Young Farmers Compete for 2010 Achievement Award
The next crop of North Carolina Farm Bureau leaders is paving the way now for the future of agriculture.
The three finalists for the 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Achievement Award all used hard work, innovation and resourcefulness to keep their farm operations strong in the face of numerous market and economic challenges over the past year.
Furthermore, all three contributed to North Carolina Farm Bureau on the county and state levels.
The YF&R program is designed to develop leadership skills in farmers ages 18 to 35. The winner of this year’s Achievement Award will be named at North Carolina Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in December.
JOHN ALLEN, 35, of Iredell County, is a finalist for the second year in a row. A tree farmer, Allen holds patents on two varieties of trees and is developing several other tree varieties to patent next year and in coming years.
“Plant patents are expensive to get and enforce, but the royalties can be a nice supplemental income if marketed correctly over the 20-year period of the patent,” Allen says. “The intangible benefits are great as well, because they become an advertisement for your nursery by every other nursery that grows those trees.”
Furthermore, Allen helped form a regional marketing group that won a $30,000 Commodity Community Investment Fund grant from the Rural Advancement Foundation International. The money will be spent on educational field days, pesticide courses for credit, tours and literature at local nurseries.
Allen is manager and part-owner of his family-run, 365-acre operation, which was recently incorporated.
The economic downturn posed a challenge to the nursery, as less homebuilding meant less demand for landscaping.
“Shade trees were very popular, (and) now flowering trees have taken more market share, so plant diversity has mitigated the downturn for our nursery,” he says. A past president of the State Nursery and Landscape Association, he led an executive search committee for that group last year, and is serving on an N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services advisory committee. He continues his interest in politics and remains active as a volunteer firefighter and member of his church.
ANDREW AND ASHLEY BURLESON, both 31, of Stanly County, met while studying agronomy (him), and animal science (her), in college. Marriage and two kids later, the couple and his family have 3,411 acres primarily devoted to cotton, but they also grow soybeans, corn and wheat and have 24 head of cattle.
The Burlesons farm the land his grandparents bought in the 1940s, and today they farm with Andrew’s dad, uncle and cousin on that land as two limited liability corporations. Ashley also runs a home-based embroidery business and is a homemaker and full-time mother.
The farm is also partial owner of a family-owned cotton gin and warehouse, which serve farms in the seven surrounding counties.
“This past year the farm cooperated with the gin and manufacturers to produce T-shirts that are produced entirely within our state,” Andrew says. “Cotton grown on our farm and ginned at our cotton gin was spun, dyed, sewn and screen-printed locally.”
The Burlesons farm has used some innovative methods to reduce the need for seasonal labor. Andrew worked with a welder and the gin manager to modernize a tarping system to allow them to harvest with two workers, instead of four.
A challenge for the Burlesons has been urban development, yet they’ve taken steps to ensure the future of farming in their family. They’ve purchased land in areas with less commercial and residential growth to provide a stable land base for the next generation.
The Burlesons are involved in the Cotton Producers Association, County Environmental Health Board, the State Agriculture Foundation, Cooperative Extension, Southern States and their church.
LUCAS RICHARD, 29, of Catawba County, bought his first calf at 5 years old, when his grandfather sold it to him for two cents. He reinvested his proceeds from the sale of that cow’s calf and has been investing in his diverse farm operations ever since.
“I’m a firm believer in reinvesting in the operation first,” he says. “This has allowed me to achieve the growth that I have over the past 10 years.”
Until he got out of high school, Richard farmed alongside his grandfather. Then he started with 50 acres of row crops. Today his businesses, L.F.R. Farms & Greenhouses and L.F.R. Grain Chemical, Inc., require three greenhouses, 1,600 acres of his own and 1,000 acres of custom work for other farmers. Richard has 10 full-time employees.
Richard grows wheat, barley, corn, soybeans and strawberries, and started a grain division that includes a grain elevator and chemical and seed store three years ago.
Furthermore, to keep up with the latest chemical and seed products, Richard became a commissioned agent for Coastal Agribusiness.
Richard started farming just out of high school and typically puts in 16-hour-or-longer days but recently decided to make time to go back to school. He is finishing up an associates degree in business administration this semester.
Looking ahead, Richard plans to add more grain storage, add row crop acres, and possibly buy or build another location.
Richard is president of the Small Grain Growers Association, and is involved with the National Wheat Growers Association, his local fire department, and is an Eagle Scout.