JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — For generations, the Pace family’s livelihood revolved around tobacco.


What You Need To Know

The federal tobacco quota program ended in 2004

The government gave farms payouts to help them transition into a free market system

Pace Family Farms continued to farm tobacco for a decade but recently shifted to produce because of the costs


Two years ago, Michelle Pace Davis and Pace Family Farms flipped the script on the 100 years of tradition and turned to produce.

“We joke around and say ‘Every Pace did something crazy and something bold of their generation,’ and I’m the one that decided to not to do tobacco but do produce, and strawberries, and agritourism,” Pace Davis said.

She says there were many reasons for the shift, including labor and product costs and farmland use.

They’re one of many family farms turning away from the cash crop.

In 2004, the federal tobacco quota program ended. Previously, the government helped prevent the oversupply of tobacco by maintaining crop limits for farms and stabilizing prices.

When the program ended, the government offered buyouts to farms to help them transition into the free market system.

Some farms took the money and immediately shifted.

From 2012 to 2017, North Carolina had almost 300 fewer farms harvest tobacco, according to the USDA.

Others like Pace used the funds to expand their operations.

After a decade, however, those costs caught up, and they decided to move forward.

“It was a drastic change. Doubling in size at the buyout, and then also going from that size to nothing in 2019. It was very different,” Pace Davis said. “It was a lot of mixed emotions on my dad and then my family, because that is something that we have been doing for 100 years.”

Even though their land is no longer filled with tobacco plants, she says their love for the crop still runs deep, and it’s impact on the state should be appreciated.

“All your really neat small towns thrived on tobacco, especially like Wendell, Wilson, Oxford,” Pace Davis said. “All of those small towns here in North Carolina thrived on the tobacco industry and relied on tobacco farmers.”