A HARD-WORKING FARMER who grows 22 peach varieties,
strawberries, pumpkins, and row crops, Alexander “Kemp” McLeod
of McBee, S.C., also operates a successful roadside store along a busy
four-lane highway where he sells his fruit and where visitors enjoy
an outstanding agritourism experience. He also grows seed crops,
including rye, browntop millet, and sericea lespedeza. In past years,
he grew bicolor lespedeza seed.
A farmer for 44 years, his operation totals 7,500 acres; of that, 2,500
acres is rented land, 5,000 owned.
McLeod’s success as a peach and row crop farmer has resulted in
his selection as the state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo
Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. 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.
His 1,000 acres of peaches yield 500 bushels per acre; strawberries
on 50 acres yield 30,000 pounds per acre; dryland corn on 600 acres
yields about 100 bushels per acre, and irrigated corn on 500 acres
yields about 180 bushels per acre; soybeans on 2,000 acres produce
about 40 bushels per acre; wheat on 1,200 acres produces about 80
bushels per acre; rye seed yields on 1,000 acres average 30 bushels
per acre. He also grows about 15 acres of blackberries.
McLeod has added 500 acres of irrigation for his row crops since
2015, and has pioneered drip irrigation of peaches. He has 45 wind
machines that go into operation when there is a freeze threat; the air
circulation can reduce freeze damage to young peaches. Row covers
help prevent freeze damage to strawberries, while improving early
maturity, yield, and quality.
He also uses New Zealand-developed hail cannons that send sonic
waves into low hanging clouds to disrupt hail development. While he
says he can’t prove the hail cannons work, he uses them because he
has suffered severe fruit losses from hail in the past.
One of the peach varieties McLeod grows is named Cary Mac, and was
developed on his farm. Cary Mac is a mutation of the Loring variety and
is about a week earlier, with more color, than the yellow Loring peach.
Peaches, strawberries, and blackberries are packed and shipped
to grocery chains and produce terminals throughout the East Coast.
He markets the crops through Richter and Company, a brokerage firm
based in Charlotte, N.C.
At his roadside store south of McBee on State Highway 151, McLeod
also has a museum featuring old cars, antique tractors, and home
appliances. Visitors can view the collection free of charge. The site also
Kemp McLeod named
2017 South Carolina Farmer of the Year
R SOUTH CAROLINA
Kemp and Gaie McLeod.