Franklin County September 2023

Population
74,539

County Seat
Louisburg

Median Income
$62,332

Population Density Designation
Rural

Vance-Granville Community College welcomed the Extra Miles Tour to its Louisburg campus for a conversation about how Franklin, Vance, Warren, Granville Counties are working with urgency to meet the needs of a rapidly growing area of our state, which has seen 50% population growth in the last 20 years. In a region poised for further growth, nonprofit leaders and educators are working together to make sure access to opportunities is available to all.

Franklin County is within a short drive of Raleigh, making it an attractive place to live for those who commute to the state’s capital. Most of Franklin County is rural, dominated by large farms that fuel North Carolina’s agriculture industry. Given the amount of land devoted to farming, it’s not surprising that around two-thirds of the residents of Franklin County work every day in a different county.

Staff from the North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA) spoke about the organization’s focus on economic mobility and self-sufficiency for all who live in our state. Born of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty,” the NC Community Action Association celebrated its 60th year of service in 2023, with a renewed focus on early education and housing relief.

On the housing front, Blue Cross NC has partnered with the NCCAA for the Healthy Homes Initiative to offer free health and safety repairs, addressing often unsuspecting causes of illness hidden in the homes of vulnerable North Carolinians. Repairs and mitigation can head off chronic diseases and injuries that often have harmful effects on childhood development. So far, 1,500 families have received 2,300 health and safety-related measures, along with information on weatherizing homes and reducing energy costs.

As Franklin and the surrounding counties prepare for continued growth, collaboration between the private and public sectors is critical. The basis for that collaboration is a shared vision of the future of their – and our – communities.

From Vance-Granville Community College, we traveled to First Fruits Farm, meeting Farmer Jason Brown. At the age of 29, Jason – who grew up in Henderson, North Carolina, and attended UNC-Chapel Hill – had reached the pinnacle of his profession as the highest-paid center in the National Football League (NFL). He had played seven seasons for the Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams and was considered by many sports fans and NFL players to be the best interior offensive lineman in the league. Then one day, he decided to walk away from it all.

Actually, Jason says the decision wasn’t entirely his: “God revealed to me that He had something greater in store for me and that my family should move back to North Carolina and start a farm.”

There was one hitch: Jason didn’t know anything about farming. But with his faith as his guide, he and his wife Tay started looking for farmland. “Tay and I made a covenant with God and told Him that whatever place He blessed us with, we would name it First Fruits Farm and that His people would receive the First Fruits of whatever is produced from the land.”

The Browns eventually found 1,000 beautiful acres in Louisburg, Franklin County, and a farm was born. Jason turned to fellow local farmers for guidance, along with studiously watching YouTube videos. A decade later, First Fruits Farm has provided more than a million pounds to aid in hunger relief, including sweet potatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn and other vegetables.

First Fruits Farm supports its philanthropic efforts through community and private events on the property, including offering the Amazing Graze Barn – the centerpiece of the farm – as a venue for weddings and corporate events. Jason’s appearances as a motivational speaker supplement the farm’s income to help expand philanthropic initiatives. A balloon festival on the farm grounds honoring fallen military heroes – including Jason’s older brother Lunsford B. Brown II, killed in Iraq in 2003 – has proven popular and is expected to become an annual event.

The generous spirit of the Brown family is inspiring. The stop at First Fruits Farm on Blue Cross NC’s Extra Miles Tour through Franklin County offered a chance to witness one family’s commitment to serving others.

First Fruits Farm has provided more than a million pounds of produce to aid in hunger relief.

All other trade names are the property of their respective owners.

U39702, 11/23