Third generation learning the ropes at Vick Family Farms
Vick Family Farms has been busy leading up to early May, preparing for planting.
“A lot goes on in preparation to planting 9,000 acres of crops,” said Charlotte D. Vick, partner/sales and marketing manager for the Wilson, NC-based company. “Our sweet corn has been planted and had favorable growing conditions so far. We are expanding some facilities and automating some equipment in our packing shed this year. We hope to have those projects completed by late fall. These projects have been on hold thru COVID-19 so we are excited to be able to finally be working on these now.”
The company has further expansions that it hopes to make over the next couple of years to better the storage facilities and add additional square footage.
Another exciting development for the company is that the next generation graduated from NC State University and are back at the farm. Eli Ferrell began last spring and Zeke Ferrell joined in January 2023. Both are currently working in the packingshed but will be learning all aspects of the company over the next few years.
“They are the younger generation that sees produce and farming differently than my parents did in the early 70s, but I see them being a part of this company as a benefit in guiding us into the future of what agriculture may look like in the next 50 years,” Vick said.
Dissecting the upcoming season, Vick noted that sweet corn is coming along nicely.
“It has loved the warm weather and recent rain we have had,” she said. “As of now, we look to be a little ahead of last season so mid-late June harvest. Our goal is always to hit before July 4.”
Meanwhile, sweet potato transplanting will begin in mid-May.
“For now, we are working on our transplant beds — pulling plastic covers off, fertilizing, weeding — and the plants look great,” Vick said. “Planting takes place mid-May thru early July with harvest typically beginning mid-August.”
So far in 2023, there’s been good movement with sweet potatoes, though prices still are not where they need to be to accommodate for rising input costs.
“We are hoping the coming season will see better prices or you will continue to see a reduction in acres I imagine,” Vick said. “The costs of growing almost any crop these days is 30-50 percent higher than pre-COVID-19 and we do not see these coming down. Seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, labor costs all keep rising.”
Thankfully, Vick Family Farms has great customers both in the U.S., and overseas.
“We export six months out of the year into Canada, Mexico and the EU, and those markets are important to the sweet potato industry,” Vick said. “Our sweet corn stays here in the U.S. and has been a good addition to our farm the last three years. We hope to continue to expand upon that. We fill a gap between Georgia and New York sweet corn, and our soils are conducive for growing good corn, especially under irrigation.”
Vick is most proud of the legacy of Vick Family Farms, which her parents founded, and the hard work that went into growing the farm.
“My brother and I continue to work alongside our parents to continue strengthening what they have built, and now my children have all finished their college degrees and decided to join our team,” she said. “I would be lying if I wasn’t scared for their future because it is a challenge being profitable as a farmer today, but I am proud knowing that they too have so much love for the farm that they chose to come back to continue the legacy we have here. I know they have been raised to work hard and overcome any challenge, so I look forward to seeing the value they can add to this company.”