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Two Inducted Into Cumberland County Agricultural Hall of Fame

Nov 19, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – A retired county Cooperative Extension agent, Alfred M. Davenport, and a longtime Gray’s Creek farmer, Alton Earl Smith Jr., were both inducted into the Cumberland County Agricultural Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse this morning.

The ceremony recognized the 2020 and 2021 inductees. Due to COVID, the annual Farm City event and Hall of Fame ceremony, hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Fayetteville, was not held in 2020.

Alfred M. Davenport is the 2020 Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee. Alton Earl Smith Jr. is the 2021 Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee. Official portraits of Davenport and Smith were unveiled during the ceremony and will hang on the wall with those of past inductees in the I.B. Julian Auditorium of the Cooperative Extension office at the Charlie Rose Agri-Expo Center, located at 301 E. Mountain Dr.

Alfred M. Davenport

Davenport began his career with Cumberland County Cooperative Extension in 1974 as an Extension agent. Selected as one of the top seven agriculture agents in 1979, he was honored for his work in horticulture, forestry, and 4-H. In 1980 Davenport transitioned to work exclusively with horticulture.

Prior to working with Cooperative Extension, Davenport spent over 15 years as Department Head of Agriculture with the N.C. Department of Juvenile Corrections.

A pioneer in the promotion and adaptation of the use of black plastic and drip irrigation, he promoted the use of this technology with numerous on-site demonstrations through the county, becoming the local expert on drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation is an efficient, water-saving irrigation technique. Used in conjunction with black plastic, drip irrigation typically increases crop yields two to three times greater than conventional irrigation methods while reducing water usage.

Under the guidance of B.T. McNeill, former Cumberland County Cooperative Extension Director, Davenport helped establish the Cumberland County Farmers Market on Gillespie Street.

Davenport was passionate about the 4-H Youth Development Program and helped organize many 4-H clubs in the county and provided leadership in forming the first volunteer leader’s association in the district. He helped organize 4-H clubs on Fort Bragg for military youth and attended club meetings and provided training. This evolved into the 4-H military program at Fort Bragg, which serves over 500 youth today.

Davenport holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from North Carolina A&T State University and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from N.C. State University.

In 1979, Davenport was selected as one of the top seven young agricultural agents in North Carolina and was honored for his work in 4-H, horticulture and forestry. 

Davenport retired from Cooperative Extension in 1993 but remained committed to agriculture, serving as an advisor to the Cumberland County Farm Service Agency for 18 years. Davenport was greatly appreciated and respected among the agriculture community. Davenport is from the Seventy-First area of western Cumberland County.

A member of Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church, Davenport is a member of the Men of Zion Committee, which mentors young men, and continues to serve youth by providing educational gardening classes for the youth in his church.

“It is an honor to recognize Mr. Alfred Davenport's outstanding leadership and contributions to agriculture,” said Cooperative Extension Director Lisa Childers. “He was a pioneer in vegetable production and bringing new innovations to farmers. His contributions over the years have had a significant impact on Cumberland County agriculture.”

Alton Earl Smith Jr.

Smith grew up on the family farm in Gray’s Creek with his parents Alton Earl Smith Sr. and Elizabeth Garner Smith and his sisters Fay and Lucy. Smith took over the dairy and tobacco farm at the young age of 12 when his father’s health declined.

Smith graduated from Gray’s Creek High School in 1956. He was a charter member of the Gray’s Creek FFA, organized in 1953.

In 1967, Smith was named the Outstanding Young Farmer for Cumberland County. He received numerous awards for dairy cattle production during his time running the family dairy farm and served as director of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. Smith sold the dairy farm in the 1980s, but continued row crop production.

Smith increased the size of his family farm over the years from 200 acres to 700 acres, growing tobacco, soybeans, sorghum, corn and small grains. Today, the Smith family farm is approximately 1,200 acres. Smith is known for being one of the most progressive farmers in the area and was the first farmer in the county to begin bulk tobacco curing by adapting his old tobacco harvester for use in this new method. This practice resulted in a tremendous labor-saving cost for farmers.

In addition to farming, Smith is known for his innovation and engineering ability. He designed and built a self-propelled hay wagon, a wood-fired tobacco heater and has even designed, built and flown his own airplane. Smith has also restored vintage vehicles including a Model A “Woody.”

In 1996 his son-in-law David Kennedy joined the farming operation and they still work side by side on a daily basis. His grandchildren, Ryan Kennedy and Paige Kennedy Smart who are both N.C. State graduates in Agricultural Studies, have expanded farm operations to include beef cattle and hay production. As the sixth generation in the farm, they work full time in the operation and are dedicated to continuing the tradition that began with the Smith family in Grays Creek in the mid- 1800s. 

Over the years, Smith has served as past president of the Cumberland County Community Farm Bureau Association, served on the Cumberland County School Board, secretary of the Grays Creek Ruritan Club, superintendent of Green Springs Baptist Church and is a founding member of Grays Creek Fire Station 18.

“We are honored that Mr. Smith has been inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Cooperative Extension Director Lisa Childers. “He is a true example of what hard work, dedication and a passion for agriculture can accomplish.” 

Watch a video of the Agricultural Hall of Fame induction ceremony on the County’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/CumberlandCountyNC.