Fred N. Colvard to join the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame

by | Dec 21, 2020

Summary: Three men with broad agricultural backgrounds and wide impact have joined the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame. The 2020 class includes Fred N. Colvard, John Holman Cyrus and Marshall Grant – all unanimous selections. The reach of these men’s work has extended well beyond North Carolina’s borders and has provided solutions and improved markets for many farmers and agribusinesses.

Fred Colvard
  • This year, we have three new members to add to the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame: Fred N. Colvard of Jefferson; John Holman Cyrus of Raleigh; and Marshall Grant of Northampton County.
  • For those of you who do not know, we house the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame in our department. Photos of the other 36 men and women who have been recognize hang in the Ag Hall of Fame room where we hold many of our departmental meetings, including our full division directors’ meetings.
  • I like seeing their photos on the wall because it reminds me of the incredible foundation laid by these visionary leaders. North Carolina agriculture is where it is today because of their sacrifice and dedicated service to farmers and the industry.
  • It is also impressive that the reach of their work stretches well beyond the borders of our state. That is certainly the case with our three newest members.
  • I want to spend our next three radio programs talking about each new inductee and their many contributions.
  • Fred Colvard was an entrepreneurial farmer who helped develop crops suited to the North Carolina mountain areas. Not surprisingly he was one of the first to commit 40 to 50 acres of land to growing Christmas trees in the area, ushering in a new crop on a commercial scale.
  • When you think that Christmas trees are a three- to 10-year crop, that is a significant investment to tie up land in Christmas trees at a time when the industry was more of an idea than a business plan.
  • As significant as our state’s Christmas tree industry is, you might think that is the main reason for Colvard’s nomination, but it isn’t.
  • In fact, he is better known for developing a blight-resistant potato that helped end a potato famine in Peru.
  • The Sequoia potato was perhaps one of his most successful and most lasting experiments.
  • As part of his working experiment, Colvard leased an island off the coast of Florida where he planted the potatoes. The sub-tropical climate there allowed him to plant two crops of potatoes in a season, cutting his experiment time in half.
  • Around that time, a potato that was a significant part of Peruvian diets was blighting. A Peruvian agriculture delegation was sent to the Colvard farm to see more about his work with a blight-resistant potato.
  • The delegation returned to Peru with some of the newly developed seed potatoes and ended the blight.
  • Colvard was also one of the first to use irrigation in the area to ensure high quality crops. And, he helped develop a two-row potato digger with a shaker to remove most of the dirt during harvest.
  • Equally impressive, was that he operated a diversified farming operation, raising White Face Herefords and Columbia sheep. In addition to potatoes, he grew cabbage, snap beans and tomatoes. Some of his 1,200-acre farm was in pine, oak and poplar timber.
  • Articles supporting Fred Colvard’s nomination mentioned he worked closely with his county extension agent and specialists of the N.C. State Experiment Station “to keep abreast of current trends.”
  • After learning more about Fred Colvard, I can tell you I would have enjoyed talking with him. He truly had an innovative mind, was continually looking for ways to improve efficiency and yields and was willing to take a chance to put an idea to the test.
  • We plan to hold an induction ceremony at a future date when we can gather together. I will be honored to recognize Fred Colvard and our other two inductees at that time.
  • I will tell you more about John Cyrus and Marshall Grant in the coming days.