Caring for Community: New Farm Bureau President Shares His Passions

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A lifelong dream came true for me on Dec. 10, 2019. I have often said that the opportunity to lead this organization was the only thing that could take me away from my farm, and on that day, North Carolina Farm Bureau’s voting delegates gave me that opportunity. I am humbled by their support and energized for the year ahead, working for all of you.

I’d like to tell you a little about myself. I was a farmer in Beaufort County for 30 years, following in the footsteps of my father and grandfather. I met my wife and farming partner, Tracey, when she came to work at my family’s farm as a teenager. Together we have raised three children, Mandi, Billy and Jonah, and are proud grandparents to Zoey and Russell. Today, Billy runs Southside Farms in Chocowinity, where we grow and sell fruits and vegetables.

My farm story is a family story, and more than 98% of North Carolina farms are family enterprises. But the thing I want you to know is that even though I am a farmer, I am not only a farmer. And neither are most of the farmers you know or read about in this magazine. In addition to being a farmer, I was a coach of my children’s ball teams when they were young, and I served as an elder in my church for the last 20 years. Community is important to farmers, and they share your concerns about the things that communities need to thrive – a healthy environment, good schools, access to healthcare, and so much more. The leadership qualities and work ethic that our volunteer leaders exhibit through Farm Bureau often extend to churches, government and civic groups, too.

Brandon Batten, our Young Farmers & Ranchers Chairman for 2020, has small children at home and a thriving farm in Johnston County. Yet his passion for advocacy drives him to make time for a weekly Facebook feature, Farm Facts Friday, which shares real stories of his farm life. On the next page, you’ll meet Perquimans County’s Rena Eure, a leader on our State Women’s Committee. When her farm work is done, she carries her energies over to community leadership. Rena recently opened her farm for local fire departments to train on grain bin safety, a real passion for her and her husband, Bobby.

Farmers are just like you – hardworking family people. People who care about their communities and their families, people who volunteer to help others. And that’s who I am, a farmer who’s passionate about Farm Bureau and passionate about how we can help our members in the future.

– Shawn Harding

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