Consistently growing 70 bushels of soybeans per acre and 200 bushel corn isn’t unique in the Southeast, but doing it in a high mountain valley on the western tip of North Carolina is quite a feat.

Andrews, N.C., farmer Ed Wood humbly says the dozens of state and national yield awards hanging in his farm office are much more a result of rich mountain river valley soils and plentiful moisture in most years, than to his skills as a farmer.

Wood farms several hundred acres of grain crops on what is left of a once sprawling family farm along U.S. Highway 74, which is the main west-to-east corridor between Chattanooga, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C.

His farm is literally at the entrance to Great Smokey Mountains National Park, one of the Southeast’s top tourist attractions.

The streams that criss-cross his farm feed into one of the country’s top whitewater rafting rivers in the Southeast. And, his mountain valley is an ideal environment for gray leafspot and other diseases of corn and soybeans.

Despite his pleas to the contrary, operating a highly productive grain farming operation under these conditions takes skill, innovation and an unyielding commitment to detail.

Innovation and attention to detail come to Wood from a couple of sources. He has a degree in engineering from North Carolina State University, but his skills in applying technology to the farm likely comes more from genetics than a college degree.

Wood’s grandfather and namesake built the family farm before, during and after the Great Depression, an era when innovation and hard work were much easier to come by than money.

The family farm once included a dairy and livestock operation, black smith shop, in addition to row crops, and included tenant housing for on-farm workers, and even its own electrical supply — back when not everyone had electricity.

“My grandfather figured out a way to damn up a mountain stream and built a small electric generating plant. The electricity was used to power the dairy, tenant homes and other on-farm needs. This was back in the 1930s,” Wood says.

In later years his father built an airport, complete with a grass runway, and of course, bought an airplane to make use of the airport. The airport is now owned and operated by Cherokee County, but Wood still flies around the farm in the old Piper Cub airplane his grandfather bought back in 1947.