When Justin Walker started his freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University, he was an undecided major. As a member of the Blue & Gold Marching Machine, he became a music major.
“I play trumpet, bass guitar, lead guitar, piano and drums. I even tried the banjo,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, his grandfather took ill. He changed his major to agriculture education to learn was to improve upon the methods they used on the family farm. Not long after, his grandfather passed away and Walker took over the farm at the border of Caswell and Alamance counties, where he grew up.
“I soon learned that we owed a lot of money to the government – some years, we had good years, some years we had bad years,” he said.
At the age of 20, Walker became responsible for the entire operation.
“My whole goal was to save the family farm. It wasn’t just going to be us who were affected,” he said.
In addition to his grandmother, mother and sister, Walker has an aunt, an uncle with his wife and some cousins who live in homes on the family’s property. His sense of responsibility coupled with his to duty to repay his grandfather for caring for his family and his passion for farming fueled his desire for success.
“I never saw my grandfather stop working. He saved enough to buy his own farm at the age of 28, he did some logging and he worked third shift at a mill,” he said of his grandfather.
Now, Walker is following in his grandfather’s footsteps. In addition to continuing his studies at A&T and working as a farmer, Walker is also employed at UPS and Lowe’s while offering services like pressure washing, lawn care, snow removal, mulch delivery and spreading, oil changes, tune-ups and more – all under the Double J Farms umbrella. In addition to work and school, Walker is also a caregiver for his grandmother who is living with dementia.
“It’s not typical, my schedule overlaps all the time,” he said. “I tell everybody I work and associate with that I could be late.”
Walker’s latest venture is the Double J Farms Mobile Farmer’s Market Oasis. He was awarded a grant from Rural Advancement Foundation International to retrofit a 6-by-18 trailer to be a mobile market with fruits, vegetables and herbs to serve surrounding areas.
“I work with a lot of different farmers and co-ops in the community to sell their produce and I sell what I grow,” he said. “Eventually, once I am fully self-sufficient, I will grow all of my mobile farmer’s market products.
At this time, Walker grows tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, turnips, collards, mustards, watermelons, sweet corn, cucumbers, basil and several other items. He is looking to bring in more crops like organic grain and tobacco while investing in pigs, goats and possibly cows.
The overlaps of school, work, farm and family continue to happen, it is all pushing him toward his ultimate objective of being a successful entrepreneur and preserving his grandfather’s legacy.
“I just want to farm. I’ve learned so many different things and different practices that I never would have known if I didn’t experience it first hand,” he said. “If everything goes according to plan, I intend to buy more farm land to occupy all of my agricultural interests.”
Walker will continue to work all of his jobs and create ideas to generate revenue. In the meantime, he has created a GoFundMe page to help him offset some of the costs he has incurred caring for his grandmother and trying to pay down the debt on the farm.