Hometown: Reidsville, NC
Size of Operation: 360 acres
Years in Business: 24
Years Working with Farm Credit: 20
Staying successful in the competitive tobacco market is top of mind for Reidsville farmer John Ashe, Jr. Over the 24 years he’s been growing tobacco, John has continued to evolve his operation to ensure the quality of his crop and to reduce his costs wherever he can.
One way he’s done that is by capitalizing on the opportunities presented by what’s known as “the buyout,” when tobacco companies bought up the quotas that had dictated exactly how, how much and where tobacco was grown. One such opportunity is John’s ability now to select the farms he uses. “Because I’m not tied to going to a certain farm, I’m able to control where I want to grow,” he says.
This flexibility yields several important benefits. For one, John can select land that will produce higher yields of higher quality tobacco, a requirement of the three major tobacco companies with which John contracts for his crop. For another, he can move his production area each year, giving each farm a chance to replenish between plantings. And for a third, he can rent entire farms and actively select farms that are adjacent. “At one point, I had 23 different farms,” he says. “Now I’m down to about twelve.” This consolidation reduces his travel time between farms along with the associated gas and vehicle costs, efficiencies that increase his profitability.
Profitability drives many of John’s decisions, including starting his plants in the greenhouse, a process that he says reduces his labor needs as well as enabling him to start his plants sooner. He also uses controlled irrigation to manage maturity times, enabling him to split his harvest. This means he needs fewer barns to cure the same amount of tobacco. “The average grower will run through his barn six times, I’m at seven or eight,” he says. John continues to look for ways to reduce his costs, and these barns are one area he’s hoping to improve: Working with Farm Credit, he is pursuing a switch to natural gas, a lower cost fuel.
Farm Credit has been there for John for virtually his entire career as a full-time farmer. “They understand ag, and by understanding ag, they understand what I’m trying to accomplish when I come to them,” he says, adding, “I still have to make my case, of course.”
Carolina Farm Credit can help with your agriculture or country living dreams. Request information about our loans today!
If you're ready to take the next step toward a loan with Carolina Farm Credit, you can apply online right now!