H&H Farms wins state conservation award

Adam and Katy Huscusson at their farmstand on Hwy. 64 in Franklin.

Dan Finnerty – Contributing Writer

Adam and Katy Huscusson were both born and raised in Macon County. Back in the early 2000s, Adam found himself looking for something more to do. He already worked a firefighter job in Gwinnett County, Ga., which involved him driving a few hours, round-trip, from his home at least two days each week. However, his schedule afforded him more days off compared to a routine Monday-Friday schedule. So, one day he decided to plant some corn. 

Fast forward to January 2023, when it was announced that his H&H Farms was the North Carolina 2022 Outstanding Conservation Farm Family Award winner – the first such Macon County business to garner the state-level recognition in its nearly 50 years of existence. As reported in Macon County News back in February, a celebration of the state level recognition will be held Tuesday, May 9, at the Moss Valley Venue in Franklin. State and local officials have been invited to the event.

“I know what is out there (in terms of competition for the award) … it’s been a humbling experience and it holds your feet to the fire now,” said Huscusson. “Before you wanted to do good and now, you’re expected to do good.” He also emphasized that Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District nominated H&H. “We didn’t put our name in, and I would never put my name in. They asked if they could (nominate us).”

Huscusson said he became a farmer because he needed something useful to do. Growing and selling feed corn was a way to serve others and satisfy his need to produce something. Initially, the project consisted of 10 acres for growing only corn. The acreage has grown to roughly 500 acres, 370 acres of which is still used for field corn. Some land is owned, some leased, and all is located within the Cartoogechaye community. The H&H farming area now includes cow pastures, strawberry patches, and seasonal produce such as potatoes, pumpkins, and sweet corn, in addition to the feed corn. The sweet corn, in particular, has proven to be a strong selling product locally.

H&H Farmstand is located on Highway 64, just before ascending the climb to Winding Stair Gap and the Appalachian Trail. The spot serves practical purposes for storage and more, but it is also a place where the public can purchase Huscusson’s produce, walk a corn maze in the fall, enjoy some soft serve ice cream, and pick up local jams, jellies, locally raised beef, and more. During most of the growing season, one can find Katy Huscusson or another family member assisting with information or processing a purchase within their one-story farmstand building. In fact, the H&H effort is very much a family affair. Katy’s father, Jackie Mashburn and both Adam’s parents, Harold and Carolyn Huscusson, as well as Carolyn’s twin sister, Marilyn Jones, all help out with either farm work in the field or business sales in the farm stand building.

During school hours September through May, Katy teaches advanced mathematics to fifth and sixth graders at Mountain View Intermediate School in Franklin. Between working two jobs, raising two children, and farming hundreds of acres, one might wonder how the Huscussons can manage it all. To hear them tell the story, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

A visit in early March found a few men working on clearing some of the land around the farmstand property. The excavation is in preparation for a chemicals’ storage facility, where fertilizer and other crop management supplies can be stored safely and a proper distance from the farmstand building. A crew was also smoothing out freshly poured cement for the floor of two new loading docks and an eventual cooling area to store produce at times. There is also an area where a new well will be drilled in the near future as the need for an additional water source has surfaced, due to increased farming on the 40 acres adjacent to the stand itself. According to their website, H&H Farms generates roughly $87,000 a year in revenue, primarily from their harvesting and selling of feed corn. The farm-to-table produce sales play a much smaller role currently, but this segment of the farming business is also increasing.

According to Katy Huscusson, “Adam is just sort of brilliant in building exactly what he wants; he created a corn dryer pit and an auger drying system. We harvest it (corn), we dry it, and we truck it throughout the winter.” 

In the interim, a corn bin is used to store any corn supply that overtakes the ability to deliver it to customers immediately and an additional one may soon be needed. They have recently expanded to selling “home grown” beef from cows housed on the nearby Killian farm-leased property as well.

 “We now have 150 chickens and then we’re getting into pork this year.” H&H currently has 22 steers for meat sales and “mommas for more beef.” 

The family business is also working closely with North Carolina-based AgroBusiness (AB) to do feed corn test plots; AB provides the seed, but H&H does the growing – from planting to tending to harvesting, and then AB runs the numbers on productivity at the end of the year. 

“In 2020 we won a state contest – we had the highest corn yield in the state of North Carolina,” said Huscusson.

“When we started this produce stand, we didn’t grow a ton and I went to the Asheville Farmers Market two to three times a week. Our ultimate goal is to only sell what we grow,” Katy emphasized. She added, “The award received was mostly based on conservation efforts. We’ve built a new feed lot; Adam dug a well to water the cows; he did a lot of fencing to keep them up away from our waterways so that we’re preserving the waters in our county.” 

H&H also sponsors school field trips for other teachers and homeschool groups; if they want, they get lessons. 

“We worked in the N.C. Farm-to-School program last year and worked with the Macon County Nutrition and went into two second grade classes, told them how we farmed, what we grow, and we learned about seeds and plants. Then they got to come for a field trip here and pick strawberries, etc. We always bundle in an ice cream cone. Another goal is to keep things reasonably priced and affordable for our community.”

Adam emphatically stated that if he had known all the attention winning the award would garner, he probably would not have agreed to be nominated. 

“I like to be as far away from the spotlight as possible,” explaining that being a farmer at heart, he finds the fuss a bit overwhelming. 

Between drought, flooding, and wild animal issues, the Huscussons have endured many farming challenges, but he is also quick to point out, “We’ve been blessed with rain, being in a temperate rainforest.” 

H&H lauded at recent business council meeting

At a Business Advisory Council meeting held at the Franklin High School (FHS) media center April 26, County Commissioner Gary Shields introduced Adam Huscusson to attendees and advised the group of the award his business had received. In tying H&H’s connection to the value that agricultural learning and curriculum can benefit student learning and training, Shields noted, “We believe in the farm family and you’re the prime example of a farm family.” 

Macon County Career and Technical Education Director Colleen Strickland presented on numerous proposals for additional areas of possible future student training, comprising what she has labeled “FHS Land Lab – The Farm to Table Experience” for the high school. The purpose of the land lab is to “develop a student-run enterprise to bolster the work-based learning experiences for students in agriculture.” Strickland and Shields pointed out that this is an area that a business like the Huscussons can contribute valuably to, based on a precedent of providing access to and education on their role in local agricultural processes for the county and community.

Macon County Farm Bureau President Kenneth McCaskill also expressed the importance of the contribution the Huscussons are making.

 “If the pandemic has taught this county and this state and this country anything, we need to be prepared … to have our own agriculture. Adam [Huscusson] is on my board – one of the newest members – and this award he is getting is really important to this county. Working with [the county cooperative] extension, working with soil and water conservation … we’ve not had one of those [award winners] in this county ever before. It may be a long time before we have another one. I think it emphasizes the environmental concerns and the strides we’ve made and his family has made to protect the environment.”