The Johnston County Farm-City Week Committee honored two families at its banquet Nov. 17.
This year’s honorees were the Andy Penny family of McGee’s Crossroads and the Bruce Woodard family of Smithfield.
Andy Penny farms the same land his great-grandfather purchased in 1864 after serving in the Confederate Army. At age 10, Penny had to quickly learn the farming operation after his father died in a farming accident. Despite the many new responsibilities, he attended church weekly, did well in school and started working with Rudolph Jones.
After his service in the National Guard from 1972 to 1973, Penny returned home to farm full time. In February 1974, he married Denise Jones, and they had two sons, Jamie and Jared, who quickly grew up to be their father’s shadow.
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Jamie’s love of farming was so strong he chose to commute to N.C. State University so he could still help his father on the farm. In 1999, Jamie was doing what he loved – working while riding a tractor – when he died in an accident.
Younger son Jared also enjoyed working with his father and began working full time after graduating from South Johnston High School in 2002. Jared and his wife, Lisa, who does all of the office work for the farm, have three children, Mason, Paisley and Lawson.
Today, Penny and his son tend about 800 acres, including soybeans, tobacco and sweet potatoes. Off the farm, Penny has held various posts in the 50-210 Volunteer Fire Department for more than, and the Pennys are longtime members of Benson Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church.
Woodard came to Johnston County in 1976 as chairman of the Cooperative Extension Service. He grew up on a farm in the Gold Valley community of Nash County.
Woodard’s parents, Ollie and Mamie, were strong believers in education and encouraged their children to join 4-H as soon as they were eligible. Woodard’s role models were the 4-H agents who worked with him, especially in livestock judging, and their influence was so profound he chose to attend N.C. State University.
After graduating in 1953, Woodard joined the Cooperative Extension Service in Lenoir County. He was also an agent in Northampton, Wake, and Cumberland counties before coming to Johnston.
Woodard’s tenure, from 1976 to 1986, resulted in many innovations that are still evident today. He was instrumental in forming the Johnston County Planning Department, helped organize Keep Johnston County Beautiful Inc. and founded the Johnston County Agribusiness Council. He also oversaw construction of the Johnston County Livestock Arena, which is home to the Youth Livestock Show & Sale, among other events.
As Extension chairman, Woodard looked to create events that would benefit the economy and improve tourism, including the Central Carolina Farm and Home Trade Show and the Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival.
In retirement, he serves on the Johnston County Livestock Mutual Board and is a charter member of the Johnston County 4-H Alumni Association. Also, he established the Bruce and Annie Woodard 4-H Scholarship Endowment.
Woodard and and his wife, Ann, have three children and eight grandchildren. They have been married for more than 60 years. Woodard is a member of N.C. Order of the Long Leaf Pine.