North Carolina Agricultural
Hall of Fame Inductees
ALLEN DERWOOD SWINDELL
1892 - 1976
Mr. Swindell worked tirelessly to conquer the Great Dismal Swamp area in northeast North Carolina and make it suitable for farming. Although others had failed to cultivate the land, Mr. Swindell planted it with small grain and rabid determination and harvested success for his family, his employees and his community.
Mr. Swindell began his agricultural career as a farm manager for Wilkinson Farms in Pantego County at the age of 25. In 1918 he was drafted and served in the 56th Pioneer Infantry Division. When he returned from the WWI, he set about to learn as much as he could about the Dismal Swamp soil. He kept a watchful eye on several farmers who attempted to tame the muckland. Determined to succeed, Mr. Swindell struck out on his own during the Great Depression to farm the richest soil in the area.
Potatoes became the staple of the Upton Farm for more than 20 years and enabled him to broaden his farm and his vision. But still, Mr. Swindell wanted more. He bought more swampland and began a drainage operation for the waterlogged land. Again, he was successful and the Blacklands region was proving a conquerable challenge.
Educated in a two-room schoolhouse in Hyde County, Mr. Swindell took pride in his relationship with N.C. State University and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. He volunteered his farm again and again for agricultural experiments or test plots. He had tremendous power of persuasion in dealing with bankers, lawyers, college professors and government leaders, which afforded him the opportunity to finance additional land.
Mr. Swindell was not only a leader in agriculture, he was also a leader in his community. After World War II, the Blacklands area began to grow and Mr. Swindell intensified his commitment to the region and its people. He was a charter member of the Belhaven-Pantego Rotary Club in 1948; was a founding father of the Pungo District Hospital in 1949, where he served as vice chairman until 1976; helped form the Pamlico Soil and Water Conservation District; served as a County Commissioner from 1948 to 1958 and served as an elder and deacon in the Pantego Christian Church. He was also active in the Southeastern Potato Association.
Progressive Farmer and the N.C. Agricultural Extension Service awarded Allen Swindell and his family the Master Farmer Award in 1954 for notable accomplishments in farming, homemaking and citizenship. However, according to Mr. Swindell, there was more to be done.
Mr. Swindell became one of the first commissioners of the reactivated Albemarle Drainage District and helped sell bonds to clean out the canals for use again. The canal system is still used today. As land in the swamp was reclaimed for use, he carefully matured the land for farming and planted his first corn crops in 1960. From then, until his death, Mr. Swindell worked on his farm, fulfilling his dream of conquering the Great Dismal Swamp.
Hard work, faith, persistence and a will to succeed made Mr. Swindell a successful farmer and businessman. Blacklands farms throughout the region have greatly benefited from his leadership and guidance in developing one of the most productive agricultural areas of North Carolina.
Elected to the
AGRICULTURAL HALL OF FAME