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News Roundup: Dec. 13-19

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 13:33

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.

  • “The only thing that will feed the world is farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: Agriculture needs to avoid claiming that biotechnology will feed the world, says Steve Savage, a worldwide expert on agricultural technology. “There is no single technology that will feed the world. The only thing that will feed the world is farmers,” Savage said at a forum on agricultural biotechnology held at North Carolina State University in Raleigh Nov. 18. Savage is an independent communicator and consultant with Savage and Associates and brings experience from Colorado State University and DuPont. Savage was the keynote speaker at the forum that drew more than 500 participants. The NC State forum was held to address the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. …
  • “From Eastern NC to Tokyo: A new breed of ‘silky’ pork,” The News & Observer: The squealing piglets were born in late January at the Quinn Sow Farm, inside a row of white and silver barns at the end of a dirt and gravel lane about an hour southeast of Raleigh. The barns stand in an open field near the town of Faison in Duplin County, No. 2 in the nation for hogs. Nearly eight months later, on a rainy night in September, a salesman walked into a restaurant and ordered a dish of sliced pork with steamed vegetables. Because he’s a regular, he knew the pork would be “sweet” and “delicious.” His name was Yoshihiro Sugawara. The restaurant was part of a chain called Ootoya. The city? Tokyo. Sugawara did not know all it took to deliver the thin slices of tender pork from a farm on this side of the planet all the way to his hashi – his chopsticks. It’s quite a story. It starts with two brothers, Bob and Ted Ivey of Wayne County, whose breeding and feeding has built a special pig, one with premium cuts that have a bit more fat, a deeper color and a sweetness even machines can measure. The Iveys are part of a weekly race against time and circumstance to deliver the pork fresh – never frozen – from barns east of Raleigh to the world’s largest metropolis. …
  • “State tour may become the big cheese for makers of fromage in NC,” Winston-Salem Journal: Cheese lovers rejoice. Just like wine lovers, you now can travel a statewide trail to sample new and favorite varieties made in North Carolina. There even is a map online to help you chart your course to farms making farmstead and artisan cheeses from cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk. About 40 small farmers make and sell cheese across the state, including 11 that make up the N.C. Cheese Trail, which formed in April.
  • “How Homegrown Roots Can Save Local Food Economies,” Nation Swell: The Appalachian Grown program offers certification to local farms, restaurants, distributers and grocers. When the local economy is threatened, what do you do? While some may turn to outside forces for help, others turn to the people at the heart of the matter: the community. That’s exactly what residents of Asheville, N.C. did by bringing to fruition a homegrown solution through the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). With the changes in the tobacco industry and the trend towards larger agricultural farms, North Carolina communities realized that something needed to be done to preserve their farmers, which are constrained in size because of the mountainous landscape. …
  • “GMO labeling: Advocates like transparency, opponents dislike the cost,” Southeast Farm Press: The panelists for a discussion on “is GMO labeling a nightmare or a boon” at the North Carolina Agriculture and Biotechnology Summit held Nov. 18 in Raleigh included those who see the need for mandatory GMO labeling and those who are opposed to the idea. While there was much debate on the need for labeling, all panelists agreed that genetically modified organisms have been proven safe and there is no evidence of health concerns. Those opposed to mandatory labeling expressed concern about the costs and the increased level of regulations and bureaucracy while those in support of mandatory labeling cited transparency and the consumer’s right to know. …
  • “Ag Community Applauds News on Relations with Cuba,” Southern Farm Network: Earlier this week, the process began to loosen the embargo on trade with Cuba. The American ag community, as a whole, is applauding the decision, including Larry Wooten, President of North Carolina Farm Bureau: “I think this is a great thing for the ag community. It’s a market of about 11 million people. Everyone else in the world is trading with them and we should be as well. It’s a real market for our poultry and pork. Rice, wheat, and soybeans as well.” Something that could see resurgence in the southeast would be the dairy industry. Currently, milk is rationed in Cuba: “No question, over ten years ago they were importing milk and dairy from Australia and New Zealand. The market opportunity for US products is huge. There is the credit that will help as well.” …
  • “Tank To Table: NC Home To North America’s Only Real Caviar Farm,” WFAE: The Yadkin River is by no means a tributary of the Caspian Sea. About the only thing the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Black Sea have in common is the reference to color in their names. And yet, in Caldwell County, you’ll find the only farm on the continent that produces one of the world’s most expensive delicacies. The farm is an anonymous compound of long red sheds nestled behind a cornfield on the outskirts of Lenoir just off Indian Grave Road. “This is the last place you’d expect to find a sturgeon farm right?” jokes Elisabeth Wall. And she’s right. Yet this is a fish farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The only one in North America that produces not fish roe but high quality real caviar. …
  • “Program connects farmers and struggling families,” The News & Observer: For years, Britt Farms has resisted taking payment from recipients of the modern equivalent of food stamps. “It was so expensive and hard to do,” said Jennifer Britt, who oversees sales for the Mount Olive farm that sells vegetables and produce from the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. But earlier this month, farm owners Jennifer and Vernon Britt listened to a 30-minute spiel and then got in line to sign up for free equipment that would allow them to accept credit, debit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program funds, commonly referred to as SNAP, through Electronic Benefit Transfers. The Britts were among the about 25 farmers and market managers who crammed into a conference room in the State Farmers Market’s administrative offices to explore tapping into the $86.5 billion in SNAP funds that on average go to one in seven Americans. About $16 million of the federal funding was spent at farmers markets last year. …

Flavor, NC: Brinkley Farms

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 09:36

Twice a month we take a look at the local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight episode eight from the first season, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights the Brinkley Farms in Creedmoor and Nana’s Restaurant in Durham.

Located in Creedmoor, where Durham, Wake and Granville counties meet, Brinkley Farms has been in operation since 1941. Like many farms in this area, the Brinkleys grew tobacco. Starting in the mid-1990s, the farm made the switch to produce. Their produce and pasture-raised pork can be found at farmers’ markets in the Triangle area, through the farm’s CSA program and at area restaurants.

Also in the episode, Lisa cooks up a few delicious sweet corn recipes with Chef Scott Howell, owner of Nana’s Restaurant in Durham. Recipes include risotto and goat cheese arancini, sweet corn pancakes with shrimp and grilled corn with truffle butter.

Don’t kiss your mistletoe-infected trees goodbye

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:01

Mistletoe-infected oak branch. Image: J. O’Brien, USDA-FS, bugwood.org.

This festive time of the year usually has people in high spirits. And there are some folks who may be in even higher spirits … those who steal a smooch under the mistletoe!

Mistletoe is a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, and the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is rooted in England. But there is a dark side to this romance-inspiring plant. Not only is it toxic to humans, it’s also a parasite.

The plant is hemiparisitic, meaning it obtains some resources from its host. In the case of mistletoe, it obtains water and mineral nutrients from the tree it infests, but because it is photosynthetic, it is able to produce its own food. In other words, mistletoe does not rely on its host for 100 percent of what it needs to survive.

But can mistletoe harm a tree? The short answer is not much. Mistletoe can infect more than 110 species of trees, but is not considered a serious pest in North Carolina. When combined with other stress agents, it could result in a general decline in tree health or localized branch mortality. If a mistletoe-infected tree dies, then it was likely affected by other, more serious pests.

So, mistletoe isn’t exactly the kiss of death for a tree, but its presence can be unsightly or contribute to poor tree health. Usually, management is not recommended because not only is it a minor pest, but effective control is very difficult to achieve. The best recommendation is to enjoy it and maybe get a smooch or two from your sweetie during the holidays!

U.S. Census of Horticulture arriving in mailboxes this winter

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:15

As millions of Americans venture out to purchase fresh-cut Christmas trees and poinsettias this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is gearing up to survey the producers of those cherished holiday traditions. NASS is conducting the 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties to gather detailed information on horticultural production and sales across the United States.

“The Census of Horticulture includes producers of floriculture, nursery and other specialty crops,” said Dee Webb, state statistician of the NASS North Carolina Field Office. “According to the most recent Census of Agriculture results, nursery and floriculture products were more than a $14.5 billion industry in the United States. This special census is an opportunity for producers to provide detailed information on their industry to help ensure the continued growth and sustainability of horticultural farming.”

Last conducted in 2009, this census will provide the only source of comparable and consistent data at the national and state levels for the industry. NASS will gather information on horticultural activities conducted during 2014, including production of horticultural crops, value of products, square footage used for growing crops, production expenses and more.

Webb said the opportunity to respond to the Census of Horticulture is not something that comes along once a month, or even once a year. “Participation is important because this census is a unique opportunity to provide information that will be used by policymakers, organizations and businesses for the next several years to help make decisions regarding the availability of goods and services, funding, policies and other key issues that affect the industry,” she said.

In December, NASS will mail the census to selected horticultural operations in the United States. For the 2014 Census of Horticulture Specialties, an operation is defined as any place that grew and sold $10,000 or more of horticultural specialty products in 2012, as reported in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Producers can fill out the Census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return their form by mail. Federal law (Title 7, U.S. Code) requires all producers who receive a form to respond and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

Recipients are required to respond by Feb. 5. NASS will publish the results in December 2015. For more information about the Census of Horticulture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 919-856-4394.

-Information from USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Today’s Topic: Buy firewood locally to prevent spread of invasive insects

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:32

 

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

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

When you hear the phrase “Buy local,” it typically refers to food. But folks should be looking for another local product as we get into winter: firewood.

The NCDA&CS encourages people to buy firewood locally because it helps to prevent the spread of three major invasive insect species that have found their way to North Carolina in recent years. The department has been fighting the spread of emerald ash borer, walnut twig beetle and redbay ambrosia beetle.

Originally from Asia, the emerald ash borer has been in the U.S. for a dozen years. It was first detected in North Carolina in 2013. As of this summer, it had been found in Granville, Person, Warren and Vance counties. All four native ash species – pumpkin, Carolina, green and white – can be harmed by the borer. An estimated 2.5 million ash trees in North Carolina are at risk.

Another pest, the walnut twig beetle, carries a fungus that can cause thousand cankers disease in black walnut trees. It was found in Haywood County in 2012.

The third pest, the redbay ambrosia beetle, carries a fungus that can cause laurel wilt. It was first detected in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain in 2011. It’s a threat to redbay and swampbay trees, but also spicebush, sassafras, pondspice and pondberry.

These three pests like to hitch rides on wood. So it is always best to use firewood local to the area instead of bringing it in from somewhere else.

And if you see evidence of damage from any of these insects, contact your county forest ranger. For more information about these harmful insects, click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss why buying firewood locally is a good idea.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Dec. 6-12

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 13:37

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.

  • “Kalettes, Broccoflower And Other Eye-Popping Vegetables For 2015,” WFAE: Does a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale sounds like your vegetable dream come true? Maybe so, if you’re someone who’s crazy for cruciferous vegetables and all the fiber and nutrients they pack in. Meet Kalettes, a hybrid of the two that looks like a small head of purple kale. It arrived in U.S. supermarkets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods this fall, and is being marketed as “a fresh fusion of sweet and nutty.” It’s not the only new hybrid vegetable that we may be seeing a lot more of in 2015. Kendall College, a culinary and hospitality school in Chicago, predicts that broccoflower, broccolini and rainbow carrots may also leap from the specialty fringes to the mainstream produce aisle, owing to their terrific flavor and good looks. Why now? People are moving away from the comfort food they fell back on during the recession, says Christopher Koetke, vice president of Kendall’s School of Culinary Arts. “People are starting to say OK, I can be a little more adventuresome.” …
  • “China Becoming Most Important Market for US – Grown Tobacco,” Southern Farm Network: For the first time in many years, NC State Economist Dr. Blake Brown sees optimism for the US tobacco producer. Tobacco use in the US has been on the decline for decades, but the advent of e-cigarettes and the up-and-coming heat-not-burn products has breathed new life into tobacco production. Brown sees one other trend to further lend to the optimism: “The other major trend is one that has been around for a while. It’s the growing demand for premium style tobacco in the Asian market. We are seeing combustible cigarette consumption continue to increase there, possibly up to 17% over the next 5 years. Also we are seeing the consumer in those markets consuming more cigarettes and an increasing demand for a premium cigarette. That translates for more demand for premium US tobacco.” And because other export markets for US flue cured tobacco are in decline, China’s importance continues to grow, he says: “We have seen exports of US flue cured tobacco to China surpass those to the EU.” …
  • “Who will be the next generation of farmers?” Richmond County Daily Journal: The average age of the Richmond County farmer is 58. When people in most professions are thinking about pensions, retirement, babysitting grandchildren and winters in Florida; farmers may not be planning to ever stop farming. Some of the most fortunate farm families have younger generations who also love the lifestyle and independence of farming and will take over the family farm. Farm succession remains a difficult family topic and often there is no one willing to continue the farm. Producing food is an essential job, but not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Today, each farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people, increased from 25 people in 1960. …
  • All in All a 2014 a Good Crop Year,” Southern Farm Network: Don Nicholson, Regional Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Ag, oversees one of the most diverse ag regions in the state. He says this year, overall was a good crop year: “We have had issues again with too much rain in spots in the eastern part of my region. Other places had very timely rain to fill out the crops. We have exceptional cotton and corn yields and a good bean yield over all.” This year’s tobacco crop, says Nicholson was something of a marathon: “Tobacco was better than average over all, even with too much rain in the east. It was a good crop in the field but on the light side when it came to weight.” …
  • “North Carolina To End Use Of Gas Chambers In Animal Shelters,” WUNC: In a letter addressed to euthanasia technicians and registered animal shelters in the state, the N.C. Department of Agriculture says the use of gas chambers for euthanizing cats and dogs is no longer acceptable. The letter comes from Dr. Patricia Norris, the new director of the Animal Welfare Section at the Department. “We’re basically clarifying the policy for everybody,” said Norris. North Carolina’s animal euthanasia policy is meant to follow the guidelines of a few different groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Humane Association. While two of the groups (HSUS and AHA) had urged for the end of gas chambers for years, AVMA changed it’s guidelines in 2013. “We’re making sure everybody is complying with the new guidelines,” said Norris. …
  • “Congress puts potatoes on menu for low-income moms,” News & Observer: It’s another political victory for the popular potato. For the first time, low-income women would be able to pay for them with government-subsidized vouchers issued by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The potato provision is part of a massive spending bill Congress is expected to approve soon. White potatoes have been excluded from WIC since fruits and vegetables were first allowed under the program in 2009. It’s not that white potatoes themselves aren’t nutritious, but they’re often used to make french fries, which are usually fried or baked in unhealthy fats and oils. The Institute of Medicine had recommended that they be excluded, saying WIC recipients already eat enough white potatoes. The potato industry has aggressively lobbied for inclusion in WIC, saying it’s not as much about sales as the perception that potatoes aren’t as nutritious as other vegetables. Lawmakers from roughly 40 potato-growing states have been pushing for several years to include the potato in the program. …
  • “Hit the Cheese Trail,” Greensboro News & Record: Cheese lovers rejoice. Just like wine lovers, you now can travel a statewide trail to sample new and favorite varieties made in North Carolina. There even is a map online to help you chart your course to farms making farmstead and artisan cheeses from cow, goat or sheep’s milk. About 40 small farmers make and sell cheese across the state, including 11 that make up the N.C. Cheese Trail, which formed in April. …
  • “Grandfathering tobacco innovation gets GOP support,” Winston-Salem Journal: The key to the evolution, if not survival, of the U.S. tobacco industry is its ability to innovate with its product mix, whether snus, electronic cigarettes or the next generation of heat-not-burn traditional cigarettes. Perhaps the foremost example is the manufacturing of the Vuse e-cig product by Reynolds American Inc. at its Tobaccoville plant, where 200 jobs are being created to handle production. …

Got to Be NC Competition Dining: 2014 Fire of the Rock Champion Chef Michelle Bailey

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 08:02

Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This competition faces off two local chefs in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. The 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. The competition is held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington. The Final Fire competition pits the winners of each regional competition against each other.

This month, we are featuring Chef Michelle Bailey of Seasons Restaurant at Highland Lake Inn and Resort in Flat Rock. Bailey was the 2014 winner of the Fire on the Rock competition. She describes her cooking style as “refined American cuisine utilizing local and/or  sustainably sourced ingredients with a focus on traditional Southern techniques and international flavor profiles.”

Final Fire round 1 winners Chef Michelle Bailey and her team.

Bailey competed against Fire on the Dock Champion Antoine Murray of Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington in the first round of Final Fire last month in Raleigh. The secret ingredients for the battle were Piedmont Candy Co. Peppermint Puffs and Certified Angus Beef Brand Ribeye. Bailey went on to compete the next evening against Fire in the City Champion Jon Fortes where Fortes took the win.

The recipe below is from the first battle of Final Fire and was one of the highest scoring dishes for Bailey.

 Bacon and Peppermint Buttermilk Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 10 egg yolks, preferably local
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • pinch kosher salt
  • ¾ cup bacon, rendered until crisp, drained, chopped
  • ¾ cup Piedmont Candy Co. peppermint puffs, crushed

Instructions:

1. Combine the cream and 1 cup of the sugar in a large, heavy saucepot and bring to a gentle simmer.
2. Combine remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Slowly temper the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly and taking care not to curdle the eggs.
4. Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until the sauce becomes think enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Strain the mixture and then whisk in the buttermilk and salt. Chill over an ice bath and cool completely. Ideally, overnight in the refrigerator.
6. Process the cold custard according to the manufacturer’s directions on your ice cream maker.
7. Once ice cream has thickened and achieved a smooth creamy texture, remove from the machine and fold in the bacon and peppermint candies.
8. Cover and store in the freezer at least 6 hours prior to serving.

Course Five: Chocolate, Mushroom & Stout Cake, Torched Pink Peppercorn Marshmallow Fluff, Piedmont Candy Co. Peppermint & Nueske’s Bacon Buttermilk Ice Cream, Salted Caramel, Crisp Peppermint Meringues, Cherry & Peppermint Coulis

Tickets to attend the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series event make great gifts and can be ordered online at http://www.competitiondining.com/gift-certificates.

 

 

Today’s Topic: Cultivating young people’s interest in agriculture

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 07:53

 

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

The average age of North Carolina farmers has continued to increase and now stands at 58.9, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. That’s a concern because the world’s population will reach 9 billion people by the year 2050, and it’s going to take farmers to feed them. We’re going to have to have a lot of youth in agriculture and agribusiness to meet that need, Commissioner Troxler tells Rhonda.

The state has amazing land-grant universities in N.C. State and N.C. A&T State, and they do a wonderful job of educating students about agriculture. But, Troxler says, we have to cultivate that interest early, before students make their college choice.

Last month, Commissioner Troxler attended an event at Northside High School in Beaufort County aimed at getting young folks interested in agriculture, and about 500 students were there. Programs such as FFA and 4-H also are helping to generate interest in agriculture. And the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agri-Science in Jamesville is helping to grow that interest, too.

North Carolina has more than 50,000 farms of all shapes and sizes, and they all are needed, the Commissioner says. There’s a need for new generations to take up farming when current farmers retire.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the importance of attracting young people to careers in agriculture.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Nov. 27-Dec. 5

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 12:30

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.

  • “Extension mission focus on farms,” Wilmington Star-News: Mention the words cooperative extension today and master gardeners, 4-H Clubs or great free advice may come to mind. Marking 100 years of existence this year, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service delivers these services and a lot more. Advice for consumers and farmers have been part of the organization for a century, long before stormwater control and other programs emerged in recent years. The seeds for the cooperative extension trace back to Abraham Lincoln. The Morrill Act of 1862 set the stage for a national network of land-grant institutions including N.C. State and N.C. A&T. These schools created agricultural experiment stations. The research results were then shared with farmers. Previously, farmers had to rely on fertilizer sales people for advice. …
  • “Christmas trees big business in N.C. mountains,” Wilmington Star-News: Christmas trees grown in North Carolina are already well on their way to stores and tree stands across the country. North Carolina ranks second in the nation behind Oregon in Christmas tree production, with trees grown mostly in the state’s mountains providing about 4 million trees worth about $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the mountains of Mitchell County, Rodney Buchanan’s family tree farm starts preparing for the holiday in March and begins cutting trees in mid-November. He estimates his Buck’s Tree Farm will provide 50,000 Fraser firs to Boy Scout and church tree lots and other small operations. …
  • “Checking for the right price at the cash register,” WGHP: State inspectors are making sure consumers are getting the prices promised in stores this holiday season. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services checks prices on millions of items throughout the year, said Standards Inspector II Michael Beal. “We do a lot more seasonal items. Hams, turkeys, seasonal candies. Items the store typically does not carry throughout the year in large quantities,” he explained. Beal added, “We’re going in and we’re doing price audits. Checking for prices on the shelf. Making sure it matches on the shelf what it rings up for you.” He said most mistakes they find are due to a mechanical error, such as a broken scale, or to human error, such as a sale sign posted in the wrong location. “Nine times out of 10, these stores want you to tell them so they can get it fixed,” he pointed out. “Them deliberately ringing up the wrong prices is rare.” …
  • “North Carolina enacts Venus flytrap theft laws: How big is the problem, really?” WUNC: Did you know that picking a Venus Flytrap in North Carolina can now land you two years in prison? The law, enacted earlier this week, is meant to protect the Venus Flytrap, a rare carnivorous plant that only grows in the wild in swamps near Wilmington. It’s estimated that there are only 35,000 plants remaining in the wild. The plant’s numbers have dwindled in part because of people stealing them from protected lands. …
  • “U.S. continues to “chew” on excess peanut supplies,” Southeast Farm Press: The U.S. peanut market continues to wrestle against large production numbers from 2012, as producers wrap up harvesting this year’s crop, says John Michael Riley, Mississippi State University Extension economist. “The U.S. continues to chew on a large production number from 2012,” said Riley at this year’s Southern Region Outlook Conference in Atlanta. “We definitely cut back on the number of acres in 2013. And while we do have a buildup of stocks that we’re trying to work through, we actually saw an increase in acres this past year. So despite a lower yield in 2014, production could be about where it was last year.” By the first week of November, nearly 80 percent of the 2014 U.S. peanut crop had been harvested. In late October, 55 percent of the peanut crop was reported in good to excellent condition, about seven percentage points below the same time last year.
  • Wake Forest, Lowes Foods collaborate on analysis,” Winston-Salem Journal: Consumers at 10 Lowes Foods stores, including two in Forsyth County, are doing more than just grocery shopping as they walk down the aisles. Their shopping behavior is being evaluated in real time – which aisles they walk down, which product categories they linger over – in an analytical partnership involving the Winston-Salem grocer, a local RockTenn division and Wake Forest University School of Business students. The goal is giving the grocer and the display manufacturer better insight into shopping habits, while providing students with valuable real-world analytical experience, said Roger Beahm, executive director of the business school’s Center for Retail Innovation. …

Flavor, NC: Old Mill of Guilford

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 09:00

Twice a month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight episode eight from the first season, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights the Old Mill of Guilford in Oak Ridge and J. Peppers Southern Grille in Kernersville.

In this episode Lisa visits Old Mill of Guilford where “grits are ground the old-fashioned way.” This mill is one of the oldest continuously-operating grist mills in the state. It has been providing all-natural, stone-ground grain since 1767.  This episode shows how grain is brought in from the farm, ground on the stone and then packaged for sale.

Lisa then visits Chef John Jones of J. Pepper’s Southern Grille in Kernersville to learn how Old Mill grits are used in fried grit cakes. J. Peppers features traditional Southern fare with locally sourced meats, seafood and produce. Along with the grit cakes, Lisa and Chef Jones prepare fried oyster salad, Old Mill gingerbread with Grand Marnier and peaches, and blueberry buttermilk pancakes.  Below is the recipe for fried grit cakes.

Grit Cakes

  • 2 cups yellow grits
  • 2 cups white grits
  • 3 cups chicken and/or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion power

Method:
Bring stock, cream and spices to a boil. Slowly add grits and stir well. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, adding more cream if grits become too thick. Pour into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Slice chilled grits and pan or deep fry. If pan frying, dredge sliced grits in flour before frying.

 

Navy using part of Bladen Lakes State Forest for training

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 10:14

The Navy has a three-year agreement with the N.C. Forest Service to conduct training exercises on a portion of Bladen Lakes State Forest.

The N.C. Forest Service has a long history of working with its military partners around the state. That relationship took an additional step forward when the NCFS and the U.S. Navy came to a three-year agreement on using part of Bladen Lakes State Forest for military training exercises.

“I want to thank all those who were involved in the process of bringing this agreement to a successful completion,” said Michael Chesnutt, Bladen Lakes State Forest supervisor. “I am pleased the North Carolina Forest Service is able to work with the military to provide another place in which to train our warriors.”

The Navy is training on about 700 acres of land located at the southernmost edge of the forest, adjacent to the north bank of the Cape Fear River near Singletary Lake. This area is located on the 4,686-acre portion of the forest, between N.C. Highway 53 and the Cape Fear River. The forest contains about 32,800 acres in total.

“The Bladen Lakes State Forest is a vital component to our training continuum. No other location affords us the ability to conduct riverine training in such a realistic, pristine environment,” said Fred Sizemore, assistant director for the Center for Security Forces Learning Site Camp Lejeune. “With limited infrastructure, isolated locations and rugged terrain, Bladen Lakes State Forest is an ideal location for coastal riverine training.”

Military training should not have impact on land, other activities in forest

Citizens concerned that the forest will lose its pristine nature should not worry, as the Navy agreed to leave the area as they found it. The Navy conducts low-impact ground training exercises such as insertion and extraction of ground forces, mock ambushes, patrolling, medical evacuations and mock treatments. Although they use blank munitions during training, pyrotechnics, non-lethal training ammunition and smoke grenades must be deemed safe and approved for use by the NCFS. In other words, the use of these devices must be approved for times when they are not likely to cause a fire.

“We must be able to accomplish our training mission effectively without disrupting the environment,” said Larry McFarland, executive director of the Center for Security Forces. “The U.S. Navy has a strong track record of environmental stewardship and it’s important we continue that tradition. The local users of the forest must be considered and successfully communicated with as we conduct training and carry out this mission.”

The Navy conducts no more than eight nine-day training sessions per year. However, the Navy will not conduct training in Bladen Lakes State Forest April 1-May 20 and Sept. 15-Jan. 1 to allow for turkey and deer hunting seasons.

Chesnutt also would like to assure the forest’s various user groups that the ongoing military operations should in no way adversely affect their activities. “While Bladen Lakes State Forest’s primary function is to demonstrate the benefits of good forest management, we also have a lot of folks who come here for a variety of recreational activities,” he said. “One of our goals as a demonstration forest is to show how you can manage your forest for a variety of goals, including recreation and, in this case, military training.”

Bladen Lakes State Forest has more than 180 miles of trails and paths for use by the public, including horseback riding and some limited camping. These activities all require a special-use permit, which can be obtained for free at the office Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about Bladen Lakes State Forest, call 910-588-4964 or email bladenlakessf.ncfs@ncagr.gov.

Today’s Topic: Bumper seed crop ensures future trees

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 08:01

 

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

This year was a bumper crop for tree seed, including these overcup oak acorns, being planted at a N.C. Forest Service nursery.

In the afterglow of Thanksgiving, your refrigerator or freezer may be overflowing with leftovers from the feast. But turkey and dressing aren’t the only things that were put into cold storage lately. Seeds from trees across the state have hit the ground in record amounts this fall. And squirrels weren’t the only ones looking for it.  After collecting from the bumper crop, the N.C. Forest Service was able to cold-store tree seeds for use in years to come.

Each year, N.C. Forest Service staff members collect the seed used to grow more than 50 species of tree seedlings for the agency’s nursery program. These native seedlings are then sold to landowners at low cost for a variety of purposes, such as reforestation, wetlands mitigation, aesthetic improvement and wildlife habitat creation.

“While trees make some seed almost every year, a crop of this size only occurs about every four or five years,” says James West, head of the NCFS Nursery and Tree Improvement Program. “Things have to be just right when it comes to rain, temperatures and wind events. If one of those parameters is off, the seed yield is lower.”

This fall has proven to be a bumper crop year for most species across the state, West says. The weather conditions for the last two years have been favorable for trees to produce seed such as acorns, drupes and cones. In some species, seed production can take two years to complete.

This year’s heavy seed crop has enabled the nursery staff to process seeds from many species and prepare them for long-term storage. This will ensure that seedlings will be available to North Carolina landowners in future years when tree seed may not be as plentiful.

Landowners interested in planting trees this winter or spring may order their seedlings by calling 1-888-NCTREES or visiting http://nc-forestry.stores.yahoo.net.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the crop of tree seed and learn more about the N.C. Forest Service’s nursery program.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

What’s Happening on the Farm: Tidewater Research Station serves up Irish potato research

Sat, 11/29/2014 - 10:35

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 Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth. 

Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth

This time of year, Irish, or white, potatoes are likely on the minds of cooks around the state as they prepare for their big holiday meal. Potatoes are also on the mind of research operations manager Jewell Tetterton and his staff at the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth, but for much different reasons.

The 19 full-time Tidewater employees are busy planting new potato seed stock in two 3,000-square-foot greenhouses.  The 23,000 to 25,000 different plant crosses will fill the greenhouses and become the basis for the 2015 growing season’s Irish potato breed trials, with the hope that a new plant crosses will eventually be released for commercial production, Tetterton said. That process can take anywhere from five to 12 years and involves multiple years of growing a specific plant, detailed data collection and even taste testing to see how the potato stacks up on flavor.

From their greenhouse starts, Tetterton said 18,000 to 20,000 different plant crosses will make it to the field. But then the numbers drop dramatically. “Only 2.5 to 4 percent will go on to the next generation of research,” he said.

While the 2014 potato harvest has long ended, Tetterton said that even though he and other workers may “not be in the field, we’re messing with potatoes near about all year.” That’s because research involving potatoes is pretty labor intensive, whether it involves hand planting all the seed stock, hand planting plants with good prospects in the field or hand harvesting the crop to collect production data.

The Tidewater Research Station was established in 1943 and also includes research projects involving beef and swine, field crops, aquaculture and horticultural crops. The station has more than 1,550 acres, with the bulk in timber, field crops and pasture. It is the only one of the 18 state-operated stations with an Irish potato plant breeding program, which makes sense given the station is in the heart of the state’s potato-growing region. Some of the current potato breeds grown commercially in the state, such as Yukon Golds, Superior, Altantic and Snowdens, were developed through research trials at Tidewater.

While those potatoes have been good producers, researchers continue to develop varieties that are more productive and have greater disease resistance. Improving varieties is one way researchers help farmers increase their bottom line, and also help meet the long-range need to feed a growing world population.

“It’s been about five to seven years since we have had a new release,” Tetterton said. “But there are some good prospects out there right now; two or three that are looking promising, but they have probably another two to five years of research to go.”

Tetterton said most people would probably be surprised to learn just how labor intensive research work is for potatoes. “Every seed piece is dropped by hand and every plant is harvested by hand,” he said. “And we can’t cross-contaminate one plot with the next.”

The station averages planting between 12 and 17 acres of potato trials, with test plots situated every 21 feet, with 3-foot breaks between plots. “It takes us about four weeks to get through hand harvesting all the potatoes,” he said. Each plot has a dedicated tote for harvesting purposes that is clearly labeled to avoid confusion on which plant cross is being harvested.

Once the potatoes are harvested, they are graded, weighed and checked for taste. Literally, potatoes will be cut up into chips, fried and tasted by the staff. Not every potato will be cut up, so around 1,500 pounds of good, No. 1 stock potatoes end up being donated to the local food bank.

Another thing Tetterton said might surprise people is how much of North Carolina’s $36 million potato crop eventually becomes potato chips. He estimates 90 to 95 percent of them are shipped north to become potato chips. The remaining will be sold as fresh potatoes.

Who knew so much is behind those mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving?

 

 

 

News Roundup: Nov. 22-26

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 11:12

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.

  • “State aims to get students involved in agriculture earlier,” WNCT: An effort is underway to get students involved in agriculture at a younger age to ensure the stability of the billion dollar industry in North Carolina. More than 500 Beaufort County students attended an agriculture expo at Northside High School in Pinetown Tuesday to learn about different ways they can get involved. For some students, agriculture has always been something that interested them. “I’ve always known that food didn’t just come off your shelves, and as a senior this year, I’ve seen that a lot of high schoolers don’t exactly know where the food comes from, and it’s important for me to tell them and for me to advocate for them,” said Kaitlyn Tetterton, a senior at Northside. The event also drew top state officials from Raleigh, including Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We’ve got 9 billion people to feed by the year 2050,” Troxler said. “We’re going to have to have a lot of youth in agriculture and agro business to meet the goals of the food supply.” …
  • “State warns of overcharging at the register,” WNCN: State inspectors are warning consumers to keep a close eye on the prices they pay for items at stores. The Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Standards Division says about 6 percent of the stores they checked statewide have failed inspections ensuring prices charged at the register are accurate.”If you go to the store and buy 50 items, there’s a strong possibility at least one is wrong,” said Measurement Program Manager Jerry Butler. “I guarantee it.” To help curb the problem, state inspectors periodically check price scanners in stores. “It’s about a 9- to 10-percent error rate the first time, and we’ll go back in 30 days and hit them again,” Butler explained. “And that’s about a 6-percent error rate to the stores we return to.” …
  • “For a job with a future, look to agriculture,” Southeast Farm Press: Country crooner Willie Nelson, along with the late, great Waylon Jennings, famously warned mama’s everywhere not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys. “Don’t let them pick guitars and drive them old trucks, make them be doctors and lawyers and such,” they sang. But is this sage advice in today’s economy? Most doctors complain that between government regulations and malpractice insurance, it’s all they can do to maintain their country club memberships. And it’s no secret that America is over-lawyered, with almost 1.3 million attorneys, which is more by far than any other country and more as a percentage of the national population than almost all others. A recent report from the National Association for Law Placement states that fewer than half of the people graduating from law school eventually landed jobs in a law firm, and only 65 percent found positions requiring passage of the bar exam. With all due respect to Misters Nelson and Jennings, maybe it’s time to reconsider current prospects. So what’s a person to do who’s looking for a good job with long-term security? According to a report released in October at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, there’s a great need now for young agricultural professionals. …
  • “Luncheon caps Farm-City Week festivities,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Machines made for the fields made their way down Main Street Saturday morning for the 19th annual Farmers’ Day Parade. John Deere, Allis-Chalmers and McCormick Farmall tractors made up the bulk of the parade, interspersed with entries from several local fire departments, church groups and scout troops. Classic cars, modern motorcycles and Shriners also rolled along the route, with riders on horseback bringing up the rear. The parade kicked off Farm-City Week, which also included a hootenanny and tours of the 4-H Museum at Camp Millstone. The celebration of the county’s agricultural community concluded Monday with a luncheon featuring goat barbecue and grilled chicken. …
  • “Farmers Encourage Families to Shop Local This Thanksgiving,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) With Thanksgiving just days away, shoppers are sweeping store shelves. Local farmers are also encouraging these shoppers to buy local produce and meats. Humble Roots farmer Kyle Stenersen chose Tidal Creek Co-op as the place to shop on Sunday. “This is one of the places in town where a small farmer who doesn’t have tons of acres…and doesn’t belong to a co-op can come and sell their products and they can be bought by the consumer,” he said. Community stores like Tidal Creek Co-op are also urging customers to buy local foods for Thanksgiving, as much of the produce and turkeys are fresh from the farms. …
  • “Got your Goat: For N.C. cheesemakers, it’s just kid stuff,” Columbia News Tribune: The burgeoning local-food movement usually seeks to bring the farm to the table. But the Goat Lady Dairy brings the table to the farm. Several times a month, for most of the year, the North Carolina dairy opens its barn doors to about 50 people who register in advance for a $60-per-person “dining adventure”: a five-course, locally inspired meal showcasing the dairy’s multiple varieties of goat cheese. We signed up partly for the food and partly for the goats, and neither disappointed. The Goat Lady is tucked away in the rolling hills of Climax, N.C., in the west-central part of the state. It can be tough to find: Our car’s GPS unit said, “Turn left” at the same instant the smartphone said, “Turn right.” But eventually we pulled up at its red barn and joined the crowd on the porch for a glass of wine with a side of environmental education. “We do not do this because this is a handy-dandy, simple, easy way to make a living,” dairy owner Steve Tate told our group. Instead, he said, “we discovered that when you change a person’s relationship to food, you change them and the world together.” …
  • “Cooperative Extension celebrates century of agricultural education,” Lexington Dispatch: The organization most known for being the champion of the farmer, Cooperative Extension, is celebrating 100 years of education, research and assistance to farmers and youths of Davidson County. Agriculture remains the leading industry in North Carolina, and Davidson County is still one of the top producers in the state. In other words, no matter how many technical advancements society makes, agriculture is still king and has been for a very long time. Troy Coggins, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Davidson County, said his department basically is an extension of a college classroom. “We used to call it Agricultural Extension, but now the whole program is called Cooperative Extension,” Coggins said. “That change kind of confused some folks, but it really encompasses everything from the 4-H programs, the family consumer sciences and, of course, our agricultural programs. Probably an alternative term that might have been easier to understand would have been university extension because essentially what we are is an extension of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T University.” …
  • “Precision Agriculture Taking Root With Drones, AgBio Technology,” Xconomy: To catch a glimpse of new technology that could help farmers get more from plants in the soil, look to the sky. Aerial drones might be more commonly associated with military applications today. But the precision an unmanned aerial vehicle shows in a military strike also has applications in farming. A drone can identify a target in the field—a pest, a disease, or a nutrient problem, says Rick DeRose, global expert, technology acquisition for Syngenta Biotechnology. Based on information from that aerial scan, a farmer can determine how to respond. That response will be delivered by a drone. DeRose calls it “precision agriculture.” “We are doing space stuff in agriculture,” DeRose says. “It is the way of the future.” The future of agriculture was the central theme of the North Carolina Agriculture and Biotechnology Summit last week, a conference that drew agribusiness companies, scientists, and farmers to the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. …
  • “Opinion: Best state: Minnesota and North Carolina, for turkeys,” North Jersey.com: Reid Wilson is the author of Read In, The Washington Post’s new morning tipsheet on politics. Perhaps it’s fitting that most of the food we will enjoy on Thursday didn’t make its way to our dinner tables from Massachusetts. THE TRUE origins of Thanksgiving are, like America itself, a mix of foreign influences. Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led what may have been the New World’s first Thanksgiving celebration in 1541, 79 years before the Pilgrims sailed to North America. French Huguenots held a Thanksgiving service near what’s now Jacksonville, Fla., in 1564. English colonists in modern-day Maine and Jamestown, Va., also celebrated Thanksgivings before the Pilgrims got here. So perhaps it’s fitting that most of the food we will enjoy on Thursday didn’t make its way to our dinner tables from Massachusetts. …
  • “National Parks Look To Lock Out Wild Ginseng Diggers,” National Public Radio: Digging for wild ginseng pays: It sells for thousands of dollars in overseas markets. But it is illegal to take ginseng from national parks, where authorities are working to thwart poachers. They come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Jim Corbin, a plant protection specialist with North Carolina’s agriculture department, is out to protect wild ginseng root from the poachers. Ginseng is short – about shin height and has little red seeds, like tiny cranberries. Corbin, who spots some growing deep in the park, crouches down and digs his finger into the soil near the root, then pulls a spray can and a little jar of thick yellow powder out of his pocket. The powder is Corbin’s anti-poaching technology. If someone digs up the root he’s marked and tries to sell it, it’ll glow under a black light, revealing that it was poached. Park officials say Corbin’s dye has helped convict 41 ginseng poachers in the last four years. One was Billy Joe Hurley. He pleaded guilty to his fourth poaching conviction earlier this fall and is serving five and a half months in federal prison. …

 

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: November recipe roundup

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 08:21

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 recipes are Thanksgiving favorites submitted by WRAL-TV viewers.  Recipes included a holiday salad, cranberry fluff, a creative take on pumpkin pie, homemade oatmeal cream pies and sweet potato and sausage hash.

The first recipe was provided by Clare Turner of Belmont. Brian said, “It’s the dressing that makes this salad so special.”

Clare’s Holiday Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound raw spinach
  • 8 spring onions or 1 small red onion
  • 5 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
  • 8 slices crisp bacon (crumbled)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 fresh mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 cans Mandarin oranges (drained)

Dressing:

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion juice (grated onion or found in the spice isle)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2⁄3 cup cider vinegar

Instructions:

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with the salad ingredients. Leftover dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Next is a tart recipe that is a throwback to the 1970s. “Mary Wehring from Raleigh says her little sister brought this recipe home from Brownies around 1970 and insisted they make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says Lisa. “It has been a holiday tradition ever since.” If you are watching your carbs, leave out the marshmallows and the sugar.

Cranberry Fluff

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack whole cranberries
  • 2 red apples (cut in small pieces)
  • 2 green apples (cut in small pieces)
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 envelope Dream Whip
  • 1⁄2 cup cold milk
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Chop cranberries in a food processor until very small but not mushy. Mix together apples and chopped cranberries. Add marshmallows and nuts. Refrigerate. (The original recipe says an hour, but this is something we prepare to this point early in the day and finish when holiday prep allows.) Prepare Dream Whip (adding milk and vanilla and blend with hand mixer) and fold into cranberry mixture. (We have tried Cool Whip, Reddi-Whip and real whipped cream, but for our family it must be Dream Whip.) Add sugar to taste. Refrigerate until serving.

The next recipe is no-bake cream pie that is a twist on the traditional pumpkin pie provided by viewer Craig Partin of Fuquay-Varina. “It taste like a little bit of fall,” says Lisa.

Pumpkin Cream-Turtle Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 pack 3.4 oz.vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups frozen whipped topping (thawed)
  • 1 cup chopped N.C. pecans (plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 7.25 oz. bottle caramel flavored Magic Shell ice cream topping
  • 2 tablespoon regular caramel ice cream topping

Instructions:

In a large bowl, beat together pumpkin, pudding mixes, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg with wire whisk until well blended. Fold in whipped topping and 1 cup pecans. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Pour caramel Magic Shell (entire bottle) over top of pie and spread evenly. Sprinkle with remaining chopped pecans.
Freeze pie for 1 hour or until firm. Before serving, drizzle regular caramel ice cream topping over top of pie. Store pie in refrigerator.

The next recipe is for homemade oatmeal cream pies by Megan Talley of Fuquay-Varina. Lisa notes that they “have all the flavors of fall and make great gifts.”

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 whole N.C. farm fresh eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup molasses
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups quick rolling oats

Frosting (for center, as desired) – Megan recommends Pillsbury Easy Frost Vanilla Dream No Fuss Frosting, for ease. We used Pillsbury whipped supreme vanilla.

Instructions:

Cream the butter and sugar; add the eggs, molasses, and milk. Beat well. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves together. Add to creamed mixture along with the quick rolling oats.
Drop the mixture by heaping teaspoonful’s onto un-greased cookie sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until brown, but soft. Allow cookies to cool. Frost the bottom of one cookie with vanilla frosting of choice, place a second cookie on top of frosting to create a sandwich … or oatmeal cream pie!

The next recipe is provide by Amy Smith of Raleigh and is an entree that is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh sausage
  • 2 N.C. sweet potatoes (diced)
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 4 N.C. eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salsa

Instructions:

Break up your sausage and cook it in a pan over medium-high heat. When the sausage is nearly finished, drain some of the grease and add the sweet potatoes and onion. Add the cumin and coriander and mix well. Continue to cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. When the hash is cooked through transfer to a medium serving bowl. Cover the hash with the extra-sharp cheese and cover the entire dish with foil. Wash out the pan and melt one tablespoon of butter. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook over medium-high heat. When the eggs are done (I prefer mine Sunny side up!), remove foil from serving dish and add eggs. Sprinkle the entire dish with salsa and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

From the Commissioner: Thanksgiving and agriculture

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:02

Commissioner Troxler with his wife and grandkids.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and like many of you, I will be enjoying the day with family and friends around a home-cooked meal. This holiday season I am thankful for farmers and what they provide to our state.

As you sit down to your meal, there’s a good chance what you are eating was grown by a farmer right here in North Carolina. Our state was built on agriculture and it remains our top industry with more than 50,000 farms of all shapes and sizes. Agriculture and agribusiness generate $78 billion for our economy and employ 640,000 people. It is something we can all be thankful about.

Nationally, North Carolina ranks first in sweet potatoes, second in hogs and pigs and third in turkeys. We also rank second in Christmas trees and poinsettias. Our state is home to more than 80 different commodities. Since there really isn’t much our farmers can’t grow, it’s very easy to make it a North Carolina Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for the safe, abundant food supply our farmers provide. I encourage you to support farmers this holiday season and look for ways to buy local. You can help by looking for the green and yellow Got to Be NC label where you shop. This label means that this product was grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina.  Candles, honey, wood products and gift baskets full of N.C. products make great gifts during the holiday season as well. The NCDA&CS online General Store is a great place to start if you are looking for ideas on where to shop local.

As you enjoy this holiday season, I hope you take some time to be thankful for our agricultural community and support our local farms and businesses.

Support North Carolina agriculture and agribusiness by looking for the Got to Be NC label where you shop.

 

Today’s Topic: National Farm-City Week

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 07:05

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

It’s National Farm-City Week, which began Nov. 21 and continues through Thanksgiving Day.

Farm-City Week helps promote a greater understanding of agriculture and its connection to the foods we enjoy throughout the year. Communities across the state hold events to celebrate and strengthen the relationships between farmers and the public. It’s important for everyone to understand the connection between agriculture, the food we eat and the economic benefits this industry provides to North Carolina.

Thanksgiving is a great time to celebrate with locally grown food, and Commissioner Troxler tells Rhonda that the Got to Be NC program has made it easier to identify N.C.-grown food in grocery stores across the state.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Farm-City Week and what the Commissioner is thankful for.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

NC Forest Service officers recognized as 2014 Arson Investigative Team of the Year

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 08:21

Law enforcement officers with the N.C. Forest Service were named the 2014 Investigative Team of the Year by the North Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators at the N.C./S.C. Arson Conference in Myrtle Beach. The event was attended by more than 360 fire investigators, fire marshals and detectives from both states.

Left to right, Amery Wells, law enforcement supervisor, N.C. Forest Service; Capt. David Newton, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office; Michael Hardin Jr., senior assistant district attorney, District 16A; Sam Niemyer, D-3 law enforcement district ranger, N.C. Forest Service; Jamie Laviner, investigator, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. Not pictured: Kristy Newton, district attorney, District 16A, and Dawn Layton,chief assistant district attorney, District 20A.

The honor was bestowed upon NCFS Law Enforcement Supervisor Amery Wells, Law Enforcement Rockingham District Ranger Sam Niemyer and other members of the team for an investigation that took place between July 2011 and May 2012. During that period, 78 fires were intentionally set in Scotland, Richmond and Hoke counties. The team used a combination of strategies to narrow down the case to a single suspect who would later be charged and convicted on 50 felony counts of setting fires and malicious use of incendiary devices.

Robert Smith, NCFS chief of law enforcement, said the investigation was challenging and unique due to the geographic area that covered portions of three counties, eight fire districts and two prosecutorial districts, among other factors. He pointed out that investigating a series of fires, even if a few are in the same general area, is complicated.

“Effective communications between investigative team members and numerous resources from different counties and fire districts was critical to the success of this investigation,” Smith said.

Smith said developing the working relationships and overall trust between all of those parties was essential. He credited the team with doing an outstanding job to develop and nurture longstanding relationships that transcended jurisdictional lines and using their individual strengths and skills to work extremely well together.

“They used a combination of good old-fashioned investigative skills mixed with technology such as tracking devices and GIS mapping, to put together a thorough case,” he said.

The factor of time and distance repeatedly challenged investigators to develop new strategies for static and mobile surveillance that covered a large geographic area over a lengthy time span. It was, however, a challenge to get the legal authority to use the tracking device. In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in U.S. vs. Jones that required a search warrant for tracking devices. In May 2012, judges were still new to this case, as was the investigative team, making the warrant process more time-consuming than normal. The team collaborated on proper verbiage and content prior to discussing the case with the signing judge to be sure everything was in proper order and to the letter of the law.

The team also had the daunting task of collecting and analyzing a large volume of data, evidence, leads, witness interviews, photographs and other information, which quickly became a huge undertaking to sort and track. There was also the ongoing process of analyzing the data to formulate hypotheses, which was even more challenging and often frustrating for the team.

The suspect turned out to be a former law enforcement officer. As such, he was familiar with investigative tactics, interview techniques and surveillance techniques. It was later determined that he was also using a scanner to monitor radio traffic of emergency response personnel.

“Considering all of the challenges, the investigative team maintained a unified and determined effort to bring successful closure to one of the most complex wildland fire investigation cases in North Carolina history,” Smith said.

The team invested more than 1,000 man hours of time and resources and wrote in excess of 1,000 pages of discovery evidence. Their work led to 52 felony charges for intentionally setting fires and use of malicious incendiary devices, and a $1 million dollar bond set for the suspect, the largest in North Carolina for a wildland fire case. The suspect pleaded guilty in November 2013 to 50 of the 52 felony charges and was ordered to pay more than $15,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to 60 months of supervised probation to begin in May 2016 at the end of an unrelated federal prison sentence.

“I’m very proud to have played just a small role in this investigation. But even more so, to have witnessed the amount of dedication, professionalism and teamwork these guys demonstrated throughout this entire investigation,” Smith said. “They are all very deserving of this award for 2014.”

News Roundup: Nov. 15-21

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:35

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.

  •  “FDA Holds Listening Session on Food Safety Rules,” Time Warner Cable News: North Carolina produce farmers and animal-food manufacturers are learning about updated rules proposed under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA is holding meetings across the country to get industry input. The law goes into full effect in about three years and is said to be the most sweeping reform of US food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed into law in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act marks a major shift in food safety, changing the federal strategy from responding to contamination to preventing it. …
  • “Dixon: Farm finds a niche in baby ginger, turmeric,” Winston-Salem Journal: One of the best parts about writing this column is discovering new places, new people and new plants. Recently, I discovered Plum Granny Farm in Stokes County — and the unique crops that they cultivate. Owners Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel are best known for garlic. Growing more than 20 varieties has put them on the food map. …
  • “Local TV show features Lejeune mess hall,” DVIDS: Local TV station UNC-TV’s program Flavor, NC is dedicated to showcasing local food producers, their products and restaurants who prepare dishes with those ingredients. Mess Hall 82 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune will be featured in an upcoming episode of Flavor, NC. “The show features a variety of local ingredients from fresh fruits and vegetables to dried goods and meats,” said Paul Friday, director of government and external relations with Marine Corps Installations East. “Not only do we provide wholesome, nutritious food for service members, but we also recognize local food producers.” Flavor, NC starts at the origin of produce, and describes the process the food takes to arrive at its final destination. …
  •  “Tree-mendous Haul For NC Forest Service,” WFAE: An unusual North Carolina Forest Service program has staff compete to collect tree seeds. After a fertile year, the service is touting the results. James West manages a nursery and publishes a most-wanted list—both for the North Carolina Forest Service. The list names types of seeds state and county forest officials might find as they patrol the woods. They bring them back to grow into seedlings in the nursery, West says. “It’s really interesting to watch how much comes in,” says West. …
  • “Keep an eye on gas receipts to find inaccurate pumps,” WRAL: When filling up at the pump, most of us just set it and forget it. And for the most part, people trust the numbers on the pump. A woman who contacted 5 on Your Side was on empty when she filled up, which may have helped her catch a problem with her gas pump. “According to my owner’s manual, I have 13.2 gallons capacity in my car, but the pump went over 16 gallons,” Kathy Potter said. Potter needed gas when she stopped at the WilcoHess on Western Boulevard in October. “When I saw that hit 13 gallons, I got concerned, and then when it kept going I was really, you know, puzzled,” Potter said. “I thought wow, I was really on empty.” Her receipt shows the pump finally cut off at more than 16 gallons. “Over three gallons is a pretty pricey error margin,” Potter said. “That cost me over $10 and if we’re doing that every time we fill up, that’s a lot of money out of my pocket.” Potter said the clerk wasn’t worried about the difference. “She didn’t seem very concerned, she just kind of laughed and shrugged it off,” said Potter. So the Potters called state inspectors, who tested the pump and shut it down. “It’s nothing the store did on purpose, it’s just equipment and it does go bad,” said Jerry Butler with the state Department of Agriculture. Butler said the inspector pumped 20 gallons but was charged for 26.6 gallons. He ended up closing both sides of the pump. …
  • “Tobacco Trust Fund provides $500k for agricultural projects at NC State,” The Technician: The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund provided $500,000 to two agricultural projects based at NC State geared toward helping struggling farmers during what has been a difficult economy for agriculturalists. The organization announced that it will provide about $300,000 to fund NC AgVentures, a new program that will seek to help tobacco farmers update and revamp farms through the use of individual grants. The Tobacco Trust Fund will also give about $200,000 to Developing Future NC Farmers, a program that hopes to encourage college students to develop a career in the agriculture industry. “The money goes directly to the farmers so they can implement new projects on their farm,” said Jacqueline Murphy Miller, the extension assistant of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. There has been a significant decline of tobacco growth in the United States, according to Miller. However, North Carolina remains the number one producer of flue-cured tobacco, the primary ingredient in cigarettes in the country. “The bottom line is we want to keep farmers in business,” said Jeff Jennings, program officer of the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. …
  • “Conference unites women across meat industry supply chain to address common issues,” Indy Week: Bacon is easy. I want to say that loud and clear. Bacon is easy.” That’s Tray Satterfield, meat associate at Skagit Valley Cured Meats in Washington State and she’s speaking about curing pork to 36 women gathered for a three-day conversation about all things meat. Now in its second year, Women Working in the Meat Business is a conference hosted by NC Choices, a program of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. …
  • “Farm-City Week showcases local agriculture,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Culture and agriculture will meet here Saturday as Farm-City Week kicks off, bringing those in the city and those in the country closer together. This year’s theme is “Who’s Your Farmer?” and Susan Kelly of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension office believes it’s a way for those unfamiliar with farming to become a little more educated. “Farm-City is a national movement. City folks and country folks getting together,” said Kelly. “This is a fairly rural county, but a lot of people don’t know about agriculture.” The agriculture agencies in the local N.C. Cooperative Extension office are in charge of this year’s festivities, said Kelly, along with several Richmond County residents. …
  • “NC-inspired menu creates a Tar Heel Thanksgiving,” Charlotte Observer: At least we spared you the possum. There was a time, according to Southern food historian David Shields, when hotels in the Carolinas featured the critter instead of turkey at their Thanksgiving feasts. But when we decided to dig into some of North Carolina’s most beloved cookbooks for a Tar Heel-centric Thanksgiving menu, we decided that turkey, as one of the state’s leading products, really should stay on the table. Same for sweet potatoes. We’re No. 1 in the country in sweet potato production.And there are plenty of other holiday foods that we could find around the state. How about scuppernongs? And cranberries, of course. …
  •  “Raleigh drone company looks to farmers for business,” WRAL:  Most people associate drones with the military. They have played a major role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A Raleigh company is trying to change that impression. Precision Hawk believes drones can be money-makers. A North Carolina State University farm serves as a test site for Precision Hawk near Bahama. Motors start, propellers spin and, with a gentle toss into the wind, aircraft take flight.”The term drone has such a negative connotation, you see it on the news all the time,” said Tyler Collins, Precision Hawk’s director of business development. …
  • “AdvantageWest gets $1.2 million for ScaleUp WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times:  With 14,000 gallons produced this year, Noble Cider is not the same company it was two years ago when the market’s big thirst for their small batch of 2,000 gallons caused the barrels to run dry before the next apple season. “That’s when we had our first realization that we needed to make a lot more because we can’t just stop selling. We have to continue to have something to sell in order to still be a business,” said Trevor Baker, co-founder of Noble Cider. …

 

 

N.C. Forest Service’s Greg Cox receives 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 01:38

Cox Accepting Governor’s Award From NCDA&CS Assistant Commissioner Scott Bissette; Neil Alexander, director of the Office of State Human Resources

Greg Cox, mechanic supervisor with the N.C. Forest Service, was recently awarded a Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Efficiency and Innovation at a ceremony at the N.C. Museum of History. He was nominated for devising a program to save money on the Forest Service’s equipment repairs and maintenance. The Governor’s Awards for Excellence are the highest honor a state employee can receive. Greg was nominated at the state level after he was selected as Employee of the Year at the department level.

“Greg demonstrates a can-do attitude and a spirit of innovation that is admirable, and I’m thrilled to have his work acknowledged by the governor,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It’s great to have others recognize something I’ve known for many years – that our department has the best employees in state government.”

Cox is responsible for the maintenance and repair of more than 100 pieces of rolling stock across an eight-county district. This equipment ranges from pick-up trucks with slip-on firefighting units to heavy equipment such as bulldozers, forklifts and motor graders. These units must be kept in a state of readiness in order to fulfill the legislative mandate that the N.C. Forest Service protect residents of North Carolina from destructive wildfire. Greg also has direct supervision of three employees, a mechanic, forest fire equipment operator and smoke chaser.

“Greg demonstrates a dedicated work ethic, can-do attitude, and a spirit of innovation on the job,” said Don Watson, district forester out of the N.C. Forest Service’s Rockingham office. “Many of Greg’s ideas or innovations have saved the State of North Carolina tens of thousands of dollars. Greg is an expert in metal fabrication and can often times make the parts that most others are required to purchase.”

According to Watson, Cox has improvised and or invented many pieces of equipment for the district, including rebuilding about 20 heavy duty hitches that have broken. At a cost of more $600 per hitch, the savings add up quickly.  The hitches are used on bulldozers to pull large, heavy, fire plows and are about 2 inches around and 6 inches long.

Cox’s skill is not limited to repairing hitches. IIn fact, he developed and built two new fire plows that allow for more accurate control of the fire plow depth. This allows the plows to be used in lighter, sandier soils, while still having the capability to operate in the parts of the state where a heavier, deeper fire line is required to get through the thick root mats in the organic soils.

Since this type of fabrication work requires specialized tools, in addition to specialized skills, Cox acquired two pieces of large equipment from the a community college that no longer needed them. The fabrication equipment was valued at between $10,000 and $15,000.

Cox also fabricated shrouds for some of the older shop tools that satisfies the safety requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which saved the Forest Service thousands of dollars that would have been required to update their shop tools.

In addition to his fabrication skills, Cox has made other money-saving recommendations. This includes researching and recommending that the district invest in a transmission flusher to help maintain the districts’ initial attack vehicles. Current maintenance standards require the transmissions to be serviced every 30,000 miles, which usually takes place every other year at a cost of $165, which equates to a savings of over $3,000 a year.

Cox’s dedication extends outside of the garage as well. As one of only two mechanics in the district on call every day, he is often called on after hours for repairs needed on firefighting equipment in the field, where conditions are usually anything but ideal. On a recent Sunday morning, Cox was called at 2 a.m. to help get a tractor that was stuck while fighting a fire. He responded promptly to the fire scene and was instrumental in getting the tractor back to work.

“Greg is the go-to-guy for repair advice, not only in the district but across the state,” Watson said. “He is often called by other mechanics to give his thoughts on a situation with a piece of equipment from another district.”

During a busy fire season in 2011, Cox was dispatched outside of his district seven times and was out of town and away from his family for a total of 93 days that year. For many of these dispatches Cox was requested by name because others across the state also recognize the great work that Greg does.

“Greg is one of the most dedicated people to his job that I have been around,” Watson added. “One of Greg’s best characteristics is that he demonstrates that nature with a positive attitude. He genuinely enjoys his job and likes to have fun doing it.”