11/21/06 — Chamber honors role agribusiness plays in Wayne' economy

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Chamber honors role agribusiness plays in Wayne' economy

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 21, 2006 1:45 PM

About 250 Wayne County farmers and business leaders came together Monday night to celebrate the county's blend of agriculture and industry.

"Although we are classified as an urban county, our agricultural population is an important part of our economy," Wayne County Chamber of Commerce President Steve Hicks said. "Every one of these (750 chamber-associated) businesses are affected by the agricultural community.

"If it's not good for agribusiness and agriculture, it's not good for our chamber."

In fact, he continued, agriculture is such an integral part of Wayne County, it has been recognized as the fifth best farming county in America by "Farm Futures" magazine.

That, Hicks said, puts Wayne County in a good position to capitalize on North Carolina's growing agribusiness economy.

Already, agribusiness accounts for $68.3 billion every year -- tops in the state. The second largest industry is tourism, which brings in $14.2 billion. Agriculture and agribusiness also employ more than 631,000 people throughout the state.

"In North Carolina, prosperity is tied to the land that agriculture relies on," he said. "In North Carolina, agriculture is the No. 1 industry. It's a tremendous industry."

And the strength of that industry, Hicks continued, can be seen in Wayne County companies like the Franklin Baking Co.

Franklin Baking Co., which is owned by Flowers Food and produces such products as Sunbeam, Nature's Own, and Cobblestone Mill breads, as well as Bluebird cakes and MiCasa Tortillas, is located in Goldsboro. Running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it produces 2.5 million pounds of bread every week.

Its products are sold in stores such as Food Lion, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly, Lowe's Food, Harris Teeter, IGA, Bi-Lo, Kroger and Wal-Mart.

And while much of flour and other products used to produce the bread come from places other than Wayne County, president Tom Buffkin said, if it wasn't for the community college training workers and the support from the county and city for agribusiness, Franklin Baking wouldn't have grown from its humble beginnings in 1945 to the company it is today.

"The bakery in Goldsboro is among the top 10 of all bakeries in America," he said.

But the Wayne County Farm City Banquet wasn't just about looking at where things stand today and where they might be headed in the future, it also was about looking back and appreciating who brought the county where it is today.

That was why two new members were inducted into the Wayne County Agriculture Hall of Fame and why one Outstanding Woman in Agriculture was chosen.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame was Dallas W. Price, deceased, and Herman Croom, 70. They joined 44 inductees already enshrined along the walls of the Wayne Center.

Price, who worked for the Seven Springs Supply, Kinston Tobacco Market and Southern Oil Company before starting his own farm and beginning the Dallas Price Fertilizer Service, also served as county commissioner. He was on the board when the Wayne Center was built.

His niece Anne Blanchard and nephew Tim Price accepted the award on his behalf.

Croom spent much of his time in the Wayne County School System. He did work for fertilizer company W.R. Grace and Company for five years, but is best remembered for teaching agriculture at Pikeville High School, Rosewood High School and Charles B. Aycock High School. During his time in the school system, he was once voted the N.C. Agriculture Teacher of the Year.

He also served on the State Future Farmers of America Board of Directors and the Wayne County Livestock Development Association.

The woman honored Monday night was Pam Edwards, who, with her husband, runs the Elroy Farm Market on U.S. 70. There they sell everything from strawberries to vegetables to melons to sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Her busiest season, however, is right now as she also shells pecans.