Truffles may help save a quintessential part of American culture, the small mountain farm. Davey Crockett's birthplace, Greene county TN, is adjacent to my home in the mountains. The Telegraph notes that
Truffle cultivation is funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which aims to encourage tobacco farmers to diversify into less harmful crops. Some 125 truffle orchards have started in the region.
Many holders of tobacco allotments in this region had only one or two acres under cultivation. The cash guarantee of a tobacco crop allowed these small farmers to pay the taxes on much larger parcels of mountainside used for grazing, timber and hunting (not to mention hiding the occasional moonshine still.) Since no other locally grown crop generates anywhere near the cash per acre of tobacco, these farmers are now hard pressed to maintain their holdings. The most flourishing crop of late in these mountains has been the For Sale sign. The high yield per acre of truffles gives these small farmers an alternative to selling out to speculators who want to subdivide into 2 acre parcels for Floridians seeking to beat the summer heat.
Truffles may also be good news for those who want to preserve wildlife. With the end of the tobacco allotments, local farmers stopped sowing winter cover crops like rye and clover on their erstwhile tobacco fields, depriving local wildlife of a major source of food. The hazelnut trees Tennessee truffles grow under will be a magnet for hungry grouse, turkey, squirrel and deer.