Having sweet potatoes and tobacco in their cotton rotation is a bit unusual, but he says it has been a blessing in battling glyphosate-resistant pigweed. 

For example, cotton is grown one year, followed by tobacco. “We’re using different chemicals for weed and grass control,” Vick notes. “Plus, we’re deep plowing and bedding our tobacco land, and in some cases hand hoeing and pulling weeds.

“Thus, we’re able to reduce the seed bank for pigweed. Other than soybeans, we plant wheat on all our land. We’ve found that with a thick cover crop on the land over fall and winter months, we have less weed pressure.

“Even after Roundup Ready cotton came on the market, we continued to use yellow or white herbicides, so we never got the real buildup of pigweed that so many other growers are battling now.

“I remember the long battle we went through to get rid of boll weevils, and now we are facing as big, if not bigger, problems with herbicide-resistant weeds.”

Another advantage of the unusual cotton rotation, Vick says, is suppression of nematode problems. Most of their tobacco and sweet potato land is treated with Telone and Lorsban, so they are carrying out practices as a part of their normal farming operation that gives a side benefit of reducing nematode populations.

Both sweet potatoes and tobacco are labor-intensive crops, and Vick Farms is a pioneer in using legal, H-2A labor.

“Having adequate labor on hand for these crops can be a big advantage in our cotton operation,” Vick says. “If we get in a situation where we can’t get in a field with the right herbicide, we can always use some of our labor to clean up those fields.”

Each member of the Vick family speaks Spanish. The farm has 10 full-time employees, and all but two speak Spanish.

“It’s a tool that’s important in our farming operation,” he says. “Whether or not I’m fluent in Spanish, I don’t know, but I can explain to any of our H-2A workers what I want them to do and how I want them to do it. Lack of communication should never be an excuse on our farm for not getting things done right.”

Vick didn’t just grow up on a farm, and he didn’t just grow up working on a farm — he grew up working hard and smart on Vick Family Farms. He graduated from the prestigious North Carolina State Agriculture Institute in 1997, then came back to begin learning the farming business from his parents and with his sister.

He was in charge of fieldwork on the farm, working primarily with cotton and soybeans. Charlotte was scouting cotton for the family farm and for other cotton operations in the area, as well as beginning to take over marketing of family-grown crops.