Farm Progress

Danny Kornegay of Princeton, N.C., is the 2015 North Carolina winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

John Leidner, Contributing Writer

October 12, 2015

3 Min Read

As a tobacco farmer, sweet potato grower, row crop producer and contract hog grower, Danny Kornegay of Princeton, N.C., has been a great success in his 45 years of farming.

He farms 5,500 acres, including 2,900 acres of rented land and 2,600 owned acres. He farms in three North Carolina and two South Carolina counties.

As a result of his success as a diversified farmer, Kornegay has been selected as the 2015 North Carolina winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Kornegay joins nine other state winners as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

He has about 500 acres of tobacco this year, and will cure the crop in 62 barns. Last year, his tobacco yielded 2,200 pounds per acre. “The future of tobacco is unsure,” says Kornegay. As a result, he has explored diversification into squash, greens and watermelons. He also expanded his sweet potato packing facilities and started growing peanuts.

He owns four hog houses and finishes 8,000 head per year for Goldsboro Milling. Kornegay receives hogs when they weigh about 40 to 50 pounds each, and he raises them to weights of 270 to 280 pounds each.

“We can store 150,000 bushels of grain that we market with guidance from a consultant,” he adds. “Our cotton is contracted with the Staplcotn cooperative, and we have multiple contracts for our peanuts and tobacco.”

In 1990, he and other farmers built a new modern gin with a warehouse for storing cotton in Newton Grove, N.C. His non-irrigated cotton yields about 1,100 pounds of lint per acre.

Sweet potatoes are a major crop yielding 400 to 500 bushels per acre. He’s growing about 800 acres of sweet potatoes this year.

Kornegay Family Produce is the name of his sweet potato packing and marketing venture. He built his packing facilities in 2007 to maintain high quality sweet potatoes for his customers. He can store 450,000 bushels of sweet potatoes in electronically controlled curing and cooling rooms. Earlier this year, he established a web site to assist in marketing his sweet potatoes.

He starts sweet potato plants on plant beds during March, and transplants small plants called slips to his fields during June. “We ship sweet potatoes across the country and across the ocean,” says Kornegay. “We package them in bags as small as three pounds to bulk containers weighing over 1,000 pounds and every size in between.”

His row crops include wheat yielding 75 bushels per acre and soybeans that yield about 50 bushels per acre. He has also planted twin row corn.

Last year, he grew his first peanuts on 200 acres and expanded to 450 acres this year.

Land available to farm is limited in his community. So in 1995 he started buying large farms in South Carolina. “Farming in South Carolina offered a good opportunity to expand our farm,” says Kornegay.

His North Carolina farm is in the Neuse River basin, so he monitors soil fertility levels closely. Yearly soil sampling helps Kornegay use variable rate fertilizer application. He has applied chicken litter on some fields, and he applies hog lagoon wastewater to his hay fields.

Find out more about Kornegay and the other state winners of the 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, which is Oct. 20-22.

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