DUBLIN — Steve Carroll has been a Bladen County resident for more than 70 years and he has dedicated much of his life to being a steward of the land, primarily in the tobacco industry.
From the time he could walk right up until he got out of school, Carroll worked alongside his father so that he could one day follow in his father’s footsteps.
When Carroll got out of school, he decided to venture out on his own and start his own tobacco farm in 1966. Over Carroll’s roughly 35 years of farming on his own, he became a successful farmer, winning Outstanding Young Farmer by the Elizabethtown Jaycees in 1972 and winning back-to-back Outstanding Young Farmer awards in the Dublin area in 1978 and 1979.
“My daddy was a great farmer,” said Carroll. “He taught me everything I know about tobacco and made sure I knew what I was doing so that I could have a successful farm.”
Carroll grew more than 75 acres of tobacco and made history in Bladen County in the summer of 1972 when he was the first to try a new way of farming. Thanks to Taylor Manufacturing building what was then known as a portable barn for curing tobacco, Carroll jumped right in.
“They saved us a good job, and they saved us a lot of labor we couldn’t have found,” said Carroll.
The portable barns brought a new meaning to farming, especially in Bladen County. It was not long after the Carrolls’ huge success with the portable barns that farmers everywhere began bringing in portable barns.
“Back then, tobacco farming was the only way to make money — peanuts and corn just were not enough to pay the bills,” explained Carroll.
Farmers face numerous challenges, whether it be unpredictable weather, uncontrollable expenses, or a shortage of good labor. And prices were controlled by the tobacco buyers.
“Needless to say, we depended on God for our daily provisions,” said Carroll.
According to Carroll’s wife Gail, farming was a family endeavor, and everyone took part in helping to make sure the farm was running well.
“Children raised on the farm learned the value of hard work and responsibility right away,” she said.
The Carrolls made sure they involved the whole family in the tobacco business, and as soon as their two sons could learn, they began to help out on the farm and were taught the same technique and skills that were once taught to Steve from his father.
“It is not something you want to do solely by yourself,” Steve Carroll said. “There are going to be good times and hard times. You need someone there to support you through it all, and my family did that for me.”
Carroll also said he’s experienced how much the tobacco industry has changed and grown over the years, explaining that the mechanical industry has been booming because farmers do not use hands anymore — everything is done by machinery.
Although imports continue to grow and smoking rates in the country continue to decrease, Carroll said there will always be a need for tobacco and tobacco farmers.
“Tobacco has been the backbone of our community and Bladen County for decades,” explained Carroll.
Madison McLamb was a summer intern for the Bladen Journal.