Kendall Hill, co-owner of Tull Hill Farms, a highly diversified vegetable farming operation near Kinston, N.C., has been named winner of the 2013 Volunteer Service Award, presented annually by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association.

Hill is a graduate of North Carolina State’s Horticulture Science Program and is one of the founders of the North Carolina Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. He is a member of the Association’s Hall of Fame.

An outspoken advocate for farm labor reform, Hill actively helps manage the 4,500 acre Tull Hill Farms.

His family is recognized as one of the premier sweet potato growing families in North Carolina. Along with sweet potatoes, a number of labor intensive vegetable crops are grown on the North Carolina farm, all of which are highly labor intensive.

Tull Hill Farms is a model for how H-2A labor should work. Workers at the farm have heated, air-conditioned living quarters, complete with Dish Network TV. Their travel costs to and from their home country is paid and they are guaranteed at least minimum wage.

By diversifying his farming operation Hill has been able to spread out the cost of his H-2A workers, but most growers don’t have the opportunity of land and processing facilities to do that. Many growers, even larger acreage growers are in the ‘no-man’s land’ of legal, but not affordable H-2A labor and the high risk of working illegal migrant workers.

Changes in migrant labor laws in the Deep South are making the labor situation much worse and are crippling the growth of what should be burgeoning fruit and vegetable industries in the Carolinas and Virginia.

“What too many politicians and people in the general public don’t seem to understand is that these migrant workers aren’t taking jobs from American citizens. I’d love to hire local labor, but they simply aren’t available,” Hill says

“The migrant laborers who come to work on our farm don’t pay taxes, but they don’t utilize tax-paid services either. But most importantly, what too many people don’t seem to understand is that these migrant workers allow folks like me to stay in business and pay taxes.

“Farms are small businesses and that’s what every politician seems to think we need more of in this country, but they are making it real hard for farm businesses to stay in business and pay taxes,” Hill says.

He is a member of the North Carolina Vegetable Growers Association Hall of Fame and was named a Distinguished Alumnus of North Carolina State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Hill serves as president of the North Carolina Agricultural Business Council and on the executive committee of the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation and the North Carolina Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Foundation.  

He has been very active for many years in helping lobby state and federal legislators recognize the needs of America’s farmers and has been tireless in his efforts to help young farmers get started in agriculture.

Hill has served six terms on the board of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission and served as the state’s representative to the U.S. Sweet Potato Commission.

(For an in-depth look at Hill’s farming operation, see Farm labor laws crippling Carolina fruit, vegetable operations).