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Chickens, cattle and crops… meet a farmer who does it all

Sitting under a tobacco shed as the rain trickled down the sides of the barn, I caught a glimpse of what life looks like to one Halifax County farming family.  

Scott Crowder grew up around farming and is one of four generations of farmers.  It’s something that comes as natural to him as his good-natured attitude.  He’s the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back, which could probably be said for most of our local farmers.  Farming to him is a “family thing,” and something he’s always wanted to do. 

At 19-years-old, he began farming his own tobacco while also working another job.  Farming was something that held great importance to him because of his family history of it.  

His goal at 19 was to keep the farm in the family.  

Crowder said, “You have to have a love for it.  Farming isn’t something you get into for the money.  It’s something that’s in your blood.”  

His grandparents and great-grandparents purchased the farm in 1935 during the Great Depression.  He understands the hardships they went through and wants to preserve it for generations to come.  

“I want to preserve what the people before me worked so hard for,” he said. 

After 15 years of working in the public sector and farming on the side, Crowder took the leap to become a full-time farmer in 1987.  

Crowder credits his wife’s grandfather, Carter Owen, for helping him buy the family farm.  

“I wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for him.  He took a gamble on a young man that most banks wouldn’t dare touch.” 

In 2002, he also added two poultry houses contracted through Perdue to his ever-growing list of agricultural products.  Currently, he raises about 25 acres of flue-cured tobacco, 55 head of beef cattle, 50 acres of small grain and 100 acres of hay, along with managing two poultry barns.

The chicken houses are together about 25,000 square feet, and they house about 12,000 birds. Roughly 8,000-10,000 breeder eggs are harvested every day.  These eggs are transported to a hatchery where they will be hatched and grown as meat birds.  Bio-security is highly important in the chicken houses.  Each time anyone enters, they are required to “shower in.”  

Just like with hog farms, one showers in and showers out. The goal is not to bring any outside or foreign bacteria into the barns. This is for the safety and health of the birds.

Crowder also currently serves as the president of the Halifax County Farm Bureau.  

“It’s a great experience, because you meet all kinds of people, and you get to hear what everyone does.  There’s a lot of networking and learning new things from people,” he said. 

Another endeavor Crowder is involved in is the H2A program, which brings migrant workers each year from about April until the last part of October or first of November.  He has four workers who he shares with another producer.  

Crowder provides housing and transportation for the workers, several of which have been coming back and working with him for several years.  

“They are the best help I’ve ever had,” he said.  

They work an average of 60-70 hours per week during the busiest part of the season.  There are times though, during slower parts of the season where they may only work about 30 hours.  

“It all evens out in the end.”

Crowder Farms is certainly a family affair.  On Nov. 21, 1992 Scott married his wife, Marcia, and they welcomed their daughter, Ellen, on July 16, 1996.  

Marcia also has a history of farming in her family, with her grandfather, Carter Owen, being a dairy farmer and other grandfather, John Lovelace, raising tobacco.  She lived on the dairy farm with her mother and father. 

She recalled, “Mama says I would sit in the stroller and wave at the cows.” 

She also has memories of helping her granddaddy Lovelace with tobacco.

“I remember getting up the leaves that fell off the sticks,” she said. 

Their daughter, Ellen, who is a junior at Halifax County High School and serves as the current FFA president, said, “It’s a unique experience growing up on a farm, because our family is so close.  We’re all in this together, and we’re all affected by it.”  

Her favorite part of the farm is the livestock.  She enjoys showing livestock and took home the grand-prize steer in last year’s Halifax County Junior Livestock Show.  

She also enjoys working with her father on the farm.  

“I like riding with him when he spreads the chicken litter and going with him to sell the wheat and tobacco.”  

When asked about the future of the farm, Ellen said, “I’ll never sell it.  All my childhood memories are here.  I definitely want to raise cows and hay and maybe tobacco.”  

So what does a day in the life of a farmer who raises chickens, cattle, tobacco, wheat and hay look like?  

In the busiest parts of the year, the day begins around 4:45 a.m. checking on the chicken houses and making sure the feed, which is automated, has been run.  

Crowder hits the tobacco field around 5:30 a.m. working until lunchtime, after which he again returns to the chicken houses to check on things.  The afternoon consists of more work in the fields.  

After the tobacco is in the barn, it’s back to the chicken houses for another check.  

Dinner time comes, and then it’s out one more time to the fields to get everything prepared for the following day.  

“Some days you start at 4:30 a.m., and you’re not done until 10:30 p.m.  It’s just the way it goes during the busy season.” 

When asked about the future of agriculture, Crowder said,  “Our world population is growing, and agriculture has a bright future.  Right now, less than 2 percent of the population is growing food for the entire world.  With the population expected to double by the year 2050, farmers will need to produce twice as much food. We’re already seeing with commodity and beef prices, that the market is rising.  We’re seeing prices we’ve never seen before.”  

Even with the high prices, though, input costs are rising as well.  It can be hard earning a living farming.  

“Some years you profit and some years you lose.  These days it’s a struggle because of the input cost,” he explained.  

Crowder is quick to add, “There are more good days than bad.  You have to have humility in what you’re doing as a farmer.  Sometimes what you try works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but you can always learn from the experience.  There is a lot of opportunity in agriculture… it just takes time and devotion.”  

He continued, “There are a lot of things we can go without, but the one thing we can’t is food.  It is the one thing that society has to rely on.  There is no culture without agriculture.”

This is the first of an occasional series of articles relaying the history and daily lives of local farmers.