Two locals were inducted into the Cumberland County Agricultural Hall of Fame on Friday.
Alfred M. Davenport, a retired Cooperative Extension agent, and longtime Gray’s Creek farmer Alton Earl Smith Jr. were the inductees.
“It is an honor to recognize Mr. Alfred Davenport's outstanding leadership and contributions to agriculture,” said Cooperative Extension Director Lisa Childers. “He was a pioneer in vegetable production and bringing new innovations to farmers. His contributions over the years have had a significant impact on Cumberland County agriculture.”
Since COVID prohibited the annual Farm City and Hall of Fame event last year, Davenport was the 2020 inductee and Smith was the 2021 inductee.
Davenport began his work with the Cooperative Extension in 1974 and was selected as one of the seven top agricultural agents in 1979. In 1980, he transitioned to work solely with horticulture. After retiring from the Cooperative Extension in 1993, he was an advisor for the Cumberland County Farm Service Agency for 18 years
Before the Cooperative Extension, Davenport worked as the Department Head of Agriculture for the N.C. Department of Juvenile Corrections for over 15 years.
A proponent of technology in his field, Davenport became a local expert on and a pioneer of drip irrigation.
He also played a key role in establishing the Cumberland County Farmers Market on Gillespie Street.
Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from North Carolina A&T State University and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from N.C. State University, Davenport also played an active role in 4-H by organizing groups and leading the charge on forming the first volunteer leader’s association in the district.
Smith grew up on his family’s farm; he took over the dairy and tobacco farm when he was twelve after the decline of his father’s health.
“We are honored that Mr. Smith has been inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Cooperative Extension Director Lisa Childers. “He is a true example of what hard work, dedication and a passion for agriculture can accomplish.”
In 1967, Smith was dubbed the Outstanding Young Farmer for Cumberland County. Before selling the farm in the 80s, Smith was the director of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, winning numerous awards while in the position.
The farm went from 200 acres to 700 acres thanks to Smith, growing tobacco, soybeans, sorghum, corn and small grains, and today, the family farm is a whopping 1,200 acres. Smith was the first farmer in the county to adapt his old tobacco harvester for bulk tobacco curing.
His engineering abilities led him to design and build a self-propelled hay wagon, a wood-fired tobacco heater and even his own airplane, which he flew.
Smith’s family has followed in his footsteps, with his son-in-law working side-by-side with him even now, and his grandchildren, who are N.C. State graduates in Agricultural Studies, expanding farm operations to include beef cattle and hay production.
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