Wilbur Earp was a pioneer in North Carolina in raising hogs indoors.

During his career he has also built an impressive beef, pork and row crop farm.

As a result of his success as a diversified farmer, Earp has been selected as the North Carolina winner of the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Earp now joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

After starting with 100 acres, Earp’s Funston Farms now consists of 4,500 acres with 4,200 acres of owned land and 300 acres of rented land. His farm has survived droughts and hurricanes.

Earp grows tall fescue on 254 acres yielding four tons per acre, bermudagrass on 110 acres yielding six tons per acre, bahiagrass on 12 acres yielding three and a half tons per acre and ryegrass for winter grazing on 120 acres with an estimated yield of four and a half tons per acre. After the ryegrass, he plants millet for summer grazing with an estimated yield of four and a half tons per acre.

Per acre row crop yields include corn, 190 bushels; wheat, 65 bushels; and soybeans, 42 bushels. Most of these row crops are grown in Cattail Bay in neighboring Columbus County. Originally a swamp, Cattail Bay was converted to farmland years prior to the Earps acquiring it.

Earp’s family owns timberland where he uses a forest management plan to improve wildlife habitat. In addition, Earp provides custom consulting services such as fence building, soil sampling and fertilization for a nearby wildlife plantation.

The Earps irrigate land on their home farm using lagoon water from their hog facilities. Hogs have long been prominent at Funston Farms. During the 1950’s, Earp was one of the first in the state to grow hogs indoors.