We are humbled: Starnes family honored as Conservation Farm Family of the Year

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

SALISBURY — Hundreds gathered at 4S Farms on Stoner Morgan Road on May 9 to celebrate the Starnes family and their farm as they were named the N.C. Outstanding Conservation Farm Family of the Year.

A first-generation farmer, Kim Starnes said he began farming because, “I always wanted to do it.”

In the event program, a brief history of the farm was provided, noting that Kim and his wife Connie Starnes started farming in the mid ’70s with cattle and hay and a few years later began to raise row crops.

Their children, Jason and Jennifer, were involved with the farm as they grew up, Jason with the crops and Jennifer with the cattle.

In 1999, Jason graduated from N.C. State with a degree in agronomy coming back to the farm after graduation and continues to work the farm, along with his family.

In 2002, they started a poultry operation, raising pullets for Pilgrims. Utilizing their own acreage and rented land, the Starnes’ currently farm around 800 acres and now, Kim said, raise poultry, cattle, wheat, corn and soybeans and hay for the cattle. 

Multiple leaders in the agricultural community were there for the special occasion and thanked the Starnes for their hard work and dedication in their conservation efforts.

Jimmy Gentry, president of the N.C. Grange, which served as the event’s presenting sponsor, made the plaque presentation to the family, which honored them for their outstanding stewardship of the state’s natural resources through conservation education and implementation of conservation practices.

“We’re proud to be a part of helping tell the conservation story through the great family that has been selected this year as the Conservation Farm Family of the Year,” Gentry said.

Upon receiving the award, Kim Starnes said, “this was very humbling.” 

He then took the opportunity to thank others who he said has helped make the farm a success, beginning first by thanking the Lord, because, he said, “if it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t be here today.”

He also shared special thanks to his wife Connie and their son and daughter and their families and mentioned others who have worked for them both in the past and some who still work there today, having them stand to be recognized and sharing his appreciation to each one.

Both Kim and Connie expressed how humbled they were to receive this honor and he said they just try to do the right thing.

When Jason was asked about the honor and the day, he said that, “everything we do here, we’re trying to take care of God’s creation and try to leave things better than we found it.”

A large crowd attended to show their support for the family, and Connie said it was a “wonderful group of friends,” and it was wonderful to meet people she had not met before.

Kim shared that he had worked in public work and grew the farm, but has since retired and for the last 18 years has worked full time at the farm with Jason coming along in his footsteps, he said.

Others were on hand for the event to share comments about the Starnes family and 4S Farm and extend their congratulations to the family.

Included in this group was North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler who said that this day was special for the people there, the state and the nation. 

“It’s about a farm family. It’s about the labors they go through on this farm and feed the other people. It’s about neighbors. It’s about partners. It’s about God’s blessings for us to grow these crops,” he said.

He stressed again how special the day is and pointed out that one thing he knew from experience in agriculture is, “you don’t give an award like this for cleaning your farm up one day. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to get to this point. This is the way to do it right.”

He continued by telling how much farmland and forestland is disappearing with the growth of the state and the need to preserve farms and thanked the Starnes family for doing just that, preserving the farm, for what they do everyday and for their leadership.

Along with Gentry, Bryan Evans, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation District and Billy Kilpatrick, president of the NCASWCD, helped with the award presentation.

They both expressed thanks to the family and how honored they were to be a part of the event.

Speaking about the challenges you face on a farm, Kilpatrick said, “for anybody who’s grown up on the farm and is still on the farm, it’s not a job, it’s a life” and thanked them for the work they have done.

Vance Dalton, CEO of AgSouth Farm Credit, shared a few comments about Kim telling how they met 32 years ago as their paths crossed at a beef cattle workshop. Kim, he said, continues to serve on the AgSouth Farm Credit board of directors and said it has been a privilege seeing the farm operation grow over these last 30 years.

“A lot of effort and hard work goes into getting the recognition like this,” Dalton said, and pointed out several things that could be seen from this honor.

First he said, there is the tremendous work ethic that has been shown and secondly, the family’s strong Christian faith, which they live out in their lives, family, church and community, “and I believe that is one of the secrets to the success of 4S Farms,” he said.

Kim always tried to do the right thing and does his research concerning the practices he does on the farm and does what he feels is right for the family, the farm and the environment, Dalton said.

Rowan County Commissioner Greg Edds said all present were all there to celebrate the farm and the Starnes family and noted how much the agricultural community is valued.

Edds said that farmers are unsung heroes who work tirelessly to provide for us and we need to say thanks for their hard work.

“Agriculture is not just about food production,” he said, “it’s about our heritage and the livelihood of countless families in our region and Rowan County.” 

He said we often eat a good meal and don’t stop to think about the hard work that went into “cultivating the ingredients on our plates. We can’t forget that everything we consume, everything we wear, even use to build our homes, can be traced back to the labor of our farmers here locally.”

Bruce Miller, chair of the Rowan Soil and Water opened the event and served as the emcee for the program, adding his thanks to the Starnes family, recognizing guests and thanking event sponsors, which, in addition to the N.C. Grange, were N.C. Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Rowan County Soil & Water Conservation District, AgSouth Farm Credit, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Pilgrim’s, James River Equipment, Triangle and Cheerwine.

Special thanks also went the West Rowan HIgh School FFA for providing the meal, South Rowan FFA for leading in the Pledge of Allegiance, Pastor Michael Motley for leading in the blessing, the West Rowan High School’s Falcon Flower Shop for the floral arrangements, April Everett, Rowan County IT for the video production and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts for their leadership in organizing the event.