Two young farmers from Johnston County, Austin Benson and Hunter Langdon, took part in the 2016 N.C. State Tobacco Short Course, a week-long event in Raleigh.
Benson has been farming with his father, Randy Benson, for two years at Benson Farms near Willow Spring. Last year, the father-son team grew 185 acres of flue-cured tobacco.
Langdon, a 2014 graduate of N.C. State University, has been farming for two years with his father, John. In 2005, Hunter Langdon grew 10 acres of organic flue-cured tobacco.
Johnston County native Terri Stutts, a farm-loan officer with Southern Bank in Wilson, and Daniel Williams, a research technician at the Central Crops Research Station in Clayton, also took part in the course.
The Tobacco Short Course included two days of classroom studies on everything from greenhouse production of seedling plants to curing leaf ready for market. Participants also spent a day taking part in a grading session for flue-cured tobacco.
“Since the tobacco industry faces continuous change, we need to make sure our younger farmers, their advisers and other allied industry representatives are able to focus on how to attain efficient, quality tobacco production,” said Dr. Bill Collins, co-director of the Tobacco Short Course.
Instructors in the short course included N.C. State Extension specialists in agricultural economics, agronomy, biological and agricultural engineering, crop science, entomology and plant pathology. Bobby F. Wellons, a Johnston County native, taught the day-long tobacco-grading session, which was offered for the first time at the request of growers who had concerns about the grading of their 2015 flue-cured crop. Wellon is a tobacco training specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.