Every year the Johnston County Farm-City Week committee recognizes families or individuals that have made significant contributions to the local agricultural economy through agribusiness or farming. This year the committee recognized the Johnny and Ray Weaver families of the Bagley community and East Coast Equipment of Smithfield during the ceremony Nov. 25 at the Johnston County Agricultural Center Auditorium. Dr. Blake Brown, of North Carolina State University Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, was the banquet speaker.
Jasper Bud Weaver began farming a 35-acre farm in the 1920s, which was taken over by his son, Raymond, and wife, Alice, in the 1950s. On this farm, the Weavers’ 10 children, including Johnny and Ray Weaver, grew up helping their parents. Although Johnny and Ray both found full-time jobs off the farm following graduation, they returned in 1973 to finish the year’s crop when their father passed away.
In 1978, Ray decided to begin farming full time, and started tending land owned by D.H. Bagley, in addition to the family farm. And although Johnny continued working security at North Hills in Raleigh, his passion for farming remained; he purchased a farm in the 1970s. Today, Johnny tends beans, cotton and wheat on approximately 120 acres, and Ray tends approximately 2,000 acres consisting of tobacco, soybeans, cotton, wheat and corn.
The Weavers have passed their love of farming onto their children, as Johnny’s son, John, and Ray’s daughter, Susan, both work alongside their parents.
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Johnny Weaver has been certified as a N.C. Certified Beef Producer, and Ray Weaver has completed requirements through the N.C. Certified Safe Farm Program and received awards from Philip Morris USA for excellence in tobacco production.
East Coast Equipment was also recognized for their support of the agricultural community through sales and service of John Deere equipment. In the early 1960s, Romey Langston began working as a salesman at Johnson Cotton Company. Following his promotion to manager, Romey and wife, Marjorie, purchased the business in 1967 and renamed it Smithfield Farm Equipment. Their son, Danny, joined business full time in 1980, working in the service department while Marjorie ran the office; Romey was in charge of sales.
Danny Langston became manager in 1988 following his father’s death. He moved the business from its original downtown location to its current site on U.S. 70 Business outside Smithfield. In 2005, Danny Langston and five other John Deere dealers formed East Coast Equipment, which today has grown to 13 locations in North Carolina and Virginia. Despite this merger, East Coast Equipment remains a family-operated business, with Langston’s wife, Tammy, and son, Morgan, working alongside him. East Coast Equipment is a sponsor of the Johnston, Wilson, and Wayne County Livestock Show & Sales, Cleveland Pop Warner Football, and Smithfield-Selma and West Johnston High School athletics.
Agriculture and the greater agribusiness industry account for roughly 15% percent of the Johnston County economy and 16.5% percent of county employment. Agriculture generates over $260 million each year at the farm level. Several local financial institutions and agribusinesses sponsored the event.