tobacco production. The people in the village had founded a tobacco cooperative that took care of sales for the producers. In peak periods, more than 100 growers produced 50 tonnes of Red Virginia. It was sold to tobacco manufacturers in Emmerich, the Eifel and even the Palatinate. "Wisseler Rico", as the plant was also called, was not an absolute top quality product, but was appreciated by Napoleon. In Paris people knew about the "Tabac véritable de Wissel"! In the 20th century, increasing competition finally killed off Wissel tobacco. Anyway, growing it today would perhaps not be politically correct.

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