BY BRANDY TEMPLETON
A group of Crosby Scholars high school students recently spent a day visiting local farms and nurseries to learn more about agriculture.
The first stop on the tour was Ben Shelton’s dairy farm.
“A dairy is a factory that replicates itself,” Shelton explained.
With 40 years of experience, he discussed changes to the industry and current protocols, and answered students’ questions.
“We use specialized disinfectants to keep the milk clean,” he said. “We want it to be as clean as possible.”
After observing the milking process, students visited John Allen’s tree nursery in Harmony.
At Shiloh Nursery workers plant trees, then dig up once they have grown and ship them all across the U.S.
“We have flowering trees, shade trees, and block-your-neighbor trees,” Allen explained.
He showed the students the trucks and equipment used to uproot the trees and haul them.
“It can take two to 10 years before a tree is ready to sell,” he shared.
Allen explained the conditions that the trees thrive in and also challenges that growers face.
Because it’s a gamble each year to guess what types of trees will be popular, Allen’s team plants different trees each year.
“We plant a little bit of everything every year for genetic diversity,” he said. “It’s a guess. It’s faith.”
Allen also explained hybrid trees and the knowledge that goes into the grafting process.
From there, students met Doug Holland, president of the Farm Bureau board of Iredell County. He told the students about crop insurance and other protections for farmers.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina,” he said.
The Crosby Scholars also met with Doug Prevette, owner of Prevette Family Farm in Olin.
Prevette, a retired North Iredell High School teacher, spoke of the challenges associated with starting a nursery.
“There’s a lot of exciting opportunities,” he said. “It takes a lot of money, capital, and risks.”
Prevette told the students they have to know the market they’re selling to and the demand.
“It is an all-year job. You have to constantly work at it,” he said.
The last stop on the tour was at Penny Ledbetter’s place, Grietje’s Garden, where she has 400 vines of muscadine and scuppernong grapes. Students were allowed to sample juice from her grapes.
Like the other business owners, Ledbetter told students they have to work hard to be successful in agriculture.
“Everything you see is a process,” she said. “Always have a vision ahead of you of where you want to go.”