North Carolina farmers say state fair cancellation will take away chance of public exposure, competition for children

AUTRYVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The cancellation of the North Carolina State Fair will impact the lives of thousands of people, including local farmers in our region.

Clint Williams is the current owner of Williams' Produce in Autryville. The Sampson County farm has been around for three generations; however, the landscape for farming is changing for many.

"A lot of farmers are, you know, getting older in age, so they're getting out of farming and not a lot of young folks are interested in farming," Clint said.

The family-owned produce farms sell the likes of watermelons, tomatoes, and eggplant. Clint says the COVID-19 pandemic has actually boosted sales for them and other local farms.


"Local markets... rather than going to so many grocery stores and bigger businesses where there are larger crowds," Clint added.

Wednesday morning's announcement, regarding the state fair, will hurt farmers's chances at advertising themselves, according to Clint. While Clint's farm doesn't make much money from the fair, it's the opportunities that can make a difference.

RELATED: NC State Fair canceled for first time since World War II amid COVID-19 pandemic

"It helps a little, economically, in that fact, because you do get some exposure and some advertisement out of it," Clint said.

The third-generation farmer says the fair is also a chance to cultivate the farmers of tomorrow. His son, Davis, was planning to participate in his fourth state fair produce competition.

Davis says it was tough to hear the news, "I don't get to show other people about how farmers make an impact on their lives and our life".

The 15-year-old has won countless first place ribbons in the last three years, building creative market place displays made up of home-grown produce.

"My momma helps me a lot on it, my daddy helps, cause he grows it, and I help grow it too," Davis said.

Clint tells ABC11 that these state fair competitions can help bridge the gap between this generation and the next one by teaching "a lot of responsibility for younger folks, which also helps instill work ethic, and hopefully, prolong the local farmer".

Davis adds he'll be ready for the 2021 state fair competitions.
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