Local News

Ag Commissioner Sows Seeds for Farm Support

Posted February 19, 2007 6:35 p.m. EST

— North Carolina farmers and their farmland are losing the battle with growth, according to a state report released Monday.

The state had 1,000 fewer farms last year than in 2005 -- that ranks as the most nationwide -- and the state lost 3,000 farms in 2004.

State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said the General Assembly needs to make farm support a higher priority in state budgets. State support would help preserve working farms and protect farmland from development, he said.

"We've got to try to give them a choice -- the choice to stay in business, to bring another generation of farmers to the farm and to make sure that this country can feed itself," Troxler said.

Any state aid would come too late for Dan Andrews, whose family raised tobacco on a Harnett County farm just outside Fuquay-Varina for five generations.

Just over a year ago, Andrews gave up the life of a tobacco farmer to become an entrepreneur. He closed down the farm and turned the into the Drake Landing Hunting Preserve.

The move capitalized on his love of hunting. The former farm now offers hunting tours and a clay pigeon shooting course for outdoor enthusiasts. It also keeps the land in his family's hands.

"The toughest thing I've ever done in my life is sit down and show my father the numbers on what we were making off a crop of tobacco," Andrews said. "After he looked at them, he said, 'Son, you have no choice.'">

Troxler said he know he has a tough sell -- even with a budget surplus last year, the farm trust fund didn't get a dime in state money.