After growing up as the only son on a third-generation farm, William “Bill” Cameron, Jr., of Raeford, N.C., didn’t see agriculture in his future.

“Football was my ticket off the farm,” says Cameron. “My story is truly one that you can take the boy off the farm but the farm never leaves the boy.”

After 11 years of coaching high school football, Cameron returned to Raeford in a U-Haul truck with his wife, a baby girl — and four cows. In 1976, he devoted his life to full time farming.

His original 82-acre operation has grown into 860 acres today and led to his selection as the 2007 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for North Carolina. He was selected for the honor in judging conducted by the North Carolina Farm Bureau and was nominated by Earl Hendrix.

Cameron’s diversified operation today includes row crops and a cattle operation along with swine.

There are 250 acres of corn with a yield of 140 bushels per acre, 425 acres of soybeans producing 30 bushels per acre, 110 acres of wheat, 50 acres of oats, 120 acres of rye and 185 acres of hay.

His other enterprises include 150 head of cows and six bulls that he uses to raise replacement heifers and bulls. Feeder steers are sold to a Nichols Farm in Iowa. He also has more than 6,000 feeder pigs in eight grower houses.

“I have a contract with Premium Standard Farms for my swine,” says Cameron. “I’ll never regret the decision to leave the coaching ranks and returning to the farm. It’s what I really love doing.”

Cameron and his wife Rhenda have two children — daughter Candace who is operations manager for Five Points Resorts, and son Bill III, who works for a law firm in Salisbury, N.C.

Previous state winners from North Carolina include John Vollmer of Bunn, 1990; Kenneth Jones of Pink Hill, 1991; John Howard, Jr. of Deep Run, 1992; Carlyle Ferguson of Waynesville, 1993; Dick Tunnell of Swan Quarter, 1994; Allan Lee Baucom of Monroe, 1995; Scott Whitford of Grantsboro, 1996; Williams Covington, Sr. of Mebane, 1997; Phil McLain of Statesville, 1998; Earl Hendrix of Raeford, 1999; Reid Gray of Statesville, 2000; Rusty Cox of Monroe, 2001; Craven Register of Clinton, 2002; Frank Howey, Jr., of Monroe, 2003; Eddie Johnson of Elkin, 2004; Danny McConnell of Hendersonville, 2005; and Tommy Porter of Concord, 2006.

North Carolina has had one overall winner with Eddie Johnson of Elkin being selected as the Southeastern Farmer of the Year in 2004.