In 1970, the North Carolina State Fair undertook the largest agricultural project in the fair’s history. To highlight the theme of that year’s fair, “Salute to Agriculture,” officials initiated a search for all families who have owned or operated a farm in North Carolina for 100 years or more. Over 800 farms qualified as a Century Farm.
Century Farm families were honored at a luncheon held in Dorton Arena at the 1970 N. C. State Fair. Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Graham, emceed the event and Lt. Gov. Pat Taylor was the featured speaker. Graham congratulated the families for their contributions to North Carolina. “The strength and depth of North Carolina lies with you people who have held the family farm together. You are the fountain head of our economy.”
Today, there are about 52,000 farms in North Carolina, but only about 1,600 have the distinct honor of being a N.C. Century Farm. North Carolina has a rich agricultural heritage and the Century Farm family program celebrates the many contributions farming has made to the state.
One local farm in Sampson County has just received this most prestigious award. Century Farms of Autryville, owned and operated by Alan Parker, just received the honor a few weeks back.
“It has been said that farmers were the first environmentalist, which is true” Parker said during an interview last week. “Our practices today impact future generations. We are also contributing to the safest food supply in the world. Everybody should be an environmentalist. If everybody in N.C. would keep trash picked up along any road frontage they owned, our state would be a lot more attractive.”
The farm was named to honor the memory of Parker’s daddy and grandaddy. “This award usually takes years to achieve but we did it after only seven months of operation based on the approach we took to remove the existing farm. I was very humbled with the honor,” remarked the farmer.
Century Farms, LLC is a contract nursery farm with Prestage Farms, Inc. and is located near Autryville. It consists of 128 acres with 80 acres of coastal Bermuda grass and loafing areas for cattle. It is owned by Parker, his wife, Jeanine, daughters, Johnna and Alexa, and son, Austin. Ironically, Jeanine is also the owner of another type of nursery, Toddler’s Preschool, Inc. in Clinton.
Alan Parker is the nursery production manager for Prestage Farms, Inc. and has been employed with them over 23 years. The farm is located on 1066 Autry Mill Road. It borders the Jones Swamp which feeds into the South River that is within a mile. South River borders Sampson & Cumberland counties in this area, which is lowly populated with people, and within three miles north and south there are very few swine production facilities. West of the farm for many square miles, very little to no production exist. The existence of the farm dates back to the 1960’s. It was a feedlot for cattle and hogs, owned by Sidney and son, Brewer Autry.
“Brewer incidentally was my wife’s daddy’s first cousin,” explained Parker.
Brewer sold the operation in 1983 to Bill Prestage. Two days later Prestage sold the real estate to Wendell Murphy and Prestage kept the sows. Murphy Family Farms sold the farm to Robinson Farms in 1995. At this time it was converted to farrow to wean and a new lagoon was constructed. In the late fall of 2008 Murphy-Brown dissolved the contract with Robinson Farms and the farm was sold at public auction to Riverside Farms, LLC: a subsidiary of Martins Meats & Martins Pork.
“Both of these owners are incidentally a second cousin and the other an uncle of my wife. So, after the farm being out of the family somewhat for 28 years, it has evolved back into the family,” remarked Alan.
By converting the farm from sows (farrow to wean) to a nursery, it was permitted for 20,206 spaces. “At the time, we were short these spaces so I pursued the purchase of the farm,” shared Parker.
Demolition began in early January 2011, and the first concrete was poured the first week of April. The first pig was placed the last week of June and sold mid August.
“We built six double wide nurseries with a capacity of 1,600 per room; it allows for three square feet per pig or 3,200 head per building,” stated Parker.
As part of the environmental plan for Century Farms LLC, Parker has enrolled in the N.C. Wildlife C.U.R.E. (Cooperative Upland habitat Restoration & Enhancement) program and has worked with Ducks Unlimited and areas around Jones swamp to leave the land undisturbed.
To be eligible for Century Farms, a farm must have had continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more. This ownership can be determined from an abstract from a title or original records such as the original deed or land patents. In some cases, other authentic land records are acceptable. Contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Public Affairs office at (919) 707-3002 if you have further questions.
Parker is also active in the National Pork Board and the North Carolina Pork Council. As a part of that association, he has enrolled Century Farms LLC in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and is a certified farm. The principles of the We Care program are: to produce safe food; protect and promote animal well-being; ensure practices to protect public health; safeguard natural resources in all of our practices; provide a work environment that is safe and consistent with our other ethical principles and contribute to a better quality of life in our communities.
To learn more regarding Pork Quality Assurance Plus visit: ncpork.org; pork.org; or porkcares.org. To find out more about the Century Farm program visit: http://www.ncagr.gov/paffairs.