Hooked on a life of farming

by | Dec 24, 2021

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers or agriculture industry workers. Randy Gray with Circle G Farm is one of those industry leaders. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and from August to December will feature younger farmers in the industry. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

Aquaculture is a huge part of our state’s agriculture industry, something that Randy Gray knows all too well. Randy is the owner and operator of Circle G Farms in Pikeville as well as the president of the N.C. Aquaculture Association.

Although he hasn’t raised fish all his life, Randy has always been involved in the agriculture industry and loved it from the start. “I grew up on a farm with my father growing a variety of crops,” he said, “I remember farming when I was a kid and I have always loved it.”

Although he stepped away from the farm for several years, in 1996, Randy bought Circle G Farm and started the adventure of raising tilapia and other livestock with his brother. “Farming was easy to come back to because it is such a passion of mine,” he said, “so we started with four chicken houses and then expanded in 2000 to start raising tilapia.” In addition to fish and chickens, Randy and his brother also raise cattle and hogs as well as grow hay and rye for their food.

In 2000, tilapia was a niche market and presented an opportunity to diversify and expand the farm. Today, Randy and his brother produce 250,000 pounds a year!

A typical day in his life can vary from season to season but, according to Randy, there is a new adventure every day. “There is never a dull moment on the farm,” he said, “one minute we might be harvesting fish and then another minute we will be feeding hogs and taking water samples. It’s been a good life.”

Randy and his team start each morning around 7:30 by feeding the animals and then prioritize what needs to be done the remainder of the day. “We typically try to be done by 5:30 each day so that we have time to spend with our family,” he said, “but it’s a seven day a week job because the animals always need to be taken care of and fed, even on holidays.”

Although the uncertainties of day-to-day farm life can be scary, Randy wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the pride he feels in selling his products to customers that enjoy them and help provide for his family. “We put a lot of labor and hard work into what we do, so seeing it come full circle and knowing all that work paid off is the most rewarding feeling,” he said.

Products from Circle G Farms can be found on-site at the farm in Pikeville. “We do offer walk up purchasing for anyone who wants to come out to the farm,” Randy said. All of their other products are sold through the local co-op.

In his role at the N.C. Aquaculture Association, Randy works hard with his team to promote all aspects of our state’s aquaculture industry and address any current issues. He also strives to educate people on the importance of the aquaculture industry and present it to young adults as a potential path in agriculture to pursue. “With fish farming you have to be completely in or out,” he said, “it’s a hard life if you are going to be an independent grower, but it has plenty of rewards to go along with it.”

In the future, Randy hopes to retire and spend time with his grandchildren, selling the farm to an interested buyer who will carry on its legacy. “I will stay president of the Aquaculture Association and continue to promote the industry,” he said, “because farming will always be in my blood.” Join us in thanking Randy and other fish farmers like him for all their hard work across the industry!