In an ever-evolving world, where change is constant, there are certain fundamental human needs that endure. Among these, food remains an essential aspect of our daily lives. Farming continues to be an integral part of the human experience.
Jim Jones at Jones Family Farms proudly carries on the farming legacy as a third-generation farmer in Bailey, NC. Not only does Jim continue this legacy, but he is reinventing farming for the future. Big things come in small packages, or in this case – small towns.
Meet CloudWyze Customers Jim & Barbara Jones
Jim and Barbara Jones and their children, Jimmy Jones and Jessica Jones Williams, own and operate Jones Family Farms, a Sweetpotato farm in Nash County. Although the farm was established in 1975, Jim started honing his farming skills as a young boy. Farming influences on both his mother’s and father’s side planted the seed that Jim continued to cultivate throughout his youth. Jim’s paternal grandfather was a tenant farmer, and his maternal grandfather owned farmland that he rented out to a tenant farmer. When Jim was just 8-years-old, his maternal grandfather passed away. It was then that his paternal grandfather, or Grandaddy, stepped in and took over the farm. Jim has fond memories of learning the ins-and-outs of farming from his Grandaddy. “Every day after school I would go help him. It wasn’t but a half a mile from where I lived to his house,” Jim said.
As Jim grew, he learned more than just farming from his Grandaddy; hunting and fishing became staples in their relationship. At 14-years-old, Jim remembers saying, “I think I can make me some money,” alluding to his interest in becoming a farmer. His Grandaddy had a friend who sold sweetpotato plants. The rest, as they say, is history. Jim got his start with just a small portion in a tobacco field where the sweetpotato plants did really well; He sold each one he planted. His father and Grandaddy saw his dedication, and Jim’s sweetpotato portion grew every year. Jim and Barbara met in high school and got married at 19 years old. It was then they started renting a farm that was located between his families’ farms. Eventually, Jim and Barbara bought the farmland and house, expanding the farm operation. The couple still lives in that house today.
Fast-Forward to Now
Currently, Jim, Barbara, Jimmy and Jessica still proudly own and operate Jones Family Farms, which specializes in sweetpotato and soybean crops. It’s no surprise that Jim has witnessed a lot of changes in the farming industry throughout the years. When asked about how farming has changed over the last 20 years, he said rising costs have made the biggest impact.
“Well, there’s a whole lot more technology. I’m kinda old school – I still have a flip phone. [Farming has] changed. Some good and some bad. I’ve been doing it for 45 years or so. There’s always been bad years, good years, mediocre years,” Jim said. “In the last two years, our costs have gone up. Our fertilizer is twice as much, our labor is twice as much, and fuel has gone up. Yet, the price we’re selling sweetpotatoes at hasn’t gone up. It’s just hard to make that work. When COVID started everything shut down and hasn’t woke back up in my opinion.”
Innovation on the Farm
Despite changes in the farming industry, Jim is confident that Jones Family Farms is here to stay and they are always exploring ways to reinvent the art of farming. The most notable exploration so far is Micropropogation.
In the 1990s, sweetpotato diseases and mutations rocked North Carolina growers causing low yields and poor-quality crops. NC State’s Pathology Department and Dr. Zvezdana Pesic-van Esbroeck intervened with the establishment of the Micropropagation Unit and Repository (MPUR). In the MPUR, disease-resistant meristemic cells of the plant (the equivalent of human stem cells) are cloned and propagated to produce many new resistant plants called mericlones. In this case, the mericlones become sweetpotato plants. Cuttings of these plants are only sold to certified sweetpotato greenhouse nurseries, like Jones Family Farms.
Jim has special greenhouses on the farm for these sweetpotato plants and sells them across the county. His plants are grown on more than 900 acres. When asked about how the farming industry might change over the next 10-20 years, Jim said he anticipates land shortages and less farming.
“[Farming] changes so quickly. There’s going to be less farming because there will be less land to farm on. In [Nash County], there are hundreds and hundreds of acres gone to solar panels and several other hundreds and thousands of acres gone into housing development,” Jim said. “We have to figure out how to make more on an acre than we’ve been doing because we won’t have as many acres to do it on. Recently, I’ve invented a different kind of transplanter from way back in the 40s and 50s. I brought it out of the woods and modified it – now we’re making more potatoes per acre. That’s what it boils down to, how to produce more on less acreage.”
Changes to Come
The future of farming is in the hands of small-town farmers like the folks at Jones Family Farms. If all farmers have the same dedication and tenacity as the Jones family legacy, the future is bright. CloudWyze recognizes the importance of supporting rural North Carolina farmers in communities like Bailey, NC. We asked Jim to share his favorite thing about living in Bailey.
“It’s a small town, one-stoplight town…well, I think it does have two now. Nice people. I just love the country life and love to work. It’s changing very quickly now than it used to be,” Jim said. “Before, you went to the grocery store and knew everyone you saw. Now, you might see 12 people and not know but two of them because so many transplants moving in.”
Bridging the Digital Divide in Bailey, NC
It’s no secret that Bailey is growing. and our company acknowledges the need to bridge the digital divide by creating equal internet access for its residents. Currently, CloudWyze provides fixed wireless internet in Nash County and is set to bring fiber to Bailey in fall 2023. Providing high-speed internet for operations like Jones Family Farm helps connect local businesses to the world. Doing so aids in local economic growth and the overall success of the community and its residents.
While corporate jobs hold importance, it is the efforts of local working-class operations like farming that fulfill an ever-present need. Jim’s commitment to farming hasn’t wavered and he still loves his job.
“My favorite thing about it (farming) is I’m my own boss. I work hard, put in many hours, more hours than most of the other guys on the farm. But I love getting on the tractor and plowing. I’m not an office person, don’t like paperwork,” Jim said. “Farming is a year-round thing, but you do get a break here and yonder when you can go fishing, go hunting, and take the family trip. Being in the sweetpotato industry, we have conventions in five different states that rotate around. We’ve made friends from here to California being involved in sweetpotatoes.”
For Jim, his farm is all about family and taking pride in creating sweetpotatoes that are better than the ones you buy at the grocery store. He is also hopeful his two granddaughters will take part in the Jones farming legacy, but doesn’t plan on retiring from life as a farmer.
CloudWyze in Communities Like Yours
CloudWyze, a born and bred North Carolina operation, is committed to providing internet access to rural communities like Bailey and supporting the next generation of small-town farmers across the state. Founder and CEO Shaun Olsen sees the organization’s infrastructure investments as a win for future generations living in rural communities.
“We are investing in this infrastructure so our kids, grandkids, and future generations will never have to know what it’s like to struggle due to a lack of internet access,” Olsen said.
CloudWyze is opening up a world of opportunities for young farmers. With internet access, young adults in rural communities can attend college online and gain knowledge in various fields such as business, science, and AgTech. And they can do all of that while continuing to work on the family farm. Access to educations taps young farmers into skills and expertise beyond traditional farming practices, so they may adapt to the ever-changing agricultural landscape.
Together, CloudWyze and small-town farmers are shaping the future of agriculture to ensure farming remains a vital and thriving part of the human experience.