Celebrating Farm City Week with a dinner and presentation Tuesday evening in the South Columbus High School cafeteria, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension 4-H and SCHS Future Farmers of America hosted Larry Wooten, Farm Bureau president, as keynote speaker for the evening.
Kevin Kinlaw of Cape Fear Farm Credit presents Chandler Worley (center) with the Extension Hall of Fame Award Tuesday evening at South Columbus High School. With them is Extension Director Dalton Dockery.
After Wooten’s speech, Kevin Kinlaw of Cape Fear Farm Credit presented the 2020 Extension Hall of Fame award to Chandler Worley.
Kinlaw described the recipient of the Hall of Fame award as someone who has contributed outstanding service to the Extension, agriculture, home economics, youth development and rural communities. Worley graduated from West Columbus High School in 1972, then graduated from N.C. State University with a bachelor of science in agronomy in 1977. He is a sixth generation farmer and the father of four children and grandfather of two children. Extension Director Dalton Dockery described Worley as a “bootleg extension agent.”
“I had a heart attack last year, and I’m not done yet,” Worley said after accepting the award. “I want to see this county bounce back. We used to be one of the most progressive counties in the state and we’ve got the bloodline to continue it.
We’ve got to re-invent the wheel because I love this county, I love my farm, I love my neighbors and I love y’all.”
During the keynote speech, Wooten said that over the 20-year history of the Farm City banquet celebration in Columbus County, it is important to recognize the interdependence of agriculture, farmers and rural communities with urban neighbors. With stepping down as president of Farm Bureau in December, Wooten does not plan to retire but instead to re-brand, refocus, redirect and refurbish his continued support of farmers in North Carolina.
“One of the most disturbing statistics that bothers me most is that 40 percent of all cooked and prepared food in the United States is thrown away,” Wooten said. “It’s amazing that 1 out of 5 children go to bed undernourished with all this tremendous amount of food going to waste.”
Wooten underscored how the change in North Carolina’s urban and rural population ratio, its increasing racial and ethnic diversity, and two catastrophic hurricanes have impacted agriculture. Wooten said that Farm Bureau wrote 800 $500 checks to farmers in North Carolina to help with hurricane relief.
Wooten explained that tariffs are “wreaking havoc” on farmers in North Carolina, and that farmers are dependent on solid foreign trade agreements. He said that China receives the most exports of tobacco, Mexico is the largest buyer of ham and Japan purchases the highest quality products made in the United States.
“There is no sustainability without profitability,” Wooten said. “With continued lawsuits against the livestock industry and droughts, I can say it’s been tough for farmers.” Wooten explained that it will take cutting-edge technology to meet the growing needs of farmers and the greatest commodity of all – people – working together to provide for the next generation of farmers.
He wants to create an environment in Columbus County that will make farmers want to stay here.
The N.C. Cooperative Extension Columbus County Center, Columbus County Community Farmers Market and Columbus County Schools sponsored the event.