The history of Godwin Produce Company dates back all the way to the year 1936 when Enoch E. Godwin, Sr. first began growing sweet potatoes commercially. For the next ten years, the family and tenant farmers grew sweet potatoes and then cured and stored them in the tobacco barns. The sweet potatoes were hand brushed with cotton cloths and placed in boxes according to size. They were then sold to retail markets, mostly in North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.
As his sales grew, Enoch increased his planted acreage of sweet potatoes and also encouraged other local farmers to grow sweet potatoes for him to market. In 1946, Enoch installed what is believed to be the first commercial sweet potato packing line in the state of North Carolina. He also officially incorporated his company as "Godwin Produce Company, Inc." that same year. At that time, the Godwin farming operation included sweet potatoes, tobacco, hay, watermelons, peppers, pecans, cucumbers, and squash.
Enoch began having health complications in the mid-fifties (starting with his first heart attack), however he was still
extremely active in managing his company -- even from a hospital bed he kept in his office during the mid-sixties. During this time, he built several sweet potato warehouses; the first one being built in Benson. However, due to the lack of a sufficient city water supply, Enoch moved the base of his operation to the neighboring town of Dunn. Sweet potato acreage continued to expand across North Carolina with many farmers choosing to grow sweet potatoes as another high value crop that fit in well with their traditional flue-cured tobacco farms.
Not only leading his company, Enoch was also very active in the expansion of the sweet potato industry in North Carolina. Enoch was one of the founding members and the very first president of the North Carolina Yam Association in 1961 (which later became the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, Inc). Enoch's hard work and leadership in the sweet potato industry laid the foundation for the future success of Godwin Produce Company and for other farmers across the state.
When Enoch died in 1965, other family members took over the business. The owners were four of his sons -- Anthony Godwin, George Godwin, Bernard Godwin, and Enoch Godwin, Jr., as well as one of his son-in-laws, Bob Tyler. The company’s packing line was expanded, and the company’s focus began to center completely on its sweet potato operations. As Godwin Produce Company continued to expand its acreage, its sales continued to grow as well. The sons and son-in-law, became known throughout the eastern United States as the "Godwin Boys", and the sales territory covered the area from Florida to Canada. New modern facilities were built on "Yam Street" in Dunn, and North Carolina finally became the number one sweet potato producing state in the country.
In 1985, the oldest three of the co-owners retired, and Anthony and George bought out the business. Farming together since they graduated from high school, the two younger brothers continued to prosper. During one trip to a Florida citrus grower/packer, Anthony and George became very interested in the colorful corrugated packaging that was being used to market the growers' crop. Returning home and meeting with representatives from the corrugated container industry, Godwin Produce Company released the first pre-printed corrugated packaging in the sweet potato industry in 1986. The new design was developed to mimmick the original basket labels that were drawn by Bob Tyler.
Anthony and George continued as leaders in the sweet potato industry for the next ten years. Anthony's son, David, joined the firm full-time in 1994. In 1995, George decided to retire, and Anthony became the sole proprietor. In 2005, David officially became a partner in the company along with his father. Anthony and David continue as co-owners of the business today.
Anthony Godwin has been committed to the sweet potato and farming industry throughout his entire life. As a young man, Anthony was at all of the founding meetings for the North Carolina Yam Commission (although he was 25 years old at the time, the "founders" thought that he was too young to have his name recorded on the original charter). Anthony served numerous terms as a member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Seed Grower's Association and has assisted researchers at NC State University and the NC Cooperative Extension with numerous research endeavors. The NC Sweet Potato Commission has claimed Anthony to be a "leading proponent of quality seed production in North Carolina" and someone who has "been a counselor, advisor, and guide to many in the industry over the years". He was recognized by the commission in 2013 with the Distinguished Service Award for his hard work, selfless dedication, and service to the industry.
Anthony is a lifelong Catholic and attends Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Newton Grove. He is a founding member (and Past Grand Knight) of the Knights of Columbus Dr. John Carr Monk Council # 7259 and of the Fred Schoenleber Assembly # 2490. He is also a retired founding member of the Meadow Fire Department.
Anthony and his wife, Charlotte (deceased in 2015), were the proud parents of five children: Angela, Annette, Barbara, David, and Jo Anna. Anthony has 18 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Anthony's favorite son, David, graduated from North Carolina State University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. After college, David joined the NCSU Department of Public Safety as a fire and life safety inspector. He was promoted in 1988 to the position of Senior Inspector and led the NCSU Fire Protection Division until he returned to his farming roots in 1994. Like his grandfather, David served numerous terms as a member of the Board of Directors and as the President of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. He has also served as President and on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Seed Grower's Association, as well as the North Carolina Sweet Potato Marketing Cooperation. Staying dedicated to his alma mater, David, and his wife, Barbara, joined others as Founders of the Covington Endowment for Sweet Potato Research and Extension at North Carolina State University. David is a member of NC Sweet Potato Commission Campaign for Excellence Steering Committee and also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Research Foundation.
David is a lifelong Catholic and attends Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Newton Grove. He is a member (and Past Grand Knight) of the Knights of Columbus Dr. John Carr Monk Council # 7259 and of the Fred Schoenleber Assembly # 2490.
David and his wife, Barbara, have two daughters, Morgan (husband, Kyle Meyers) and Eryn. They recently welcomed their first grandchild, David Easton Meyers, into the world!