In The Field
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”
Farmers are accustomed to using soil tests to help them determine their crops’ nutrient needs. Homeowners can benefit from the tests, too.
The NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division’s soil testing lab also provides tests of residential soil samples. This time of year, soil tests are particularly useful to homeowners who have warm-season grasses in their yards. These grasses include Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine and Zoysia.
Warm-season grasses grow mostly during late spring to summer and are dormant in the winter months. These grasses can benefit from applications of nitrogen fertilizer during their active growth period. But when it comes to fertilizer, you don’t want to apply too much or too little, which is why a soil test is important. The test results will provide lime and fertilizer recommendations. (Lime adjusts the pH level, helping fertilizer do its best work.) A soil test also can tell you if you need to apply phosphorus or potassium.
Soil testing is free from now until around Thanksgiving, and from now through early fall, you can expect results back in seven to 10 working days. For more information, click here.
Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the benefits of soil testing.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.
It’s been a few months since new revisions to federal rules to protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure went into effect. Since then, inspectors with the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division have been working to assist farmers, producers and businesses with meeting the new requirements. The changes are the first major revisions of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Worker Protection Standard since 1992.
“We received a couple of requests from greenhouses and farmers on helping to make sure they understood the new requirements,” said Patrick Farquhar, eastern district manager for the Pesticide Section. “We met with these businesses before the growing season to talk about what will be required of them. As the growing season continues, we plan to continue to work to help growers come into compliance.”
Hoffman Nursery in Rougemont requested a compliance inspection to review the WPS revisions in February. The nursery has 62 greenhouses and 50 employees. Inspectors reviewed changes that the nursery would need to make in record keeping and pesticide handling.
Two significant revisions to the Worker Protection Standard include annual safety training as well as medical evaluations and yearly fit testing for workers who wear a respirator. “Previously, training was on a five-year rotation, and workers just had to be verbally asked if they had been trained,” Farquhar said. “Now, growers must keep records of all trainings and maintain those records for two years.”
The new revisions also require all pesticide handlers — employees who mix, load, apply or otherwise assist with pesticide applications — and early-entry workers — employees who are trained and protected and enter a treated site before the re-entry interval has expired — to be at least 18 years old.
Another significant change has been the new respirator requirements, which now include medical evaluations and annual fit testing. Applicators who wear the respirator must receive training on proper use of the respirator and maintain training records for two years. “Even growers and farmers that have been working the fields for years and are used to wearing a respirator aren’t used to having yearly fit test and medical evaluations. It is big change for growers to have this new requirement,” Farquhar said. “Many of the calls and questions we have gotten are about this revision.”
Seven pesticide inspectors across the state perform Worker Protection Standard inspections. Each inspector does about 60 per year. Growers are randomly chosen. For example, an inspector might see a sprayer in the field and stop to ask questions to see if the farm is in compliance. If a farm has had issues in the past, including investigations, warnings or complaints, it also might get inspected. WPS inspections are reported to the EPA. Inspectors also visit any establishment that produces, manufactures or repackages pesticides on a regular basis.
“Our inspectors will go to any nursery, greenhouse or farm and conduct a compliance inspection if requested,” Farquhar said. “It is a great opportunity to find out what you need to be doing to come into compliance without fear of being fined. It is a time to ask questions and let us show you areas that may need correcting.” Inspectors also work with growers to provide training materials and forms to help with record keeping.
Growers who are not in compliance may be issued a notice of non-compliance and the farm is given a certain number of days to comply. Workers and handlers cannot continue working until they receive approved WPS training. If the action is not corrected, an investigation could be initiated, resulting in a Notice of Warning or Notice of Violation. Issuance of a Notice of Violation could lead to civil penalties being assessed. “With these revisions being new, we really want to work with growers and help them get into compliance before we issue warnings or fines,” Farquhar said.
For more information or compliance assistance on pesticide safety and worker protection standards, go online to www.ncagr.gov/SPCAP/pesticides or call 919-733-3556.
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.
- “One of farming’s tragic truths gets national news coverage,” Southeast Farm Press: Farming is more dangerous and deadly than police work or fighting fires. According to a national news story published by Politico April 14, “Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers are, five times as likely as firefighters, and 73 times as likely as Wall Street bankers.” The headline accompanying the story ‘Your farm is trying to kill you’ is exaggerated and meant to grab eyes and web clicks. (It got mine.) But despite the hyperbole, the reporter does a good job quantifying and exploring the statistics, focusing on a tragic accident that took place in 2015 at the McCroskey farm in Virginia, very much in the Southeast Farm Press coverage area. According the story, “Luther McCroskey, 75, had come home from a dental appointment and climbed into a 1979 Long tractor to clear a bit of land. After night fell, his body was found pinned under the flipped tractor on the far side of the hill — one of 401 people to die in farm-related accidents that year.” Our hearts go out the McCroskey family. We all know many people who’ve been hurt, near killed or worse on the farm. It’s a truth we know, but it gets pushed to the back of our minds. Within a few miles of our house, I could introduce you to two farmers and between them they got 13 fingers, three arms and three good hips. On the other hand, I could just as easily introduce you to two farmers completely intact, or at least physically intact. No matter how careful and tough you are, accidents are going to happen on the farm. …
- “USDA To Weigh In On Whether Organic Farming Means Using Soil,” Forbes: For the growing number of farmers using hydroponic and aquaponic techniques to grow produce, April 19 is a big day. That’s when, at a meeting in Denver, the USDA’s National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) will decide whether such methods can continue to be eligible for the USDA-organic label. The outcome will determine whether these farmers can target the $39 billion market for organic produce.
Hydroponic farming uses mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil, to grow plants. Aquaponic methods combine raising fish in tanks with hydroponics.
Whether or not produce grown in this way can be deemed organic has been a point of contention among advocates of what are known as recirculating farms and those of the soil-based persuasion for a few years. The latter say the label is legitimate if produce uses dirt or earth and that the law requires soil be used. The former see soil as a complex microbial environment, tailored to feed plants efficiently. …
- “Strawberries ripe for the pickin,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: A moderate winter has translated into early strawberries for local growers. “We picked berries on March 21, the earliest ever,” said Sarah Beal of Kildee Farm of Ramseur. “They’re beautiful today and there are plenty of them.” Whitaker Farms of Climax also has a bumper strawberry crop. According to Bridget Thrower, agritourism coordinator, strawberries are “doing great. We pick 1,000 gallons a day in season.” She said strawberries normally continue through May, depending on the weather. Whitaker Farms offers pre-picked berries or customers can pick their own. “Business has been great, especially the last three weekends,” Thrower said. Beal echoed that assessment, saying, “Looking at the blooms; we’ll have strawberries at least another four or five weeks.” She said they handled the frost in March by covering the fields. The Asheboro Farmers Market will hold its Strawberry Day on Saturday, May 6, beginning at 9 a.m. with free ice cream and strawberries while supplies last. “This has been an unusual strawberry season in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a press release. “Thanks to a warm February, many growers were picking at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Then the state had freezing temperatures in March, which put production on hold. “It takes 30 days or more for a blossom to turn into a berry. Now that we are past the last freeze, more strawberries are about ready for picking, and consumers should expect a strong crop through the end of May.” …
- “Why’s Charlotte so far behind Raleigh and Asheville in farmers markets?” Charlotte Observer: What’s wrong with Charlotte’s farmers markets? Pick one:
▪ Too many markets fighting for too few farmers.
▪ Not enough markets where people need them most, particularly in neighborhoods that struggle with access to fresh food.
▪ Shoppers staying away because they can’t find what they want, can’t tell who’s really selling local food, or because the food they find costs too much.
▪ Nothing links the markets up, so customers and farmers can have an easier time finding food.
“Every market in Charlotte says that attendance on Saturday mornings is down,” says Lynn Caldwell, a local-food activist who has founded several local markets, including Atherton in South End. Now the city’s trying to figure out what’s not working and find ways to fix it. …
- “Column: Are North Carolina distillers simply ahead of the curve?” Carolina Journal: North Carolina craft spirits are gaining a loyal following among North Carolinians who understand the distilling process and appreciate quality spirits. And our distillers are trying to make inroads throughout the U.S., and internationally, with varying degrees of success. Southern Artisan Spirits in Kings Mountain, for instance, has done well on the international market and exports its gin to several European countries. But, as Peter Thornton points out, it’s’ a crowded marketplace, and the brown, aged liquors are currently riding high on the export wave. Thornton is assistant director of International Marketing at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He’s keenly aware of the challenges of selling state spirits globally, and even at home, where arcane rules and regulations inhibit growth and experimentation. No industry that’s expanding so rapidly is held back so much, he says. “We have these great products, and we should be able to export them.” He remains confident that big break will come. In time. But even now, North Carolina connoisseurs of great craft spirits, those who really get great craft spirits, are invariably leaning toward liquor made in North Carolina, as opposed to Russian vodkas or English gins or moonshines made anywhere other than the Tar Heel State. …
- “Tull Hill Farms and Cunningham Research Farm top national list,” Kinston Free Press: Two Lenoir County farms are among the top donors to the hungry from North Carolina. The Society of St. Andrew recently named its top donors across the state, and both Tull Hill Farms, on Hugo Road, and the Cunningham Research Farm on Cunningham Road, ranked in the top 10 donors to the organization. A nonprofit organization and a faith-based organization, the Society of St. Andrews collects fresh produce that farmers are unable to sell at market or to stores and distributes it to food pantries, soup kitchens, church organizations, homeless shelters and other groups that aim to feed the hungry across the country. The organization saves and distributes 25 – 30 million pounds of fresh produce each year. “North Carolina is probably one of the strongest states in terms of giving, because of the farmers and the volunteer base,” said Bill Waller, who coordinates collection efforts between Society of St. Andrew and farmers in eastern N.C. In 2016, Waller said regional farmers donated more than 600,000 pounds of produce for the hungry. …
- “Executive program helps farmers manage complex, large-scale operations,” Southeast Farm Press: The science, technology and business of farming in the 21st century are changing rapidly, and to compete on a global scale, farmers need to know not just how to grow a good crop but how to effectively lead complex, management-intensive operations. That’s why NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has teamed with East Carolina University’s College of Business and the Center for Innovation Management Studies in NC State’s Poole College of Management to launch a new Executive Farm Management Program. Blake Brown, CALS’ Hugh C. Kiger professor of agricultural economics and a specialist with NC State Extension, organized the program and said that the “unique collaboration … creates a strong curriculum” to help farmers build the specialized agribusiness management skills they need to successfully run large-scale commercial farms. “NC State’s Center for Innovation Management Studies adds new and innovative methods in strategic planning, while ECU’s College of Business brings strong program in human-resources management and family business succession planning,” Brown said. “CALS’ Agricultural and Resource Economics Department brings the strength of agricultural economics and a strong connection to the farm sector.” The program was funded in part by a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and with gifts from farmers Johnny Barnes of Spring Hope and Richard Anderson of Nashville. It started in February with an intensive, five-day workshop on such topics as strategic planning, financial management, human resource and labor issues, and management style. It will wrap up with another five-day workshop in November. …
Have you heard the good news? Strawberry growers are expecting a strong second wave of the crop, which should hopefully be ready for picking and last through the end of May. Farmers markets and roadside stands should have plenty of the red ripe berries for sale.
This is also great news for you-pick strawberry farms and the festivals celebrating the state’s official red berry. One of the oldest of these festivals,the N.C. Strawberry Festival in Chadbourn, which marks 85 years in May. In fact, it’s one of the oldest agricultural festivals in the state. The festival is held the first weekend in May and draws about 10,000 people from across the state. It includes a parade, cooking contest, arts and craft vendors, a car show and strawberry shortcake.
North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation, the crop generated more than $23 million in farm income in 2015. More information about the strawberry industry is available at www.ncstrawberry.com.
Once you get your strawberries home, here’s a recipe from Local Dish for a strawberry upside down cake. It was provided by Nanette Truelove, owner of DJ’s Berry Patch in Apex. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla butternut flavoring
1 cup self-rising flour
2 cup strawberries (sliced)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch cake pan with wax paper and spray with cooking spray. Make a layer of strawberries. Blend the sugar and egg. Then add the milk, oil and vanilla butternut flavoring, mixing well. Add the flour and continue mixing until well combined. Pour the batter over the strawberries and bake until the cake has risen and is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving platter. Gently pull off the wax paper and serve.
Laurel wilt is a devastating non-native disease of redbay trees and other plants in the laurel family in the Southeastern U.S. Native to Southeast Asia, it was first detected near Savannah in the early 2000s and has since spread to eight additional Southern states, from Texas to North Carolina. It has already killed an estimated half a billion redbay trees since its introduction to the U.S.
Surveys conducted in winter or early spring help to determine where and how quickly laurel wilt is spreading. This year, additional positive sites were found in Brunswick, Columbus, Onslow, Pender, and Robeson counties. There were no detections in new counties.
The disease kills trees in just a few weeks. The disease attacks plants in the laurel family, primarily redbay and sassafras. While redbay trees are not a high-value timber species, they provide food and shelter to many animals, including songbirds, turkeys, quail, deer and bears. A couple of swallowtail butterflies rely almost exclusively on plants susceptible to laurel wilt, endangering their continued existence. There are also two rare plant species that may be lost: pondspice and pondberry.
Currently, there is no reliable way to prevent or treat laurel wilt. Insecticides have not been effective in stopping beetle attacks, and fungicides are costly and need re-application. Our best weapon is slowing the spread, so please use local or treated firewood and notify your N.C. Forest Service county ranger if you suspect laurel wilt has invaded a new area.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”
April is National Plant Pest Awareness Month, which is intended to educate the public about the threat that certain insects, plant diseases and weeds pose to crops, forests and the environment.
The NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division works with federal agencies and other states to protect North Carolina agriculture and the environment from plant pests. North Carolina has federal quarantines for four invasive plant pests: witchweed, the emerald ash borer, the European gypsy moth and the imported fire ant.
Quarantines are one of the tools the department uses to prevent or slow the spread of plant pests. Quarantines typically mean that you must obtain a permit before moving certain plants or plant materials to areas that are not under quarantine.
Plant pests can spread in various ways. They can hitchhike from one place to another on firewood, hay bales, plants, outdoor gear, trucks and other vehicles, and even in luggage.
Invasive pests are considered the second-greatest threat to biological diversity after habitat loss. If plant pests become established in a state, they increase food and fiber costs. They also can increase pesticide use and damage native species of plants and animals, forests, watersheds, lakes and rivers.
What can you do to help? Well, if you are traveling to another state or country, do not bring back any fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, plants or other natural items unless they have been cleared by appropriate officials. Cooperating with customs officials and others who are watching for invasive pests is the best way to help keep the unwanted pests from entering the country or crossing state lines.
For more information about plant pests and how to prevent their spread, click here.
Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Plant Pest Awareness Month.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.
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.
- “March freeze legacy: Triangle strawberry shortage,” The News & Observer: In a strawberry season unlike any other, lovers of the fruit are settling for half-filled buckets and encountering locked gates at pick-your-own farms in the Triangle. The berry deprivations are the result of last month’s deep freeze that is causing a temporary region-wide strawberry shortage. Some local pick-your-own farms opted to stay closed Sunday, having nothing left to sell after Saturday pickers stripped their rows of all ripe fruit. Growers say they don’t expect consistently abundant quantities of strawberries until late April or early May. As it happens, late April is when strawberry picking season normally gets underway here. But an unseasonably warm February fooled strawberry plants into blooming early and pushed out fruit nearly a month ahead of schedule. The berries that survived the mid-March freeze are in short supply and high demand among zealous berry seekers. “Picked us completely out yesterday,” said Darin Jones, owner of DJ’s Berry Patch in Apex. “What I saved is what I was selling off.” DJ’s started selling strawberries March 27, its earliest opening ever. Jones estimates he saved at least half of the berries growing on his 6 acres by irrigating strawberry rows when temperatures dropped below freezing last month. Irrigating the blooms and young fruit insulates the forming berries in a coating of ice and keeps the fruit secure at around 32 degrees, even when the outside temperature is 10 degrees colder. …
- “Growing Interest In Industrial Hemp,” Greater Wilmington Business Journal: Matt Collogan spent nine years working at Airlie Gardens, teaching school children and other visitors about the myriad plant and wildlife at the New Hanover County attraction. When he left his position as environmental education director at the gardens, he planned to devote his time to a small farm project, Centripetal Farms. “It’s really hard to start a small farm,” Collogan said. “We were focusing on education as well as production, but, man, we just didn’t have the capacity to achieve all that.” He still works on a farm at his house in Wilmington. “That’s my initial dream, to get back to farming and demonstrate that you can do it in a suburban area on less than an acre, but I needed a day job to fund that hobby,” he said. Another opportunity to both make a living and share his knowledge came for Collogan in the form of an effort to bring industrial hemp farming back to North Carolina. A graduate of University of North Carolina Wilmington’s environmental studies program, Collogan is currently teaching the public and potential farmers and investors about the benefits of industrial hemp as education director and government liaison of The Hemp Farmacy, a downtown Wilmington store. The Hemp Farmacy, 117 Grace St., is the retail component of Hempleton Investment Group led by Justin Hamilton. Another effort by the investment group is the N.C. Hemp Farm on the Legacy Farms campus in Wallace, although currently, organizers are not allowed to grow hemp there. Instead, Collogan said, they grow a plant called kenaf that looks similar to hemp. Collogan describes industrial hemp as a plant of seemingly endless possibilities that could bring cash and jobs to North Carolina. …
- “Rougemont Farm Holds Baby Goat Festival,” Spectrum News: (Video) What could be more adorable than a baby goat? A whole group of baby goats! A baby goat festival was held at Prodigal Farm in Rougemont Sunday. Attendees got a chance to see and play with the baby goats up close. The farm’s owner says this event has seen quite a bit of popularity since starting several years ago. “We were really shocked this year,” said Kathryn Spann, the owner of Prodigal Farm. “We felt like we really needed to have a maximum cap on the number of people we could handle here. So we did tickets for the first time and they sold out within a couple of days.” If you missed out on this weekend’s event, don’t worry. The farm is holding three more events this spring. The next one will be held Sunday, April 30. You can contact the farm at (919) 477-5653 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The farm is located at 4720 Bahama Road in Rougemont.
- “Poultry Farm Expansions In Western North Carolina Pit Neighbors Against Neighbors,” WFDD: (Audio) A quaint farmhouse with black shutters in Surry County now stands empty. Mary Marshall cleans off the kitchen countertops and stages the room for potential buyers. “I think that table and chairs looks good there [sic] and we probably need to leave it,” she tells her husband Terry. “They look so pretty and we don’t need it any more.” The Marshalls have lived in their home for the past 30 years. It’s full of memories. But ever since large chicken houses have encroached on their property, it’s become a nightmare. “Our kids were raised here and we fully expected our daughter to get married in the back yard,” Mary says. “Well, there’s no way we can make a plan like that because you don’t know when the odor is going to come. You can’t live like that.” The Marshalls reached deep into their retirement to buy a new house nearby. It’s a hard decision and a financial burden, but they say it will save their marriage and their health. Mary has breathing problems that she thinks are caused by the waste from these large chicken houses. “I also feel so let down by the people in the community because we have been told we’ve been dividing the community because we dare to complain about it,” she says. “And when somebody tells you, you need to back down because a man’s got to make a living, but what about my right to enjoy my property and my land?” “We don’t want to do anything to harm a neighbor, or harm ourselves or our kids, the air or water,” says Johnny Simmons, who comes from a long line of farmers, and runs a chicken operation in Surry County. “We want to preserve it for the future, so we try to do the best job we can realizing [that] to produce the amount of food needed at an affordable price for the company, we have to make sacrifices.” …
- “Agriculture’s important role in the N.C. economy,” Carolina Journal: (Video) Even with urbanization and rapid technological change, North Carolina still depends on agriculture and agribusiness for a large chunk of the state’s economy. State House Agriculture Committee Chairman Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, highlighted agriculture’s important role during a presentation Monday to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society.
- “Animal farms put Neuse, Cape Fear rivers among 10 most endangered,” WRAL: Two North Carolina rivers were ranked among the top 10 most endangered rivers in the country for the second year in a row when this year’s study was released early Tuesday morning. American Rivers ranked the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers the No. 7 most endangered because of the number of hog and chicken farms located in the rivers’ flood plains. Roughly 4 million North Carolinians get their drinking water from the rivers. The potential for damage was seen during Hurricane Matthew when more than 140 swine and poultry barns and a dozen open pits holding hog waste flooded. The flooding forced millions of gallons of raw animals waste into both of the rivers. Pollution in the rivers could be seen in Smithfield and as far south as Fayetteville. A number of hog facilities were removed after the flood, but more than 100 still remain in the flood plains.
- “Countrywide project aims to help farmers adopt new cover crops,” Southeast Farm Press: Scientists from North Carolina State University are joining with others across the country to promote soil health by developing and helping farmers adopt new cover crops. Made possible by a $2.2 million grant from Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the new $6.6 million research initiative aims to “to get new cover crop solutions into the hands of those who use them or will be using them,” according to Twain Butler, a research agronomist with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation who is leading the project. In addition to scientists with the Noble Foundation and from land-grant universities like NC State, the project will involve representatives from the seed industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service and network of producers. Researchers will use advanced breeding techniques – ones that have traditionally been limited to high-value row crops – to bring new and value-added characteristics to cover crops. For example, in North Carolina, Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton of NC State will be considering ways to breed crops for such traits as allelopathy, the process by which a plant produces biochemicals that influence the growth, survival and reproduction of other plants. The project will test three types of cover crops: small grains, such as wheat, rye, oat and triticale; annual legumes such as hairy vetch, winter peas and clovers; and brassicas, or turnips, radishes, kale and mustards. …
- “Making an honest living,” Washington Daily News: Hog farming is a way of life for many North Carolinians. The state is ranked third in the nation in the hog industry, grossing $2.3 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Recent legislation, which would limit hog farmers’ liability for animal waste smell, passed the state House of Representatives on Monday and will make its way to the Senate. Liability would be limited to lost rental or property value in neighboring areas and couldn’t exceed the property’s market value. Supporters of the amended legislation maintain that odors come with the territory of hog farming, and farmers shouldn’t be penalized for making a living on their property. Opponents of limited liability argue that the strong smells and subsequent flies are a detriment to neighboring areas and significantly lower the area’s property value. …
- “Bringing Food to the Deserts,” North Carolina Health News: North Carolina lawmakers hope to introduce fresh food options to large stretches of land all over the state that are considered food deserts. These are areas where the scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables leaves many residents to rely on local dollar stores and similar retailers for packaged and canned goods. House Bill 387 is an effort to bolster the “corner store initiative,” passed in 2016, which would put refrigeration units in small retail stores throughout rural North Carolina so they can carry fresh produce. Sen. Don Davis (D-Greenville) filed similar legislation with the “Healthy Food Small Retailer Act” in the Senate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines an urban area food desert as an area where there is no access to healthy food for more than a mile. For rural areas, that distance stretches out to 10 miles. Primary bill sponsor Rep. Yvonne Holley (D- Raleigh) told the House Agricultural Committee on Tuesday that food deserts in North Carolina have “gotten considerably worse.” “This is one little piece of the puzzle to help try to fix the problem,” she said. “We are working in a lot of different areas.” A pilot program is just getting up and running. There are nine stores working through the contract phase with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but no refrigeration units in place yet, according to Ron Fish, assistant director of the NCDACS marketing division. Holley argued more funds are needed to truly make a dent in this problem statewide. Legislation passed in 2016 came with a one-time funding of $250,000. …
- “NC House passes bill capping damages in suits against farms,” North State Journal: In perhaps the most hotly debated piece of legislation this week, the N.C. House of Representatives passed a bill that caps compensatory damages from nuisance claims at an amount equal to the fair market value of the affected property. “In the past, we have seen farmers sued into bankruptcy without proof of damages,” said Commissioner or Agriculture Steve Troxler (R) in a statement to North State Journal. “I’m glad the legislature is taking a look at these lawsuits that are putting farmers at risk, and I certainly hope this legislation will offer farmers a measure of protection.” House Bill 467 was filed in late March as federal courts in the State consider 26 lawsuits representing 541 plaintiffs seeking damages to compensate for the diminution of property values as a result of adjacent hog farming operations. The plaintiffs contend that the livestock operations, and spraying of effluent on crops near the properties, represent a nuisance that has reduced their property values. “North Carolina law is not clear on the availability of annoyance and discomfort damages in temporary nuisance actions.” Judge W. Earl Britt, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of N.C. Sponsors of the legislation pointed out that the presiding judge in the case cited the absence of clarity in state law for damages associated with such temporary nuisance cases, potentially opening the door for outsized damages awards that would be detrimental to the farms’ viability. “This legislation deals with nuisance lawsuits, only,” said primary sponsor Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), adding that the bill does not limit damages for a bevy of other categories such as environmental, liability, or punitive damages. Critics of the measure worried that such caps on nuisance damages unfairly restricted the property rights of potential plaintiffs and were especially concerned that the legislature was crossing a separation of powers line by getting involved in pending litigation in such a way as to benefit the defending hog farming entities. …
Decorating and hunting for eggs has long been a part of Easter traditions. Many families, like mine, mostly would pick up plastic eggs at the store and fill with candy, stickers or quarters. This year, I tried the old-fashioned approach with boiled eggs and natural dyes. This is the first time any of our Tar Heel kitchen crew had tried naturally-dyed eggs – and we had mixed results.
Pros included it was fun, and kids would get really engaged in the process. It’s like a cool science project. These eggs may be kid-friendly for those with allergies to artificial food dyes. The finished product would make a great table display and then can be used for hiding and hunting. Cons were some of the dyes are a little smelly, and the colors are a lot more vibrant if left sitting in the dye over night, which might be challenging for kids (and adults) who like quicker results.
This time of year eggs are usually on sale at the grocery store and typically, eggs bought in North Carolina are produced here too. The egg industry ranks 7th in North Carolina commodity receipts. We produce 7.5 million eggs each day, or roughly enough to feed every resident of our state. For more egg facts and recipes, visit the N.C. Egg Association website.
Before you start dyeing your eggs, you’ll have to boil them. Check out this link for easy directions on making perfect hard-boiled egg. I would recommend boiling a few extra to account for eggs that may crack while boiling. These eggs be for a snack or breakfast.Naturally-dyed Easter Eggs:
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 quart of water
Group 2 (choose 1 based on color preference):
- Pink: 4 cups beets, rough chopped
- Yellow: 4 tablespoons ground turmeric
- Green: 6 cups spinach, 1 tablespoon turmeric
- Blue: 4 cups purple cabbage leaves, rough chopped
- Red: use the skin from 3-4 onions
Combine ingredients in group 1 with one item from group 2 in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain and set liquid aside. Once the liquid has cooled, dip the hard boiled eggs in the solution.
For brown eggs brew extra strong coffee, let cool and then soak eggs in the cooled liquid.
We were most pleased with the yellow, red and blue eggs. Pink and green did not turn out like we hoped and if we tried those again we might try boiling the eggs in the strained mixture. Of course, we are excited thinking about other possibilities of produce to try, such as blueberries and strawberries. For more information on naturally-dyed eggs, check out the N.C. Egg Association.
Check out the graphic below for a photo essay of the eggs during the dyeing process.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”
A year ago this month, North Carolina became the 14th state to partner with FieldWatch, an online mapping service designed to help prevent crop damage and bee deaths from accidental or unintended pesticide drift.
The BeeCheck and DriftWatch programs allow beekeepers, specialty crop growers and pesticide users to use a website to plot or view hive locations and areas where pesticide-sensitive crops are planted.
Producers of high-value specialty crops, such as tomatoes, tobacco, fruit trees, grapes and vegetables, can map their sites and provide contact information about their operation on DriftWatch. Beekeepers can use BeeCheck to map their hives online and can choose what hive information to display on the map.
More than 1,300 N.C. apiaries have registered in BeeCheck, more than any other state except Illinois. And the number of registered specialty crop acres has grown since the first of the year.
Commissioner Troxler says he expects to see this number continue to increase as more people learn about the program. NCDA&CS staff members, with the help of N.C. State and N.C. Farm Bureau, have been attending conferences, meetings and other events to spread the word. In addition to the apiaries, in the first year nearly 1,000 producers and 66 pesticide users have registered.
The goal for year two is to increase the number of registered pesticide applicators and registered specialty-crop acres.
To access DriftWatch and BeeCheck, visit www.ncagr.gov/pollinators. The website offers detailed instructions on how to sign up and use the mapping tools.
Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss FieldWatch.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.
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.
- “Hog waste bill speeds through NC House,” WRAL: Speed legislating is pretty common each legislative session in the weeks leading up to crossover, the date by which, in most cases, a bill must pass one or the other chamber of the General Assembly to remain viable for the remainder of the two-year session. However, a controversial bill that would intervene in pending lawsuits against the world’s largest pork producer may have broken some speed records as it zoomed through the House on Thursday, leaving many lawmakers scratching their heads. House Bill 476 would limit the damages that a court could award to a property owner who claims nuisance damage by a nearby agricultural or forestry operation to no more than the actual market value of that property. While the bill doesn’t specifically name any company or operation, discussions in a House Judiciary committee Wednesday made it apparent that a pending federal case against Smithfield Foods is at least one target of the bill, which would be applicable to pending litigation, an unusual step for lawmakers to take. …
- “New poll shows bipartisan support for land and water conservation across North Carolina,” Mountain Xpress: A poll commissioned by Land for Tomorrow shows that North Carolinians from Manteo to Murphy support land and water conservation. Seventy-three percent of those polled said they would support funding at the $100 million level for the state’s three publicly funded conservation trust funds. The poll was released today as part of Land for Tomorrow’s annual lobby day at the North Carolina General Assembly. … North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler said the funding is particularly important to agriculture. “We appreciate the General Assembly’s efforts to increase funding for the state’s conservation trust funds,” said Troxler. “We look forward to working with them and other partners to maximize our opportunity to conserve family farms to secure our long-term food supply. In addition, the conservation of farms and forests around military bases and training areas helps ensure that our nation’s armed forces can accomplish their mission.” …
- “Exclusive: New State Report Finds ‘A Lot More’ Poultry Waste Than Officials Realized,” WFDD: (Audio) The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new report that takes a closer look at poultry farming in the state. Officials say they had no idea how much waste is coming from the industry, and that it’s a lot more than they anticipated, topping cattle and swine combined. The agency says the report is also the first attempt to identify where these operations are located, and it acknowledges that the state doesn’t have a handle on the growth of the industry. The Yadkin River Basin in Western North Carolina is located deep in poultry country. The best way to see just how many poultry houses there are is by air. It’s hard to miss the brand new, glistening rooftops of farm construction, surrounded by fresh, orange soil. “We are seeing smaller, older facilities going out of service and existing facilities expanding, so the big farms are getting even bigger,” says Will Scott with the Yadkin Riverkeeper, who is touring the area to study the growth of the industry in the basin. “The areas of intensive poultry production have shifted. That’s likely related to changes in where large processing plants are located,” says Heather Patt, who authored the report. “The Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin has the highest poultry population in the state, with an estimated 60 million birds in 2014.” …
- “Nearly Half Of NC Still Faces Drought Conditions,” WUNC: North Carolina’s drought conditions are getting better, but nearly half of the state is still in a severe or moderate drought. The Department of Environmental Quality says the mountains and the Piedmont are still significantly dry. DEQ says there was less precipitation this winter than anticipated. That’s usually a replenishing season for rivers and reservoirs. But the weather this spring has already started to reverse that trend, according to DEQ spokeswoman Marla Sink. “Just in the last week, we’ve seen significant precipitation fall in the mountains and the Piedmont, and that is just welcome,” Sink said. Sink said conditions are still better than they were six months ago, when the drought helped contribute to more than a dozen wildfires. …
- “DEA Blocking The Path for NC Industrial Hemp Production,” Spectrum News: (Video) The Drug Enforcement Agency sent a letter to Founder’s Hemp, the only food-grade hemp processing plant in the state, saying it is illegal to transport or sell hemp seeds and products across state lines. Founder’s Hemp and the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission are tempted to sue the agency, but they say they are concerned about putting their farmers at risk.
- “Apple Country Cider Jam showcases industry,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The best of North Carolina’s hard cider, coupled with award-winning bluegrass music, will be on tap April 22 in downtown Hendersonville. The inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam showcases eight hard cideries, two producers of nonalcoholic cider and two local wineries. The music lineup is headlined by noted bluegrass band Balsam Range, winner of 10 awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Henderson County is a fitting place to celebrate the state’s burgeoning cider industry. The county produces 85 percent of the state’s apples, and also leads the way in hard cider production. …
- “Tobacco purchasing should be based on value, not price,” Southeast Farm Press: Price alone should not be the prevailing factor in purchasing leaf, said Clay Strickland of Salemburg, N.C., at the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. “Value should be the key determination,” said Strickland, a flue-cured grower who is current president of TGANC. “And value should be defined by the high standards and compliance guarantees that (characterize) U.S. leaf.” But instead, there seems to be a new trend in the industry, he said. It seems to encourage “value of tobacco based on a criterion that doesn’t have anything to do with leaf characteristics that describe its utility function as the key ingredient in a cigarette.” …
- “Could NC buy out more hog farms after Matthew’s floods?” Wilmington Star-News: A farm buyout program implemented by the state after 1999′s Hurricane Floyd is widely credited with helping limit Hurricane Matthew’s impact on the pork industry, and a similar proposal is now on the table. After Floyd killed 21,474 swine, flooded 55 waste lagoons and caused lagoon breaches at six farms, the state used $18.7 million in Clean Water Management Trust Fund grants to purchase conservation easements on 43 farms in 100-year flood plains. Matthew resulted in the deaths of 2,800 swine, 14 flooded lagoons and one farm with a partial breach, according to the N.C. Pork Council. “We applaud the success of the previous voluntary buyout program, and we think everyone agrees that it was a successful initiative,” said Andy Curliss, the pork council’s CEO. “If there are discussions about another voluntary buyout program, we want to play a productive role in those.” …
- “Strawberry season comes early this year,” Washington Daily News: There’s nothing like springtime — warmer weather, fragrant blooms and juicy strawberries. Strawberry season came early this year, thanks to unusually warm temperatures starting in February. Early spring frosts often spell disaster for tender blooms, but the warmer weather worked in favor of the berries, according to Southside Farms owner Shawn Harding. “By the time the cold weather got here in March, these were already green berries, so we were able to save the berries that were on there,” Harding said. “It’s a little easier to protect a berry than a Øower, so that was a positive from having a warm February.” …
- “Popcorn blowing up for one Johnston farmer,” The News & Observer: Different corn kernels have different destinies. Many ears wind up back on the farm, feeding livestock, but most think of the sweet variety, slathered in butter, tasting of the summer sun. Fourth-generation Johnston County farmer Jason Barbour of Four Oaks knows feed corn and sweet corn, but last year, he added popcorn, falling into a production contract while out shopping one night. He planted eight acres of popcorn, one of the few Johnston County farmers to deal with the crop. His buyer is Popcorn Haven in Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, the contract reminiscent of farming a few decades back, when the buying cycle had a tight local center. “My wife and I had been going to the Carolina Pottery UPS box to send something off, and another farmer I knew came up to me and said to go see the popcorn man,” Barbour said. “(That farmer) doesn’t grow corn and said the store wanted to buy its popcorn from a North Carolina farmer.” The popcorn guy is Robert Miller, who runs the Popcorn Haven shop. Miller had been buying his kernels from Sysco and other large food-distribution companies, but he had been on the lookout for North Carolina popcorn for local appeal. Barbour said he didn’t have much experience in popcorn but was willing to give it a shot. “I didn’t know anything about popcorn; I know dent corn and sweet corn,” he said. “I had never grown no popcorn, but I’ll try anything one time, so I figured we’ll see how it goes. And it kind of worked out.” …
Spicy, sour, sweet or dill. Whatever your pickle preference, it’s likely Mt. Olive Pickles in Wayne County has your pickle craving covered.
With almost 100 years in the pickle business, Mt. Olive has certainly earned a reputation for being tops in the pickle industry. That reputation is not just in North Carolina, home of Mt. Olive Pickles, but nationally as well. Mt. Olive is the No. 1 pickle brand in the United States. Pickles, of course, come from cucumbers and our state ranks 4th nationally in cucumber production.
Each spring, the town of Mt. Olive celebrates pickles and community at the annual N.C. Pickle Festival. This year’s festival starts April 29. Pickle-themed entertainment abounds, like the Cuke Patch 5k, the Tour de Pickle bike ride and the Predict the Pickle Pass Through, which is guessing what time the train will come through downtown Mt. Olive. New this year will be the Got to Be N.C. Pavillion, which will feature a dozen N.C.-made foods and products, and the people who make them.
Mt. Olive also hosts one of the most unique New Year’s Eve celebrations in the state. Every Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. (which is midnight GMT time), a pickle is dropped at the corner of Cucumber and Vine.
Pickles are a great complement to salads, sandwiches and are also delicious right out of the jar. For something a little different, check out this pickle recipe from the Mt. Olive website.
- 1/2 pound green tomatoes or tomatillos, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 chile serrano, chopped
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
- 4-5 ounces of Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Pickles, diced
- 1/2 small avocado, diced
- Salt & fresh lime juice to taste
Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly. If you prefer, you can substitute Mt. Olive Fresh Pack Dill Relish with Sea Salt, drained, for the dill pickles.
Springtime in North Carolina means it’s raining pollen! A yellow glaze coats everything outside and many are taking their allergy medicine religiously. But if you’re in the right place at the right time, something else might be dropping onto your head from the pine trees: little worm-like insects called the pine catkin sawfly.
Adult sawflies, which belong to the same order as wasps and bees, emerge from the soil in early spring. After feeding on pollen of early-flowering plants, the females lay eggs on male cone buds of pine trees. Which if you haven’t noticed, North Carolina (aka ‘Land of the Pines’) has a bunch of. Male cones are responsible for that nasty pollen you see everywhere, whereas the female cones develop into pine cones once pollinated.
When the pine catkin sawfly larvae hatch, they begin feeding on the pollen of the male cones. Luckily for us, this reduces the amount of pollen the tree releases! Unluckily for us, there’s so much, I’m not sure anyone has noticed.
Once they’ve had their fill, they drop to the ground (or on your head) to pupate in the soil. Reports indicate they burrow up to 3 inches beneath the surface, which is a long way to go for a larvae that’s 3/16 of an inch. That would be like a 6 foot tall man burrowing down 96 feet!
After burrowing down, they rest for 2 years beneath the soil before emerging as adults and repeating the cycle. They can be found in all species of southern pines and have been dropping from the trees for the past couple of weeks here in North Carolina.
So while having small sawfly larvae plop onto your head may not be the most pleasant thing, at least they’re doing their part in reducing the pollen quantity around here. And that’s nothing to sneeze about!
North Carolina farmers intend to plant more cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat this year, according to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report.
Farmers expect to plant fewer acres of corn, sweet potatoes and flue-cured tobacco, the report said.
From the report:
- Growers say they will plant 340,000 acres of cotton this year, 21 percent more than in 2016.
- Peanut acreage is forecast to increase 9 percent this year, to 110,000 acres.
- Soybean plantings are expected to total 1.75 million acres, which is 4 percent higher than a year ago.
- Farmers have planted 460,000 acres of winter wheat, a 10 percent increase over 2016.
- Prospective corn plantings total 950,000 acres, a 5 percent decrease from last year.
- Sweet potato growers anticipate planting 90,000 acres, an 8 percent drop.
- Flue-cured tobacco plantings are forecast at 160,000 acres, 3 percent lower than a year ago.
Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss some of the reasons behind N.C. farmers’ planting intentions.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.
George Evans could be the living definition of a strong work ethic. His dedication to getting the job done earned Evans recognition as the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Employee of the Year.
Evans is a forest fire equipment operator with the N.C. Forest Service. In that role he is responsible for maintenance and operation of the Edgecombe County forest fire control tractor-plow unit and its road tractor and trailer. He keeps the equipment ready to roll out at a moment’s notice in the event of a fire or another emergency dispatch.
For about four months, Evans did his normal work duties while also assuming the duties of the county ranger, who retired, and the assistant county ranger, who left for another job.
Evans coordinated forest management requests and set up field visits between the assistant district forester and clients. He handled all tree planning duties, including tree planting quality control inspections and acreage measurements. He coordinated information and educational programs, helped organize the Edgecombe County Forest Landowners meeting and a CREP tour for the N.C. Division of Soil and Water Conservation, and conducted business with the county government. In addition to being on call for his own duties, George also picked up extra on-call shifts to cover those vacant positions. This included responding to more than a dozen fire calls. Essentially, he was on-call for about four months.
“I always tell people I have the best employees in state government,” Commissioner Troxler said. “George is an asset to the state, his community and his coworkers in the N.C. Forest Service. We are lucky to have such a dedicated public servant.”
The Employee of the Year is chosen from the pool of employees honored as Employee of the Month during the year. Evans was honored as Employee of the Month in May 2016.
- “Pruitt’s EPA denies petition to ban chlorpyrifos,” Southeast Farm Press: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed March 29 an order denying a petition that sought to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide crucial to U.S. agriculture. “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,” said Pruitt in a written statement. “By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making rather than predetermined results.” “We are pleased with the EPA’s decision today to deny a petition against chlorpyrifos and return to the standard pesticides review process as called for under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act,” said National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock in a written statement March 29. “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that chlorpyrifos is safe for use by farmers, and we are confident that the pesticide review process will reaffirm this.” …
- “Breeding a Better Stevia Plant for the Southeast,” CALS News Center: At NC State University, scientists are working on something sweet, experimenting with ways to improve a plant that yields a sweetener known as stevia. As interest in sugar alternatives has risen, so has farmers’ curiosity about a gangly shrub whose leaves are dried and crushed to extract no-calorie compounds used to make the sweetener. Dr. Todd Wehner, from NC State’s Department of Horticultural Science, has been working with graduate student Brandon Huber to create breeding lines of the stevia plant that not only taste better but also are better-suited to production in the southeastern United States. Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and medicines in South America for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until 1971 that Japan produced the first commercial stevia sweetener. Stevia has shown promise in the marketplace, and it’s now grown in several countries, including China, and used to sweeten soft drinks. Still, plenty of people who try it don’t like it as much as sugar, Wehner said. That’s why part of the NC State breeding research, funded independently by PepsiCo and the N.C. Agricultural Research Service, involves coming up with stevia plants whose leaves contain more of the sweetening compounds that people like and less of the ones they don’t. In addition to finding ways to improve the crop’s yield and taste, the researchers must consider the most efficient ways to plant, tend and harvest the crop. …
- “Aspiring Food Entrepreneurs Launch Products at Flavors of Carolina,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Division hosts two food shows every spring, designed to bring in ‘the trade’ to see what’s new in food production in the Tar Heel State. Many aspiring food entrepreneurs use the Flavors of Carolina show to promote their new products and Willy Yontz of Zebulon explains how he came to make his Sweet Willie Lip Smack’n Bar-b-cue sauce: “I just got bottled in July of ’16, and I’m just trying to get a break. I’m trying to focus on local grocery stores and country stores. The Got to be NC festival and organization is a great stepping stone for somebody starting off.” Now, let’s talk about your product. You can’t throw a dart without hitting a bar-b-cue sauce, but yours is really, really unique. “Thank you so much. It is in that I don’t use preservatives, it’s all natural. It has a perfect mix between tangy and sweet, with just a little bit of heat. So, overall it’s a good mix between eastern and western North Carolina bar-b-cue sauce. It is vinegar based, but it has enough ketchup to where you could baste with it, but you get the strong profile of vinegar.” …
- “Field day: After a winter that was like spring, local crops ripen early,” Greensboro News & Record: (Video) Phil Queen grasped the handles of the last two pails of strawberries for sale at Rudd Farm’s produce stand, which opened for a few hours Wednesday because of an early crop nudged on by the warmer-than-usual winter. Other shoppers swarmed around him, hoping to take home some of the limited offering. “My dear neighbor is well up in her 80s,” Queen said. “I’m going to stagger in there and give her one of these and get a pound cake out of it.” Just a few weeks ago, the Rudds and other local farmers wondered just what would survive in their fields after a winter that felt like a long spring, which pushed crops to ripen early. While farmers expect and try planning around temperature swings in the state’s often unpredictable weather, the back and forth has been longer this year. …
- “NC Fruit Growers Take Stock Of Losses From Recent Cold Snap,” WFDD: Agriculture officials are calling the cold snap earlier this month the most damaging that fruit farmers in the Southeast have experienced since the 2007 Easter freeze that led to a $1-billion crop loss. Since then, scientists have been working with farmers to develop better methods to protect their crops against the cold. This year, that challenge was made more difficult by an unseasonably warm February which led to early flowering of fruit crops like strawberries and blueberries. North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Brian Long says the warm weather left young plants more vulnerable to the bitter cold and put their new protection methods to the test. “It’s not great news,” says Long. “One thing we do know is that the peach crop in the state really got hammered by this freezing weather. And strawberries that were protected using water to create that protective coating seemed to be faring okay.” Long says another measure — covering strawberries with plastic and protective fabric — fared worse. …
- “Johnston County farmers win grants,” The News & Observer/Smithfield Herald: Twenty-one farmers, including five in Johnston County, are winners in a grant program aimed at supporting family farms. The N.C. AgVentures grants, ranging from $4,800 to $10,000, are for innovative projects aimed at diversifying, expanding or implementing new entrepreneurial plans for farm operations. … The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service administers the grant program with money from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. …
- “Column: If NC wants to feed itself – and the world – it needs to save its farms,” The News & Observer: North Carolina appears to be at a literal crossroads regarding its agricultural future. By every measure, North Carolina is a national agricultural leader, and the state is highly dependent on agricultural output for jobs and revenue. According to a study by N.C. State University, agriculture and agribusiness provides 663,000 jobs – 17 percent of all jobs in the state. This is topped only by education and healthcare with 765,000 jobs (though North Carolina is also a top agricultural educator, which contributes to the growth of this industry). North Carolina’s agricultural industry, including food, fiber, and forestry, contributes $84 billion to the state’s economy, making North Carolina one of the top farming producers in the Southeast. We also have one of the most diversified farming states in the U.S. From the state’s 52,000 farms, over 80 different commodities are produced. We are a top 10 producer in 19 commodities and are number one nationally in sweet potatoes and tobacco. Other top commodities include turkeys, hogs, strawberries, cotton, chickens, tomatoes and blueberries. Additionally, we’re the 11th largest overall U.S. agricultural exporter and top the ranks in tobacco with $562 million in exports and are second in pork ($739 million) and poultry ($669 million). IN 2012, NC HAD 52,000 FARMS – 2,700 FEWER FARMS THAN IN 2007 AND 100,000 FEWER THAN THE EARLY 1960S. The 2013 Census of Aquaculture puts North Carolina in the top 15 nationally in the fishing industry, including being third in the country for trout and fifth for catfish. We also have almost 19 million acres of forest land (60 percent of our state’s total land base) – helping the state rank second in the South for sawn-log production and providing 5,000 jobs. While this all adds up to a dynamic economic picture, there are troubling signs on the horizon. …
- “Asheville tailgate market opening day is finally here!” Asheville Citizen-Times: After three months of having been cooped up inside at different locations, April 1 is opening day for many Asheville area outdoor tailgate markets. What can you expect from these first markets? An opportunity to catch up with farmers you haven’t seen since November. But not all of them — some vendors choose to start attending markets in May, or even June, when they’ll have a larger selection of goods to offer. …
The campaign, which is actually longer than a week to accommodate shoppers over two weekends, includes in-store samples, special discounts and other retail promotions. To kick things off, a group of two dozen journalists, food writers, importers and exporters attended a special dinner in Hamburg, Germany, on March 29.
The dinner included six original dishes featuring sweet potatoes and a signature sweet potato cocktail. Each item was carefully crafted to show the versatility of the sweet potatoes and highlight a different texture. Appetizers were Sweet Potato-Tarte Flambe, Sweet Potato Foam and Sweet Potato Hash Browns. Sample entrée dishes were Cod with Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Sweet Potato Chips, as well as Filet Mignon with Sweet Potato Crust, Artichoke and Eggplant. For dessert, guests enjoyed Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Sweet Potato Waffle.
“When you introduce a product like sweet potatoes to a new market, it is important to show consumers the versatility of the product and how it tastes,” said Kelly McIver, executive director of the N.C. SweetPotato Commission, attended the kickoff. “If you can show a European food writer how to prepare sweet potatoes, they can pass along that information to consumers and further develop consumer interest for the product.”
Promotions such as International Sweet Potato Week and others are beneficial to N.C. sweet potato farmers. The state is responsible for about 70 percent of total U.S. sweet potato exports, McIver said. In addition, she said about a third of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina are exported for international consumption.
While it takes time to develop new markets, the results for sweet potatoes are impressive. Over the past 10 years, N.C. sweet potato exports have grown by more than 1,000 percent to more than $138 million.
WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. This month, Brian and Lisa feature award-winning recipes using North Carolina pecans and peanuts.
Gail Fuller of Raleigh took home second place in the N.C. Pecan Competition at the N.C. State Fair with this mouth-watering chicken recipe covered with pecans. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory.
- 6 chicken breast cutlets – pounded to 1/4-inch thick
- 1 cup pecans – toasted and finely chopped
- 1⁄3 cup bread crumbs
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 1⁄4 cup honey mustard sauce
- 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
- 8ounce package cream cheese – softened
- 2⁄3 cup dried cranberries – chopped
- 1⁄4 cup red onion – chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1⁄4 cup green onions – sliced
Mix all filling ingredients until combined and smooth. Cover and chill. Combine pecans, bread crumbs and salt and pepper in a shallow dish.
Mix honey mustard sauce and mayonnaise. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this sauce. Brush one side of each cutlet with the mustard and the mayonaise mixture. Then coat with pecan/bread crumbs and place pecan side down on parchment-lined baking pan.
Divide filling among cutlets and spread on half of chicken. Fold the other half over the filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. To serve, drizzle with reserved honey mustard sauce.
Gail Fuller also won first place at the Fair with this creative recipe for the N.C. Peanut Growers Association. Try it with your favorite jelly.
- 2 cups pretzels – crushed into small bits
- 1⁄2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup butter – melted
- 3 tablespoons sugar
12-ounce jar seedless raspberry jam, or your favorite jelly
Peanut butter layer:
- 3⁄4 cup butter – room temperature
- 1 1⁄2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1 1⁄2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1⁄2 cup flour
- 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon butter – cold and cubed
- 2 tablespoon pretzels – crushed
- 2 tablespoons fresh peanuts, finely chopped (garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together crushed pretzels, graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 8-10 min. Remove from oven and allow crust to cool. In a separate mixing bowl, beat together butter and peanut butter. Add in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and smooth. Spread over pretzel base and refrigerate for 1 hour. Once peanut butter is chilled, spread jam over top. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar and pretzels. Cut butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumble on top. Bake for 15-20 min. or until crumble turns golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour. Cut into bars, garnish with chopped peanuts and enjoy.
Lisa notes that the next recipe is a unique combination of ingredients that is sure to be a hit as a side dish during a cookout. The peanuts give it just the right flavor punch and crunch to complement any plate.
- 5 ounces corkscrew macaroni
- 10 ounces frozen peas and carrots
- 1 cup cocktail peanuts
- 1 cup cheddar cheese cubed
- 2 tablespoons onions minced
- 1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and chill in cold water. Cook peas and carrots according to package directions, drain and chill in cold water; drain. Put macaroni and vegetables in a bowl and toss with peanuts, cheese, chopped eggs and onion. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, mustard, relish, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir into macaroni mixture. Chill until serving time. Makes 6 cups.
Carol Brown from Mebane won first Place in the N.C. Pecan Growers Association contest at the 2016 NC State Fair. Lisa says it is a Local Dish favorite and each layer is a delicious surprise.
- 1 1⁄2 cups flour
- 1⁄2 cup brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup butter, melted
- 1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped
- 8-ounce cream cheese
- 1⁄3 cup butter, softened
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup corn syrup
- 1⁄3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 3 large eggs
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 1 1⁄2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1⁄4 cup white chocolate chips
Shortbread layer: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix flour and brown sugar together. Then add the butter and pecans. Spread onto prepared baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly for about 10 minutes.
Cheesecake layer: Cream together cream cheese, butter, sugar and flour until well combined. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Pour on cooled shortbread layer and bake for 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.
Pecan layer: In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, corn syrup and melted butter. Add eggs and beat until well incorporated. Add pecans, dark and white chocolate chips, brandy and salt. Pour over cooled cheesecake layer and bake for 35-40 minutes until center is set and pecan layer is a rich brown color. Optional: drizzle with ¼ cup melted white chocolate chips.
Margaret Howard from Fuquay-Varina won first place with her pound cake recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baking Contest at the N.C. State Fair. The praline topping could be a great addition to French toast or spooned over ice cream.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
- 8-ounces sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3⁄4 cups brown sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1⁄2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Add 2-½ cups sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time until yellow disappears. Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in flavorings. Beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Place on serving plate. While warm, prick cake surface at 1-inch intervals with a wooden pick. Pour warm praline glaze over cake.
Combine butter, sugar, cinnamon and water in small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is taking part in a program to help produce farmers get ready for new federal food safety requirements. North Carolina is among a handful of states that are piloting a program of on-farm readiness reviews. The voluntary, non-regulatory program is designed to provide valuable information to farmers.
As part of the pilot, members of the department’s staff, along with staff from FDA and N.C. State University, recently visited two North Carolina farms. They looked at the farms’ production processes, everything from planting through harvest and final packaging.
The goal of the on-farm readiness reviews is to provide farmers with useful information so they can comply with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. Large farms will be required to follow new federal food safety rules beginning in 2018, and smaller farms will have to comply later.
The on-farm readiness reviews are about educating before regulating, Commissioner Troxler says. They also promote coordination between farmers, regulators and educators.
Other states taking part in the pilot program include Michigan, Florida, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The program should be fully operational nationwide in 2018. But North Carolina will begin offering them later this year so that farmers can be educated about these new rules and be ready for them when they take effect.
Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about on-farm readiness reviews.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.
- “Cold temperatures threaten early strawberry crop,” WWAY-TV: With the usually warm weather we’ve seen this winter Lewis Farms is planning to open earlier than normal.
Owner Cal Lewis says the threat of freezing temperatures next week is quite a concern though. Above average temperatures prevailed mid-January into February has now caused the local strawberry crop to be three weeks ahead of schedule. Lewis says an early season isn’t a bad thing but it does increase the risk. “It’s a very abnormal year,” Lewis said. “This is the earliest in history that strawberries have been produced in North Carolina.” The stand in Ogden plans to open March 24 which typically doesn’t open until April. The stand was originally going to open sooner, but some of the coldest air we have yet to see is set to arrive next week so they decided to hold off. Using row covers and irrigation, Lewis hopes his fruit will make it through the cold weather because if it does, it could the best season yet.
- “French apples could be boon to local industry,” Winston-Salem Journal: When St. Paul Mountain Vineyards first wanted to grow French vinifera, or grape vines, in Henderson County, most thought it was likely doomed for failure. But today, the Hendersonville winery boasts gold-medal winning wines from its locally grown French vinifera. And now, owner Alan Ward is hoping to recreate that success with cider, bringing in French and European cider apple varieties to make delicious artisan hard cider and boost the local apple industry with a new, high-value product. Ward and former Henderson County Extension Director Marvin Owings were in the Normandy region of France until March 12, touring growing operations and nurseries and making orders for French apple varieties grown specifically for cider making. Owings has leased land to start his own nursery operation near St. Paul Mountain Vineyards, and wants to help determine which root stocks will work best to raise the varieties, which are susceptible to fire blight, a bacterial disease that can cause extensive damage. Owings and Ward traveled to France in May 2015, also touring growing and cider operations. Owings said they have an interest in the true cider varieties. Because of that trip, they know how important it is to bring back the French varieties, but for whatever reason, they’ve been difficult to attain.
- “Can ginseng become a WNC cash crop?” Asheville Citizen-Times: In the rugged hills of Watauga County, there grows a highly sought-after medicinal plant that can fetch more than $1,000 per pound on the black market. It’s become a prime target for poachers and a potential cash crop for growers. Ginseng, the medicinal and knobby root prized in Eastern medicine and American-made energy drinks, is taking root in Western North Carolina, planted by farmers looking to tap into what’s becoming a growing market. But with its popularity bolstered by reality TV shows like “Appalachian Outlaws,” growers are finding themselves fending off more than deer. …
- “Lawmakers, Christmas Tree Association want to save Linville River Nursery,” Watauga Democrat: Legislative efforts are under way to temporarily halt the closure of the North Carolina Forest Service’s Linville River Nursery, which is slated for June 30. “We are trying to work on a solution,” said N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock). “Rep. Josh Dobson (R-Nebo), Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine) and myself are working on getting the nursery some budget money for the next year or two until they figure out what their operational structure is.” Ballard and Dobson both spoke at the Avery County Republican Convention on Saturday, March 18, and said they would file bills in the House and Senate, respectively, to help fund the nursery for the next two years to the tune of $100,000 per year. “I spoke with (N.C. Agricultural Commissioner) Steve Troxler about the issue, and he’s interested,” Ballard said. Another ally in the fight to save the nursery is the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, whom Ballard said she spoke with before the Avery County Republican Convention. Through a spokesperson, the NCCTA confirmed they are working toward the goal of attempting to keep the nursery open. It was announced by the NCFS on March 15 that the Liinville River Nursery would close, as it has run at a $100,000 deficit each of the past four years. The nursery has sold Fraser Fir and Eastern White Pine seedlings to local growers since 1970, helping Avery County and the surrounding areas become a hub for Christmas tree farms. “The closure might affect some of our smaller growers, so we’re trying to help them out,” Ballard stated. “All of this was a little bit of a surprise, so we’re trying to see what we can do to put a pause on it.”
- “Late peaches, fine; jury still out on other crops,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: How did peaches and other flowering crops fare following the days-long cold snap? It depends. Statewide, estimates of damage are not yet in from the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Ben Grandon, horticulture agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Randolph Center, said the jury is still out on damage to crops locally. He called it “a waiting game,” especially for growers of blueberries and strawberries. Freeze damage to individual crops is dependent upon how far along the flowering process was, he said. “Sometimes it takes two or three weeks to see how they fared,” said Grandon, adding that it’s “hit or miss” around the county. “And it’s typically not the last frost of the year.” In neighboring Montgomery County, the answer is not so encouraging. In fact, you may have to wait a bit longer this year for fresh peaches. Garrett Johnson of Johnson Peaches near Candor reported Monday that his freestone peaches “didn’t do too bad” during several recent nights of sub-freezing temperatures. But the early crop is “pretty well gone.” It was the cling peaches, which ripen in May and June that were hit the hardest, Johnson said. “The early ones were in full bloom. They were pretty well wiped out.” However, the more popular freestone peaches, which ripen from mid-July to mid-August, “came through well and we’re very thankful.” …
- “As largest ships ever approach Wilmington port, optimism about impact on pork and agriculture,” Port City Daily: A new trade route with Asia will bring massive new ships to the area. Port of Wilmington officials hope the new deal will have a positive impact, specifically on North Carolina’s pork industry. Cliff Pyron, a spokesman for the port said, “the ships on this route are the largest ships to visit Wilmington for a weekly service – in fact, they’re the largest ships providing consistent service to the east coast.” The ‘EC2’ route – operated by THE Alliance – will connect Wilmington with weekly service from Shangai and other Asian ports by 8,500 TEU (20-foot equivalent) vessels. In comparison, the Maersk and MSC ships that will begin service from northern Europe to Wilmington next month are less than 5,000 TEU (a full-sized 18-wheeler pulls a 2-TEU container). The Alliance, a massive international group of shipping companies, will begin operations in April, with service in Wilmington to begin in May. It was formed, in part, to take on the massive 2M alliance of the world’s two largest shipping company, Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company. …
- “Will North Carolina farmers be responsible auxin stewards?” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina must avoid the drift issues that plagued the Mid-South last year and responsibly use the new auxin herbicide technology. Alan York, weed specialist and William Neal Reynolds professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, has said the damage to off-target crops in the Mid-South garnered much national negative publicity for agriculture and he is convinced the issues with off-target deposition has held up the registration of the compounds. He called the drift complaints a “black eye” for the industry and farmers and other applicators must convince the Environmental Protection Agency they are responsible stewards of the new technology. Registration for the new dicamba products is temporary, for two years. York said EPA can choose not to extend the registrations if there is a great deal of off-target deposition of the herbicides. “EPA made it very clear that they are not going to stand for any more of that,” York said of the Mid-South drift complaints. It was with the Mid-South drift issues in mind that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services mandated training for farmers and other applicators as part of a 24(c) special local need label for all products containing 2,4-D or dicamba applied on Xtend or Enlist cotton or soybeans. More than 3,000 farmers and other applicators have completed the training in 38 meetings held across North Carolina in February and March. Of those trained, 82 percent have been growers with the remainder including dealers, consultants and applicators. York believes drift complaints will be at a minimum this year if applicators follow the guidelines to avoid off-target deposition and use common sense. The goal is to have no problems with off-target deposition and zero incidents. “Obviously, we’re not going to make that goal. Somebody is going to screw up, but we want to keep those screw ups to a minimum,” York said. …
- “N.C. A&T culinary competition highlights healthy eating,” Greensboro News & Record: College eating isn’t just Ramen noodles. Some students at N.C. A&T will compete against each in a culinary competition to demonstrate there’s more to dorm meals than less-than-healthy staples. Three teams of four students will compete in a competition in the style of the television show “Iron Chef.”
The competition is the closing event of North Carolina Small Farms Week, A&T’s annual celebration of small-scale agriculture. “Even though agriculture is a foundation of our university, many of our students are not aware of, nor participate in, the variety of programs and resources in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at A&T,” said Michelle Eley, community and economic development specialist for The Cooperative Extension Program. “For Small Farms Week, we wanted to do some things to engage students and make them aware of our depth and breadth. Finding, preparing and consuming food is an experiential way of engaging students in agricultural education.” …
- “Brace yourself for a summer without many peaches,” The News & Observer: Biting into a fresh, juicy Carolina peach may be a rare experience this summer. Last week’s sudden freezing temperatures, which hit just after an unusually warm February sent peach trees into bloom early, has dealt a serious blow to one of South Carolina’s primary crops. The S.C. Department of Agriculture reports that the state probably lost 85 to 90 percent of its peach crop. The Midland and South Carolina is the largest peach-producing state on the East Coast, second only to California. Its peach crop usually is worth about $90 million, with a $300 million impact on local economies, including 1,500 jobs. That would be the heaviest loss in 10 years, since a devastating late freeze in 2007. Blueberries grown in the Midland and Upstate area of South Carolina also were hit hard, with losses expected to be about the same as peaches. “It’s not looking good right now,” said Bob Hall of Bush N Vine Farm in York. There may be later-season varieties available in August, but he expects they’ll lose about 90 percent of their crop. The total loss won’t be known for another week, when they can see how many blooms are left. On the bright side, he said, strawberries mostly made it through and are already setting fruit. Strawberries are easier to protect from cold and they also bloom again through the spring. He says the strawberry season will start earlier than it ever has, probably in just a few weeks, and he thinks they’ll have strawberries until June this year. They also will have other produce at their farm stands through the summer. At Black’s Peaches in York, they do expect to have a few more peaches. While they lost 80 percent of their crop, a woman at the farm stand said that a new batch of trees planted in 2014, which will yield fruit for the first time this year, actually made it through the freeze. In North Carolina, peach crop losses haven’t yet been reported, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Mostly, apples in the mountains apparently weren’t badly damaged. Strawberry damage was spotty because the crop was ahead of schedule. Winter wheat also may be damaged. But it will still be a few days before the extent of loss is known. …
Spring is here and schedules are getting busy. This means eating healthy and well-balanced meals often take a back seat to what’s easy and quick. Good nutrition is all about food choices that promote health and prevent disease. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, we’ve found a recipe that is quick, healthy, filling and combines all five of the food groups. We think it would be a great breakfast or before-practice snack for kids or take one to the office.
This recipe is also a good source of protein, fiber and calcium. For more healthy meal options, check out N.C. Farm to School. This program supplies school cafeterias across our state with the freshest, locally grown produce from North Carolina farms.
- 4 apples
- 2 cups fat-free vanilla yogurt
- 1 cup granola
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 12 teaspoons mixed nuts
Cut tops of apples off, like a pumpkin. Discard core and some of the apple, making room for the rest of the ingredients. Mix yogurt, celery, granola and nuts, then fill each apple equally with the mixture. Replace the tops of the apples, wrap in plastic and go, or eat immediately.
This recipe was a success when we tried it in the test kitchen. A few ideas included using celery sticks as a spoon instead of mixing it into the yogurt. The mix could be made the night before and added to apples the next morning. We would suggest adding granola at the last minute to keep it crunchy – or leave the granola out and use a granola bar to dip into your apple.