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We’d call it an embarrassment of riches for Wilson County agriculture, but we’re not embarrassed at all — just pleased as punch and proud of our local sons of the soil.
With 2018 scarcely a month old, two of Wilson County’s largest and most prominent family farms have already received statewide recognition, both for their work with sweet potatoes.
Scott Farms International was named the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ 2018 Exporter of the Year and Vick Family Farms owners Jerome and Diane Vick earned the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission’s Distinguished Service Award.
State Agriculture Commissioner Howard Troxler presented the exporter award to Scott Farms President Linwood “Sonny” Scott Jr., who owns the Lucama farm with wife Alice Scott, during the Ag Development Forum at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
“Scott Farms began sweet potato production with just 15 acres,” Troxler said. “Today, sweet potato production is at 3,000 acres, and the international sector accounts for more than half of their total farm sales of sweet potatoes. “The Scotts have built their business around the principles of hard work and delivering a quality sweet potato product. They pride themselves on service and treating people as they would like to be treated.”
The ag commissioner noted Scott Farms’ sales and marketing office in the United Kingdom as a linchpin of its efforts to export North Carolona-grown sweet potatoes across the pond.
This latest honor is one of many for Scott Farms. In January, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appointed Alice Scott to serve as chairwoman of North Carolina’s USDA Farm Service Agency state committee. Perdue visited Scott Farms in person last October as part of a national tour to examine the future of American farming. Troxler and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest accompanied him on the trip.
In September, Scott Farms’ television commercials were honored with the Produce Business Marketing Excellence Award. But the Wilson County company’s biggest small-screen boost came from late 2016 appearances on “Innovations with Ed Begley Jr.” on the Discovery Channel and “American Farmer” on RFD-TV.
The Vicks received their award for distinguished service in sweet potato farming since marrying in 1970 and leaving their jobs to farm full-time in 1975.
“Jerome and Diane believe in giving back to the community; be it through contributions to the church, hospital, fire departments or civic organizations,” a sweet potato commission news release states. “They contribute much of their success in farming to God for providing so many opportunities over the years.
The Vicks “would have never believed in 1975 that their farm would be growing, packing and shipping their sweet potatoes across the world,” the commission notes.
Vick Family Farms is also no stranger to acclaim. Jerome Vick received a prestigious Tobacco Great Award at a December banquet presented by N.C. State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the Tobacco Growers of North Carolina. He is a former president of the tobacco growers’ association.
“He has not only been a tobacco farmer, but he has been a leader to the tobacco farming industry,” said Norman Harrell, director of Wilson’s N.C. Cooperative Extension office.
“The Vick Family Farms tend over 6,000 acres in Wilson, Edgecombe and Nash counties,” Harrell said. “They grow tobacco, soybeans, cotton, wheat and sweet potatoes, which are stored, packaged and shipped year-round from their certified facilities. Additionally, they also sell sweet potato plants each spring.”
Vick Family Farms is known for its philanthropic efforts, too. The company routinely donates produce to the Opportunities Industrialization Center’s emergency food distributions and participates in efforts to provide needy neighbors with nutritious, locally grown sweet potatoes.
Wilson County is fortunate to have fine folks like the Scotts and the Vicks representing our area in the agriculture industry. They continue a proud legacy of leadership on the farm that’s as much Wilson’s claim to fame as its “World’s Greatest Tobacco Market” moniker.