LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Tobacco Workers Conference was held Jan. 20–23 in Louisville, Kentucky, where Chris Vann and Matthew Vann, father and son, shared their passion for the tobacco industry.
Christopher D. Vann, UF/IFAS Lafayette County Extension Agent, and older son Dr. Matthew C. Vann, North Carolina State University Extension Tobacco Specialist, shared in tobacco research along with Dr. J. Michael Moore, University of Georgia; Keith Wynn, UF/IFAS Hamilton County Extension Agent; and De Broughton, Multi-County Agent Suwannee Valley Research Center, University of Florida. This project was in the Suwannee River Valley where Chris resides and works and where Matthew grew up, heard stories of tobacco days, worked in tobacco, and learned the value heritage and family.
Matthew’s job responsibilities revolve around everything tobacco, from research, to lectures to production and advising producers. Chris’s tobacco responsibilities are similar when working with the producers, however the lecturing days are far behind him. Chris began his career as a Vocational Agriculture teacher in 1982, at Lafayette High School in Mayo, Florida. In 1990, he become the Agriculture Extension Agent for Lafayette County.
Matthew, along with his two siblings Hannah and John Levi, grew up at the side of their father, Chris, and have a fondness for agriculture and the heritage of agriculture. Even though Chris and his wife, Gwen, have never grown tobacco as a crop, his family and his wife’s family can trace back five generations of tobacco producers. As a child and teenager, Matthew was intrigued by the production of tobacco. He still has interesting conversations with his grandparents, Walter and Marietta Boatright, about the changes in tobacco production. All this lead him to North Carolina State University after graduating from Lafayette High School and the University of Florida, by way of an invitation from Dr. David Smith, also a graduate of Lafayette High School and the University of Florida. With the fondness of tobacco production and industry, Dr. Matthew Vann chose to remain in Raleigh after completing his graduate work to engage in tobacco research. There he resides with his wife Dr. Rachel Vann, North Carolina State University Extension, Soybean Specialist, and their son, Orrin.
Tobacco season used to be a time when teenagers could work on the family farm to increase farm profit or work for other farmers for spending money. This built the economy and proved to be life changing experiences, while gaining valuable work ethics in a family type atmosphere. With the smaller tobacco industry, those days are long gone. But for this father and son, during the growing season, frequent phone calls, text messages, and pictures are shared across the miles and states in regards to tobacco production. Matthew enjoys the bragging rights of the quality and yields of North Florida tobacco. Tobacco is a generational interest.