“When I was president of the association, we used to meet every month. We met sometimes in Raleigh and throughout the state. For me, it was a real learning experience — seems like we spent a lot of time together and shared some of our challenges,” Winston says.

Winston says labor is now the biggest single challenge vegetable growers have to overcome. “I’m in the short rows of my farming career, but those folks with large acreages are really facing some crises situations, especially in situations where they need a large number of laborers for a short period of time,” he says.

Winston has been a pioneer in many facets of the vegetable industry, but none more so than in labor and labor management for vegetable farmers. “I was the first in my home county to employ H-2A labor, and that goes back many years,” he says.

“One of the first Mexican workers in our community, Johnny Medina, worked on my farm. He brought family members and friends back year after year for 10 years or so to work on my farm,” Winston says.

“Back in 1960s and 1970s getting and keeping labor was different than it is now and less complicated than it is now.

“Johnny Medina was a great worker. He knew a lot about farming and how to work with and work on a tractor. Most of all he was good with the other Mexican workers he brought with him, Winston adds.

“To show how times have changed, I remember getting a call from Johnny Medina, it was between Christmas and New Years. He had walked and hitch-hiked from Mexico to Houston with several family members and friends, and he wanted me to come to Houston to bring him to North Carolina to work on our farm.

“I flew from Raleigh to Houston, met these guys — most of them I’d never seen before — at the airport in Houston and bought all of them a plane ticket to Raleigh. I bought the tickets and Johnny told the airline agent what name to put on the ticket. Now, it’s a long, hard process just to get workers to your farm,” Winston says.

The North Carolina grower says winning the Hall of Fame Award was totally unexpected. “It is truly an honor to be held in the same high regard as the past winners. Working with the growers association helped me in my farming operation, and to be honored for doing what I considered the right thing and giving back to the industry that has been so good to me is really special, he says.