Pritchett Farms Nurseries, located in Elon, North Carolina, is run by Bonnie (not pictured) and Edgar Pritchett (right) and son-in-law Vaughn Willoughby (left). "The farm is a 200 acre farm, family-owned and operated enterprise." said Willoughby. "My in-laws, the Pritchett family, originally settled and started farming this land in 1870. I'm the sixth generation working on the farm." The farm specializes in producing field crops, such as tobacco (organic and traditional) and soybeans, livestock, and wholesale nursery plants--consisting of ornamental shrubs and trees, flowers and vegetables.
Although he is sometimes recruited to do field/other farm work, Willoughby (center) focuses his primary effort on the success of the nursery. "The nursery was my idea and where my expertise was. I graduated from NC State University with a degree in flower and nursery crop production. I owned a landscape business and the nursery was a natural extension for that. The Pritchett's, my in-laws, were extremely supportive and together we've built something special from nothing. Something we're proud to say is ours." said Willoughby.
Also pictured is Bonnie Pritchett, far left, and Edgar Pritchett, far right.
The nursery produces wholesale plants, including flowers, ornamental trees and shrubbery and vegetables. Willoughby and his mother-in-law Bonnie Pritchett grow many plants from seed to a transferable plant or finished product. Willoughby said, "Creating ornamental plants that add beauty to our world and quality to the lives of people who enjoy them," is one of the most important parts of his job.
WIlloughby is proud of the farm and his work in making it successful, but he feels that the most important part of the job is teaching. "Working the land and keeping our family farm viable means a lot. Having a hand in that day to day quest makes me proud. But being able to talk to people and help them understand what agriculture is about [is most important]--the trials, the successes, the failures and the hope that every farmer has every day." said Willoughby.
Being a family-owned and operated business adds a special quality to Pritchett Farms Nurseries. Willoughby said the bond the family shares is evident in each part of the business, saying, "[Our bond] shows in our work and ability to overcome obstacles when things get tough. We all work together and all live on the farm so when someone's in a bind we pitch in and lighten the load for whoever needs help. We share in the failures and the successes. The success and sustainability of the farm is the goal we strive for everyday."
Although the farm is 200 acres in size, Willoughby said it is small in comparison to others, making the workdays challenging. "We work hard but sometimes that's not enough. Our workforce is our family. We do have some seasonal labor, but they're stretched for time as well. Trying to manage an ambitious production schedule with limited help is a challenge; not enough hours in the day sometimes," said Willoughby.
WIlloughby said working with family has both positives and negatives, saying, "Working with family isn't always as easy as it might seem. But it also has a comfort zone around it. Sometimes when things aren't going like they should, you refrain from saying the things you would to a hired employee--not hurtful things, but you filter what's on your mind. With employees there are always consequences, not only for a job well done, but also for mistakes. With family there's more forgiving, but not as much praise, either."
Willoughby hopes that through the farm and nursery, he can share his knowledge and relate to others who are not farmers or may not know much about farming. "Anytime I can help people understand more about what we do, how we are just like other people [makes me happy]--we laugh, we cry, we work hard, we have fun. We do what we do so others don't have to. American agriculture feeds the entire globe by being efficient with less resources than ever before."