Seven Sampson County farmers and agribusiness representatives were recently among 34 participants who took part in an NC State Tobacco Short Course held recently in Raleigh, NC. The Sampson County participants included: Robert and Brittany Fann of Salemburg; Kristal Jones and Will Strickland of Mount Olive; Curtis Godwin and Philip Strickland of Dunn; and Joe West of Clinton.
Robert and Brittany Fann, a married couple, is part of the Fann Farms operation near Salemburg. The Fann Farms operation includes five Fann families working together on what is now a sixth generation farm. Robert Fann is the son of Kent Fann, who is the son of Kenneth Fann and nephew of uncles Keith and Bennett Fann. The Fann Farms operation will be growing 1,000 acres of flue-cured tobacco this season, along with cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes.
Kristal Jones, the wife of tobacco grower Tony Jones, will grow about 700 acres of tobacco this season, along with sweet potatoes and small grain crops, and a rapidly expanding produce enterprise in an operation that spans a three-county area. In addition to serving as the operation’s administrative manager, Kristal Jones also manages the family’s Smith Chapel Supply and Ag Services, Inc. farm service and supply business in Mount Olive.
Will Strickland works with his grandfather, Garrett Strickland, and his uncle, Reggie Strickland of the Strickland Farming Partnership that also farms in Sampson, Wayne and Duplin Counties. The family farm will grow 200 acres of flue-cured tobacco this season, along with sweet potatoes, corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. The firm also has contract broiler and finishing hog operations.
Curtis Godwin of Dunn works with his father, Derek Godwin, acting as crop manager of his family’s large farming operation. They will be growing 745 acres of flue-cured tobacco this season, along with cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes and cucumbers.
Phillip Strickland works for McLamb Farm Services at Dunn, provides farmers with seed, fertilizer, and pesticides and offers services to apply them, as well as a wide range of farm supplies.
Joe West of Clinton is a crop consultant who works for Agri-Technologies, Inc. West consults with agriculture and horticulture producers in Sampson, Bladen and Columbus Co. in NC and Horry Co. in SC.
During the week of the NC State Tobacco Short Course, which coincided with the Southern Farm Show and the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Assn. of North Carolina, the short course participants took part in workshops and other events aimed at helping them better understand all facets of tobacco production and marketing.
One day of the short course included a field trip to Wilmington to tour the NC State Ports Authority and the plant that manufactures sucker control products for Fair Products Inc. The group also stopped at the farm of Tony Jones, a young tobacco grower who farms land in Wayne, Sampson and Duplin Counties. Because of his and many other tobacco farmers’ needs for additional bulk curing barns this season, Jones is constructing bulk barns on his farm.
“Since our industry continues to face continuous change, we need to make sure our younger farmers are able to focus on how to attain efficient, quality tobacco production,” says Dr. Bill Collins, a retired NC State tobacco extension specialist and coordinator of the short course program. Collins says the participants in the group collectively plan to grow more than 6,000 acres of flue-cured and burley tobacco this season.
The program was conducted by the North Carolina Tobacco Foundation in partnership with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University with a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Instructors in the program included NC State extension specialists in agricultural economics, biological and agricultural engineering, crop science, entomology and plant pathology.