NASHVILLE, NC — It’s one of the sweetest deals of the 21st Century, a real tragedy to triumph story.
For decades, North Carolina farmers supported their families by growing tobacco. But as scientific evidence about smoking began to grow and skew the wrong way Americans started kicking the habit.
Farmers being farmers, they started looking for something else to grow. As North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler recently told SPW, “I’m one of those tobacco farmers that came through the hard times of especially the ‘80s and ‘90s and if you’re bound and determined that you’re going to stay on the farm and you’re going to make a living you find a way to do it. We found out that sweet potatoes like to grow in the same dirt that tobacco did so we’re number 1 in the nation in production of sweet potatoes… So we took advantage of what was a disadvantage and we moved forward and we’re much stronger for that diversification.”
No North Carolina sweet potato grower has done more with the opportunity than Nash Produce, a cooperative of growers from around the state who pool their resources to make the Nashville, NC-based company North Carolina’s largest sweet potato provider.
It doesn’t hurt that as bad news about tobacco began to grow, good news about sweet potatoes followed in its stead. Sweet potatoes are now recognized as a superfood and one of the world’s healthiest and most nutritious vegetables.
SPW Video Editor Jenni Kight and Editor & Publisher Chip Carter recently visited Nashville for a behind the scenes look at the North Carolina sweet potato deal and conversations with Nash Produce CEO Thomas Joyner and Director of Marketing Laura Hearn.
Pass the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon please — it’s sweet potato time.