Sweet Potatoes a Sweet Deal
Name: Rob Hill
County/State: Kinston, North Carolina
Association: North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission
Type of farming operation: Multi – generational family farm with sweet potatoes, tobacco, romaine lettuce, corn, soybeans and cotton
Family: Farm operation with his father, uncle and cousin
Rob Hill feels there are several roles the Sweet Potato Commission plays for its members:
“The commission is set up to promote sweet potatoes both domestically and internationally. Also, research is funded through NC State University. It’s also a conduit to get the information from research, marketing and promotion back down to the members. We go forward with research, marketing, lobbying, legislation and then try to get all of that information back down to our members.”
Hill explains that the export of sweet potatoes to Europe has increased dramatically with collaboration between the Commission and the NCDA:
“From five years ago it has more than doubled. We have a good product that wasn’t being utilized over there very much so we took it over there and allowed it to tell its own story of nutrition. At the same time, the Commission along with NCDA has really gone to work in Europe over the past five years to market over there.”
Keeping supply in line with demand is one of the major challenges of the sweet potato producer:
“We have to be careful about production. Production can outpace consumption fairly easy. Labor will also be critical to us over the next ten years. We need a consistent, dependable, legal workforce will be very important. And with our size, only about 130,000 acres across the US, we are not on the big picture of a lot of research from chemical companies and others, so we have to stay on top of our research here. It’s a matter of taking care of ourselves for new products, new formulations to help us because we don’t get a lot of interest from the large chemical companies.”
One of Hill’s goals as President is to reignite domestic interest in North Carolina sweet potatoes. Overseas marketing efforts have been successful and he feels it’s time to focus on the home front.
Rob Hill, President of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission
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