RUFFIN — The steady hum of machines and sweet smell of tobacco fills the air as you pull into Breland Hill Farms.

“There’s nothing greater than getting up early in the morning just before the sun’s coming up and those barns are cooking and you just smell that,” Jerry Breland said. “It makes it all worth it.”

Tobacco farming has steadily decreased over the past half century in South Carolina, but in the past year it’s picked up for Jerry and Richard Breland. The brothers are the fifth generation of farmers in their family and operate the largest tobacco farm in the state. The Colleton County farm grows other crops — peanuts, soy beans, strawberries, corn and cotton — but tobacco makes up about 85 percent of their total income.

Breland Hill Farms provides tobacco to R.J. Reynolds and Santa Fe Natural tobacco companies. During harvesting season, Jerry estimates that about one-half of a semi truck worth of tobacco moves through their facility per day.

Although his life revolves around tobacco, Jerry has never smoked a cigarette. “I really think cigarettes taste like they smell," he said. "And I don’t like the smell of cigarettes.”

+5 
LP tobacco farm 082418 002.JPG

Jerry Breland is pictured in one of his tobacco fields at Breland Hill Farms in Ruffin on Aug. 23, 2018. He is in the fifth generation of farmers in his family. Lauren Petracca/ Staff

When asked if he thinks his two sons, Cameron and Jeremy, will be growing tobacco in another 50 years, Breland said he doesn’t think so. Breland Hill Farms has added a U-Pick Strawberry Farm, has started selling its produce at stands, and is looking to add a wedding venue to the farm.