What is in this article?:
• Mike Harris got into farming in a round about way. He went with some friends to get a farm loan from their local FSA office. When he saw how easily they got loans, he applied, was accepted, but that’s where the fairy tale story ends.
• From his meager beginning and despite what most people would call a handicap, Mike Harris built a thriving farming enterprise. Now, he farms several thousand acres, owns part interest in a highly successful cotton gin, and has other successful businesses. But, it didn’t come easy.
Built thriving farm enterprise
From his meager beginning and despite what most people would call a handicap, Mike Harris built a thriving farming enterprise. Now, he farms several thousand acres, owns part interest in a highly successful cotton gin, and has other successful businesses. But, it didn’t come easy.
“At one point, I got heavily involved in the potato business. It was hard, hard work, but I loved it. I came home one evening and from walking so much and working long hours, I had blood running from the stumps of my legs.
“My daughters said, ‘Daddy if you’re doing this for us, please don’t — we don’t want you to work yourself to death for us.
“I got my last check for my last potato crop, and I sold what equipment I could sell and took a demolition torch to the rest of it and sold it for scrap metal. I wanted to make sure I didn’t change my mind,” Harris explains.
In 1990, Harris planted the first cotton seed he had ever seen. Though cotton is now a major crop in the Blacklands of eastern North Carolina, at that time virtually no one was growing it.
“I worked with that first 500 acres of cotton every day. I tended to it like a baby and was so proud to make over 1,100 pounds of lint that first year,” he recalls.
By 1995, he was into cotton production big time, but finding the business end of it tough to handle. “I was just tired of it. I’d grow a beautiful crop of cotton and couldn’t seem to make any money with it. So, I decided to get out of the cotton business, he recalls.
Before he took the same action he had done a few years earlier with his potato equipment, Harris got a call from another cotton grower asking if he was interested in becoming a partner in a cotton gin.
“I laughed at him, told him I was trying to get out of the cotton business, but I went to the first meeting they held. There were lots of people at that meeting and at the next one, but when it came time to bring some money to the next meeting, there weren’t but a few people. When it came time to bring the big money to the meeting there were only 10 of us,” Harris says.
“That’s how Coastal Carolina Cotton Gin got started. It’s one of the best moves I’ve ever made in business and it’s been wonderful working with some of the best people I’ve ever met — the most honest, straight-up people I’ve ever been around,” he says.
“When we had a note-burning party, I told them every business has a misfit, and ya’ll got me. I’m proud to be a part of the gin and proud of what we’ve been able to do to help North Carolina cotton farmers,” he adds.