Patrick Brown breaks new ground on historic farm

Oct. 1—WARRENTON — Patrick Brown is farming land that has been in his family for more than 150 years.

It began with his great grandfather, Byron Brown, a former slave, who acquired acreage in Warren County after he was freed in 1865. Over time, he expanded it into a productive farm and business.

According to Patrick Brown, his great grandfather was the son of the plantation owner, Jacob Falcon-Browne, and an enslaved woman, Lucinda, whom Falcon-Browne owned prior to emancipation.

Falcon-Browne's Oakley Grove Plantation covered more than 7,000 acres and helped make Warren County the richest county in North Carolina until the Civil War changed everything.

The farm Byron Brown established at Hecks Grove was modest by comparison, but he worked it successfully, growing commodity crops and timber and raising livestock until he died in 1931.

His son, Grover Brown, inherited the farm and cultivated grain and raised livestock on it until his death in 1978.

The next generation continued the family tradition. The Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Brown, Patrick Brown's father, raised livestock and grew vegetables, grain and tobacco while also pastoring several churches in the area.

He "taught me everything that I know about farming," Patrick said.

After Arthur Brown retired in 2003, Patrick Brown took over what became known as Brown Family Farms.

With a degree in business administration from Fayetteville State University and experience as a federal contractor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other government agencies, he was ready to expand to a new class of crops.

After industrial hemp was legalized, Brown planted his first crop of germinated hemp seed in 2018.

"We stopped farming tobacco and now we are focused on regenerative practices that can actually heal people and the environment," he said.

His hemp plants are processed at a local distillery to produce CBD (cannabidiol) in the form of topicals, creams, salves and oils. Because of the research he and his mother did, Brown believes he creates a superior product.

"I have been successful in alleviating ailments with my cannabis products," Brown said, and listed a handful of conditions he believes his products can help, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, pain, PTSD and more.

That's one side of the hemp product story. The other side is industrial hemp.

"You have a CBD variety, and then you have your fiber varieties," Brown said.

This year he grew more than 170 acres of fiber hemp and grain hemp varieties, which he sold to large textile corporations.

"That's the future for the industrial hemp industry," he said.

Regarding a potential move into medicinal or recreational cannabis, Brown noted that those uses are not yet legal in North Carolina.

"I do want to focus on the medicinal space when it becomes legal in North Carolina, but we need to be able to produce products that can go into other industries like manufacturing, textiles, clothing and so forth," he said.

Looking to the future, Brown said, "We would like to be the farm that continues to create." That would include educating other farmers, serving food banks and providing funding and products for herbal medicines.

Brown is the son of the Rev. Dr. Arthur Brown and the late Celeste C. Brown, an educator who served Warren County Schools and Vance County Schools where, among other assignments, she was principal of Southern Vance High School.