Chamber Chat - Farm City Week

Nov 26

By Meg Moss

This past week was Farm City Week in Lee County. It serves as a great time to recognize our farming heritage. Events held during the week included art and photography contests, presentations to local government officials and other community leaders, and the annual Farm City Week Banquet. According the NC Cooperative Extension Service- Lee County Center’s Director, Bill Stone, the goal of Farm City Week is to increase the awareness of how rural and urban families and dependent on each other in order to meet our day-to-day needs.

Agriculture is one of North Carolina’s top industries, bringing in more than $84 billion into the state’s economy each year – that’s 17% of the state’s income. According to the US Department of Agriculture, over 16% of the state’s workforce is employed in the agribusiness sector, and the state ranks 8th in the nation for agriculture cash receipts. North Carolina farms and agribusiness are meeting the demand for food and food products by producing over 80 different commodities.

When you think “shop local”, include food. When one purchases food from local farmers, the community benefits because those local sales are spent at other local businesses. And it keeps dollars spent on food circulating among other local businesses.

During the Farm City Week Banquet on Monday, we learned about the role that women play in agriculture in Lee County. And it’s significant. Twelve women were featured in a series of videos which can be found at “There’s no doubt that more local women are taking important leadership roles — whether they’re running their family farms, helping shape public policy or leading statewide organizations,” says County Extension Director Bill Stone. “In many ways, women are reshaping the landscape of agriculture and agribusiness.”

Stone points to leaders like Mandy Thomas Johnson, who is helping Gary Thomas Farms, her family operation, make a successful transition to larger-scale production.

Then there are others like Tina Gross, who are helping take agriculture in entirely new directions. Gross, who is co-owner of Gross Farms, also serves as president of the North Carolina Agritourism Networking Association, a nonprofit helping agricultural operations and events statewide attract visitors to the farm as a source of income.

On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to participate this week in the elected official’s agriculture tour. While not an elected official, I jumped at the chance to tag along. We visited both JJ’s Place in Broadway, and Watson’s Nursery. I had never been to either location. And wow, did I get an education!

Growing crops is intellectually challenging, and while it is a rewarding occupation, the effort and range of knowledge required to survive is more than considerable.  There are many practical applications of the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines that must be integrated simultaneously to make a profitable farm. 

One of our tour guides was Minda Daughtry, Extension Agent of Agriculture – Horticulture for the NC Cooperative Extension – Lee County Center. She shared with us the many “Skills of a Farmer”. And they certainly go beyond knowing how to grow crops.

Horticulture is one of the many skills needed, because every plant type has a different set of environmental needs - from site location and nutrition, to disease and pest management in order to thrive.

Agronomy is another needed skill set, according to Daughtry, because growing a crop of hundreds of one type of plant requires different production and management techniques than growing just a few.  Environmental sustainability management is another, in order to keep the land they depend on healthy, productive and sustainable.

Other skills you may not necessarily consider when thinking about agriculture include construction, plumbing and equipment mechanics. But these are necessary, because few operations have the additional financial resources to hire in those services.

Agriculture is a business, so business operation and organization skills are required, including maintaining all kinds of records accurately and regularly, from invoices to certification and regulation compliance paperwork to warranties and taxes to labor contracts and payroll. 

Daughtry also reminded those on the tour that other skills needed to run a successful farm include employee management, communication and human resources, as they are inherent in any business. Marketing management including market research, advertising, public relations, and customer support. Negotiation and sales skills during interactions with associates and buyers. Problem-solving skills in a very risk-intense industry due to unpredictable and uncontrollable weather conditions.

And let’s not forget that Thanksgiving wouldn’t be what it is without farming. I hope that you and your family enjoyed spending time together over a table flowing with food, and hearts flowing with gratitude for the many blessings in your life. And the next time you see a farmer, be sure to thank them, and remember, they aren’t just a farmer, they are a business owner using a multitude of skills, trying to make a living.

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