Local News

Richmond County Farmer Has Crop That Can Sink Its Teeth Into You

Posted 2006-08-04T00:18:58+00:00 - Updated 2001-08-13T09:14:00+00:00

North Carolina is one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation, but a new crop in Richmond County might "grab" your attention.

It has been said that farming is one of the most dangerous jobs around and Tommy Peacock's farm is no exception. He runs an alligator farm. Surprisingly, the real worry is not from the alligators, but for them.

"Our biggest concern would be from an intruder coming into the farm and doing damage to the animals rather than from the animals getting out," he says.

The concern for the alligators' safety relates to the value -- $9 a pound for meat and thousands of dollars for a top-quality hide.

"Generally, when we bring in 'gators, we bring in 2,000 a year and a third of them will grow out in 18 to 20 months," Peacock says.

The alligators are harvested at about five feet in length. Peacock feeds alligators chickens that die on nearby poultry farms. It's a good way to dispose of the birds and to feed the alligator herd.

The alligators hatch from wild eggs gathered in Florida. At harvest, the gators are sent back south.

"The meat will be processed out there and sold. For the last two or three years, we have sold the hides to Italy and France," Peacock says.

Since it is difficult to obtain baby alligators and you have to follow strict laws, it is doubtful many more gator farms will pop up in the state.

"It is not an industry you can sink your teeth into, but it is one that can sink its teeth into you if you are not careful," Peacock says.

The value of alligator skin products drives the market. A single pair of high-quality alligator boots retails for over $1,500. The risk of the alligators escaping from the farm is very low. They live in padlocked tanks surrounding by special fencing.