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NE NC Agribusiness Student Tour – Hemp, Peanuts, and Cotton

Kayla Howell at Lassiter Farms

The AGI Agribusiness Management took their annual fall field trip on September 27, 2019.  All first year students are required to attend.  This year, the group visited Full Spectrum Hydroponics Farm and Store. Aaron Sizemore owns Full Spectrum Hydroponics located in Roanoke Rapids, NC.  He specializes in hydroponic hemp and sells hemp related products in the store.  In addition, he sells nursery stock, hydroponic supplies, grow lights, and more to farmers who want to establish their own fields.

Aaron is working toward industrial rejuvenation of the Roanoke Rapids area.  He has space in the Becker Village Mall and is in the expansion stages of the business in that facility.  He is hoping that the hemp industry will generate a resurgence of need for building space currently in dormancy.

When asked about the rapid influx of growers in the hemp industry, Aaron is not concerned.  He believes this is the next gold rush.  Right now big money is to be made and while he knows the price will go down with additional people entering the market, he believes the demand side will also expand and the industry will move forward.

Next, the tour stopped at Bolton Farms in Warrenton, NC.  Bill Bolton farms about 400 acres of what was originally tobacco.  However, he has expanded out into other crop areas including hemp.   He currently has about 10 acres of hemp.  Bill is working on converting a tobacco greenhouse to hemp production. All of the hemp grown both on this farm and in the hydroponics nursery grows organically to keep it as natural as possible.  Because of that, this year they are having a worm pressure in the field grown stock.

In the afternoon, the group visited Donny Lassiter at his farming operation, Lassiter Farms, in Seaboard, NC.  They are working over 10,000 acres of crops including cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, edible soybeans, pumpkins and more.  The tour saw harvesting of cotton and peanuts.  The peanut crop this year has done very well.  Rain early and a dry spell made it quicker and easier to harvest than normal to the extant that they are having a backup on the drying operation for the peanuts because they are getting them out of the field faster than they can process through the dryers.

The cotton price has been down for several years.  If it continues this trend, Lassiter Farms will plant more peanuts and fewer acres of cotton.  One of the value added and traceability initiatives Donny is involved with relates to his cotton enterprise.  He has teamed up with Wrangler to make North Carolina cotton-sourced jeans.  Wranglers jeans are available for purchase and will have a tag inside if they are part of the NC brand.  The tag lists the name of the farm where Wrangler sourced the cotton.  There is actually a Donny Lassiter Wrangler style of jeans.

Donny Lassiter is a ’99 Agricultural Business Management graduate.  Below is his advice to students:

“Take personal finance.  No matter what job you end up with, this is good knowledge to have.  Become proficient in Excel.  All good business professionals need to have skills using it.  Take a GPS course if one is available to you.  All machinery worth anything has it.  See if you can get the university to offer a machinery operation class.  Learning how to operate a $750,000 piece of machinery can’t be done the way it used to be where you start on a small 2 row harvester and move up to a 4 row then on to the big rigs.  The system doesn’t work like that anymore and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to get trained on the operation of the equipment. “

Thank you to Full Spectrum Hydroponics, Bolton Farms, and Lassiter Farms for hosting the AGI Agribusiness Management fall field trip.