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Today’s Topic: NC trust fund awards 23 grants for farmland preservation, agricultural enterprise projects

4 hours 1 sec ago

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded nearly $2.3 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and develop agricultural enterprises. The trust fund awarded 23 grants to counties, nonprofits and universities.

Funding resources included statewide general appropriations, money from the state’s settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority and, for the first time, funds from the military.

The trust fund collaborated with the military to support agriculture and agribusiness in areas of the state where military bases and training are located. TVA settlement funds were distributed to a 17-county region in Western North Carolina. And general appropriations supported projects across the state.

The 23 projects include conservation easements on farms and forests and helping counties develop farmland protection plans. The grants also support agricultural enterprise projects, such as studying the potential for value-added soybean processing in Eastern North Carolina.

From 1970 to 2010, North Carolina lost 6.6 million acres of farmland. In recent years, the state has been able to slow the rate of farmland loss considerably. But with North Carolina’s population continuing to grow, Commissioner Troxler says development pressure will continue to threaten farms and forests.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss these grants and why partnership between agriculture and the military is important.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Grants awarded for hemlock restoration projects

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 16:14

Dead hemlocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C. Image: Ben Smith, Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests

WNC Communities announced three awards totaling $75,000 to help to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The awards program is a part of the new Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and the NCDA&CS through a grant to WNC Communities.

Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism. The goal of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative is to work with and through current restoration initiatives to ensure that Eastern and Carolina hemlocks can resist the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on North Carolina’s public and private lands by 2025.

An advisory committee recommended three projects for funding. Together, these projects advance three complementary treatment and restoration methods: chemical treatment to stabilize hemlock trees until more lasting solutions are available, predator beetles to provide long-term adelgid control, and the search for native resistance or tolerance. The recipients are:

The three projects provide opportunities for hemlock restoration across all 17 Western North Carolina counties eligible for the award funds, and each project will also include efforts to educate the general public on how they can help support these restoration efforts.

These projects will each receive $25,000 in award funds, thanks to $50,000 allocated from the NCDA&CS Hemlock Restoration Initiative grant to WNC Communities, and $25,000 donated to WNC Communities by Brad Stanback, a Haywood County landowner and member of the advisory committee.

“We are very grateful to Commissioner Troxler, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and Mr. Stanback for making these funds available,” said Linda Lamp, executive director of WNC Communities. “We also sincerely appreciate the recipients, the other award applicants, the rest of the advisory committee, and countless other individuals, groups, and agencies who are offering help and hope for restoring our hemlocks to long-term health.”

“Hemlocks are important to fish, wildlife, homeowners, businesses and tourism,” Troxler said. “It’s going to take a team effort to protect and restore these trees, and we’re happy to support the search for potential solutions.”

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative Advisory Committee includes representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, NCDA&CS, the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests, WNC Communities, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Each agency and group has provided considerable time and financial support for hemlock restoration activities throughout Western North Carolina.

-Information from WNC Communities

News Roundup: Aug. 23-29

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 10:53

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Several Facets to Implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Southern Farm Network: At the Food Safety Forum this week, several speakers outlined the coming changes with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is being implemented in stages, with the export segment coming next. NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler explains why we need food safety legislation: “There is no doubt that we have the safest food supply in the world. So the question is why do we need this system. Think back to the tomato recall a few years ago, it did about $250 million in damage but it turned out it wasn’t even the tomatoes.” Troxler explains that the new food safety system will be an integrated system: “Out of this bad came a lot of good and that is an integrated food system. Integration between FDA and the states and the local food safety official to make it all work is needed.” …
  • “Worms, stink bugs prove to be problems for North Carolina farmers this year,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist Dominic Reisig says this year is shaping up to be one of the worst years ever for plant bugs in the state with heavier infestations of stink bugs, tobacco budworms and corn earworms being found in more fields. “I’ve been here for five years and it’s been as bad as I’ve ever seen. It’s probably as bad as we’ve seen for 30 years or longer,” Reisig says. “I expect plant bugs are a trend that’s here to stay so farmers are going to need to remain ever-vigilant in their scouting.” The insect infestations appear to be hitting the northeastern part of North Carolina the hardest. …
  • “Officials to hold public meeting on Sanderson Farms poultry processing center,” Fayetteville Observer: To help counter the opposition by some residents and landowners, local officials are holding a public meeting Tuesday to talk about a proposed chicken processing plant. The Fayetteville Regional Chamber is hosting the meeting on the floor of the Crown Coliseum with the support of the Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, whose members are eager to land the $113 million plant that would employ about 1,000 workers. …
  • “NCSF wants local fare,” Carteret County News-Times: A push to use more local seafood and a ticketed concert are two changes for the N.C. Seafood Festival this year. More than 65 festival sponsors, media, board members and affiliates met Thursday at Chef’s 105 to learn what’s new at this year’s event, set for Friday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Oct. 6. In its 28th year, the festival that packs downtown will feature live music, food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides, a few athletic events and the Blessing of the Fleet nondenominational ceremony Oct. 6 that honors the commercial fishing industry. The community-oriented event benefits many of the county’s nonprofit groups, churches and more through their various efforts. Festival board members are making an effort to promote local seafood and produce in partnership with sponsors Got To Be N.C. Agriculture and Got To Be N.C. Seafood, a part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture, according to this year’s festival chairman Patrick Conneely. Thirty-two of 51 food vendors will sell local seafood, Mr. Conneely said. They’ll display a yellow flag at their booths that reads, “Fresh. Local. Got to be N.C. Seafood.” …
  • “Cabarrus County Farmer Takes Educating the Consumer Seriously,” Southern Farm Network: Earlier this week at the 10th Annual Food Safety Forum, hosted by NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler, poultry, swine and cattle farmer Tommy Porter sat on a panel discussing food safety issues from the farm to the plate. Porter takes his responsibility seriously when it comes to educating the consumer about where their food comes from: “I would much rather be home on the farm than sitting on a panel. But I would never turn down an opportunity to talk about the farmers side of the story. The consumer needs to know where their food comes from and how safe it is. And how its produced, everything from the land to the fertilizers to the equipment. We have the safest and most economical food supply in the world and consumers need to know that. And how it gets to their table. There is a lot of science and work that goes into it. There is science, for example breeding stock, to get to what the consumer demands on their table. If we can reach out and educate, that is why I’m here. That is why I took the day off from the farm and I think its worthwhile.” …
  • “Get out on the farms for fall,” Charlotte Observer: Once school starts and the vacation season ends, a lot of things compete for our attention. But some of the best local food all year hits fields in fall. It’s also cooler and less humid, the perfect time to make an excursion to a farm. What can you get and where can you get it? Here are a few farms with special things to offer in fall. For the full lists of you-pick farms and farmers markets that stay open through October, including the markets that are open all winter, go to …
  • “Farmers expect to offer plenty of fruit,” Hendersonville Times-News: Despite hard freezes, frost and hailstorms, Henderson County’s apple orchards emerged from all the bad weather with plenty of fruit for the N.C. Apple Festival. “Everybody around has got different damage in different orchards,” said Jerred Nix, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers. “Some places, Romes are affected; other places, they’re not. Some places, Galas are affected, and others they’re fine.” Despite the scattered damage, Nix said there will be no lack of unblemished apples in a range of varieties for sale at the Apple Festival, which starts Friday and runs through Monday, Labor Day. …
  • “Charlotte’s Gleaning Network gets food from fields to the hands of hungry people,” Charlotte Observer: It started in a field of corn on a farm near Concord. It ended with a hungry family in Charlotte. In between, a chain of volunteers gave time, sweat and gasoline to pick the corn, drive it where it was needed and hand it out. “It’s the best job ever,” says Jean Siers, the Charlotte coordinator for the Gleaning Network, which matches volunteers with farms that have more food than they can pick. “At the end of the day, you know somebody ate something healthy and good because you picked up the phone.” The Gleaning Network is one of a half-dozen groups in the Charlotte area that make up the system of food banks, emergency pantries and community gardens. It is also one of the few that focuses exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies by the USDA have found that 17 percent of North Carolina households were in danger of not having enough nutritious food in 2012. …


In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: August recipe roundup

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:41

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their Got to Be Good Cookin’ segment using ingredients grown and available right here in North Carolina. Featured this month are salads made with fresh, local ingredients found at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the state.

This month, Brian and Lisa make an appetizer, dessert, main dish and salad using an abundance of fresh N.C. produce.

The first recipe is a appetizer that was originally entered in the N.C. State Fair by Gail Fuller of Raleigh. Lisa says the Summer Sushi Roll is “perfect for summer” and a “great way to get kids to eat their vegetables.” The recipe below uses Savoy cabbage but any type of cabbage can be used.

Summer Sushi Roll


  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 1⁄2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 10 large Savoy cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium fresh carrot
  • 15 spears fresh asparagus
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 2 slices fresh onion


For the rice:

  • In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix to a boil.
  • Add the rice, cover and steam until rice is tender. (about 10 minutes)
  • Cool and add the cream cheese, mixing well.
  • Refrigerate until cold and solid.

To prepare vegetables:

  • Cut carrot into about 6 inch sticks, the sweet pepper into slices and cut the onion slice in half.
  • Bring 1 cup of water and chicken bouillon to simmer.
  • Add all vegetables and blanch about 2 minutes (until just tender, but still whole).
  • Remove cabbage leaves, pat dry and let them come to room temperature.

To make the sushi:

  • Lay 2 cabbage leaves flat on work surface.
  • Spread about ½ cup rice mixture evenly on cabbage. (mixture will be sticky)
  • Lay 1-2 asparagus spears, 1-2 carrot sticks, 1-2 slices of yellow pepper and 1-2 half rings of onion lengthwise across the spinach leaves.
  • Roll cabbage leaves tightly around vegetables.
  • Cut each roll into 4-6 slices

Next Lisa and Brian make peach wontons from fresh N.C. peaches. Brian calls these a “new take on the peach turnover.” Lisa suggests making these wontons with a variety of N.C. fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or plums. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Peach Wontons


  • 8 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
  • 1⁄2 cup N.C. peaches (peeled and chopped, 1-2 peaches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • peanut oil
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream


In a sauce pan, add butter, honey and peaches. Sauté until the peaches are soft. Stir in cornstarch and let boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool fully in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Beat the egg and add a little water to make an egg wash. Place a dollop of the peach mixture on the wonton. Brush egg wash around the edges and press together at the tips.

In a large, heavy duty pot, add enough peanut oil to allow wontons to swim and heat to 350 degrees. Add wontons and fry until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Place 2 fried wontons on a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Lisa’s husband, Robert, provided the next recipe, which Brian notes uses so many ingredients that their might not be “anything left at the grocery store after this one.” Lisa suggests it is a “great way to use all that stuff coming from the garden.” It is her version of Chinese comfort food. Add a little sriracha if you want a little extra heat .

Robert’s Stir-Fry


  • 2 cups sticky rice, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 green onions (green only cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons celery, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce plus and few dashes
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 3⁄4 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cups broccoli florets and stalks cut small
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces water chestnuts, sliced and drained
  • 5 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups peppers (red, yellow, green, sliced)
  • soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


For the Broth:

Combine chicken broth, green onion, celery, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Let simmer on low for 30 minutes then turn off to cool.

For the Chicken:

Chicken is easier to slice thin if slightly frozen. Place the chicken in a zip lock bag add the egg white and coat. Combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Pour into the bag and shake to coat.

In a large pan or wok, set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add the yellow onion and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger, cook for 10-20 seconds. Don’t burn it. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink and starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Continue to toss and stir the chicken. The chicken can be cooked in 2 batches but remember to divide your oils, onion, garlic and ginger. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

For the Sauce:

Combine ¼ cup soy sauce, ¾ tablespoon oyster sauce and ½ cup of the broth mixture. Then add ½ tablespoon cornstarch and stir to combine.

For the Vegetables:

In same pan, still set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add spring onions and cook for 30 seconds add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger and cook for a few seconds, and then add the mushrooms. Continue to stir so the garlic does not burn. Cook for a minute so the mushrooms can sweat. Then add water chestnuts, dash or two of soy sauce, pinch of salt and pepper cooking for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and celery with another pinch of salt and dash soy sauce and cook until they begin to soften. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the sauce to the pan and then the broccoli. Turn heat down to medium. Add the rest of the broth mixture if more juice is needed. Stir occasionally keeping the broccoli on top as much as possible. Cover to steam the broccoli for 2-3 minutes and serve over the rice.

The month wraps up with a cold marinated salad which Lisa says is perfect for summer.

Edamame and Green Bean Salad


  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces Edamame (shelled soybeans)
  • 1 pound green beans (trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 green onions (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1⁄2 red pepper (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
  • 1 can Garbanzo beans (15.5 oz drained and rinsed)


  • In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper; gradually add olive oil.
  • Cook edamame in boiling water for 5 minutes, then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Cook green beans in boiling water for 3-6 minutes then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Combine the edamame, green beans, garbanzo beans, green onions, red pepper and parsley. Pour dressing over the salad and gently stir to coat. Refrigerate a few hours before serving.


Taking care of your lawn also means taking care of your trees

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:47

Mowers and trimmers can damage trees and may cause dieback, disease or decay. Image: J. O’Brien, USDA Forest Service,

It’s summer in North Carolina and that means many homeowners are pulling out the mowers on a regular basis to keep their grass trimmed throughout the growing season. While mowers may make your lawns look great though, they have the potential to make your trees look terrible.  Mowers and trimmers have the potential to damage trees, causing mechanical injury.

Trees can’t really “heal” the way you and I think of healing.  That’s why when a branch is trimmed, a permanent scar remains on the tree rather than new bark growing over it.  Instead, trees compartmentalize damage so that it does not injure other parts of the tree.  When trees are injured over and over or injured severely, it could lead to dieback, disease, decay and in some cases, death.  They just may not be able to get over the injury you cause them.

So, while you’re out in the yard this summer, cut your trees a break by not cutting them with power equipment.  Take extra care when mowing or trimming around your trees.  Another option is to mulch around your trees.  Not only will this result in a healthier tree with better soil moisture available, but you will not need to mow or trim against the main stem of the tree.

Today’s Topic:

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:03

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The state budget approved by the General Assembly directed the N.C. Forest Service to start charging fees for woodland plans, which are commonly known as forest management plans. The budget bill also allowed the state Board of Agriculture to review and approve the fees, which the board did in early August.

Woodland plans will have a base fee of $45. In addition, there will be a fee of $3 per acre for forest management plans and forest stewardship plans, both of which are comprehensive plans. Practice plans, which are simpler plans that usually address just one management practice, will cost $2 per acre in addition to the base fee.

Commissioner Troxler says there are financial and environmental benefits to having a woodland plan. For example, certain types of plans can qualify a landowner for participation in the state’s Forestry Present Use Valuation Program, resulting in significant property tax reductions.

Woodland plans provide detailed forestry recommendations, but they can also advise landowners on wildlife habitat, soil and water protection, and recreational opportunities. In addition, they can help qualify landowners for forest certification.

The N.C. Forest Service continues to offer a variety of programs and services that are free of charge.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss forest management plans.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Aug. 15-22

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:37

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Native Son: Winery takes root on family farm,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: In fields where tobacco once flourished, a new crop has taken over. Planted deep in land that Tammy Smith played on as a child, next to the family farm where she grew up, are the muscadines. Muscadines are the native grapes first mentioned by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 before the United States came into existence. They are as rooted into the soil of North Carolina as her family. …
  • “Caswell site gets land conservancy grant,” Burlington Times-News: The Piedmont Land Conservancy has been awarded $314,000 to assist with the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement in Caswell County. The easement is on 363 acres of a livestock and poultry farm owned by V. Mac and Peggy Baldwin of Yanceyville. Also, the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center at Mount Olive University received $192,764 for a project that will serve Alamance County. The grants are part of nearly $2.3 million that the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund awarded to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. …
  • “Blackland Farm Managers Tour draws big crowd,” Southeast Farm Press: Rainy weather brought muddy fields to the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth on Aug. 6 which meant field tours had to be taken off the agenda of the 44th annual Blackland Farm Managers Tour, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 400 farmers and others in attendance. “We were very pleased with the tour,” said Beaufort County Extension Agent Rob Gurganus, who served as master of ceremonies. “Of course, we had hoped to do field tours, but we made adjustments and carried on. We fed 430 people, and all told I would guess we had more than 450 people on hand because some folks left before the meal. Without a doubt, valuable information was presented at the tour.” …
  • “Safety first for today’s farmers,” Robesonian: Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the world. Working with heavy equipment, live animals, and various other tasks around the farm create ample opportunities for accidents to occur. Farm workers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. According to a recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 374 farm workers died from work-related injuries resulting in a fatality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers. …
  • “Forestry plans no longer free,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Fees must now be paid for forest management plans developed by the N.C. Forest Service. As required under the state budget recently approved by the N.C. General Assembly, the forest service developed and recently announced a schedule of fees for certain services that previously were free. The fees start with a base charge of $45 for any type of woodland plan and include another $3 per acre for forest management plans and forest stewardship plans and $2 per acre for practice plans.
  • “Apple harvest opens across county,” Hendersonville Lightning: Henderson County apple growers have began harvesting early apples amid guarded optimism that the 2014 crop will bring favorable market prices. Crews fanned out in apple country orchards where the earliest varieties, the yellow Ginger Gold and the popular Gala, have ripened. “We’ve just been getting started harvesting,” said Jack Ruff, an “Enjoy NC Apples” marketing specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. …
  • “Swine Producers Ramping Up for another PEDv Season,” Southern Farm Network: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus has the reputation of taking the summer off, so to speak, and remerging again in cold weather. Dr. Gene Nemechek, Technical services veterinarian with Zoetis, working with swine producers and swine veterinarians in North Carolina says it’s time to re-evaluate some biosecurity measures: “I think most of them are continuing to think about things like transportation issues that are high risk in spreading the virus. …
  • “Brown marmorated stink bug found at damaging levels in Cleveland County N.C.,” Southeast Farm Press: For those accustomed to the rapid spread of kudzu bugs, the brown marmorated stink bug seems like a slowpoke. This is an insect we’ve been talking and warning about for years. Unfortunately it’s decided to make its debut in Cleveland County. Here are some initial observations about it, predictions, and what should be done. Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invader from Asia. It has been confirmed in many parts of North Carolina, but its main distribution has so far been restricted to the mountains and Piedmont. …
  • “Getting the NC Tobacco Crop to the Finish Line Full of Challenges,” Southern Farm Network: Growing tobacco in North Carolina has been mostly a trouble-free affair, once it got into the ground. But, as we’re aiming for the finish line on this year’s crop Don Nicholson, NCDA Regional Agronomist says some problems are starting to pop up: “Normally we would be saying we are very close to the finish line, but this year we are very late. The crop has been in the field a long time but we are going to start seeing some progress as well as some problems come up. I’m seeing what I call ‘popcorn’ where the stalks are starting to show disease, mainly wilt. And with wet fields, and more moisture, you are seeing folks having to go in and save what they can.”
  • “NC breweries tapped to create ‘state beer,’” News & Observer: It took official acts and legislative debate to get North Carolina a state dog (Plott hound), state flower (dogwood) and state tree (longleaf pine). It will take more than 20 breweries to get a state beer. Margo Knight Metzger, the director of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, announced the effort to make a “statewide collaboration beer” Wednesday at a beer industry event at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s new facility in Charlotte. The idea is to create a single beer using all N.C. ingredients and input from a group of N.C. brewers.  …

August: What’s happening on the farm?

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:11

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.

There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount. 

Field days are important outreach opportunities for research stations, where farmers and visitors can see research being conducted firsthand in a field setting and gain new insights into production techniques from researchers. The staff with the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been busy in recent weeks getting the station ready for Cotton Field Day on Sept. 10 and a Wild Soybean Breeding Tour on Sept. 30. A Sorghum and Corn Aflatoxin Control Field Day was held Aug. 14. These events draw farmers from near and far in Eastern North Carolina because of the widespread production of these crops in this part of the state.

The Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been showcasing its agricultural research work for a long time, as it is the oldest of the 18 state-operated stations in the state, starting on a trial basis in 1902. The station has about 450 acres in research trials. Dr. Clyde Bogle has been the station superintendent for over 24 years.

Cotton, soybeans, sorghum and corn  are not the only crops at the station. It also produces burley and flue-cured tobacco, peanuts, small grain and small acreages of other crops. In fact, in one field visitors can see burley tobacco growing beside flue-cured tobacco, something that does not occur in real life. The site contains three black shank nurseries and Granville wilt nursery for developing disease management strategies and disease-resistant cultivars in tobacco, Sclerotina and CBR disease nurseries for fields involved in weed and insect studies. Weed management strategies are being developed for the various crops utilizing nearly 50 acres devoted to weed nurseries. Also, insect management studies are being conducted in tobacco, cotton, soybeans and corn.

Burley tobacco (plants at right with longer, more upright leaves) and flue-cured tobacco (plants to the left with shorter, more arching leaves) are planted side by side in one field at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount. Research specialist Louis Pitt manages tobacco production at the station.

One of the research station’s three black shank nurseries. The white bags over the tobacco blooms are used to collect seed from plants that were more resistant to the disease.


































Creig Deal, a research specialist who manages all crop trials other than tobacco, recently showed off some of the work on the station, and crops and test plots looked good with a few obvious exceptions — fields being used for weed control and disease and insect research.

In a normal growing situation, farmers would try to keep weeds from growing up with plants, Deal said, but in a research situation rows that have been treated for weeds and those left untreated illustrate the effectiveness of various types of weed control. In another field, Dan Mott, an agricultural research specialist with N.C. State University, was looking for insects in a cotton field. Using two flat wooden sticks and a black canvas, Mott hit the leaves of the cotton plant knocking loose any insects in the plant onto the canvas. Then he quickly counted and inventoried the insects so he would know the insect pressure in the field.

Farmers routinely survey fields for pests as part of day-to-day management of crops.

This photo shows a weed research plot. The two rows in the center have been treated for weeds; the two rows on either side have not been treated.


Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott looks for insects in a cotton field.


Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott discusses the insect findings with Creig Deal, the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station crop research specialist.

Research is expected to help farmers meet future food needs by finding new plants and techniques to increase yields and efficiencies on the farm. The United Nations predicts farmers will need to increase production by 75 to 100 percent by 2050, so agricultural research will be critical going forward.

Learning what  doesn’t work is equally as important as what does work when it comes to agricultural production, and saves farmers the time and expense of having to do their own experiments to improve crop production. A calendar of field days planned at the research stations can be found here.


Flavor, NC: Coon Rock Farm

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 15:26

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode one of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough and  Zely & Ritz restaurant in Raleigh.

There are more than 600 family farms in Orange County. Coon Rock Farm, located in Hillsborough, is a sustainable farm bordering the Eno River. Owners Richard Holcomb and Jamie Dement grow several garden crops and provide pasture-raised chickens, eggs, pigs, lambs and goats.

The same year Holcomb and Dement bought Coon Rock Farm, they opened Zely and Ritz in Raleigh. More than half of the ingredients used at the restaurant are fresh from Coon Rock Farm. This includes more than 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including Mr. Stripey and Cherokee purple. Be sure to watch the whole episode to get Lisa’s tips for choosing and storing tomatoes.

Below is the recipe for Bacon Basil Tomato Sauce, which  uses many of the ingredients found at Coon Rock Farms. Serve over pasta for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.


1 pound bacon
2 pounds peeled, chopped tomatoes
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice bacon into 1/4-inch chunks. Fry in skillet until almost done. Add minced garlic. When garlic starts to look clear, add tomatoes and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add basil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta and garnish with fresh grated cheese.


Blogging from the fireline

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 08:49

With humid conditions, the summer months are typically less active for the North Carolina Forest Service in terms of battling wildfires. However, the same isn’t true for other parts of the country. As part of a cooperative agreement, the N.C. Forest Service has been dispatching employees to assist with suppressing wildfires in the western United States.

A dispatch normally lasts for 14 days, plus two days for travel at each end of the assignment. Jobs filled by NCFS personnel include everything from the top manager on a fire (the incident commander) to members of hand crews digging fire breaks in the soil. At press time, there were 93 employees assigned to out-of-state incidents.

Mecklenburg County Forester Eddie Reese recently sent back an update from the front lines of the South Fork Complex fire in Oregon. Reese’s group is at the end of its dispatch and will return to North Carolina this week.

Western fire detail has an ideological air about it that the public seems to fear and respect. Ever since the early 1900s it has been the job of forestry agencies to contain all wildfires that occur in nature to protect life and property. Over the last 114 years our western areas have been impacted from the decision to completely contain and extinguish all wildfires. Also, our western areas have experienced large insect killed timber areas that aren’t harvested and also extended droughts that have added to the overall fire potential in our western states.

This year, 2014, has been another one for the record books for the Northwestern United States. Northern California, Oregon and Washington have been the victims of all of the above factors coming together to make this year’s fire season extremely active. To date, the N.C. Forest Service as sent more than 120 personnel out to aid in the containment of these wildfires and gain further experience dealing with extreme fires. I had the opportunity to come to Oregon to help this year with the South Fork Complex. The last couple of days have been really active on this fire. We have two N.C. Forest Service hand crews on this fire, as well as myself as Situation Unit Leader, a Division Supervisor, and a Communication Technician. We all have our role to play — from the crew actively engaging the fire on the fireline, to Division Supervisors supervising the crews and other resources on the fireline, to the Communication Technician helping maintain radio communication between all of the personnel on the fire, to my position, Situation Unit Leader, which is as you would think, keeping abreast of the current situation of the fire and creating maps to aid those on the ground with where they are, and where the fire is headed.

Wildfire is a very fluid “beast” that tends to have a mind of its own. The South Fork Complex is no different. On Aug. 7, the fire jumped across a road and river that were side by side, and burned 7,000 acres in less than six hours. Crews and engines tried to keep the fire contained by using burn out operations (burning brush ahead of the fire) to get a handle on it, but the fire spotted across the burn out areas and continued its push. Our plans change daily and our ground personnel are critical to gaining the upper hand on the fire. To date the South Fork complex has burned about 64,990 acres and is 72 percent contained. The incident has changed from a Type 2 Team to a Type 1 Team.

A typical sleeping arrangement for dispatched fire fighters.

Preparing a weather balloon.

The sun is obscured by the thick smoke in the area.

A helicopter is on its way to drop water on the fire.

Today’s Topic: August crop report forecasts big year for soybeans, cotton

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 07:59

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

USDA’s August crop report forecasts a big year for soybeans, cotton, flue-cured tobacco and peanuts in North Carolina.

More than 1.6 million acres of soybeans have been planted in North Carolina this year, and the yield is forecast to be 37 bushels per acre. That combination of acres and yield should push production up 32 percent compared with 2013.

Cotton acres are a little higher than last year, but the yield is forecast to be 939 pounds per acre. That’s 140 pounds higher than last year’s yield. Total production is forecast at 910,000 bales, which is a 19 percent increase.

Production of flue-cured tobacco is forecast at 416 million pounds, which is 16 percent higher than last year. Commissioner Troxler says some in the business are describing the crop as a barn buster, but recent wet weather in eastern North Carolina may temper the yield.

Peanut production also is expected to increase this year. The yield is projected to be 4,000 pounds per acre, which is not far off the record of 4,100 pounds that was set just two years ago. Peanut acreage is forecast at 89,000 acres, and total production is expected to be 356 million pounds. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2013’s totals.

These crops are on the rise, but corn production is forecast to dip about 15 percent this year. Acreage is forecast to be 800,000 acres, and the yield is projected to be 132 bushels per acre. That’s 10 bushels less than last year’s record yield.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the latest crop report.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Photos from the field: Commissioner Troxler attends Blackland Farm Managers Tour

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 16:01

Commissioner Troxler recently visited the Tidewater Research Station for the Blackland Farm Managers Tour. Troxler and Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, talked about equipment and technology upgrades to the 18 research stations across the state that are operated in partnership between N.C. State, N.C. A&T State University and NCDA&CS. Following are photos from the event.

The entrance to Tidewater Research Station near Plymouth.


From left to right, N.C. Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, Rep. Paul Tine, N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, Commissioner Steve Troxler, Rep. Jimmy Dixon and Dawson Pugh, president of the Blackland Farm Managers Association.


Commissioner Troxler, center, talks with Dean Linton , left, and legislators Tine and Dixon.


Some of the new equipment being added at the research stations to improve efficiency in production and research. Different brands of equipment are being added since farmers today use a variety of brands.


Bethany Pugh, in the white shirt, was recognized at the Blackland Farm Managers Tour as the regional winner of Monsanto’s America’s Farmer’s Mom of the Year.


News Roundup: Aug. 9-15

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:15

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Grafting operation called ‘a day to remember’ in farm economy,” Hendersonville Lightning: A global partnership’s decision to locate a plant-grafting operation in Mills River was described as a “monumental” recruitment coup and a “day to remember” for the business of farming in Henderson County and Western North Carolina. The international venture, a partnership of American, Italian and Israeli companies called Tri-Hishtil, announced the greenhouse operation that will bring 125 agricultural, marketing and management jobs to a 42-acre site formerly owned by Van Wingerden International on NC 19. Company officials and local agricultural leaders said the Mills River operation represents the first large-scale vegetable-grafting operation of its kind in the U.S.  …
  • “NC forest ranger from Morganton killed,” Morganton News-Herald: A state forest ranger from Morganton died Wednesday afternoon at Tuttle Educational State Forest. Education Ranger Jimmy Halliburton, 31, died while he and other forest staff members were trying to remove a tree that had fallen in the road, according to information from the state forest service. The crews were trying to use a tractor to remove the tree when the tree hit Halliburton in mid-section. EMS responded but Halliburton was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the information from the state. “We are heartbroken over the loss of Jimmy Halliburton, and our prayers are with his family,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. …
  • “North Carolina Pork Had Been Surging In Russia… Not Anymore,” WUNC: Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt. Russia released the list Thursday for what Western products it will no longer allow into the country. The move comes in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions leveled against Russia as a consequence for its interventions in Ukraine. The news is not a death knell for meat producers (nearly all of North Carolina’s exports to Russia come from the two Smithfield plants in Clinton and Tar Heel). But it will likely mean lost revenue. “The world demand for meat is greater than the supply,” said Peter Thornton, Assistant Director of the NC Department of Agriculture’s International Trade Office. “Yes, you will find a different market. But each time you lose a buyer you lose one more person who will influence the price in a positive direction. So that will have an impact. Hopefully it’s only slight. But it’s nothing you ever want to see.” …
  • “Popular No Calorie Sweetener Being Grown in the Carolinas,” Southern Farm Network: The alternative, no calorie sweetener, Stevia has been under cultivation in North Carolina since 2011 on private lands as well as research plots. Molly Hamilton, Extension Assistant in the Department of Crop Science with NC State: “It is winter hearty, but we had a really hard winter this year and there was a lot of kill in the fields. We are looking at what temperatures it can tolerate and what types of soil it is best grown in. We are expecting that this crop will be harvested for 3-5 years. The growth comes on in the spring and its harvested 1-2 times in the summer then it dies in the winter and resprouts in the spring.” …
  •  “Hops farming takes root,” The Wilson Times: The increasing interest in craft beer in North Carolina has taken off and inspired Guilford and Pam Leggett to grow their own hops in Wilson County. The idea came from their son, Justin, a homebrewer, and resulted in the Leggetts planting their first crop in April on a patch of land off Packhouse Road where they eventually plan to build a house. What they didn’t expect was to have a bumper crop at their first harvest, Aug. 2, and plans are already in the works for a second harvest in September. “We had no idea we would have 50 pounds of hops with our first harvest,” said Pam Leggett. “We were told we would have no hops this year.” …
  • “Growing a new cash crop with Chinese medicinal herbs,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The tobacco raised by Western North Carolina farmers once provided a good cash crop for a product deemed unsafe by the U.S. Surgeon General. Now farmers could make good money raising herbs for better health through traditional Chinese medicine. “These mountains have been growing medicinal herbs forever. A lot of these herbs grow well here and it’s more sustainable agriculture,” said Amy Hamilton, who operates Appalachian Seeds Farm & Nursery in Rutherford County. Hamilton is a founding member of the Appalachian Botanical Alliance, a cooperative of women exploring how to grow and market healing plants from a medical tradition halfway around the world. …
  • “Q&A: Why Farmers Markets Are Growing in the American South,” National Geographic Daily News: Federal assistance programs allow low-income regions to enjoy the season’s bounty. For many living in the lower reaches of the United States, it’s a touch of southern comfort: Farmers markets—with offerings of peaches, sweet corn, watermelon, and cantaloupe—are cropping up across the region, filling “fresh food deserts” with local produce and offering healthier alternatives to low-income families. New data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that between 2013 and 2014, five of the states that saw the biggest increase in farmers markets were in the South — Tennessee (20.2 percent), Louisiana (12.1 percent), Texas (6.6 percent), Arkansas (5.4 percent), and North Carolina (4.8 percent). Combined, the five states now support 725 unique markets. …
  • “Race-team owner’s NC vineyard marks 10 years,” Lexington Dispatch: Richard Childress is best known for developing world-renowned race teams, but his name has now become known in a different industry where his demand for perfection has led to a successful winery that is celebrating a major milestone. Childress Vineyards is holding a variety of special events to pay homage to 10 years of wine making. “It’s gone by so fast,” Childress said. “It’s been good. Like everyone else, we have been through challenges, but we’ve had so much support from locals in Davidson County and tremendous support from throughout the state.” …
  • “Port could be home to new cold storage warehouse,” Wilmington Star-News: Plans have been submitted to the city for a major cold storage warehouse to go up at the Port of Wilmington. The plans, submitted Wednesday, call for a 101,537-square-foot building on 6.72 acres at 1 Shipyard Blvd. It will be 44 feet tall, said Charles Schoninger, who heads the facility’s developer, USA InvestCo. The warehouse will have 3 million cubic feet and approximately 11,000 pallet positions, according to its website. …
  • “Sweet potatoes lead produce hit parade in North Carolina,” The Produce News: North Carolina produce crops brought in $608 million last year for fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. And sweet potatoes led the way, Kevin D. Hardison is quick to point out. Hardison is a marketing specialist with a 14-year career in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Raleigh that brings a working knowledge of the 60 kinds of produce grown in the Tarheel State. “We’re ranked first in the nation for growing sweet potatoes,” Hardison noted, gesturing toward racks of publications touting North Carolina vodka, butter and chips made from sweet potatoes, microwave-ready yams and even recipes for gourmet meals with sweet potato French fries. …
  • “Deadly U.S. Pig Virus Can Be Carried In Animal Feed: Study,” Reuters: A research study has shown for the first time that livestock feed can carry a virus that has killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd, the study’s lead author said, confirming suspicions among farmers and veterinarians battling outbreaks. The findings, published this month in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, bring increased scrutiny on the feed industry in the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv. The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million piglets since it was first identified in the United States last year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs. …


Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 15:17

Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This month, we are featuring Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West in Raleigh. He describes his cooking style as “cooking with love,” and “French classic and modern.”

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces two local chefs face off in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. Each chef’s menu is created around a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed at noon on the day of the competition. This secret ingredient must be used in each of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Falcoz-Vigne  went up against Chef Adam Jones of Dean’s Seafood Bar and Grill in the quarter-final round of Fire in the Triangle on July 21. The secret ingredients were Kerala Curry from Pittsboro and Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh . Chef Falcoz-Vigne won the night and went on to compete in the semifinals on July 29.

Fire in the Triangle ended Aug. 4 with Chef Dean Thompson of Flights besting Chef Steve Zanini of Jimmy V’s Steak House & Tavern. Tickets for Battle in the City in Charlotte are on sale now, with a few dates already sold out.

Chef Falcoz-Vigne provided the following winning Elk Meatloaf recipe from course four of the quarter-final battle:


  • 2 pounds ground elk meat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/5 cup of Kerala Curry tomatoes, plus 1/2 cup for spread on the top
  • 1/2 cup bread crumb
  • 1 cup of duck fat
  • some chopped sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the duck fat in a pan or skillet. Mix carrots, celery and onion together and saute. Add the garlic, toss, and move off the hot burner. Let rest until you need it again.

Meanwhile, grind the elk meat, and incorporate all the elements left, mix well with your hands, it’s always better than all mechanical stuff (another tip from the chef)

To be sure of the seasoning, take 1-2 tablespoons of the mix and cook it in a pan and eat it. That way you will be able to taste if there is enough salt or pepper or if there is other seasoning you would like to add a bit more.

When you are happy with the flavor, form the mixture into a loaf, either in some individual greased containers, or one large one. Spread the Kerala tomato chutney on top.

Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let the dish rest a little before serving it, first because it will be too hot to eat and, a burnt tongue can’t taste very well. Second, because it’s always better to give a rest to this kind of product, when we expect all the flavor to come together… just relax a moment and let it rest .

Parsnip Puree with Labneh yogurt

  • 2.5 pounds of parsnips, peeled and cleaned
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • ½ pound of Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh
  • white salt and white pepper
  • 1 pound of love

Cut the parsnips and cook until soft. Puree in a food processor, add the butter.

Next, add the labneh yogurt cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Company, but not with the electric appliance, because at this point we need to be delicate… Let’s respect the product, this cheese is a fine one, so, you have to be careful when blending.

Add salt and pepper, but white pepper. Why? because What you see influences what you taste! And the labneh parsnip puree is so pretty, with no trace of black pepper. The specks of the black pepper will deter your attention when it come s to the moment of using your taste buds.

Use a spoon and try, If you like it, it’s good, if not, simply add more seasoning!

Heirloom tomato demi-glace:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup cup duck fat or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes
  • celery, garlic, thyme
  • 1 quart of veal, beef or chicken (or all three of them)

In a pot, add some duck fat, carrots, onions, celery, garlic cloves, thyme, and heirloom tomatoes cut into chunks. Heat over medium heat, let cook, like confit (we said that when the products cooked in some kind of fat, together, like when friends hang-out and chill with each other and each bring the best of themselves to the party).

When the color and the smell looks right, add the veal or beef base, combined with some chicken base too if you got some, and let cook slowly, until the consistency looks thick and not runny. You can also add a little bit of the Kerala tomato chutney, if you have extra, it will be a delicious addition.

Use a strainer to separate the vegetables from the liquid, retaining the jus, or sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste, if needed, with the salt and the white pepper.

For the finished plate – a spoon of parsnips, a ladle of sauce, a slice of meatloaf, and voila! Bon appetit!


Invasive insect vs. invasive plant: The kudzu bug and kudzu

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 09:42

Kudzu. You’ve probably heard of and seen this climbing vine that can cover, smother and kill other plants. The kudzu bug is an insect that may feed on not only kudzu, but other legumes as well. It may sound like a biological control effort gone awry, but the story is quite the opposite. Kudzu was an intentional introduction, while the kudzu bug was accidental. Regardless, both species are non-native and both species can be quite a nuisance to North Carolinians.

The kudzu bug (close-up, left) can be quite a nuisance to homeowners, congregating on the outside of light-colored structures in the fall and eventually finding their way inside. Images: D.R. Suiter, University of Georgia,

Kudzu was first brought to the United States in the late 1800s and planted throughout the Southeastern U.S. until the 1950s. The plant was primarily used to combat erosion, with more than 85 million kudzu seedlings distributed for planting. Talk about planting a bad idea! It wasn’t until 1970 that kudzu was identified as a pest and now, known to be a noxious weed. Today, kudzu is a common sight in the Southeast, covering trees, shrubs and sometimes abandoned houses and cars, and it has become a major threat to forest health. The vines spread quickly, takes over native ecosystems killing native plants, and is difficult to manage.

The kudzu bug, on the other hand, is a relatively new find in North Carolina. Because kudzu is so widespread, the kudzu bug is able to quickly and effectively expand its range into new areas. It was first detected near Atlanta in 2009, and has since been found in most counties in North Carolina. The good news about this new invasive insect is that it loves kudzu. Both species are from Asia and in its native range, kudzu is a favored host plant of the insect. Unfortunately, they’re not just munching on kudzu. The kudzu bug also feeds on many plants in the legume family: soybeans and other beans, wisteria and vetches. As an agricultural pest, the stakes for managing this insect are suddenly much higher.

The kudzu bug has also become a major household pest. This fall, you may notice them congregating on the outsides of white or light-colored homes. If you’re unlucky, they’ll come find your home. And if you’re really unlucky, they might find a way to slip inside. The bugs find small cracks and crevices, such as doors, vents and gaps around windows, to accomplish a home invasion. Not only are the bugs annoying, but they’re smelly house guests. Kudzu bugs stink, and the foul chemical they emit could also cause rashes or blisters on those who handle or crush them.

Best way to protect your home this fall? Act now and seal up any cracks, crevices or gaps that might be used to gain entry. You can also try to find a nearby food source (is there a kudzu patch nearby?) and attempt to control it. No one likes an uninvited house guest, especially when they bring all their smelly friends!

To learn more about the kudzu bug, visit the NCSU Insect Notes on the critter!

Today’s Topic: Tenth annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum takes place Aug. 26

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 08:49

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Registration is open for the 10th annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum, scheduled for Aug. 26 at the State Fairgrounds. Commissioner Troxler will host the event from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Expo Center. It is sponsored by Harris Teeter and Publix.

The forum is open to farmers, food businesses, regulators, health professionals and others with an interest in food safety. Admission is free and includes lunch.

This year’s forum will focus on how the federal Food Safety Modernization Act will affect international accountability, international trade and the importation of food products.

Keynote speaker will be Dr. David Acheson, who has worked in food safety for 30 years. He is a former associate commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and he now runs The Acheson Group, a food safety consulting firm. His presentation will focus on the impacts of the food safety law on international trade.

Other speakers include Jeff Hawley, food safety manager with Harris Teeter, and Kim Taylor, meat and seafood director with Delhaize America. In addition, a panel of North Carolina producers will discuss consumer food choices and food safety practices on the farm.

To register for the forum, click here. Registration deadline is Aug. 22.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this year’s Food Safety Forum.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Versatility, variety help Cleveland County farm stay profitable

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:15

When it comes to making sure his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, Jason Rhodes, left, listens attentively to Steve Dillon, NCDA&CS regional agronomist.

First-generation farmer Jason Rhodes is not afraid to try something new.

Over the past 15 years, he has grown more than 12 crops under five different production systems at his Rhodesdale Farm in Grover. He currently produces about 650 acres of mixed seasonal produce and row crops.

Rhodes began farming part time in 1999 with an ornamental plant nursery. He went full time in 2002, adding cattle and soybeans to his operation. That same year, he planned ahead and planted five acres of blueberries and an acre of asparagus, crops that take several years before they start producing.

When the economic downturn in 2009 caused him to close the nursery, Rhodes shifted his focus to growing produce for local market. By 2012, he was selling an assortment of tomatoes, peppers (cayenne, jalapeño, habañero), squash, crowder peas, cucumbers, asparagus, garlic, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, peaches and muscadine grapes.

Rhodes says crop diversity is important from a business perspective, even if that philosophy doesn’t always translate into dollars.

“I’ve found that cucumbers are not an economical crop,” he said, “but we grow them to meet the customer demand at our roadside stand.”

‘I like what I do’

Last year, Rhodes converted several greenhouses from his nursery so he and his wife, Shelley, could produce tomatoes year round. This was also his first year growing garlic. In the past two years, Rhodes has added milo and canola to his field crop rotation. He is already talking about wanting to try his hand at popcorn and cotton and maybe even aquaculture trout production.

“When I wake up, farming is what I think about, and when I go to sleep, farming is what I think about,” Rhodes said. “I like what I do and that is priceless.”

Rhodes will tell you frankly that one of the reasons he likes farming is because he does not like to be told what to do. Even so, when it comes to making sure that his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, he listens attentively to Steve Dillon, regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is not unusual for Rhodes to call Dillon three times a week.

“Steve does the math for me to make sure I’m thinking right (with respect to fertilizer application rates),” Rhodes said.

Dillon said he is happy to double-check Rhodes’ fertilizer calculations. “A small error can mean too much fertilizer and wasted money, or too little fertilizer and reduced crop yield,” Dillon said. “No matter what crop you grow, it is imperative to get soil pH and nutrient levels correct to prevent potential problems. High-value crops like fruits and vegetables require intensive nutrient management. Since fertilizer is applied daily or weekly, is it important to sample the plant tissue to ensure that nutrient applications are on target.

“I have been working with Jason for 12 to 14 years, and he is always coming up with new ideas, which is a great challenge for me,” Dillon said. “It’s exciting to hear his latest plan and then help him carry it out.”

The Field Services Section of the Agronomic Services Division has 13 regional agronomists throughout the state. They are available to visit or consult with growers who need help taking agronomic samples, adjusting fertilizer programs, pinpointing nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, identifying nematode problems, or interpreting agronomic reports. For more information or for the name of the regional agronomist in your area, call Michelle McGinnis at 919-733-2655 or click here.

News Roundup: Aug. 2-8

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 14:24

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Workshop to offer advice for food businesses,” Burlington Times-News: Opening a food business and knowing how to run it are two different things. The state Department of Agriculture hopes to improve the odds for operators with a workshop, “The Business of Being in Business,” from 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 27 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The session is open to existing food businesses, but only 30 slots are available. The session will focus on the nuts and bolts of running a food business, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. It will tackle basic issues such as trademarks and tax and business structure. “Learning the ins and outs of running a business can be a daunting task,” Troxler said in a news release. “If you plan on being successful in selling your product, then learning the difference between a corporation and a sole proprietorship, how to collect and pay sales tax, and registering a trademark are essential.” …
  • “Photos: Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party,” Hendersonville Times-News: Rose Pierce, 7, and Mark Barnett, 4, give Smokey Bear a big hug as they take part in Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party at the Cradle of Forestry Saturday. Smokey Bear is the symbol of wildland fire prevention for 70 years, officials said.
  • “Fresh produce crates available at Lowes Foods,” Greensboro News & Record: Shoppers can now get crates of locally-grown fresh produce at select Lowes Foods stores. More than 200 local farmers are participating in the Lowes Foods Carolina Crate program. …
  • “If successful, Ebola serum is significant for tobacco’s future,” Greensboro News & Record: A small company owned by Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American is making an experimental drug that apparently is being used to treat two Americans infected with the deadly Ebola virus. The drug, called ZMapp, is made from modified tobacco plants grown by Kentucky BioProcessing, an Owensboro, Ky., company that Reynolds bought in January. …
  • “USDA: Farmers market growth in N.C. among top 10 in the U.S.,” Triangle Business Journal: North Carolina is among the top states when it comes to the growth of farmer’s markets. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a Farmers Market Directory, due to the continued growth of food hubs across the nation. North Carolina, ranked seventh in growth, has 240 farmers markets, compared to 182 in 2010, and 86 in 2004. …
  • “Two horses die after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis,” Jacksonville Daily News: One of two reported cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) this year in North Carolina included a horse in Carteret County that was euthanized due to the disease, state officials said. Two horses have died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis within the past two weeks, state officials have confirmed. EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable in equine by vaccination. Both horses that died were unvaccinated, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. …
  • “Like last year, expect Farm Aid concert to benefit N.C. agricultural sector,” Triangle Business Journal: Farm Aid concert organizers expect a sold-out show at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in September. But the event’s Raleigh location won’t directly help North Carolina farmers financially. Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization that uses concerts featuring big-name artists Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp to raise money to promote family farming and access to locally grown foods. Among its activities, the organization provides grants to ground-level farming organizations throughout the country. It also occasionally grants money to individual farmers in crisis. Concert net revenues, which average $1.3 million to $1.5 million per show, go back into the organization’s general fund instead of being distributed in the locations where concerts are held, says Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder. The concert does, however, offer an opportunity for local farmers to display their work. The all-day concert event will feature concessions made with locally sourced ingredients and a tent village where attendees can view exhibits on soil, water and farming techniques like seed-saving. More than a quarter of the land in North Carolina is farmland. The state ranks seventh in the nation for farm profits, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Last year, Farm Aid sent a total of about $28,000 to North Carolina organizations and farmers, representing about 5 percent of grant money distributed nationwide. Most of that went to Triangle-area organizations. Farm Aid provided a grant of $17,500 to Pittsboro’s Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA to provide financial counseling and mediation services to farmers, provide advocacy for farmers, and ensure fairness for farmers who contract with large-scale processors. …
  • “Plant company to employ 125 in Mills River,” Asheville Citizen-Times:  A collaboration between companies in the United States, Israel and Italy will result in 125 new jobs in Mills River at a facility that will graft vegetable plants for growers all along the Eastern Seaboard. The new company, Tri-Hishtil will build the grafting operation on 42 acres in Mills River, land it is buying from the Van Wingerden plant nursery operation. The project has been in the works for two years and brings together major players in the plant grafting and breeding, soil management and plant distribution. The plants produced will be disease resistant, reducing the need for chemical applications. The grafted plants are created in a manual process that melds the top of one plant with the root stock of another, and Tri-Hishtil plans to start in Mills River with tomatoes and watermelons. …
  • “State laws deny public access to information on farm operations,” Winston-Salem Journal: Kathy Kellam would like to know which chicken farms are dealing with viruses near her home in Surry County. But she’s not allowed to find out. Last year, the General Assembly approved a confidentiality clause that keeps her – the general public – from finding out. The N.C. Farm Act of 2013 – or Senate Bill 638 – put a cloak over documents collected by the N.C.Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that might reveal the identity of farmers dealing with animal viruses. …


Flavor, NC: Pie Birds

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:00

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC.” This week, we review the last episode of Season 3, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights pie recipes from Piebird in Raleigh that feature locally grown ingredients purchased at the State Farmers Market and the Raleigh City Farm.

The Raleigh City Farm is a one-acre urban farm in the heart of Raleigh. Many area restaurants, including Piebird, use the farm for locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, vegetables gathered from the Raleigh City Farm are so local, they are often delivered on foot.

The State Farmers Market is open year-round and offers seasonally available produce, meats and more at its farmers building and Market Shoppes. The market also offers a wholesalers building. The NCDA&CS operates four markets located in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Asheville.

Piebird opened its doors in March 2011 with an emphasis on all things pie. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, serving a wide selection of savory and sweet pies made with locally grown ingredients. Piebird also offers whole pies to go.

“North Carolina specializes in just about everything when it comes to agriculture,” said Lisa.  The pie recipes featured in this episode highlight the diversity of N.C. agriculture with ingredients that include local seafood, tomatoes, honey and ham. The recipe below is for Tomato Pie, which can utilize all those great tomatoes that are fresh this time of year.

Tomato Pie

Butter Crust ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 pound chilled butter, cut into small pieces (lard can be substituted)
1⁄2 cup chilled shortening

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add butter and shortening, and cut into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 4–5 tablespoons ice water, until dough just holds together. Divide into 2 uneven balls: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top. Pat each into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the dough to rest. Roll out on a floured surface to fit a 9″ pie pan.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2-3 large, fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix goat cheese, mayo, Gruyere, hot sauce, flour, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Place one layer of red onions in unbaked pie crust. Top with one layer of sliced tomatoes and a layer of basil, pour the filling over the layers and then top with another layer of sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with more Gruyere cheese and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Click here for a link to all recipes featured on the show.

Today’s Topic: North Carolina’s wine industry, UNCG collaborate on strategic plan

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:30

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The NCDA&CS, the N.C. Wine and Grape Council and the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro have gotten together to develop a road map for the industry’s growth. The resulting plan covers a variety of topics, such as quality assurance, marketing, research, tourism and the regulatory environment.

The plan was put together with input from stakeholders, including people from the industry and government, as well as business leaders and academics.

North Carolina’s wine and grape industry has seen explosive growth over the past decade. The state has 400 commercial grape growers and 125 wineries. The industry employs more than 7,600 people and has an economic impact of $1.3 billion.

The strategic plan is a chance for the wine and grape industry to take a look at where it is, what its key concerns are, and how it wants to develop in the next five years.

Certain initiatives, such as a push to enhance the state’s reputation as a producer of high-quality wines and grapes and increase market share, are being given high priority. Two studies already are under way. One is focused on the use of highway markers to draw tourists to wineries and vineyards. The second study seeks to classify the various types of wineries in the state by looking at factors such as source of grapes, tasting-room size and marketing.

North Carolina is ranked 10th nationally in wine and grape production, but one of the state’s key strengths is the diversity in grape and wine products. North Carolina’s fertile soil makes it possible to grow both native muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes.

In addition, wine tourism offers a unique activity to the state’s existing tourism mix. This creates additional business for local hotels, restaurants and tour companies. Whit Winslow, the department’s wine marketing specialist, says the winery is one of the best places to enjoy North Carolina wine. “We want to make it easier for consumers to find wineries when they are traveling throughout North Carolina,” he says.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss North Carolina’s wine industry and the strategic plan.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.