Big Dreams to Grow Organic Agriculture Industry in Eastern NC

sugar hill grain

For the next edition of our ongoing series highlighting our 2015 Food Projects, CFSA caught up with Lee Edwards, Owner/President of Sugar Hill Distillery and Organic Grain Company in Kinston, NC. Sugar Hill Organic Grain Co. is one of four awesome food systems projects CFSA is helping to launch in NC this year.

Lee became interested in organic grain while in the process of opening a distillery. He wanted to do organic whiskies, but soon found out that there wasn’t a reliable source of the organic grains needed to do the mashes on a consistent level. The extremely high price of the grain was another big obstacle.  But, Lee’s a stubborn guy; not wanting to let the idea of organic whiskies fade, he set out to find what needed to be done to make it possible for him to get his hands on the cleaned organic grain he needed. Thus, Sugar Hill Grain Company was born.

Sugar Hill Grain Company will source certified organic grain from mostly NC growers.  They plan to buy corn, wheat, rye, and barley directly from certified organic farms, and then bring it to their facility to be cleaned to very strict food grade quality standards and bagged in 50 and 2000 lbs bags. They are on a mission to make sure that any distillery, brewery, mill, or bakery will always have access to the highest quality organic grains available anywhere.


sugar hill grain bagsCFSA:  Tell us a little about your business. What makes you stand out?

Sugar Hill Grain Co is one of the first certified organic grain processing facilities located in Eastern NC. We offer whole cleaned organic grains as well stock custom organic livestock feed mixes. We strive to treat all of our clients with the same respect we want to be treated with -from the beginning to the end of their experience with Sugar Hill Grain. We take great pride in the fact that most grain brought to us by our organic farmers can find a home at our facility – we take in grain from feed to human food quality.


CFSA: Why are you passionate about using local, sustainable foods as a part of your business plan?  Tell us a little about how you work with farmers.

Here at Sugar Hill Grain (SHG) we use locally produced grains with a strong effort to help as many family farms as possible. The organic sustainable grains we choose to purchase here at SHG not only helps our company feel better about what we do, but in return helps preserve this beautiful state we are all so proud to call home. We have been so blessed to work hand in hand with our talented farmers.


CFSA: Why is Eastern NC a great place to be in this business?

Eastern NC has always been the hub, so to speak, of large agriculture in our state. Also, in Eastern NC we are overly blessed with talented farmers who take great pride in the products they have always produced. Not to mention, as far as shipping and distribution, our location in Kinston, NC allows us to be in a central location for distribution in multiple directions.


CFSA: What are your dreams for your business? How can CFSA help you get there?

lee edwardsSugar Hill Grain Company’s Lee Edwards and Britt Holder

My dreams for this business are to grow SHG into a basically one-stop-shop for all the needs of our growing organic agriculture industry here in Eastern NC. We would like to be the operation that helps organic farmers go from planting, seed purchasing, fertilizer, as well as any other inputs they may need for great yields. Then, turn around at harvest time and be the guys that buy back all the grain our farmers have done such a great job growing.

We would like CFSA to help us get to that point though knowledge, marketing, funding strategies, as well as someone to lean on to help us maintain our correct path, as well as point out new opportunities.


CFSA: How do you define success?

I define the success of SHG very simply:

If I am able to provide for my family and employees with this company on top of helping multiple small family farms thrive with the services we offer, then, in my mind, I have done what I set out to do.


CFSA:  What’s your best idea for how we can grow local, organic in the Carolinas? 

The best way to grow local organics in the Carolinas is to invest in the infrastructure to show farmers this is not a passing fad but here to stay for the long run.  Companies such as SHG can definitely have a positive impact on the amount of acres that have the potential to be switched from conventional to organic. Also, with us providing the necessary inputs, fertilizers, and buying capacity of their end product, it gives a broader incentive to go organic.

Learn more about Sugar Hill Distillery and Organic Grain Company

The application period for CFSA’s Food Projects Consulting will open up again in October.  Learn more about this great, free service and our brand new marketing consulting at: