Business Spotlight: Pine Knot Farms
Pine Knot Farms has been in Stanley Hughes’ family for over 100 years. He tells us his story and how organic agriculture has never been more important.
Stanley Hughes: They wanted to manufacture cigarettes and they were looking for organic tobacco growers…which would pay $4.00 a pound. Very profitable. But I was the first in Orange County in 1996 to do organic tobacco.
Hughes: Around the year 2000, we totally went organic. We grow tobacco, 4 varieties of kale. Then we got Swiss chard, cabbage, and squash, tomatoes…let’s see, what are the others…beets, carrots…all of that’s organic. And 5 varieties of sweet potatoes…I don’t know if I said that or not.
Anthony: My favorite thing to harvest…is tobacco. And, I’m good at that. Different vegetables get different care. You might water them the same but they’re not going to grow the same.
Anthony: Organic practices at this farm are important because organic stuff ain’t got no chemicals or nothing in it. And it’s more…better for you and they say it’s more for the environment, you know what I’m saying? Organic is the way to go but it’s hard. It ain’t something that you can just come down here and jump into. You got to be born, man. You got to be born on the farm.
Hughes: If you can make a living in Pine Knot, you can make a living anywhere because it’s a tough land to farm. And I found that yet to be true.
Hughes: My grandfather bought 125 acres in 1912 for $2,000. We serve produce to different ones in the community plus we do some farmers markets and a couple of restaurants. They videotape it for different programs.
Hughes: My wife is not here today. She do the finance part, the record keeping. My daughter works the farmers market, the Durham Farmers Market, on Saturdays. She is helping us on the farm to plant tobacco with the produce. I think now, with as much paperwork and everything required, it takes us all, it takes all the family.
Hughes: It was hard when my father would come home. When he did, you’d hear my father say, ‘We gotta do something and I sure hate to do that.’ And I was like, ‘I will.’ I said, ‘I gotta do something and I hate to do that.’ But he was always…’Come on, let’s go.’ Lunchtime come…if he wanted to finish this field before we went, it might be 3 o’clock. We stayed there. We had to stay there and keep working until we got what he wanted completed.
Anthony: It’s good for the community because, you know, a lot of people, they got nothing to do. If they’re smart and want to work, you know, we’ll work with them. Just like we had the high school students…they wanted to be on the farm. So we got them to help us lay the plastic. We got in there and I showed them how to put it in the ground and how to take care of it. And so, when it got bigger though, to harvest, Stanley bought it back from them and we sold it at the market. So, it puts a little money in their pocket.
Hughes: It means a lot, you know, for a black farm to still be owned by blacks still in the community after over 100 years…probably is the only African American farm [in the community].
Anthony: You don’t find many. I feel proud for it. To be African American, and the farm is still in the family and, you know, he’s still working it.