Farm living suits the Foster family just fine

Published 9:54 am Friday, March 25, 2016

Spurgeon Foster Jr. remembers well taking his son Wesley out the door with him to go work on the farm.

It was on advice from his father.

“I remember my dad telling me, ‘He wants to go with you. You need to take him with you’,” Foster said. His wife, Sherry, worked a public job to keep the family going, and, of course, he was worried about the toddler getting in the way.

His dad had some more advice. “If he don’t get in your way, he’s not learning anything.”

So Foster packed a diaper bag, and took young Wesley, and more often than not, his brother Bryan, along for some work on the farm.

Spurgeon Foster Sr. was right. The boys would learn. Now, it’s Wesley and Bryan who are taking their children out on the farm.

After studying agriculture at N.C. State University, Wesley and Bryan  started Foster Family Farms. Now, the family farms thousands of acres across the state, the boys based in eastern North Carolina and their parents staying in Davie County.

Spurgeon and his brother, Jerry, grew up on a 45-acre farm off Dulin Road, where they still live.

Spurgeon had a good job at RJR but missed the outdoors. He wanted to farm.

He and his brother started with hogs, about 20 of them. Within a few years, they had more than 5,000. Jerry concentrated on taking care of the animals, Spurgeon on growing crops to feed them.

“We made money with hogs,” he said. “Everybody did.”

Then, as things have happened with many farming operations, the money started going to the bigger farms.

Jerry still sells sausage from a family recipe. It’s the best you’ll ever eat, Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon’s grain farming operation kept growing. He was a full-time grain farmer by the late 1980s, leasing land whereever he could, including at the Cooleemee Plantation, which the family purchased earlier this year.

Sherry has always done more than her share of the work, keeping up with the endless changes in regulations and paper work, and when needed, hopping on a tractor to get the soybeans harvested before a rain storm arrived.

Wesley and Brian completed the agriculture institute at N.C. State. They wanted to go to work on the farm right out of high school, their parents wanted them to get a degree. The program was a welcome compromise.

When they graduated, Spurgeon knew there wasn’t enough land around here to keep them all busy. They headed east – to Terrell County.

Not only was there plenty of open land there, it was good land and it was a lot cheaper than acreage in this part of the state.

“I’m proud of them,” Spurgeon said. “They’ve taken responsibility and they’re doing good. They work and run that farm in eastern NC.”

Spurgeon rolls his eyes when asked about how many people he has fed over his lifetime.

It’s a lot.

The family also provides a lot of full- and part-time jobs, he said.

The Fosters were the first to test, along with N.C. State University, a satellite (GPS) system for planting and fertilizing. The computer doesn’t allow double planting, and only puts out nutrients where needed. It sounds complicated, but it saves farmers money.

A farmer, Spurgeon said, does a lot more than plant and harvest. They’re mechanics. They’re bookkeepers. They’re scientists. And they’re businessmen and women.

One thing hasn’t changed that makes a successful farming family, and that’s something that Spurgeon Foster Sr. and Lucille Foster taught their two sons – hard work.

“Dad and mom taught us to work. We had cows and hogs and chickens and a big garden,” Spurgeon said.

The brothers not only learned to work, they learned respect. Their mother – years after working a public job – got her dream. She wanted to run a beauty shop, so they built her one.

“I can still see mom coming out of the house with a biscuit in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, headed to that beauty shop.”