IN 1988, VAN HEMRIC started farming on a modest scale with six
acres of tobacco. The next year, he put up his first chicken house.
Today, the Hamptonville, N.C., producer grows 200 acres
to 250 acres of flue-cured tobacco, and raises broiler layers in
eight chicken houses. He grows soybeans on 385 acres, has
grass pasture on 1,200 acres, harvests hay from 400 acres, grows
triticale for hay, and his beef enterprise consists of 601 mostly
Angus cows and 48 bulls. A corn maze has established his farm as
an agritourism destination, attracting 20,000 visitors yearly.
His success as a diversified farmer has earned Hemric the state
winner’s title in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern
Farmer of the Year competition. He joins nine other individuals as
finalists for the overall award that will be announced Tuesday, Oct.
17, at the Sunbelt Expo farm show at Moultrie, Ga.
A farmer for 29 years, Hemric’s farm encompasses 2,500 acres,
with 400 acres owned and the rest rented. He attains good per
acre yields — 2,400 pounds of tobacco, 35 bushels of soybeans, 5
tons to 7 tons of grass hay, and 7 tons to 8 tons of triticale hay.
He harvests the triticale, a wheat-rye hybrid, when seed
formation starts, and puts it up as dry hay, not as round bale
silage. He harvests only 300 bales of round bale silage each year.
TOBACCO MONEY CROP
Flue-cured tobacco is his money crop. He grows transplants in two
greenhouses, planting seed during February, then putting out the
transplants late April through early May. “Our goal is to harvest by
Aug. 1, and finish harvesting by the middle of October,” he says.
His tobacco acreage is about the same as it was before the
government’s quota buyout. The tobacco is grown under contract
with JTI, a Japanese company, and is shipped overseas to be made
“A new leaf loader helps with our tobacco curing,” Hemric says.
“We received energy grants to install controllers and insulation in
our tobacco barns.” One grant helped replace incandescent bulbs
with energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) lights in his chicken
houses. He also received a North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund
grant that helped build facilities at his corn maze.
The maze covers five acres and is an attraction for fall visitors.
Van Hemric named
2017 North Carolina Farmer of the Year
R NORTH CAROLINA
Van and Jennifer Hemric.