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Today’s Topic: Cost-share assistance available to organic producers

3 hours 31 min ago

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

The NCDA&CS is offering organic growers the opportunity to apply for partial reimbursement of the cost of becoming certified or recertified. Organic growers who are certified or recertified between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, can apply for assistance through the program. The program will pay 75 percent of the cost of certification, up to a total of $750.

Farms can be reimbursed in four separate categories: crops, livestock, wild crop and handler/processor.

The program is for the 2013-2014 season, and the funding comes from a $212,000 grant from the USDA. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and applications must be postmarked by Dec. 1.

To apply, growers must provide a completed application along with detailed invoices/statements from the certifying agency listing all National Organic Program certified costs, an IRS W-9 form and a copy of your certificate or letter from your certifier if this is a new certification. All charges must be for USDA organic certification. For more information or to download an application, click here. If you have questions, please contact Heather Barnes in the NCDA&CS Marketing Division at 919-707-3127.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this cost-share program.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 20-26

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 11:50

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.

  • “Bumper nut crop gathered,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Michael Crouse, assistant county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service, is out to give squirrels a run for their money when it comes to gathering acorns and other mast. Crouse said that when he isn’t busy with other responsibilities in the next four to five weeks, he’ll be out collecting wild nuts and seeds in Wilkes County for the state nursery in Goldsboro. It’s an annual chore for forest service personnel statewide, but James West, who heads the state nursery in Goldsboro, said nut and seed inventories are at an all-time low because so few were gathered last year due to adverse weather. “All indications are that many if not all species have adequate seed on the trees for this time of year. Seed production tends to follow cycles like that and this fall looks to be a banner crop,” said West in a recent email to forest service personnel. …
  • “NC Tobacco Trust Fund awards $2.3M to agriculture projects,” The News & Observer: The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund commission has awarded more than $2.3 million in grants to 22 agriculture and economic projects across the state. The grants included projects that boost local farming initiatives and that award scholarships to students in tobacco-dependent communities. The commission prioritized initiatives that target small farmers, as well as innovative and financially stimulating projects. The state General Assembly created the commission in 2000 to support farmers and businesses affected by the decline of the tobacco industry. Funds come from a set appropriation in the legislature’s budget every two years. Outside reviewers, a subcommittee and the NCTTF board work together to finalize grantees. …
  • “Could Sanderson now look south to locate plant?” Robesonian: While Cumberland County officials continue to debate whether they want a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant in their community, other communities — including Robeson — are showing interest in the proposed $113 million chicken processing plant that could create as many as 1,000 jobs. “Robeson County considers all opportunities for economic development,” Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and industrial recruiter, said this morning. “If Sanderson Farms determines that Robeson County can meet their site need and operations criteria, we are open for discussion of the opportunity.” …
  • The sweet potato — a delicious superfood, “ Salisbury Post: The newest crop out there in September is sweet potatoes, a North Carolina favorite. North Carolina is No. 1 in the nation for total acres of sweet potatoes, so it’s no wonder the sweet potato was chosen the official North Carolina vegetable in 1995. Among the many outstanding facts about this superfood is sweet potatoes may have been around since the dinosaurs were here. Can’t you just see T. rex chomping on a few bushels as a side dish with his velociraptor? The North Carolina Department of Agriculture says the Coastal Plains are the hot spot for growing the sweet potato, with Nash County being a top producer. …
  • “Farm tour a reminder of sources of our food,” Asheville Citizen-Times: When Carolyn Bradley asked the middle schoolers she taught for nearly three decades where their milk came from, she often didn’t like the responses. “Mayfield,” some would respond, referring to the dairy products company. Others would simply say, “The supermarket.” One of the reasons Bradley and her husband, Mike, participated in the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s annual farm tour Saturday and Sunday was to improve the odds the next generation of students can provide better answers. Or, as she put it, “so that local people can come and see how their food is grown.” The Bradleys’ farm just north of the Madison-Buncombe County line was one of 37 farms in seven area counties on ASAP’s tour this year. …
  • “Cabarrus meat-processing plant caters to farmers throughout 10-county area,” Charlotte Observer: Max Cruse helped butcher his first cow when he was 12, and he’s been involved in the trade ever since. Cruse is an instrumental figure behind Cabarrus County’s first large-scale, state-regulated meat-processing plant, which dozens of cattlemen across 10 counties use. Now 77, the owner of Cruse Meats mostly just answers the phone and takes orders while his thriving meat plant continues to attract farmers from a large part of the state. Similar operations are 75 or more miles away, in Wilkesboro and Greensboro. Cruse said the project has exceeded his expectations. …
  • “Tobacco buyout comes to end,” Robesonian: The federal tobacco buyout program is coming to an end, pulling millions of dollars from an already fading industry once known as Robeson County’s “cash crop.” According to Giles Floyd, director of the local Farm Service Agency, the Tobacco Transition Payment Program has consistently provided Robeson County tobacco producers with about $18.7 million each year since it was established under the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004. “I’m disappointed it’s ending,” Floyd said, a tobacco farmer himself. “That’s quite a bit money that’s not coming into the county.” With the passing of the Tobacco Reform Act, U.S. tobacco production was deregulated, along with a system that guaranteed minimum prices for tobacco. …
  • “Farmer thinks ingredient in feed sickening, killing cows,” WSOC: Cows that produce milk you could be buying at the grocery store are sick and dying on one North Carolina dairy farm. The farmer thinks it’s because of an ingredient in the cow’s feed and the state is now investigating. In Harmony, North Carolina the sight of dead and dying cows is unsettling for farmer Kenneth Ladd. “This has totally destroyed us out here. Our loss is way into the millions of dollars,” Ladd said. Ladd says four years ago, his cows started dying. He says he should have at least 500 cows but right now he has 175. “It’s not a simple issue, there’s not a silver bullet,” Joe Reardon, the assistant commissioner of consumer protection at the State Department of Agriculture said. Reardon says the state has been searching for a cause for years. In 2012, experts who visited Ladd Dairy saw “cows had neurologic signs,” while others had “severe foot problems” and “bleeding from the nose.” …
  • “Some Tobacco in Trouble,” Southern Farm Network: Wet and cool weather here at the end of the growing season is causing tobacco farmers, sitting on one of the best crops in years, a problem. Don Nicholson, Region 7 Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Agriculture says producers in the central Piedmont are really struggling: “Its gone from a marathon to being a sprint here at the end. Its time to get it in the barn, the tobacco is pushing for it.” And while producers planned their crop to utilize barn space, Nicholson says the weather has caused that plan to go by the wayside: “The rain we’ve had has taken a crop that was already ready to one that is over ripe in places. We have a lot of growers who are over on the barn space. They had planted different varieties to come off at different times but this year with the conditions it hasn’t worked.” And diseases are starting to show up, as well: “A lot of diseases are showing up, brown spot is out. And its deteriorating the leaves. The target spot has been bad in the past but its not a big issue in my region.” …

Three NC counties eligible for USDA loans because of Tennessee disaster declaration

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 08:47

Farmers and ranchers in Haywood, Madison and Swain counties qualify for federal natural disaster assistance because the counties are contiguous to areas of Tennessee that the USDA has designated as primary natural disaster areas.

The agency issued three separate designations for Tennessee because of losses caused by multiple disasters that occurred this year, the USDA announced.

USDA has designated Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties in Tennessee as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by the combined effects of frost and drought that occurred from Jan. 1 through Aug. 12.

All qualified farm operators in the designated areas are eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration (Sept. 24) to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

-Information from USDA

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: September Recipe Roundup

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:11

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. This month they feature a few recipes that use the last of the summer harvest and a peanut butter and jelly muffin recipe that’s perfect for back to school time.

This first recipe is for stuffed zucchini, which Lisa says is “simple, easy and not hard at all.”


  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 cup stuffing mix
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Slice zucchini in half and scoop out the inside. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine the stuffing, melted butter and ½ cup cheese. Fill the zucchini and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Add remaining cheese to the top of the stuffing mix and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

PB and J muffins are made with fresh N.C. eggs and are a great back to school treat.  Lisa suggest “frosting” them with 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter mixed with 1/4 cup  grape jam.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄2 cup grape jam
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar (topping)


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray. Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add milk, eggs, sugar, peanut butter and oil to the bowl; combine ingredients on the low speed of an electric mixer, just until moistened. Do not over beat.
Fill prepared muffin cups evenly with half the batter. Place 2 level teaspoons of grape jam in the center of each muffin. Evenly divide remaining batter between muffin cups. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool in pan 5 minutes.

Next up is a recipe for zucchini and squash casserole that is a great comfort food for the cooler nights. Lisa notes that it’s “perfect for travel or a large group since it fits in a 9×13 casserole dish.


  • 2 squash
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 1⁄2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup margarine (plus 1 ½ tablespoons )
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups Pepperidge Farm Dressing Mix
  • 4 ounces garden vegetable Philadelphia cream cheese (use the 1/3 less fat)


Boil the squash, zucchini and onion until tender; drain and season with salt and pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons of margarine. Stir in the soup and cream cheese. In another bowl mix the dressing mix and ½ cup melted margarine. Pour ½ the stuffing mixture into the squash/zucchini mixture and stir. Put in a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9X13-baking dish. Top with remaining stuffing mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Brian and Lisa wrap up the month with a kale and mushroom quiche. Lisa notes that quiche is “great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is a very versatile dish that allows you to combine your favorite fall vegetables to create something that will delight your taste buds.”


  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale (stems removed and thinly sliced)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2⁄3 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 1 prepared pie crust


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium low heat. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining oil to the pan and increase heat to medium high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water and begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the kale back to the pan, stir in the salt, pepper, mustard and thyme. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and water. Sprinkle the cheese into the pie crust. Top with the mushroom-kale mixture and pour the egg mixture on top. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.






Dairy producers invited to meeting about federal Margin Protection Program

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:32

North Carolina dairy producers are invited to a meeting about the federal Margin Protection Program at 10 a.m. Oct. 1 at the Iredell County Agricultural Resource Center in Statesville. Registration deadline is Sept. 26.

The USDA Farm Service Agency is organizing the meeting, and FSA personnel will explain the mechanics of the program. Dr. Geoff Benson, a retired NCSU extension economist, will discuss how dairy producers should approach decisions about participation and the potential financial benefits. There also will be time for questions and discussion.

People planning to attend are asked to contact the Iredell County FSA office at 704-872-5061, ext. 2. The Iredell County Agricultural Resource Center is located at 444 Bristol Drive, Statesville.

The 2014 farm bill established the Dairy Margin Protection Program as a replacement for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program. The MPP is effective through Dec. 31, 2018. For a $100 administrative fee, dairy producers can have access to no-cost catastrophic coverage. The program also offers various levels of buy-up coverage.

Emerald ash borer trapping: No new counties detected

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 09:44

An emerald ash borer trap hangs in an ash tree in the Duke Forest. Image: K. Oten, NCFS.

As we head into the fall season full of football, autumn colors and Thanksgiving, we already have one thing to be thankful for:  summer trapping for the emerald ash borer did not detect the invasive, tree-killing beetle in any new counties in the state.

But don’t get too excited just yet. Although 2014 trapping did not detect any inter-county movement, the emerald ash borer was found at more sites within already-infested counties. And the beetle will likely continue to spread.

The emerald ash borer is responsible for killing countless ash trees in the United States. Native to Asia, the beetle was first found in the U.S. near Detroit in 2002. Since then, it has spread to 24 states.

In 2013, the emerald ash borer was first found in North Carolina in Granville, Person, Warren and Vance counties. All four of these counties remain under quarantine, meaning ash material and hardwood firewood cannot be transported from a quarantined area to a non-quarantined area (some exceptions are made; for example, wood that has been heat treated or had the bark removed may be moved with a compliance agreement from the Plant Industry Division). While the emerald ash borer can fly from tree to tree over short distances, it can easily spread over long distances through the transportation of infested material (hence the recommendation not to move firewood). The quarantine was established to best protect the remaining ash resources in the state from  long-range, human-facilitated movement.

Looking for the emerald ash borer is a job that never ends. The NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service actively conduct visual surveys across the state. In addition, detection may depend on casual observations and the ability of citizens to identify and report an infestation. Survey techniques are continually evolving (such as using decoys to lure in and electrocute the male emerald ash borer!).

To report emerald ash borer in North Carolina, call 1-900-206-9333 or email

An adult emerald ash borer (Granville County). Image: NCFS.

Today’s Topic: Sixteen NC counties among top 100 places for farming in US

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 07:57

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

Farm Futures Magazine recently ranked the best places to farm in the nation, and North Carolina had a strong showing with 16 counties among the top 100. Bladen County, ranked 10th, was the highest-ranked North Carolina county.

Farm Futures calculated financial ratios and performance for more than 3,000 counties across the U.S. The magazine analyzed Census of Agriculture data from 2002, 2007 and 2012 to compile its rankings. The magazine’s staff calculated countywide financial performance by looking at many factors, including profit margin, asset turnover and average net farm income.

Editors noted that the 2012 data included information from a time when record high corn and soybean prices and long-term drought were hurting livestock producers across the country. And nursery and greenhouse operations were still hurting from the recession’s effects on the housing industry. Commissioner Troxler says that might explain why Duplin and Sampson counties, which led the survey a few years ago, weren’t ranked as high this time.

In addition to Bladen, other North Carolina counties ranked in the top 100 were Hertford (11), Anson (19), Wayne (24), Pender (25), Montgomery (32), Duplin (37), Sampson (40), Wilkes (46), Greene (51), Edgecombe (53), Union (54), Onslow (57), Richmond (81), Beaufort (82) and Lenoir (97).

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this survey, what North Carolina’s strong showing says about agriculture in the state, and to find out which U.S. county ranked first.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 13-19

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:31

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.

  • “Small farmers, female farmers to benefit from Louisburg event,” The News & Observer: On Sunday night, Franklin County farmer Martha Mobley will gaze out on a meadow across from her family’s home place and, she hopes, see hundreds of people gathered for a feast. For Mobley, this will be more than another farm-to-table event in a community where those happen every other week; it will be the fulfillment of a promise made to her late mother and her late husband.Mobley, 55, works as a livestock extension agent in Franklin County and owns Meadow Lane Farm in Louisburg. She sells grass-fed beef, pork and goat meat as well as organic vegetables at the Durham Farmers’ Market. In 2012, she lost her mother, Marjorie Leonard, who ran the family’s 1,000-acre farm for decades. In August 2013, Mobley lost her husband and fellow farmer, Steve, at the age of 58. After her mother died, Mobley and her husband accepted donations instead of flowers to start a nonprofit to help women in agriculture, a cause dear to her mother. Steve Mobley was actively organizing an event for last fall as a fundraiser to fulfill his mother-in-law’s wishes. …
  • “Public gets behind-scenes look at at Person Co. buffalo farm,” Durham Herald-Sun:  Visitors to 14 Person County farms were treated to a behind the scenes look at what it means to be part of the number one industry in the county. The third annual Person County Farm Tour allowed for a variety of tours to take place across the county. From organic vegetables to a dairy farm, and even a farm where buffalo are raised, there were plenty of options for farm-goers. Guests at the Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm just outside of Roxboro were able to get a look at a portion of the meat industry that many don’t get to see. …
  • “Hog virus cases dwindle over summer, but threat remains,” WRAL: Summer temperatures in North Carolina have slowed the spread of a virus deadly to young pigs that has decimated swine herds across the country. The highly contagious porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has hit hog farms across the country hard since it was first detected in April 2013. Since then, the disease has killed 10 percent of the nation’s hog population by some estimates, primarily in the winter months. But with fall looming, livestock farmers and veterinarians in North Carolina say they hope the measures they’ve put in place to stop the virus will prevent the massive die-offs they saw last winter, which resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the state’s $2 billion industry. “We’re all holding our breath to see what happens,” said Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health programs at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We’ve only had one winter, and that’s been kind of a horrendous winter for us.” PEDv is classified as a coronavirus, which all share a common enemy in heat and humidity. Summer means PEDv can’t spread as regularly, and that’s brought the number of new cases identified nationally down to around 60 per week from a peak of about 350. …
  • “Festival pays homage to the grape,” Wilmington Star News: The billboards along I-40 shout about the hoopla that is the N.C. Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville – 260 wines to tempt you, loads of regional foods and crafts to interest you, and four bands to move you Sept. 26-27. The event originated as a serious business, with a plan put together by Lynn Davis, a Kenansville native with an MBA from East Carolina University, who was working for a Winston-Salem health-supplement company when the festival launched in 2005. “There were three reasons it made sense to do this,” says Davis, now the event’s executive director. The tobacco buyout across the state in 2004 gave farmers a reason to consider alternative crops. “Why not wine,” says Davis. “Especially since our dry sandy soil is conducive to grape growing.” …
  • “Mycotoxins a concern for North Carolina corn farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: The issue of mycotoxins in corn isn’t one of the most pleasant conversational topics for corn farmers, but North Carolina Extension Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger stresses that mycotoxins are a major concern in North Carolina that needs to be addressed. “There are no good mycotoxins. We want it gone, stomped out, eliminated. It’s just like a weed in a field. There is no good weed, and the same is true about mycotoxins,” Heiniger said at a corn aflatoxin control field day held Aug. 14 at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station’s Fountain Farm in Rocky Mount. A mycotoxin that is of top concern in North Carolina is aflatoxin which is caused by ear rot fungi Aspergillus Flavus, according to Heiniger. Aflatoxin is harmful to livestock and humans, and by law corn with high mycotoxin levels cannot be sold and should not be harvested, Heiniger said. …
  • “Richmond County in top 100 for farming,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Richmond County is one of the United States’ 100 best places to farm, according to a magazine group’s analysis of census data from more than 3,000 U.S. counties. Farm Futures, whose corporate parent FarmProgress publishes 17 agriculture-industry magazines, ranked Richmond County 81st in the nation. Susan Kelly, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Richmond County extension center, said she wasn’t surprised. “If you’re thinking about starting a farm, Richmond County is the place to be,” Kelly said. “Many counties weren’t even mentioned in the top 3,000. It is very significant.” The Tar Heel State fared well in the Farm Futures survey. …
  • “Hoke County’s 30-year Turkey Festival to get new name,” Fayetteville Observer: Lady Bird has been strutting her stuffing for the past 30years. This week, the well-seasoned mascot of the North Carolina Turkey Festival will waddle off into the sunset. The Turkey Festival, which annually swells the population of Hoke County with a home-grown collection of events and competitions, will close its barnyard door after this Saturday. In its place, community volunteers hope to launch what they’re calling the North Carolina Poultry Festival, with similar activities and wider commercial appeal. …
  • “Sky Top Orchard named one of the best places to go apple-picking,” Hendersonville Times News: Zirconia’s own Sky Top Orchard is tops in the country when it comes to apple-picking, according to recently published article from Bustle, a national online women’s magazine. “We’ve been lucky over the years to have different editors, readers and folks in the media take notice of our uniqueness,” said David Butler, who runs Sky Top Orchard alongside his wife, Lindsey. “We’re thrilled about it. We’re just flattered.” The article published less than a week ago names the 10 best places in the country to go apple-picking. Sky Top was joined by nine other orchards from around the country, including Stribling Orchard in Markham, Va., Brighton Woods Orchard in Burlington, Wis. and Johnson Orchards in Yakima, Wash. …
  • “NC State receives $12.4 million grant from Gates Foundation for sweet potato research,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University will receive $12.4 million over the next four years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve a crop that is an important food staple in sub-Saharan Africa – the sweet potato. The grant will fund work to develop modern genomic, genetic and bioinformatics tools to improve the crop’s ability to resist diseases and insects and tolerate drought and heat. Sweet potatoes are an important food security and cash crop with potential to alleviate hunger, vitamin A deficiency and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 13.5 million metric tons are produced in sub-Saharan Africa annually; they are predominantly grown in small plot holdings by poor women farmers. …
  • “Forget the Bookmobile—This Town’s Getting a Farmers Market on Wheels,” Summer interns can do more than fetch coffee and fix the photocopier. In Guilford County, N.C., an intern’s experience with a family-owned food truck is helping bring fresh food to the area’s 24 food deserts. More than 60,000 residents of Guilford County live more than a mile from a supermarket, more than 20 percent live below the poverty line, and many don’t have cars. “We got an idea about two years to do a mobile farmer’ market, and we wrote a grant about a year ago to a local foundation to refurbish a bus,” Janet Mayer, a nutritionist with the Guilford Department of Health and Human Services in Greensboro, the county seat, said in an interview. “When we received the grant and started to lay the groundwork for the bus, we realized there was a lot of money and details we hadn’t counted on.” …
  • Peanuts focus of field day,” Kingstree News: Peanuts are continuing to grow in popularity among farmers. As peanut production increases so does the need for knowledge to produce high quality and high yields. Local farmer Brian McClam hosted a field day event that brought 113 farmers from two states for that purpose. Representatives from Severn Peanut Company, the Department of Agriculture, several chemical companies, and Clemson Extension provided a wealth of information applicable to peanut production. McClam, who farms 418 acres of peanuts, is host to 80 test plats. “Field trails are priceless to farmers being that they allow you to take a look into the future on seed varieties and chemicals without ever having to purchase them,” said McClam. “This allows you to make better management decisions when the time comes.” McClam said Wayne Nixon, agronomist for Severn, oversaw the test project. “He (Nixon) is the star of the show,” said McClam of the former NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Regional Agronomist and respected advisor to farmers. “He’s the one that did it all. He visited these test plats every week.” Nixon and Dr. Jay W. Chapin, professor of entomology discussed the varieties planted on McClam’s test site as well as diseases and timely management. Attendants also enjoyed a demonstration of a Brazilian made rotary-system peanut combine. …
  • “Two new dehydration facilities in North Carolina to open, another possible,” The Produce News: North Carolina is the nation’s leading grower of both sweet potatoes and tobacco, and two or possibly three new facilities opening Sept. 30 and in the second quarter of 2015 will build on both products to create new markets for farmers. The new companies will be located in Farmville and Nashville, and possibly Goldsboro, in eastern North Carolina where about half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown. The plants will produce dried sweet potatoes — sliced, diced or ground into flour — and juices that will compete in the $60 billion global health and wellness beverage market, the $143 billion U.S. healthy foods market and the global pet food market, expected to reach $74.8 billion by 2017. …
  • “The Label You Should Look for at Your Supermarket,” Farming runs in Robert Elliot’s family — but he never expected that he’d make a living off of the land. Instead, he served in the Marines, completing five years of active duty service before returning to the U.S. and taking a job as a contractor for the Marine Corps. In 2011, he was abruptly laid off along with many others due to budget cuts, and he didn’t know what to do. “It was hard to make ends meet so I moved home,” he tells Shumurial Ratliff of WNCN News. Back home in Louisburg, N.C., on the land his family used to farm, Elliot decided to try his hand at the old family profession, establishing Cypress Hall Farms with the help of the nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition. The organization supports veterans looking to transition into farming with resource guides, training and funding opportunities. It partners with Homegrown by Heroes to help veteran farmers label their produce with a patriotic-looking sticker that informs consumers know that they’re buying food grown by vets. …


Flavor, NC: Goodnight Brothers County Ham, Boone

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:26

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 three of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Goodnight Brothers County Ham and The Gamekeeper Restaurant in Boone.

“Think country ham only comes on a biscuit?” asksLisa. “Well get ready to think again if you are talking about all-natural country ham from the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains.”  Ham is the hind leg of a hog and country ham is the salted and seasoned version. Goodnight Brothers County Ham hasn’t significantly altered the way they season their country ham since opening in 1948.  In the video below,  they show it is still all about ingredients, aging and climate.


After learning a little about the curing process, Lisa visits with the chef and owner of Gamekeeper Restaurant, Ken Gorden. He provides the recipe below for Seared country-ham-wrapped asparagus.


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 6 slices Goodnight Brothers thin-sliced country ham
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Trim away the fibrous base of the asparagus then blanch in seasoned boiling water for a couple of minutes until cooked but still crisp. Shock in an ice bath to cool. Wrap asparagus with ham in groups of two to five, depending on size of asparagus. Sear in hot pan or on griddle with a splash of olive oil until ham is lightly bronzed on all sides. Place on serving dish. Serve hot or room temperature with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction, crumbled goat cheese, roasted tomato slices and cracked pepper.

To make balsamic reduction, simply cook ½ cup of balsamic vinegar in a small pan until reduced by at least half. Test by drizzling a few drops of reduction on a room temperature plate, waiting a few seconds for it to cool, then test consistency with your finger.
Watch Flavor, NC on WUNC TV. Season four premiers Thursday, Oct. 2 at 10:30 p.m.

Today’s Topic: New reports from Market News Service focus on sales of local food

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 08:14

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

The NCDA&CS State and Federal Market News Service is launching a series of new reports focusing on locally produced agricultural products. Reports for the state-operated farmers markets in Raleigh and Asheville, which list current wholesale prices, are now online. Another new report is Farm to School information, which provides total produce sales delivered plus unit prices.

In addition, the Market News Service is developing reports for direct-to-consumer sales, which will capture the prices of commodities that farmers market to consumers. Reports on grass-fed beef are expected to be available this month.

Consumer interest and demand for locally grown foods has grown significantly in the past 10 years. This has been a win-win for farmers and the economy. Consumers are enjoying more foods straight from the farm, which is creating new markets and supporting the local economy.

According to USDA figures, the total value of direct sales from farms to consumers was $31.8 million in 2012.

The new reports will provide users with information that can assist them with making informed business decisions. The information can assist producers with their financial planning, assist insurance companies with settling insurance claims, and benefit other members of the industry. These new reports will be a nice addition to the wide variety of information provided by the Market News Service. Reports include information on prices, volume, quality, condition and other market data on farm products in specific markets and marketing areas.

To view reports, click here .

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this topic.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

September: What’s happening on the farm?

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:59

Muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

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 Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

September is N.C. Wine and Grape Month and a perfect opportunity to highlight some of the research going on at our stations with muscadine grapes. Muscadines are grapes that are native to southern North America and are for sale this time of year at farmers markets and grocery stores. The grapes are also used in wine production. Muscadine grape research is conducted at Upper Piedmont, Sandhills and Castle Hayne research stations by James Ballington, professor emeritus of horticulture science at N.C. State University.

“The research we are doing is mostly to identify additional breeding varieties,” Ballington said. “We are looking for large-fruited grapes for the fresh market (retail sale), cold hardiness, and for red-fruited wines, grapes that maintain a stable color.” The grapes are also evaluated for disease resistance. “We do not spray the grapes,” he said, “we let nature take its course. With some varieties, fruit rot is a problem.”

White muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station.

Only about two acres of grapes are grown at Upper Piedmont Research Station. However, the research going on here is important to study cold hardiness of the vines. “Last winter was really cold and you can see a lot of damage on the vines,” Ballington said. “However, the fruit that the vines are producing is promising. There is uniform ripening within the clusters.” Muscadines are typically harvested by picking individual berries. If the grapes could be harvested in clusters, similar to the way table grapes are sold in grocery stores, they would have a longer shelf life.

Ballington’s trials will continue a few more years with these vines. “The next step is replicated trials,” he said. “This is where we compare the fruit being produced to what is considered to be industry standard. For white grapes the fruit would be compared to the Carlos variety, for red grapes, the Noble variety.”

After the replicated trials, Ballington would hope to propagate the cuttings and do observation trials with grape growers. He hopes the research leads to better grapes for the wine and grape industry.

Compared to other crops at the Upper Piedmont Research Station, maintaining the vineyard could be seen as easy. “We keep the middle rows cut, undergrowth sprayed back with herbicide and the trunks cut back,” said Joe French, station superintendent. But a two-acre vineyard is just one of the projects going on at this 835-acre research station.

“Right now we are harvesting about 20 acres of sorghum,” French said. “We are also gradually getting back about 50 cows from the Upper Mountain Research Station.” The station is sending its bull calves to Butner for a feed-efficiency study. “Animals are like people,” French said. “Some eat a lot and gain a little, others eat a little and gain a lot.”

Other work at the station includes horticultural trials of medicinal herbs. The Upper Piedmont Research Station is also home to one of the longest soil science trials, with research on no-till corn and soybeans ongoing for more than 30 years.

For the past 15 years, the station has hosted the N.C. Angus Association Spring Feeder Sale on the first Saturday in May. The station is also home to the Rockingham County Farmers Market, which is held Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to October. The market offers produce and crafts by local farmers and artists, and the station hopes that in the future the market can be used to test market new crops being grown at the research stations. In addition, the station hosts the 1.5-mile Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail, which is maintained by station staff and open to the public.

With harvest time here for many crops and cows returning home, it’s a busy time to be in Reidsville.

The Upper Piedmont Research Station is home to about 150 head of cattle.






USDA designates 5 coastal counties as disaster areas

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:07

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Pamlico County as a primary natural disaster area because of damages and losses caused by excessive rain and winds that occurred when Hurricane Arthur hit the North Carolina coast on July 3. Farmers and ranchers in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven and Hyde counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 10, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.

Additional information is also available online at

-Information from USDA

News Roundup: Sept. 5-12

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 02:37

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.

  • “From Equipment Manufacturing to Wine Making on the Same Farm,” Southern Farm Network: September is wine and grape month in North Carolina, and you can’t talk about either without talking to Ron Taylor, with LuMil Vineyards, and DiVine Foods in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Taylor talks about how they got their start in the grape and wine business: “Well, what we were doing at Taylor Manufacturing making tobacco, cotton and peanut equipment, that kind of thing, and with the buyout of the federal tobacco program, and we were looking for other implements to make. So, we put in a few acres of grapes just to do research & development to make equipment. We made an automatic grape harvesters, sprayers, and pruners, we have sold this equipment throughout the muscadine belt, primarily and in other grape producing areas particularly, and that put us in the grape growing business.” …
  • “The great pumpkin: NC man’s 1,296-pound fruit sets a state record,” The News & Observer: By Aug. 22, Danny Vester’s prize pumpkin had grown to the size of a small boulder, so he loaded it onto a forklift and gently dropped it in the bed of his 4×4 pickup, where it fit with only a half-inch to spare. Vester then drove south to a pumpkin weigh-off in Alabama, his treasure secured in a nest of hay. Passing drivers snapped pictures, waved arms and honked horns, so distracted by the moon-sized fruit that they wouldn’t let him change lanes, forcing Vester to tote his giant gourd through the middle of Atlanta. “Something about a big pumpkin on the back of a pickup truck will make people happy,” said Vester, 60. He came back with an official North Carolina record that made the drive worthwhile: a 1,296-pound pumpkin, heavier than a baby elephant. Vester named his champion “Sammy.” And as you read this, a larger beast grows by 30 pounds a day in Vester’s Nash County pumpkin patch, ready to put its little brother to shame. …
  • “Farm Fresh offering early cured sweet potatoes,” The Produce News: With most North Carolina farms growing diverse crops, it’s hard to pinpoint a solid start date for the harvest of North Carolina sweet potatoes, according to Steven Ceccarelli, the owner of Farm Fresh Produce Inc., based in Faison, NC. Ceccarelli said Sept. 5 that about 10-20 percent of the sweet potato harvest was complete. But many growers also harvest tobacco, and from a farm management and labor point of view, tobacco harvest would precede sweet potatoes. Farmers of peanuts or other crops would have still other harvest schedules. But for Ceccarelli, an early start is important, and he planned to be the season’s first exporter of cured sweet potatoes. “We will have cured potatoes this weekend,” which would be Sept. 6, he said. The curing process can take between two and six weeks, depending on variables such as ambient temperature and humidity. The two-week process is a “quick cure” he said. “It takes a month for a full cure, but six weeks if you have unfavorable conditions.” …
  • “Area breweries investing millions, adding staff,”Asheville Citizen-Times: Asheville’s craft brewery boom continues to see explosive growth, with local beer producers dropping millions on expansions and staff. The $175 million New Belgium brewery going up in West Asheville along the French Broad River stands out as the area’s biggest project, and it reflects the nation’s growing preference for craft beer, such as IPAs, pale ales, bitters and others styles. Year-to-date sales for craft beer are up 20 percent in 2014 from 2013 numbers, according to the Brewers Association trade group. Overall, craft beer was 7.8 percent of beer sold in 2013, the association said. …
  • “Chickens come home to roost for Tim Cathey,” Lincolnton Times-News: Tim Cathey is a disruptive innovator. He finds unexpected solutions to problems and creates new technology in the process. Some of that technology may soon impact farming practices in Lincoln County and beyond. Through his company, Novovita, Cathey has developed a line of bio-based agricultural products that can organically suppress weeds, reduce erosion and create fertilizer from industrial chicken waste. Two of the products are currently being tested in the county. Cathey’s business card says he is an environmental designer. Recalling the environmental movement of the late 1960s, Cathy speaks with an air of ownership regarding issues of the time. His design process is mindful of the natural world. “I try to design things in a way that is acceptable environmentally by choosing materials based on recyclability and performance,” he said. …
  • “Crank Arm Brewery Nabs Best of Show in State Fair Competition,” TWC News: The winners of the NC State Fair’s 2014 N.C. Brewers’ Cup competition have been announced, and Best of Show went to Rickshaw Rye IPA by Crank Arm Brewing in Raleigh. The competition was organized by the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild and presented by All About Beer Magazine. The third-year competition drew 228 professional entries and 182 home-brew entries. Entries were evaluated by 30 professional beer judges Sept. 6 and 7 at Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough. The top winners will be displayed in the Education Building at the N.C. State Fair Oct. 16-26. …
  • “FDA’s Taylor says food-safety inspections to change in post-FSMA,” The Produce News: The Food & Drug Administration is retooling inspectors to be more specialized in food and teaching them to assess a company’s food-safety culture for the first time when deciding whether to return for another inspection, Mike Taylor, the FDA ‘s food-safety chief, said Sept. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here. This was just one of several messages he brought to the breakfast meeting of the conference as he mapped out the FDA’s plan for assuring compliance with the massive Food Safety Modernization Act. …
  •  “Efficiency key to success for Steve and Archie Griffin,” Southeast Farm Press: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Steve Griffin’s return to the family farm in Beaufort County North Carolina. Much has changed in farming since 1974, but one constant is the importance of efficiency. It’s a lesson Griffin has taught to son Archie, who returned to the farm three years ago after completing a degree in soil science and crop production at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Ever since I came back, Dad has stressed the more efficient you are with your farm, the more you get out of it. You can always better your farm by being more efficient,” Archie says. The Griffins farm six miles north of Washington in Beaufort County, where sandy soils have always been a challenge. A key to efficiency is incorporating new technology. The Griffins say it’s a must for controlling costs. …
  •  “NC Fish Fry: Farmer’s Market Hosts Seafood Day,” WUNC: North Carolina is known for its diverse agriculture offerings. And you can always count on the State Farmer’s Market to feature the best the state has to offer, from collard greens to sweet potatoes. But on Thursday, for the first time, the State Farmer’s Market hosted Seafood Day. Enthusiasts said it’s been a long time coming. It was the perfect day for a fish fry. It was hot outside and the fish was hot, right out of the skillet. Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh could hardly get a break. “We steamed about 600 clams and they’re all gone,” said Armstrong. “I’m actually surprised. Pleasantly, surprised.” …





Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Heirloom Resturant

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 14:22

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 Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte.

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series 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 course — appetizer, entree and dessert. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Chef Clark Barlowe and his team from Heirloom competed again Chef Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro in the first round of Fire in the City on August 18. The secret ingredients were NC-raised eggs and Harrell Hill Farms Molasses. Harrell Hill is the largest producer of sorghum-syrup molasses in the state. The farm is located in Bakersville and has been in operation since the late 1700s.

Passion8 won the night and went on to compete in the next round of competition on Sept. 8. Fire in the City continues through Sept. 29. Remaining dinners are sold out.

Pastry Chef Joselyn Perlmutter, a member of Chef Barlowe’s team from Heirloom, provided the following recipe for sorghum cake. Heirloom Restaurant’s sorghum cake was the second highest scoring dish of the night and made great use of both eggs and molasses.

Sorghum Cake

    • 1/2 pound brown sugar
    • 7 1/2 ounces butter
    • 3 local farm eggs
    • 1.5 cups Harrell Hill Farms sorghum-syrup molasses
    • 12 1/2 ounces cake flour
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add in molasses. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk until the bath is just incorporated. Bake in a half sheet pan at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The cake is finished when a tester comes out clean.


Dark Chocolate Sorghum Cremeux

  • 1200 grams heavy cream
  • 240 grams yolk
  • 150 grams Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 700 grams dark chocolate

Bring the heavy cream and sorghum to a boil and temper in the yolks. To temper in the yolks whisk a cup of the hot cream into the yolks, and pour the now warm yolks back into the cream. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or coats the back of a spoon. Once at temperature, pour over the chocolate. Wait five minutes for the chocolate to melt, and whisk the chocolate and cream mixture together.


Sorghum Raspberry Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces butter

Mix the water and sugar in a medium pot until all of the sugar is wet. Juice the lemon into the sugar, and rub it on the sides of the pot. This will keep the sugar from crystalizing. Let the sugar boil on medium heat until it is a dark amber color. Add the butter, cream, sorghum and raspberry puree. Be careful to add the cool ingredients slowly as the caramel will bubble.


Raspberry Anglaise

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 ounces local egg yolks
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree

Bring the cream, sugar, and raspberry puree to a boil. Temper in the egg yolks, and whisk over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or when the mixture can coat the back of a spoon. Serve cold. Once cool, this can also be used as a raspberry ice cream base. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to churn.

Coming soon to a tree near you! (Maybe.)

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 09:50

North Carolina has its fair share of invasive insects and diseases that threaten to destroy our natural resources. In 2010, laurel wilt was first found in the state. In 2011, thousand cankers disease was found. And in 2013, the first detection of the emerald ash borer was made. But what does the future hold? Will the invasive species just keep on coming? The short answer is: most likely, yes.

There are already some invasive insects that have used their one-way ticket to the U.S. They threaten other parts of the nation and have the potential to enter North Carolina either through natural spread or via long-range dispersal in firewood. In the case of invasive species, all good things do not come to those who wait.

The Asian longhorned beetle is one of these. It is a striking beetle with long antennae. Native to Asia, it has been found in several states, including Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. To date, it has not been found in North Carolina. Unlike many of our other invasive species that only attack a single group of trees, the Asian longhorned beetle attacks many tree species. Among its favorites are maple, willow, and elm. When the Asian longhorned beetle comes to town, it leaves dead trees in its wake. But only if you let it!

The good thing about the Asian longhorned beetle is that in areas where small infestations have been detected, eradication has been possible. Trees with any signs or symptoms of infestation are removed quickly and a quarantine is typically put into place to prevent further spread. This plan, while leaving an area with much less trees that it had before, has shown to be successful more than once.

The interesting thing about these early detections is that almost all of them have been detected by homeowners. These homeowners have taken the bug by its horns and been proactive participants in efforts to mitigate damage caused by the Asian longhorned beetle, equipped only with the ability to identify the insect and the damage it causes.

So, equip yourself! Identifying this pest and its signs is fairly simple. The Asian longhorned beetle is fairly large, measuring 1 to 1½ inches in length. They are black with about 40 white spots on their wing covers. Their antennae are very long, extending past the tip of their abdomen, and have black and white banding. Not only will an infested tree likely look in poor health, but it may have exit holes or egg laying niches on the bark.  Exit holes are round and about the diameter of a pencil (up to ¾ inch). Egg-laying niches are round or oval depressions in the bark, chewed out by the female beetle.

LEFT: The adult Asian longhorned beetle is black with white spots and has banded antennae. Early identification of the insect is critical in an eradication program. Image: Joe Boggs, RIGHT: Exit holes of the Asian longhorned beetle are round and about the size of a pencil (shown below finger). Egg-laying niches are oval or round depressions in the bark. Image: Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service,

Now, you’re ready. If this insect ever does make its way to North Carolina, then maybe it could be you who alerts authorities to its presence. Hey, there are worse ways to become famous! To report an invasive species, call 1-800-206-9333 or report by email:

Today’s Topic: September is NC Wine and Grape Month

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 07:49

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

Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed September as North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. Commissioner Troxler says it’s a good month for celebrating the state’s wine and grape industry, as wineries are popular attractions in the fall, and September and October are prime time for the muscadine grape harvest.

The state’s wine and grape industry continues to grow and is now home to more than 140 wineries and 400 commercial grape growers.

Whether it’s buying a pint of grapes at the farmers market, trying a new North Carolina wine or planning a trip to a vineyard, Commissioner Troxler encourages everyone to find a way to support the state’s wine and grape industry this month.

Farmers produce native muscadine grapes, including the famed scuppernong, which was the nation’s first cultivated wine grape. Muscadines are grown in the Coastal region of the state. The fresh-market muscadine crop is looking good this year, thanks to some dry weather at the beginning of the harvest. Drier weather concentrates the juice inside the grape and enhances the sweetness. You can find muscadines at farmers markets and roadside stands.

North Carolina farmers also grow European-style grapes, such as merlot and chardonnay. These are grown mainly in the Western and Piedmont regions of the state.

North Carolina is now home to four federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. The latest is the Upper Hiawassee Highlands AVA in the western part of the state. It joins the Haw River, Swan Creek and Yadkin Valley AVAs. These regions are important in helping consumers identify a wine’s origin.

For more information about North Carolina wine and grapes, plus special events planned throughout September, click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Wine and Grape Month.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

New members inducted into the NC Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 14:23

The livestock shows are an integral part of the annual N.C. Mountain State Fair. From beef cattle and meat goats to swine and llamas, the livestock shows represent the diversity of livestock found in Western North Carolina.

Started in 2011, the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame honors individuals who have contributed to the continued success of the livestock shows. This year’s inductees were Gary and Joy Stamey and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and his wife, Sharon. The couples were inducted during a presentation Sept. 5, opening day of the 2014 N.C. Mountain State Fair.

Gary Stamey was the livestock director at the Mountain State Fair from 2003 until his passing in November 2013. He and his wife, Joy, were heavily involved in organizing livestock shows at the fair and throughout Western North Carolina. Vance Muse, a longtime family friend, provided remarks on behalf of the Stameys. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler presented the award to Joy Stamey and Gary’s father, Neal, during the ceremony.

Commissioner Troxler and Neal Stamey present Joy Stamey with her plaque for being inducted into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame.

After presenting the award to the Stameys, Commissioner Troxler learned that he and his wife, Sharon, also had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The award came as a surprise to Commissioner Troxler, who thanked the organizers of the livestock show for their continued hard work.

“Sharon and I have a special place in our hearts for the people of Western North Carolina,” Troxler said. “I can’t thank you enough for this incredible honor.”

Commissioner Troxler and Sharon Troxler are inducted into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame with members of their family by their side.

The 2014 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs through Sept. 14. This year’s livestock shows feature 3,840 animals across 19 departments. A complete schedule of livestock shows is available at




News Roundup: Aug 30 – Sept. 5

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 13:19

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.

  • “Fish food: Aquaponics offers full-circle farming,” Smoky Mountain News: Tucked away along a squirrely offshoot of Jonathan Creek Road, Dennis “Bear” Forsythe’s 15-by-15-foot greenhouse is like his own private Eden. The small outbuilding in rural Haywood County holds 500 plants representing 58 species, everything from pineapple to pepper. “I just love doing it,” Forsythe said. “You have running water and it’s soothing, it’s relaxing. You come out here and you say, ‘I grew everything here from seed.’” The running water is a bit of an anomaly compared to most greenhouses. So is the complete absence of any soil. Instead of soil, the plants get their nutrients from the fish swimming in two separate fish tanks inside the building. Specifically, from their waste. It’s a method of agriculture that’s been gaining traction over the last decade or so, a method known as aquaponics. …
  • “N.C. Mountain State Fair opens,” Asheville Citizen-Times: In its 21-year history, the North Carolina Mountain State Fair has followed an established course. But why should it change? Last year’s fair pulled a record crowd of 191,596, and if the weather holds out, the 2014 edition should equal that. The fair, Sept. 5-14 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher, is a feast for the senses. The fairgrounds are lit by colorful carnival rides. Booming pop music pours from speakers. Games line the midway. Vendors sell an assortment of tasty foods (this is no place to be on a diet). The Mountain Heritage Stage has live bluegrass, mountain music and dance. Agricultural and livestock exhibits are plentiful. Side show entertainment ranges from stilt puppets to sea lions and racing pigs. …
  • “Ag Summary: September is Wine & Grape Month,” Southern Farm Network: September is wine and grape month in the Tar Heel State. One indicator of the industry’s maturity is the federal government’s recent designation of a fourth American Viticultural Area in the state. North Carolina’s grape-growing history dates to the late 1500s, when Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers first noticed wild scuppernongs on Roanoke Island. North Carolina boasts more than 400 commercial grape growers. Muscadines are grown mainly in the East, while European-style vinifera grapes are grown in the West and Piedmont. While many of the grapes are used to make wines and other specialty products, there is also a significant fresh market for the fall fruit. In September and October, shoppers can find fresh, native muscadine grapes at farmers markets and roadside stands. …
  • “Forest service seeks tree nuts and seeds,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: The N.C. Forest Service office in Wilkesboro is seeking the public’s assistance in collecting acorns, hickory nuts and other nuts and seeds of trees to produce seedlings at the state nursery in Goldsboro. Michael Crouse, assistant county ranger with the forest service in Wilkes, said Thursday that he and other forest service personnel will gather tree nuts and seeds on private property with owner permission. The forest service doesn’t pay for what it collects. Crouse, seedling collector for Wilkes, said forest service personnel sometimes use non-motorized devices with wire mesh baskets, pushing them along on the ground, to collect nuts. He said church lawns often are among the best places to gather tree nuts. He said removing them also helps avoid accidents. Crouse noted that trees produce considerably more nuts and seeds some years than others. …
  •  “Couple’s dream turns into thriving cheese business,” Greensboro News & Record: Harold and Carol Penick were college students on their first date when they discovered that they shared a dream of building a farm.And now, nearly 40 years later, the two Auburn University graduates have not only worked to bring their dream to fruition, but also have launched a thriving goat cheese business. “We use a really old style of cheese making, so it’s different than anything else around,” their daughter, Jesse Penick, said. “It’s extremely creamy, very mild and very smooth — more like cream cheese — and people just can’t seem to get enough of it.” Situated on what used to be a tobacco farm, the 20-acre operation just north of Kernersville was nothing more than a meadow when the Penicks bought it three years ago, which inspired the farm’s name: Once Upon a Meadow. …
  • “LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Elected leaders ignore farmers’ biggest concern,” Hendersonville Lightning: By most accounts, Henderson County’s 2014 apple crop is high in quality and lower in quantity. A shorter crop is not necessarily a bad thing. Last year, despite record rainfall that ruined most of the sweet corn and produce in the French Broad Valley, apple farmers harvested a bumper crop. And not just in Henderson County. It was a big year up and down the East Coast. When all the apples came off the trees, the market was flooded with cheap fruit. “We had two extreme variables last year,” recalled Edneyville grower Jerred Nix. “We had 45-cent Galas early and a half-a-cent juice at the end of the year.” …
  • “Muscadines on the rise,” Wilmington Star News: It’s no secret that chefs, diners and home cooks have all embraced the farm-to-table and local food movements. And that trend may be just the boost that’s needed for one North Carolina agricultural product that’s more used to being the butt of a joke than served with a cloth napkin. “Some restaurants, a lot more lately, have gone to serving and cooking with muscadine wines, a lot more than five years ago,” said Jonathan Fussell, who owns the Duplin Winery with his brother David. “Our wines used to be one or two out of a hundred. Now it’s more like 15 to 20.” Fussell’s account is backed up by recent data tabulated by the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association. “Over the past five years, the number of muscadine grape growers has increased exponentially,” said organization spokeswoman Ashley Graham Phipps. “People want to grow them for personal pleasure, and most of our growers have seen an increase in food use.” …
  • “Looper numbers gaining in N.C. soybeans,” Southeast Farm Press: Remember that the threshold for soybean loopers (and all defoliating pests) is 15 percent defoliation throughout the canopy (thresholds and defoliation guide here). Loopers generally defoliate from the bottom of the canopy up so peel back those plants when you scout. Looper numbers have really picked up in soybeans. Loopers are migratory pests that sometimes show up late season and eat leaves, but not pods or seeds. Remember that the threshold for soybean loopers (and all defoliating pests) is 15 percent defoliation throughout the canopy (thresholds and defoliation guide here). Loopers generally defoliate from the bottom of the canopy up so peel back those plants when you scout. …


Farmers markets offer apples, grapes and more this September

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 09:25

September offers a great opportunity to enjoy both late-summer and early-fall produce at local farmers markets. The state-operated farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax and Raleigh offer a large selection of fresh produce for school lunches, meats and cheeses for tailgating, and wines and specialty products made in North Carolina. You can also find flowers, trees and shrubs for your fall plantings. Many markets have events planned to celebrate Wine and Grape Month, in honor of the state’s fast-growing wine industry.  Here are all the events taking place at our markets this month:

Enjoy free apple tastings Sept. 19 at the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville.

Grape Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
September is prime time for fresh-market muscadine grapes. Enjoy grapes, jellies and wine during this annual event Friday, Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Seafood Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
This is the first-ever Seafood Day at the market. Shoppers can purchase fresh seafood from the North Carolina coast and sample seafood dishes prepared by Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh. Seafood Day is Thursday, Sept. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

12th Annual Taste Carolina Wine Festival, Robert. G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax
During the Taste Carolina Wine Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13,  guests will get to sample a variety of N.C. wines from noon to 6 p.m. All guests will receive a complimentary tasting glass and a program to help find their favorite wineries.

Apple Tasting, WNC Farmers Market, Asheville
Locally grown apples are in plentiful supply this time of year. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the many varieties available at the market on Friday, Sept. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sweet Potato Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
North Carolina is the top sweet potato producer in the nation and the market will be celebrating on Thursday, Sept. 25. Market vendors will offer plenty of sweet potatoes for purchase. Shoppers can sample a sweet potato dessert from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

These are just some of the ways to celebrate the best of local agriculture this September. Be on the lookout for other promotions and special events later this year that will focus on fall products, including pumpkins, collards, pecans and Christmas trees.

Flavor, NC: Goat Lady Dairy

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 11:24

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 two of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Goat Lady Dairy in Climax.

“When you think cheese, most think cows,” said Lisa. “Maybe it’s time to think goats instead.” Goat Lady Dairy, located in the sprawling farmlands of Randolph County, makes about 40,000 pounds of cheese per year. The farm was one of the first in the state providing handmade goat cheese.

Jenny Tate and her brother, Steve Tate, bought a 200-year-old tobacco barn in the 1980s and opened Goat Lady Dairy in 1995. The 75-acre farm produces several varieties of goat cheese, operates a 15-acre community supported agriculture farm and, during several weekends of the year, offers farm tours and a slow-food dining experience. Dining is offered monthly in the spring and fall. Information and reservations are accepted online.

Following is a recipe provide by Steve Tate for Skillet Eggs with Kale and Italian Sausage.


  • 1/4 lb Italian sausage or Chorizo
  • 1 small onion, diced small or slivered
  • 1 bunch kale, separate stems from leaves, coarsely chop both
  • 6 eggs
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled Goat Lady Dairy Smoked Round, Farmers Cheese or both


Heat large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add crumbled sausage, onion and kale stems and cook, stirring often for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are starting to brown. Add kale and cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle a little lemon juice and pepper over the mixture and toss well. Reduce heat to medium and crack eggs, one at a time, at intervals over the sausage and kale mixture; cook briefly uncovered. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over pan contents and eggs; cover and cook until eggs are set, about 3 minutes.  Top with crumbled cheese. Serve immediately