Cal Lewis, a third generation fruit and  vegetable grower from Rocky Point, N.C., is the latest inductee into the North Carolina Vegetable Growers Hall of Fame.

He was named to the elite group during the recent Carolina Vegetable and Fruit Expo in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

His grandfather actually started the farm, growing a number of fruit and vegetable crops which Lewis says used to be  referred to as  ‘truck crops’.

Early on he got a good education as to what it takes to grow a crop and more importantly what it takes to market a crop.

“Marketing and production have to go hand-in-hand these days. It’s hard to say which is more important, because you simply can’t stay in business unless you have a pretty good handle on both,” he says.

As vegetable and fruit farms have shrunk in number and grown in size, specialization has been common among small family farms that once grew truck crops and usually had a few head of cattle. Lewis now grows strawberries, has a strawberry plant nursery, is a large blueberry producer, grows blackberries and bell peppers.

Back in the late 1970s, when the North Carolina Vegetable Growers Association was just getting started, so was Cal Lewis. “I’ve been a member of the organization since it started, or about when it started, he says. Over the years the production information and the friendships I’ve made through our growers association is so valuable,” he says.

The North Carolina Vegetable Growers' Association (NCVGA) was started in 1977 as a multi- commodity trade organization. The size and scope of the organization has changed over the years, primarily to include fruit growers, but its purpose — the improvement and promotion of the North Carolina vegetable and fruit industry — hasn’t changed.

The NCVGA represents more than 2,000 commercial vegetable growers in the state. Its members grow more than 20 different crops on more than a quarter million acres of land in North Carolina.

Lewis says the acreage planted by NCVGA members doesn’t accurately tell the story of how important the fruit and vegetable industry is to North Carolina.

“It’s difficult to compare our industry to cotton, or peanuts or corn, because there are so many different crops we grow and each has its own value, which also varies greatly from grower to grower,” Lewis says.

Over the years, the NCVGA has had a common voice that has represented the state’s vegetable industry well. For example, Support from NCVGA helped to influence H-2A labor programs, and got clearance of several new pesticides.