Editor’s Note: This October, we will celebrate our 30th class of 40 Under Forty honorees. Each week in 2022, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia will highlight one of our 2021 40 Under Forty honorees leading up to the announcement of our milestone class this fall.
It is hard to imagine anyone with roots planted deeper in a community than Nick Rogers. Rogers went to Clemson to get a bachelor’s degree in agriculture mechanization and business and also earned a master’s degree in plant and environmental sciences in 2016.
But there was no doubt he would return to Jones and Church Farms in Unicoi County where he is currently the third generation of his family to work at the family tomato farm.
“It was in my blood, Rogers said of farming. “That was just how I was raised. My grandfather started this in 1975, and he’s just been that example to always want to succeed in what you’re doing.”
Rogers is also following in his mother’s footsteps. She left the family farm to get her education from N.C. State and brought back what she learned and applied it in a way that helped the farm continue to grow.
In that same vein, Rogers brought back a wealth of knowledge from Clemson that is now being applied to his family’s land in Unicoi County. Much of his master’s level work involved applying nitrogen with drones, and he was able to do a lot of research work with partners like NASA, the USDA and John Deere.
Rogers has taken on a leadership role at the farm, where he oversees around 65 employees, who pack out around 15,000-20,000 boxes each day and ship roughly 800,000 25-pound packages over the course of a 90-day harvest season.
Nick is no stranger to this work as packing is where he got started. “I started working here when I was tall enough to put a lid on a box,” he said.
When he arrived back in Unicoi County after college, Rogers became just as entrenched in the community as he was at his farm. His wife teaches in the agriculture program at Unicoi County High School, and Nick gives hours of his time to help students in the community get hands-on experience. “I love going down there and showing them things they don’t get to see,” he said. “If you weren’t brought up on a farm, you don’t know a lot of this stuff.”
Rogers remembers the way teachers and members of the community encouraged and equipped him when he was younger, and he does his best to return the favor. He mentors high school students in order to prepare them for FFA competitions and serves as a positive role model. He also volunteers with the Unicoi County Volunteer Fire Department.
As a cancer survivor – Nick went through chemotherapy for a year and a half when he was 14 – Rogers serves as the co-chair for the Unicoi County Relay for Life. He has also chaired the Unicoi County Young Farmer and Rancher program and volunteers his time by serving on various boards.
But at the moment, Rogers is most excited about raising the fourth generation of his family on the farm they’ve owned since 1975.
“I’m very excited to raise my raise my son on this farm, too,” he said. “It’s what I love doing, and I’m excited to bring a new generation into it.”
Next week we will profile local entrepreneur Ryan Shipley. If you would like to nominate someone for inclusion in the 2022 class of 40 Under Forty, visit 40under.com and follow the instructions.