Women honored for agricultural work

LUMBERTON — Women are getting recognition for their work in agriculture, as entrepreneurs and farm wives, too.

To that end the Women’s Committee of the Robeson County Farm Bureau honored four Robeson County women last week for their contributions to agriculture at the second annual Women of Agricultural Excellence Luncheon. Approximately 50 people attended the event at the Farm Bureau’s Lumberton office.

Sally Kennedy’s farm in Rowland serves as a stopover for horses being hauled up and down Interstate 95.

Ashley Blanks, the youngest inductee, runs a produce farm in the Saddletree community that supplies greens for her roadside stand and for big-name restaurants like Fuller’s BBQ.

Faye Shooter is the owner and operator of Marietta Gardens, a daylily breeder that ships its unique hybrids around the globe.

Virginia Walton is an integral part of a Robeson County family farm that grew from nothing to 6,000 acres.

Michelle Shooter, chair of the Women’s Committee and a plant specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, introduced the speakers and Faye Shooter.

“Faye continued operation of the farm after her husband’s death,” said Shooter, who is not related to Faye. “Daylilly breeding is an art, and it is hard work.

“Marietta Farms receives orders from around the world,” she said. “Faye is a retired teacher, who once described the farm as a ‘labor of love’ — Johnny, her husband, loved daylilies and Faye did the work.”

Marietta Daylilly Gardens has more than 80,000 plants that range in price from $4 to $300 for casual gardeners and collectors.

Everette Davis, retired director of the Robeson County Cooperative Extension, introduced Walton.

“There is a difference between being married to a farmer and a farm wife,” Davis said. “Ginny Walton is a farm wife.

“She is the glue that holds everything together on the farm and family,” he said. “From payroll, finance, marketing, day-to-day operations and driving tractors too, Ginny does it all with a smile.”

The Waltons began their careers in agriculture working for other farmers, then started out on the own, often with borrowed equipment, Davis said. From that humble start, they have become large cotton and row crop producers in Robeson County.

Retired Cape Fear Farm Credit employee Betty Kay Williams introduced Kennedy, owner of Sally’s Ark, a horse stopover and home for retired horses.

“Sally got the idea for her horse farm after watching the stress horses experience on the long trip from New York to Florida,” Williams said. “She bought 26 acres near Rowland and has expanded to 125.”

Sally’s Ark has more than 90 horses on the farm this week and a bunkhouse for overnight visitors.

Patrice Locklear, a retired music teacher, introduced Ashley Blanks, owner of Magnolia Farms and a former student.

“Ashley wants to continue the family-owned business,” Locklear said. “She grows corn, peas, collards and more.

“Her customers include Fuller’s, Kendra’s Kitchen in Downtown Lumberton and the Pink Restaurant in Rowland,” she continued. “She donates unsold produce to elders in her community.”

Shooter summed up the work of the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee.

“We support agriculture in our community, including legislative efforts, educational programs and the promotion of safety,” Shooter said. “We are having a sign sale now to support our Political Action Committee, we have a book program, and we had a car seat program too.”

The Farm Bureau sells auto, home life and health insurance and promotes agricultural families and issues.

Sally Kennedy, left, Ashley Blanks, Faye Shooter and Elizabeth Walton were honored last week during the Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture luncheon. Kennedy, left, Ashley Blanks, Faye Shooter and Elizabeth Walton were honored last week during the Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture luncheon.

Scott Bigelow

Staff writer

Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or