Donnie and Alease Williams were named the 2016 North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year by the Cooperative Extension Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University during ceremonies in March on the campus. The couple and their D&A Farm were lauded for more than 50 years of farm production, including pastured hogs.

The Williamses attributed part of their success to guidance from Sampson County Cooperative Extension, whose staff nominated D&A for the farming award, and to Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T, which produces the award and hosts the annual Small Farms Week ceremonies.

Located near Autryville, the Williams have about 150 pigs that are bred in a free-range operation. D&A Farm includes more than 140 acres in active production, including 12 acres for the hog operation, and nearly 100 acres in corn, soybeans and wheat which are used for animal feed. The couple and their family also raise goats and sheep.

Small Farms Week recognizes the small-scale producers in North Carolina who generate $250,000 or less annually in agricultural gross sales. The Williamses were presented with gifts of a plaque, monogrammed jackets and $1,500 during a Small Farmers’ Appreciation Day program, which was the culmination of the 30th annual observance of Small Farms Week. Workshops, farm tours, demonstrations and panel discussions were also part of the series of events.

Alease Williams thanked an audience of about 300 at the awards program, also celebrating under the banner of the 125th anniversary of N.C. A&T’s founding in 1891, saying: “Right now, I’d have to say I’m feeling that Aggie Pride.”

Comments from Donnie Williams, in an interview, summed up the passion that he—at 72—has for his work: “I always wanted to be a farmer. I just like it.”