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Sweet Potato Industry Leader Carson Barnes Passes Away

Carson Barnes
Carson Barnes

Carson Barnes, a driving force in the North Carolina sweet potato industry, passed away late Saturday evening. He was 82.

Barnes began farming in 1960 with three-eighths of an acre of sweet potatoes and eight acres of tobacco. His company, Barnes Farming Corp., has grown to become the largest sweet potato grower and shipper in the country.

“Barnes Farming Corporation and Farm Pak Products has always been a family operation that strives to do business the right way” said Johnny Barnes, president of Barnes Farming. “We want the memory of my dad and former president to serve as a reminder to continue to grow the best quality sweet potatoes from field to fork.”

During Barnes’ career, he worked diligently with the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission to promote sweet potatoes both domestically and internationally, making sweet potatoes one of the most sought-after vegetables in Europe.

“Carson Barnes will forever be remembered as one who dedicated his life to the entire industry. He was one of the firsts of many things. His innovation and vision helped make us all as successful as we could be,” said Kelly McIver, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.

Barnes was an avid supporter of NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In 2008, Barnes announced the creation of the Henry M. Covington Endowment for Excellence in Sweet Potato Variety Development.

His livelihood was sweet potato farming, recalled close family members and friends: “He didn’t have many hobbies, farming was his hobby. It was his life.”

The family will receive friends and relatives Aug. 24 from 5:00-8:00 p.m., and the commemoration service will be held Aug. 25 at 11:00 a.m. Both services will be held at Wheeler & Woodlief Funeral Home of Rocky Mount. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Free Union Free Will Baptist Church, 4151 Macedonia Rd, Spring Hope, N.C. 27882 and FWB Children’s Home, PO Box 249, Middlesex, N.C. 27557.

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