2023 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

Since 2012 when they purchased their Franklin County farm, Jason and Tay Brown have actively managed 410 woodland acres as part of a larger agricultural operation established to provide food for people in need. Through their First Fruits Farm, they have donated more than 1 million pounds of produce to their community while also hosting field tours and educational programs for groups such as the Tar River Land Conservancy, the N.C. School for the Blind, Boy and Girl Scouts of America, 4-H and YMCA summer camps. The Browns have made significant road improvements, installed culvert pipes, conducted prescribed burns and thinnings, and conducted final harvests followed by replanting. They have established an orchard of heritage apples and are expanding their hybrid American chestnut planting. Jason is a frequent speaker at conferences and is working with N.C. State University researchers on pond and fish management. First Fruits Farm has been featured on the PBS show Growing a Greener World, NBC’s Today and CBS’s On the Road With Steve Hartman. And Jason has published a book called Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life That Matters that tells the story of his journey from the NFL to a life of service.