Sampson tobacco farmers, extension agent advisor attend course

February 15, 2014

Two young tobacco growers, brothers James and Cody Hairr of Salemburg, recently participated in a week long 2014 NC State Tobacco Short Course in Raleigh. Also participating in the event was Della Sullivan King, the new Sampson Co. Cooperative Extension field crops agent in Clinton.

The Hairr brothers are part of a farm operation that includes their father, James Rupert Hairr, Jr. and mother, Roberta, which will be growing 100 acres of flue-cured tobacco in 2014. This will be the first time their farm will be growing tobacco after not having grown the leaf crop for 15 years.

After serving as Sampson Co. Extension horticulturalist for the past 10 years, two months ago, King was named Ag Extension agent for field crops. King reports that growers in Sampson Co., one of the largest flue-cured tobacco producing counties in the state, will be growing nearly 15,000 acres of the leaf crop in 2014.

During the week, which coincided with the Southern Farm Show and the Tobacco Growers Assn. of North Carolina’s Annual Meeting, the short course participants took part in the educational program aimed at helping them better understand all facets of tobacco production and marketing.

During the Tobacco Short Course, 35 tobacco growers and advisors were schooled in two days of classroom studies on everything from greenhouse production of seedling plants to harvesting tobacco ready for market. Instructors in the short course included NC State Extension specialists in agricultural economics, agronomy, biological and agricultural engineering, crop science, entomology and plant pathology.

The group also spent a day touring three tobacco-related industry facilities in eastern North Carolina. They included the Universal Leaf Processors plant near Nashville, AVOCA Farm at Merryville, and Global Laboratory Services, Inc. in Wilson.

“Since our industry faces continuous change, we need to make sure our younger farmers, their advisors, and other allied industry representatives are able to focus on how to attain efficient, quality tobacco production,” says Dr. Bill Collins, the retired director of NC State tobacco extension programs and coordinator of the Tobacco Short Course program. He added, “The young tobacco growers in the short course plan to grow thousands of acres of flue-cured and burley tobacco in the state this year.”

The 2014 NC State Tobacco Short Course was conducted by the North Carolina Tobacco Foundation in partnership with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University with a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Research Commission with funds from the 10-cent per hundred pounds of tobacco sold via a self-assessment paid at the point-of-sale.