Farm: Cypress Knee Chufa
Operator(s): Donny and Jamie Lassiter
Production: Seeds, Hunting/ Wildlife Conservation
Location: Conway, Northampton County, NC
Cypress Knee Chufa is Donny and Jamie’s small wildlife seed company, they make chufa and wildlife seed blends. They have been in business for 8 years in Northampton County mainly marketing to hunters and wildlife conservationists. Some folks also use chufa for carp fishing and even for human consumption.The chufa seed endeavor is part of the larger family farm that also produces cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and wheat.
Chufa was relatively unheard of in the area when they started the business. Most of it is produced in Spain. The Lassiter’s decided that there was potential in growing the unique product locally, seeing how a local source would benefit their farm and surrounding rural community.
With the grant from RAFI, Donny and Jamie hope to improve their storage of the chufa seed. The current storage method does not effectively protect the quality of the seeds from humidity. The seeds can lose germination potential from the humid weather. Without a properly sealed storage facility, the seed is also exposed to birds and rodents who eat through the bags and destroy the product. The seeds are also at risk of exposure to pesticides, insecticides, fertilizer, oil, and various other chemicals or products used on the farm or in farm equipment.
Cypress Knee Chufa has been an innovative company from the start. Located in rural Northampton County which is a popular hunting destination. The chufa can attract turkey and other wildfowl to hunting properties with great success. Hunting tourism is a major industry in Northampton County. Many hunting outfitters will use the chufa plants to attract wildlife.
Donny and Jamie have been married for four years. They were both raised on family farms in Northampton County. Donny obtained both undergraduate and graduate degrees from NC State. When Donny returned to his family farm, he began exploring niche markets that he had discovered while in school. Donny chose growing chufa as a niche market that could be marketable not only to other farmers and consumers but also to conservationists and hunters in rural areas.
Donny’s wife, Jamie has an undergraduate from UNC- CH and a graduate degree from ECU. She works as a speech therapist at the local elementary school. She has assisted Donny with the chufa business for many years by attending wildlife trade shows and doing marketing work.
Donny employs and manages 10 people on his family’s 7000 acre farm.
During the 2009 selling season, Cypress Knee Chufa grossed $60,000.