I was raised on a family farm in Robeson County. We grew tobacco, corn, soybeans, small grains, and cotton. We also had hogs and beef cattle. I received a BS in Agricultural Engineering from North Carolina State University and after graduating taught Vocational Agriculture at Bear Grass High School. I later took a job with the US Dept. of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) as the Executive Director of the Yadkin County Office. FSA administers farm programs, conservations programs, disaster programs, and makes loans for agricultural purposes. My top priority was to provide prompt, courteous, and efficient service to the landowners and farmers who visited our office. My staff did an excellent job of this. There is a lot of red tape in government programs. We could not change the requirements that were in the law, but we did our best to streamline the process and make it easier for the landowner and farmer to cut through all the red tape. For the past 26 years I have also owned and operated a farm in Yadkin County.
I live in Yadkinville. I was married to the former Sherri Casstevens for 35 years until she passed away suddenly in late 2014. I have two sons, a daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren. I am a member of North Oak Ridge Baptist Church. I strongly believe that you should give back to your community and get involved in community affairs. I have coached baseball and football for K-8th grade kids. I served on the Town Council and later as Mayor of Boonville. I was a member of the first Yadkin County Community School Board; served as President of the of the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Board; was a member of the Northwest Piedmont Council of Governments, the Horne Creek Living Historical Farm Board, and various other agriculture committees. I currently serve on the North Carolina Ag Foundation Board, the Yadkin County Extension Service Advisory Committee, the Yadkin County Volunteer Ag District Board, the North Carolina State University College of Ag and Life Sciences Alumni Board, and am a member of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce and the Yadkin County Rotary Club.
I have a unique background that is well suited for the position of Agriculture Commissioner. I grew up on a very diverse family farm and I now own and operate a small farm. I have worked for the public with both USDA and as Mayor of Boonville. During my time with USDA I worked closely with the Soil and Water Conservation District and the North Carolina Forest Service in order to provide seamless service to farmers and landowners. The North Carolina Legislature recently added these two agencies to the NC Dept. of Agriculture. I have worked closely with North Carolina State University, taught high school agriculture and served on several agricultural committees. I know firsthand the challenges and issues facing farmers today.
There are a lot of lessons that can be learned growing up in a rural community on a family farm. I learned from my father that most problems can be solved with good common sense. He also taught me the value of putting in a full day’s work. We would often get up early enough to take cured tobacco out of a barn and load it on trailers so that by 8 am the barn was empty and ready to be filled up with that day’s harvest. After spending all day in the tobacco field we then unloaded the trailer and put the cured tobacco in a pack house. There were times when I questioned why we were still working while others quit at 5 o’clock. He answer was “we don’t stop until the job is done”.
My father believed that we should treat others like we would want to be treated and help our neighbors in times of need. He didn’t just say those things, he lived it. If a farmer in our community needed help he would provide his own time and equipment to help. Our community consisted of three different races, but my father never saw the color of their skin. He only saw the face of a neighbor. Everyone in our community lived together, worked together and respected each other.
All these values were instilled in me at an early age. I still strongly believe in them and try to live my life with them in mind.
We need a strong full time Commissioner, not someone who just works from 8 to 5, but someone who will put in whatever time it takes to get the job done. We need someone who will make decisions based on good common sense and not politics or special interests. We need someone who believes that everyone should be treated equal. We need someone who will listen and be accountable to the voters and not the other way around. I promise to you that I will be that person. I will fight for you and with you to keep agriculture in North Carolina strong and bring back the rural family values that this state was built on.