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Farmers Helping Farmers
The tobacco croppers are still harvesting leaves, and the barns are still curing them. But it’s not our tobacco.
This year, we were able to finish tobacco harvest early. Part of the reason is, we were able to use two other farmers’ tobacco barns to cure our crop in addition to our own barns. This allowed us to harvest the leaf when it was ready and not have to wait until we had a barn empty.
Since we were finished, our farm was able to return the favor. Right now, three different farmers are curing tobacco in our barns.
Farmers helping farmers. It happens all year, every year.
Last year as Hurricane Florence bore down on North Carolina, another farmer helped us pick our corn. We were able to get it all picked before the winds and rain blew across the fields, avoiding the risk of losing the crop.
One Saturday afternoon, our tobacco harvester broke down. You can’t get a part that late in the weekend. Another farmer loaned us his so we could finish filling the barn.
This harvest season, there have been days we haven’t dug sweet potatoes because they needed more time to grow. On those days, our labor has worked for other farmers who needed help. On days we were digging, we’ve used labor from other farmers to get the job done.
During the growing and harvest seasons, farmers are constantly talking with each other about field conditions, weather, and what the crop looks like. They discuss what fertilizers they are using, what insect or disease pressure they are seeing, and what they are going to do about it. Sharing this knowledge and experience helps everyone, especially young farmers who are just staring in the industry.
I learned how quick farmers are to help each other right after starting my first job as an Extension agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. I’m not from a farming background, and three months after I started working, a hurricane hit North Carolina. Two of the cattle farmers I worked with had pastures under water and cows stranded with no feed.
It didn’t take long for a network to form, matching farmers in need of hay with those willing to donate it. The Saturday after the storm, a tractor-trailer pulled up at the farm and unloaded round bales. All of this was donated.
I’ve seen this again and again, not only in North Carolina but across the country. When Katrina hit, many farmers put together loads of hay, fencing, wood, and other materials and drove them to farmers in the devastated region. After Harvey flooded Texas, many donated time, materials, and more to impacted farmers.
Farmers helping farmers. Since we are less than 2% of the population, it’s what we should do and need to do to keep our industry going. Is there a time you helped another farmer or one helped you?