Producing Excellence shares compelling stories of American farmers and ranchers, both newcomers to agriculture and producers who span generations. Their stories are as diverse as agriculture itself, so we’ve created several ways for you to navigate:
Products Raised or Grown: Cotton, peanuts, tobacco and sweet potatoes
Size of Operation: 4,550 acres
Years in Business: 31
Farm Credit Partner: Cape Fear Farm Credit
Years Working with Farm Credit: 31
Kent Fann demonstrates his commitment to farming every day, and to his community every chance he gets. Wheelchair-bound due to a go-kart racing accident 30 years ago, neither Kent nor his family have allowed his physical limitations to limit his participation in their farming operation.
In fact, with their equipment modified with wheelchair lifts and hand controls and ramps added around facilities, it’s almost become a non-issue. Instead, what three generations of Fann farmers – including his father, Kenneth, who founded the operation, his uncle, his brother and his son – focus on is growing quality crops and expanding where they find potential.
Their operation includes 1,900 acres of cotton that’s sold to cooperative Stapl Cotton, which gins it for sale to both domestic and international customers. They also raise 1,450 acres of Virginia peanuts, which are most frequently roasted in the shell and packaged for sale through retail stores and ball parks. Their 200 acres of sweet potatoes are sold to a marketing company and from there to a mostly U.S. market.
While not their largest crop, an expansion of their 600 acres of tobacco to 1,000 acres is currently taking the bulk of their investment, with financing being provided by Cape Fear Farm Credit. Having acquired an additional contract to warrant the increased acreage, the expansion includes adding 40 new tobacco bulk barns and increasing the housing they provide for their labor force. New equipment is also part of the picture, including machinery, automated curing control systems in the barns and a leading-edge irrigation system.
Kent and his family believe strongly in giving back to their community. Five years ago, at the instigation from a neighbor who was injured in a farm equipment accident, they decided to host a Farm Safety Day, a program they’ve now held several times. After attending training sessions, they identified ten learning stations from the nearly 150 available, and worked with presenters to find interesting ways to convey the potential dangers of various equipment frequently found on farms. For example, a stick marked by length demonstrated the amazing speed at which a lawnmower blade rotates – 25 times in the time it took a child to catch the dropped stick. Nearly 80 children attend these Farm Safety Days, enjoying a variety of educational experiences.
While not a farm-related accident, Kent has shared his story as well, and with inspiring optimism views his condition as an opportunity. “I stand out in a crowd,” he says. “I take that as a chance to share a message with someone, whether it’s about farming, about safety, about religion, or about adapting and overcoming a problem.”