Blackland Farm Managers Tour set for August 7 in Fairfield; 550 attendees expected

Published 6:34 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The 49th annual Blackland Farm Managers Tour will be held on August 7 in Fairfield.

“This is the largest event of its kind in North Carolina, and we expect more than 550 attendees this year,” said Jeff Sparks of Columbia, Blackland Farm Managers Association president. “The event will offer an excellent opportunity to interact with farmers and agribusiness leaders from across the state and will include educational presentations on corn, soybean, and cotton production and management.”

The hosts for this year’s tour will be Coastal Carolina Gin, Mann Farms, and North Lake Farms. The physical location for the event will be the Coastal Carolina Gin, 1100 North Lake Road, Fairfield.

Registration begins at 7 a.m. with opening remarks at 8 a.m. A catered lunch will be served at noon, August 7.

The Blackland Farm Managers Association is dedicated to improving the management requirements needed to protect the high organic soils of eastern North Carolina and to develop the fertile, black farmlands to their fullest potential, Sparks said.

“We will use the knowledge and talents of our members and take advantage of the educational resources available to us that will enable us to be good stewards of the land today, and for future generations,” Sparks emphasized.

The Blacklands, covering parts of eight counties along and near the Atlantic coastline were originally a cypress tree swamp until visionary farmers from Holland, Germany and the Midwestern U.S. began to drain the land and clear trees in the 1960s, writes Carrie Muehling of Farm Flavor Media.

The result was a highly productive agricultural region where North Carolina farmers today grow corn, soybeans and wheat. Other crops include Irish potatoes for potato chips, and specialty crops like sweet corn and cucumbers.

“Most of the people in the rest of the country don’t really know it exists,” says Sparks, owner of Green Valley Farms in Columbia and president of the Blacklands Farm Managers Association. “In North Carolina, you usually only think about colleges and the beach and maybe the mountains, but they don’t realize all this agriculture is in our state.”

Sparks says many of the farms are large, with producers operating on anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 acres. But he estimates that 99% of those farms are still family farms. Others rent from outside investors who own large tracts of land in the area.