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There’s a new bug in town: Novel insect threatens white pine

6 hours 6 min ago

Numerous reports of eastern white pine in poor health have emerged from several counties in western N.C. Image: B. Heath, NCFS.

First impressions are lasting, and a newly-known insect is making a memorable one. Since mid-May, reports of eastern white pine in poor health emerged from several counties in western North Carolina. Trees in Ashe, Madison, Transylvania, Haywood, Mitchell and Swain counties had branch dieback, crown thinning, cankers (diseased areas of dead tissue), excessive resin outflow, and some have died. The underlying cause is a tiny scale insect, Matsucoccus macrocicatrices, which was first discovered in North Carolina in 2013.

The Matsucoccus scale was first recognized in the Southeastern U.S. in 2006 in Virginia on trees with lower branch dieback, cankers and some mortality. In 2012, a researcher noticed declining eastern white pine trees near a hemlock study site in northern Georgia and the Matsucoccus scale was subsequently identified. This tiny insect was previously only known to exist in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and parts of Canada. Follow-up surveys found the insect in other southern states, including North Carolina in 2013, where it was discovered in Jackson, Macon, Madison and Transylvania counties. Scientists are unsure whether this is an insect that has simply gone overlooked for years because of its tiny size and cryptic nature or if this is the newly-expanded range of an insect formerly known only from northeastern North America.

The tiny Matsucoccus scale is responsible for decline in health in eastern white pine in western N.C. Image: M. Cram, USFS.

The Matsucoccus scale is typically found under lichen, in branch crotches, and embedded in cankers of eastern white pine trees. While it has been associated with several fungal species, the one most commonly found with the scale is Caliciopsis pinea which causes cankers from which large amounts of resin outflow. Caliciposis pinea and the disease it causes has been known to occur in North Carolina since the 1930s. It most often affects dense stands, suppressed trees and trees on sites with poor soils.

The reported impact in North Carolina is scattered and appear to affect trees on the forest edge more frequently.  Reports from other states indicate understory trees and lower branches may also be at-risk.


Today’s Topic: Blueberry season

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 08:58

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

It’s shaping up to be a pretty strong blueberry season in North Carolina, which typically begins in mid-May and runs through August. Growers say they expect to have a solid crop this year.

Heavy rains in late May and early June slowed field work and harvest, so it probably won’t be a record year, Commissioner Troxler says. But there should be plenty of fresh, locally grown berries well into summer.

The majority of North Carolina blueberries are sold directly to consumers at local farmers markets, roadside stands and you-pick farms. Search to find local farms and markets. Local blueberries are also available in many groceries stores across the state.

Like a lot of the fruits grown in North Carolina, blueberries are versatile. You can eat them raw, make jams and preserves out of them, or use them in pies, pancakes, cobblers or ice cream.

North Carolina is the seventh-largest producer of blueberries in the nation, yielding about 49 million pounds in 2014. The majority of blueberry production is concentrated in the eastern part of North Carolina, but you can find berries across the state. Bladen County is the top producing county, with more than 3,000 acres of blueberries.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about blueberry season in North Carolina.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Pesky mosquitoes are summertime’s unwelcome guests

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 10:04

Mosquitoes are a typical summertime pest in North Carolina. (photo from N.C. State University)

This time of year many backyards across the state are facing an unwelcome guest – the pesky mosquito. Summertime is peak season for mosquitoes in North Carolina.

“Backyard populations of mosquitoes are building now,” said Dr. Michael Reiskind, entomologist at N.C. State University. “Usually peak mosquito season falls in August or September, but it’s not unusual to see them out in late October. “While most mosquitoes don’t carry diseases, they can still be a problem for homeowners trying to enjoy their own backyards.”

North Carolina is home to 61 species of mosquitoes, but most suburban neighborhoods are populated by three or four species.

An increasing number of homeowners are choosing to hire pesticide companies to spray their yards for mosquito control. “Mosquito spraying seems to cut down on the number of mosquitoes in a backyard,” Reiskind said. “It’s a complaint-driven business, most people call when they are experiencing a problem and looking for solutions. Some have contracts that bring them out every 21 days and others will come back out if you start getting bit. Spraying could depress the mosquito population so you can enjoy your backyard.”

Three county survey of mosquito sprayers being funded by PETF

Reiskind, along with researchers from East Carolina, Western Carolina and N.C. State Universities are sending out a research survey this year to better understand mosquito awareness and use of controls such as mosquito spraying. Surveys will be delivered in Henderson, Pitt and Wake counties. “We are also looking at use among three different socioeconomic areas, poor, middle income and wealthy, and in rural and suburban areas,” Reiskind said. “This survey is for us to get an idea as to what is going on at a population level. Right now, we really don’t know how many people spray for mosquitoes. The state and county work to control mosquitoes in rural areas, such as large populations in salt marshes, but they don’t do much for our backyards.”

This survey is being funded by a Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund grant. This fund receives money from environmental assessment fee for pesticide brands registered with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

NCDA&CS regulates and licenses mosquito sprayers.

“Spraying for mosquitoes falls under a pesticide license and a structural pest control license,” said Renee Woody, licensing, certification and outreach manager for the Pesticides and Structural Pest Control Division . “When hiring someone to spray your property, you need to make sure you are hiring the right person based on your yard’s needs.”

Structural pest control license holders, with a household pest phase endorsement, can treat structures such as houses, decks, sheds and garages. This license also allows them to treat for mosquitoes in the landscape, parking lots, dumpsters on a property with a structure. Pesticides license holders with a public health endorsement can spray the yard and vegetation that is away from a structure. “The type of license your pest-control company needs depends on the intended target site of treatment,” Woody said. “If you want your deck and shrubbery right up against your house sprayed, then you need someone with a structural pest control licenses. If you want a yard or landscape sprayed, then you need a pesticides license holder. A structural pest control license holder is  allowed to apply pesticides in landscaping areas, such as yards provided a structure is located on the property.”

Landscapers with an Ornamental and Turf license are not allowed to spray for mosquito control.

Obtaining a pesticide license requires passing the Pesticide Core exam and a Public Health category exam. A structural pest control license requires several prerequisites including two years of experience and passing the house-hold pest phase license exam.

“We encourage homeowners to always look for a company that is licensed and insured, get two estimates and check references,” said Woody. “Also, if you have a problem with a pest control company you hired, call the Department of Agriculture, we address all complaints.” The phone number for the Pesticides and Structural Pest Control Division is 919-733-3556.

There are other ways to control mosquitoes in your yard as well. Check out this checklist for ways to reduce small-water sources and other environments that harbor unwelcome pests.



News Roundup: June 18-24

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 14:19

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories.

  • “Troxler: DuPont fees will be instituted if needed,” Hendersonville Times-News: Funding for DuPont State Recreational Forest is at stake as the state legislature crafts the final budget plan, and the fate of those millions could decide whether or not visitors will have to pay a fee. Included in the House budget plan, but not the Senate’s, is $3 million to go toward improvements at DuPont State Recreational Forest, including bathroom and drinking water facilities and nine new staff positions. During a visit to DuPont Wednesday, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said the forest is too valuable an asset to North Carolina not to be funded, and that while he’s optimistic for appropriations, he still has the authority to impose fees, which he will do to make sure the forest is properly funded. …
  • “Farm tour will help consumers connect with producers,” Winston-Salem Journal: Many area residents have probably visited an area farmers market. Fresh, local products are abundant, and a visit to any market vibrantly illustrates this fact. Baked goods, tea, coffee, homemade soap, salves, berries, tomatoes and freshly picked produce are all tangible results of area craftsmen and farmers. Why not get a firsthand glimpse into some of these local products that you’ve encountered at the market? The Northern Triad Farm Tour is happening Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. You can visit seven diverse, working farms that are helping to put food on the table and connecting us with the natural world. …
  • “Map project shows expansion of NC livestock operations,” WRAL: Environmental groups this week released a series of interactive maps displaying the locations and waste output of thousands of hog, poultry and cattle operations across the state. The project’s creators, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working Group, say the maps extensively document for the first time the high concentrations of confined animal feeding operations in certain parts of the state, which can contribute to nutrient pollution in sensitive waterways. But agriculture lobbyists say the project reveals nothing new about livestock farmers, who environmental officials say must follow strict guidelines in one of the most heavily regulated industries in the state. …
  • “Severe drought declared for parts of WNC,” WLOS: Four Western North Carolina counties are facing a severe drought due to lack of rainfall. According to the North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality, portions of Macon, Transylvania, Jackson and Haywood counties were upgraded from moderate drought to severe drought due to lack of adequate rainfall. Severe drought is the second highest of the four drought categories. Extension Climatologist with the State Climate Office of North Carolina Rebecca Ward said the counties in this category have experienced less than average rainfall. “The counties in the southwestern mountain area of the state have been experiencing dry conditions for several months due to lower than normal precipitation, which impacts soil moisture levels, stream flows and ground water levels,” Ward said. “If these dry conditions continue, this area may see additional impacts that could affect agriculture.”
  • “Scaling Up: A produce producer’s passion for feeding N.C. schools,” Triangle Business Journal:  Tim Williams, project manager at Warren County-based Working Landscapes, says food – like people – has a story. “I am inspired that we are producing food with a positive story,” he said. “Sharing that with young people encourages them to think about their food, where it comes from, how its grown, and hopefully – one day – will create a food system that is equitable, sustainable, and just for all.” Williams is a recent recipient of University of California’s Global Food Initiative 30 Under 30 Awards. He was the only North Carolina resident to receive the honor. His passion for the food industry sprouted in Wilmington, where he worked at FoodCorp for a year. “It was really instrumental in my food career, I worked with elementary students with nutrition, gardening and getting more local foods to schools,” he says. While working there, a colleague from Warren County introduced him to Working Landscapes, a rural economic development nonprofit based in Warrenton. …
  • “ASAP’s Farm Tour showcases local agriculture,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Working to strengthen the relationship between farmers and consumers, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project is finalizing preparations for a two-day farm tour that will offer a glimpse into how food is grown and harvested in the region. In its ninth year, the tour is expected to draw a large turnout this weekend, covering nearly two dozen farms throughout the area. The idea is to help people better “understand the scale of agriculture” in a part of the state where sustainable living is a major focal point and where the local food system has flourished, said David Smiley, a program assistant for ASAP. Scheduled for June 25 and 26, the self-guided tour includes 20 family-owned farms grouped together in six areas, from Black Mountain to Leicester to Madison County. Several are new to the tour this year. …
  • “Two Local Farms Receive Agritourism Grants,”  The Pilot: A new marketing initiative sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will benefit two local farms.
    Looking to attract new customers through better signage and branding opportunities, C.V. Pilson Farm and Flint Rock Farm each received a $2,500 grant award. In its first year, the Agritourism Marketing Cost Share program selected 29 projects for awards. The two farms — both located in Cameron — were the only grant recipients from Moore County. “I’m pleased that we were able to award a total of $50,000 in cost-share funding to agritourism farms across the state,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “For many agritourism operations, this funding can provide the help they need to boost their marketing efforts and increase the number of visitors to their farms.” …
  • “Blueberry picking season marks start of summer,” News & Observer: Just in time for the first official day of summer, blueberry picking season kicked off this weekend at Creekside Farm in Johnston County. Dozens of families headed to the farm, about 10 miles east of Clayton, to get the year’s first taste of blueberries fresh off the bush. Kids ran through the rows of bushes, sampling a berry or two and getting juice on their hands before filling up plastic buckets. “Look for the biggest, juiciest, plumpest berry, and that’s going to be the sweetest berry,” farm owner Rich Bennek instructs first-time pickers. This year’s crop faced challenges from a warm winter followed by several frosty nights in April. Creekside lost several rows of bushes to the late frost, but the farm fared better than some of its peers in the Triangle. In Orange County, Whitted Bowers Farm won’t be able to offer blueberry picking at all this year. “We lost almost 90 percent of the berries,” the farm posted on its Facebook page. Several other farms nearby lost a large percentage of their crops and are planning a later-than-usual opening. …
  • “Uncle Sam wants you — to become a farmer,” Fewer young Americans are pursuing careers in agriculture, a growing concern among the nation’s farmers whose average age now approaches 60, and the federal government is hopeful that military veterans will help reverse the trend. But while more vets are expressing interest in farming, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American labor statistics show no real upsurge in them taking jobs down on the farm. They comprise about 2 percent of the country’s entire agricultural workforce, a figure that has remained flat since at least 2007. The USDA tracks veterans’ interest in farming through loan applications for land purchases. Since 2009, the agency has granted $466 million to about 4,000 vets, says Lanon Beccam, a former Army officer who now works as the USDA’s veterans liaison. But overall, of the 4 million veterans living in the nation’s rural areas, around 6 percent — some 240,000 — work in agriculture. …
  • “Hickory Nut Gap Farm’s John Ager to speak at Raleigh pollinator rally, June 20,” Mountain Xpress: With over an average of 40 percent of U.S. honeybee hives dying and costing over $2 billion each year, farmers, food advocates, beekeepers and environmental groups across the nation are taking to the road to raise awareness on the massive decline. The Keep the Hives Alive Tour will stop in cities in California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina during National Pollinator Week, June 13-23. At the end of the tour, beekeepers, farmers, farmworkers, scientists and advocates will bring a truck load of 2.64 million dead bees to Washington, D.C. to urge the EPA, the USDA and Congress to take action on toxic pesticides and support sustainable agriculture. “I’m part of the next generation of beekeepers who wants to make a living keeping bees — and to do that, we have to help solve this problem,” said James Cook, who owns The Bird and the Bees LLC and is driving a bee truck cross-country for the tour. “In the five years since I started keeping bees, I’ve seen many hives killed by pesticides. If some fundamental things don’t change, it’s going to be really hard for beekeepers to adapt to the environment around us.” …
  • “N.C. producer heads National Pork Board,” AgriNews: Jan Archer, a pork producer from Goldsboro, N.C., was elected as president of the National Pork Board at the organization’s June board meeting in Des Moines. The board is comprised of 15 farmer-directors representing America’s pig farmers. “I want to thank my fellow board members for the confidence they are placing in me, and I see much opportunity for our industry in the year ahead,” Archer said. “I have been involved in pork production for more than 40 years, and I have never seen a greater level of consumer interest in pig farming. I am proud of the work we do every day on our farms and look forward to sharing our stories of responsible animal production with packers, retail and foodservice customers and consumers.”  …


School nutrition staff turn produce into edible arrangements

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 09:34

The Bladen County Helping Hands team was the winner at this year’s North Carolina Farm to School Produce Art Challenge.

School nutrition staff from across the state were encouraged to get creative and play with their food last week during the 2nd annual North Carolina Farm to School Produce Art Challenge. The competition was held as part of the School Nutrition Association of North Carolina’s annual conference.

The Bladen County Helping Hands team earned bragging rights and garnishing kits. The Craven Carvers placed second and received chef knives. Third place and cutting boards went to Wilkes Wonder Women. Entries were judged on originality and creativity, team work, use of time, and use of products.

“This is the second year of the competition,” said Heather Barnes, N.C. Farm to School marketing specialist. “Last year only four teams competed, this year we held district competitions and then eight teams competed in the finals. We all loved seeing the results. Not everyone can look at a watermelon or a strawberry or a potato and see all these creations made from produce. It’s talent! I don’t have that talent.

“We do this competition to promote North Carolina produce, and to have a little fun,” Barnes added. “We appreciate our involvement with the school nutrition staff and their willingness to promote North Carolina products on their menus.”

Each team is given a variety of produce, assembly supplies and one hour to complete their creation. Then, the edible art is judged by a panel of three. This year, Patrick O’Brian, the Fruit Carving Ninja from Fayetteville, was one of the judges.

Other teams competing were GCS Rocks from the Guilford School District, The Garnishing Queens from Down East from the Pitt/Washington School District, The Garden Girls from Lincoln County School District, Slaughtermelon & The “Honey-Do’s” from Henderson County School District and Crazy Carvers from the Nash-Rocky Mount District.

N.C. Farm To School is a program that supplies school cafeterias across the state with fresh, locally grown produce from North Carolina farms.  Last school year, 88 school districts in the state participated in the program. Nearly $1.3 million in produce was purchase for the schools directly from farmers.




Sweet! Honey recipes for summertime

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 10:10

It is National Pollinator Week, which means it is a time to recognize and celebrate the bees, butterflies, moths, wasps and birds that play a crucial role in agriculture. Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have the bountiful harvests we enjoy today.

Bees, which are often called the spark plugs of agriculture, also provide us with delicious honey. Ancient Greeks called honey food for the gods. As bees spend this time of year making honey in their hives, honey could be seen as the essence of summer.

The N.C. Beekeepers Association provides us with the following tips for cooking with honey and a few recipes to enjoy this summer.

  1. The lighter the honey the milder the flavor. If a stronger flavor is desired in your recipe, use a darker honey.
  2. Store honey at room temperature. Honey that is stored in the refrigerator will crystallize more rapidly. Honey does not spoil.
  3. To get rid of crystals in honey, place the jar in warm tap water and stir until crystals dissolve.
  4. If you want to substitute sugar for honey in a recipe, use half the amount of honey for the amount of sugar needed. Honey has a higher sweetening power so not as much is needed.
  5. Moisten a measuring spoon or cup first with water, oil, or an egg before measuring honey to prevent it from sticking to the measuring utensil.

Honey Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon brown sugar

Blend everything well and refrigerate until ready to use.

Ginger Honey Salad Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Shake ingredients in covered container. 70 calories per tablespoon.

Balsamic Honey Mustard Dressing

  • 1/3 cup red balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Whisk constantly until smooth.

For more information on how the N.C Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working to increase pollinator habitats, visit

Today’s Topic: National Pollinator Week

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 09:17

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

June 20-26 is National Pollinator Week, a time to recognize the bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators that play a critical role in producing much of the food we enjoy. They are involved in everything from fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, strawberries, apples and blueberries, to row crops such as soybeans, alfalfa, canola and peanuts.

Unfortunately, bees and other pollinators are in danger for a variety of reasons. According to the USDA, habitat loss, disease and environmental changes have contributed to their decline.

Commissioner Troxler says farmers and homeowners alike can make a difference. He encourages farmers to plant pollinator-friendly crops along fences and ditch banks to provide food supplies for these animals. Some farm-friendly cover crops are greens – such as turnips, mustard and kale – clover, canola and sunflower. He also encourages farmers to plant a small plot of pollinator-friendly plants. It’s a good idea to plant a mix that blooms at different times of the year. This has been done at the state’s 18 agricultural research stations and at several state forests.

Homeowners in the city can also make a difference for pollinators. Look for flower varieties that are native to North Carolina and have a mix of spring, summer and fall blooming times. This will ensure that bees can feast throughout the year.

For suggestions, talk to your local nurseryman or visit

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about National Pollinator Week.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

What’s Happening on the Farm: Pollinator habitat research

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 08:46

Pollinator habitat area at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Periodically, 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 discussing new pollinator habitat research ongoing at all 18 research stations.

Bees have been called the spark plug of agriculture. And there’s no denying their integral role in our food supply. If there were no bees, there would be little food. Since last year, all 18 research stations across North Carolina have planted pollinator gardens, which has opened up a unique research opportunity for N.C. State University entomologist David Tarpy.

“We have station staff or research assistants at each station collecting bees from the plots,” said Tarpy. “We are collecting DNA from the bees to gauge types of bees and the size of the hives. From a subsample you can gauge the number of individuals in a hive.”

The bees are collected through passive sampling, or glass bowls that look like flowers and are filled with water that trap and drown the bees, and active sampling from the pollinator plots. DNA is extracted from the leg of the collected bees.

This is the first year of the study, so results are not yet available. “You really need three years to be effective,” said Tarpy. “You need three data points to have trend, and I would love to see this be a 10-year study.” The primary results of the study will be the effectiveness of the pollinator plots on increasing the bee population. “We can look at what size a plot needs to be to be effective and make a difference,” he said.

This is the second year that Kelly Snider of the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury has organized ordering seed and getting pollinator plots planted at all stations. “Each station has a plot that contains a wildflower mix of about 17 different types of seed and a plot where the stations plants their own plants,” said Snider. “At the Salisbury station, we have planted a field of sunflowers that we plan to combine for seed and replant the seed.”

Snider said maintenance of pollinator plots is pretty easy. “Once the plots are prepared for the seeds, they’re not much to maintain,” he said. “There’s not much you can do without destroying the habitat, so you just water the plots and wait until the first frost to mow off.”

Snider offers the following advice for how to plant a pollinator garden.

  1. Clear the plot of weeds.
  2. Till up the soil – this is the step you need to spend the most time on. The better you till it, the more successful the garden will be.
  3. Take a soil sample to see what types of amendments need to be added. Soil can be tested for free most of the year through the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services lab.
  4. Use a spin spreader to put seed out. Dilute 3 pounds of seed with 3 pounds of sand and go over the entire area two or three times.
  5. Lightly wet the area to help keep seed in place.

Along with Research Stations, other NCDA&CS divisions have increased their efforts to protect pollinators. More information on the department’s pollinator efforts are online at




News Roundup: June 11 – 17

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:38

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.

  • “History meets youth at NC potato partners Pamlico Shores,” The Produce News: (Video) Dawson Pugh and Hunter Gibbs were childhood friends, playing on land their families have farmed here for generations. For the last decade they’ve been bringing a young, aggressive approach to the North Carolina fresh summer potato crop, available now through the end of July. Technology meets good old fashioned stewardship of the land to make Pamlico one of the areas most progressive growers.
  • “Looking forward to blueberries,” Salisbury Post: Consumers can expect a strong North Carolina blueberry crop this season, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Blueberry harvest began in mid-May and is expected to last through August. “Most of the growers we’ve heard from expect to have a solid crop this year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It won’t be a record year, but folks should be able to find plenty of fresh, locally grown berries well into summer.” The majority of N.C. blueberries are sold directly to consumers at local farmers markets, roadside stands and you-pick farms. Blueberry fans can search the department’s website,, to find local farms and markets near their homes or while they’re on vacation. Consumers also can find local blueberries in many groceries stores across the state during the season. …
  • “Mountaire Farms Moving Into Siler City,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Recently, Mountaire Farms announced that they would be renovating and taking over the beleaguered Townsends poultry processing plant in Siler City. Dan Campeau, area specialized agent for poultry with NC State University: “Absolutely. I think that the people in Siler City, when we lost the Townsends plant they lost five to six hundred jobs, and basically, Siler City put themselves on the line because they built a brand new water reservoir so that they could help Townsends with their water needs. So, when the Ukrainian firm left the country and in leaving all this, basically Siler City was in a depressed economy, losing five and six hundred jobs. So, this is really such a great thing, for our local economy. And I think it’s not only going to help processing jobs, but also help anybody that wanted to be in the poultry industry that was left out by the Townsends fiasco could be picked up. And also, Mountaire is also looking for people to get into building new houses for them.” When the Ukrainian firm, that Campeau mentioned, suddenly picked up sticks and left the country, the situation left many poultry producers hanging. Campeau says many of them were able to stay in business: “Kudos to Farm Credit for actually working with these farmers while they were without contracts. I don’t know of anybody that was serviced by North Carolina Farm Credit that was foreclosed on, they actually worked the farmers and helped them keep their farms while they were without contracts. The other companies that were in this area like Perdue, Mountaire and Pilgrims actually picked up a lot of these broiler growers. And there were also pullet growers and breeder growers that were picked up by those three companies also.” …
  • “New Research Triangle Park-based business wants to fund ag startups,” Southeast Farm Press: As John Dombrosky sees it, great research and new technology in agriculture doesn’t do much good until it can be used right on the farm to improve farm income. “Scientists at great land grand universities such as N.C State, Purdue and the University of California Davis create a great deal of novel technology, but it’s often difficult to transfer that technology into a new product because you need facilities, management talent, scientific acumen, lab space, greenhouse space and capital to turn a great idea into a finished product that a farmer can use,” explains Dombrosky, a former Syngenta executive who is now CEO of AgTech Accelerator, a new venture formed in May in Research Triangle Park that will fund new agricultural technology startups. In an interview with Southeast Farm Press, Dombrosky explains that AgTech Accelerator is a first of a kind venture for agriculture that is geared toward developing innovative agricultural technology companies. The model has proven successful in the pharmaceutical business, and Dombrosky says he is confident it will succeed in agriculture as well. …
  • “Some Eastern Corn Producers Looking at Replant after Bonnie & Colin,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Tropical storms Bonnie, and then closely followed by Colin dealt a double whammy on some of North Carolina’s most numerous, and productive corn fields in Beaufort, Washington, Hyde and Terrell Counties in eastern North Carolina. Rod Gurganus was able to do a helicopter flyover, courtesy of Sid Cayton and take photographs of the standing water. Now that some of the water is gone, Gurganus outlines what some farmers are looking at: “The situation definitely looks better now, given some sunshine and drier weather, and a chance for some of this water to drain off. We have seen some areas in the fields that are completely dead, that corn is not coming back. But, we have seen some corn in other areas that turned brown, especially the lower leaves as the root systems were compromised, the plants were trying to grow but they weren’t able to, so they were feeding on themselves, pulling nitrogen out of the lower leaves into the part of the plant that was trying to grow. But, in the last few days, those pictures we looked at initially, those look a lot greener, the corn is recovering.” …
  • “The Produce Box takes a fresh approach to food delivery,” The News & Observer: The Produce Box is in the business of making it easy for people across the state to support local farmers. Last week, the Raleigh-based company delivered nearly 7,000 boxes hand-packed with a variety of fruits and vegetables directly to the doors of customers across the state. The Produce Box epitomizes the “buy local” movement, relying on about 40 North Carolina farmers for its goods as well as 90 artisans that make cheese, breads, sauces and other food products. “The farmers market is the best way to support local farmers. We’re the next-best way,” said founder and CEO Courtney Tellefsen. “It’s just that most people can’t get to the farmers market every single Saturday. So we’re the alternative.” Today, Produce Box, which was launched in 2008, has more than 10,000 members who pay an $18 annual enrollment fee that entitles them to purchase boxes that are stuffed with a variety of produce from A to Z – acorn squash to zucchini. The boxes – sporting the company’s logo and the admonition “Eat Your Veggies!” – are delivered weekly except for a six-week period from late December to early February. Members also can supplement the boxes by ordering cheese, breads, etc. …
  • “Cider businesses thrive, draw tourists to Henderson,” Asheville Citizen-Times: You can’t make great hard cider without a steady source of first-rate apples. Henderson County has plenty of those, and is making a mark in cider in the same way that Asheville is known for craft brew. Bold Rock Hard Cider is the biggest of the players with its operation in Mills River, not far from the Sierra Nevada brewery. Flat Rock Ciderworks has opened a tasting room in downtown Hendersonville. And St. Paul Mountain Vineyards, just outside the Hendersonville city limits, is expanding its Appalachian Ridge Artisan Cider operation by converting a 1920s-era barn into a cider house tasting room that will open next month. The cideries are pulling locals and tourists alike, said Hendersonville City Council member Jeff Miller. “These cideries are adding (to the tourist draw) along with the micro breweries and people coming here to pick apples,” he said. “Things like this will draw people in and get them to stay longer. They are a great addition to the community.” …

Got to Be NC Recipes: Peach Buds and Sparkling Wine

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 11:15

June is an extra sweet time of year, not only is it the start of peak wedding season, it’s also National Candy Month.

Butterfields Candy in Nashville has found a way to combine both with dropping a peach bud in a glass of sparkling wine or champagne.  It’s an easy way to add a little something different and a touch of North Carolina to your big day.

Butterfields Candy are the original makers of the popular Peach Bud hard candy, described as “fresh, ripe, peach tang, mixed with a sweet dab of smooth, creamy coconut.” The company has been a family-owned and operated in Nash County since 1924. Their other hard candy flavors include key lime, lemon, honeybell and orange.

Owner Dena Manning said it was a friend of hers that first thought to drop a peach bud in her glass of champagne. “She loves champagne and she loves Peach Buds so she got the idea to mix them,” said Manning. “It adds a nice hint of color in the glass and gives the drink a peachy taste.”

“Customers have also called  us to tell of other ways they have used our hard candies for mixers,” she added. “Including the Key Lime Buds in vodka and the Honeybell or Lemon Buds in tea.” The candies also make a good party favor for guest to take home from the special day. Butterfield’s Candy is found online or at specialty stores and grocers.

Adding a Peach Bud to your sparkling wine isn’t the only way to add a little Got to Be NC to your big day. North Carolina has several wineries that offer sparking wines. Biltmore Estate Winery in Asheville, Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda and Shelton Vinyards in Dobson have all been winners at the N.C. State Fair for their sparkling wines, but other wineries also offer sparkling varieties.

Finally, consider a North Carolina agritourism farm for your wedding destination. There are more than 150 farms that offer wedding packages and breathtaking views.

Peach Buds and Sparkling Wine recipe:

  1. Pour a glass of sparkling wine or champagne
  2. Drop a peach bud into the glass
  3. Serve immediately


Become a Hemlock Hero!

Wed, 06/15/2016 - 10:48

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative brings hope to hemlock’s future

For years, the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid has slowly but surely eaten away at the native hemlocks gracing our state’s beautiful mountain landscapes. Many of these once stunning and elegant trees are now gray ghosts, killed by an insect not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Efforts to protect select hemlocks on state properties are ongoing and have saved many, but when it comes to protecting a keystone species that defines ecosystems in Western N.C., there is always more that can be done.

That is why a statewide program came into existence with the charge of protecting our hemlocks for years to come. The Hemlock Restoration Initiative was created in 2014 by Commissioner Steve Troxler in order to ensure that eastern and Carolina hemlocks can withstand attacks by the hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on public and private lands in the state. The HRI receives funding and support from the NCDA&CS Commissioner’s Office, USDA Forest Service and the N.C. Forest Service.

The main goal of the HRI is to implement a strategic plan for hemlock restoration in North Carolina. This involves:

  • Identifying and establishing hemlock conservation areas;
  • Educating landowners on how to economically manage hemlocks on their properties;
  • Increasing the number of trees treated on public lands;
  • Implementing integrated pest management and long-term biological control of the hemlock woolly adelgid; and
  • Advancing the development of other management strategies and restoration techniques, including the search for trees tolerant to the adelgid and understanding optimal hemlock growing conditions.

In its initial months, the HRI has helped treat more than 600 trees on conserved and state-owned lands, assisted with the release of over 6,000 predatory beetles, co-hosted a forum on biological control agents, and informed dozens of individuals on how to treat their own trees.

But the HRI cannot do it without invested North Carolinians.

How can you help?

  • Join the HRI’s “Team Tsuga” for a volunteer hemlock treatment workday on one of our state forests, parks or game lands! Not only will you help the trees you treat, but it’s a great way to learn first-hand how to treat your own hemlock trees! (Note: Tsuga is the genus name for hemlocks.)
  • Invite the HRI to speak to your community, lead a hike or participate in a local conservation-oriented event. You can contact the HRI here!
  • Use native, locally-sourced trees and other plants in your landscaping to avoid introducing other unwanted pests to new areas. All too often, invasives are introduced or spread from place to place by unknowing people!
  • Feed your adelgids to beneficial insects being reared at the NCDA&CS Beneficial Insect Lab. Contact Kathleen Kidd at the Beneficial Insect Lab to let them know about your infested trees.
  • Inform the Forest Restoration Alliance (formerly known as the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests) about potentially HWA-resistant “survivor trees” that stand out in a stand of otherwise dead hemlock trees. We need as many eyes as we can looking for these trees!
  • Follow the HRI page on Facebook, Save the Hemlocks!
  • Visit the HRI website to learn more.

Volunteers assess hemlock health in a stand (top left; image by M. Wallston). Predatory beetle releases (bottom left; image by M. Wallston) and chemical treatments (right; image by I. Holt) are both options for hemlock stand protection.

Recently, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies released a report naming invasive pests as the number one threat to our forests. The HRI aims to reduce the threat of one of the deadliest ever known in this state. With your help, that mission can become more and more realistic!


Article written by Margot Wallston, HRI Coordinator

Today’s Topic: Weather hurting NC crops

Tue, 06/14/2016 - 08:55

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

Depending on where you are in North Carolina, it has been either too wet or too dry this spring.

Farmers in Eastern North Carolina are feeling the effects of too much rain over the past couple of weeks. In a span of 10 days or so, several northeastern counties reported 10 inches or more of rain as a result of Tropical Storm Bonnie and the remnants of Tropical Storm Colin.

Farmers are reporting water injury to crops such as corn, soybeans, tobacco, cotton, onion, potatoes and wheat.

Recent rains in Eastern North Carolina flooded fields and damaged crops. (Photo: Rod Gurganus, Beaufort County Extension)

In other eastern counties, the rain halted field work. As a result, the planting of cotton, peanuts and tobacco isn’t as far along as it normally would be at this time of year.

In North Carolina’s southeastern counties, rain interrupted the picking of squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, greens, blueberries and other crops.

With all this water, farmers are also preparing for an increase in weed control issues and disease pressure.

As wet as Eastern North Carolina has been, the state’s far-western counties are having the opposite problem. In fact, 14 counties in the mountains are in a moderate drought and four others are classified as abnormally dry. The dry weather could lead to a thin first cutting of hay in those counties.

And in the Sandhills, the impacts of a late-April freeze are now being seen. There have been reports of heavy damage to peach crops in that region, especially in Moore County.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about how weather is affecting N.C. crops.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: June 4 – 10

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 13:26

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.

  • “Goat industry growing in Johnston,” News & Observer: Steve Nordan has been raising Boer goats in Johnston County for better than a decade. His children showed the animals in 4-H competitions, and now his six grandchildren will continue the tradition. For the Nordans, of Camp Branch Farms near McGee’s Crossroads, raising goats is a family affair, though not necessarily a family business. “We’re thankful if we get enough to pay for our feed,” Nordan said, laughing. The family affair began with a few goats the Nordans bought to clear some of their land. But groundskeeping soon turned to showmanship. “We’ve traveled all over the country for shows,” Nordan said, reeling off a list of states: Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and New York, among others. …
  • “NC Farmers Plant Seeds of Water and Stream Conservation,” Public News Service: Streams meander through North Carolina’s western mountains and the farms that dot the map, regardless of property lines. And now those farm owners are connecting with water conservation groups to do what the farmers can to maintain and protect the waterways. Eddie Harris owns farmland in Elkin and participated in the program, which is managed by Resource Institute, a nonprofit group that helps find and utilize funds to maximize their benefit. “I think it’s a great opportunity for farmers and landowners to take advantage of some of the conservation programs available to them,” Harris says. “It was a great benefit to the stream and the water quality in that stream, and it remains intact and has healed over and quite natural looking.” Since 2013, the Western North Carolina Stream Restoration Initiative has completed more than 80 projects. …
  • “Rare event: Ozone-caused Weather Fleck found on NC tobacco,” Southeast Farm Press: As the 2016 tobacco season rolls into June the crop as a whole still looks very solid in most of North Carolina. We continue to creep closer and closer to wrapping up transplanting since the majority of the Eastern Belt has finished; however, there’s still a respectable number of acres to set in the Old Belt. With the number of acres still left to set, Tropical Storm Bonnie was not a friend to North Carolina. To add to this system, most areas were already very wet and, at times, unseasonably cool going back two to three weeks. A small window of reprieve was felt last week when we finally had temperatures approach 90 degrees with not a cloud in sight. Overall, this crop continues to surprise me at how fast it is progressing and how good it looks — given the cool, damp weather we seem to be unable to shake. Despite having such an exceptional crop at this point we have not been without a few issues that go beyond timely transplanting and cultivating. The recent weather has brought along something we typically do not see much of in the Coastal Plain: Weather Fleck. We received a few calls and emails late the week of May 16 about odd looking spots appearing on plants almost overnight. Those communications continued into the following week and it appears this is one of the most severe Weather Fleck events documented in quite some time. …
  • “Celebrate pollination nation in Asheville,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Up to one in every three bites you take in your lifetime comes to your plate thanks to a pollinator. Though it’s likely that food was pollinated by a kind of bee, of which there are about 20,000 species, worldwide, some rather unlikely heroes make the party possible. Take midges, for example. chocolate midges, no bigger than the head of a pin, pollinate the cacao flower. Even wasps, which seem to serve little purpose but to angrily attack, help to pollinate fruits and vegetables. And bats, perhaps the most maligned (albeit unfairly) pollinators of all, have a very special task before them — making tequila possible. All pollinators great and small are the focus of the upcoming Pollination Celebration, a week of activities celebrating Asheville’s status as Bee City USA, an official designation that means the city makes an effort to create a friendly environment for bees, birds and butterflies. …
  • “Henderson County hosts Moldovan growers,” Hendersonville Times-News: North River Farms on North Mills River Road is usually open to the public for tours, but on Wednesday, owner Jason Davis led a bit of a different tour, to a group eagerly taking notes and photos and soaking up all they could about Davis’ growing techniques. The group, riding on a trailer past rows of celery, tomatoes and peppers, saw how Davis uses plastic for his vegetables, a drip irrigation system and even a shed where he mixes chemicals, with runoff contained to make sure that no herbicides or pesticides make it into the nearby Mills River. …
  • “Gaia Herbs begins multi-million dollar expansion,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Gone are the days when natural foods were relegated to small co-ops and grocery stores. Today, three out of four grocery stores contain organic food, and that sector consistently shows double-digit growth, according to the USDA.
    Gaia Herbs, a Brevard- and Mills River-based supplement manufacturer, is growing, too. Wednesday the company announced an expansion that will bring about $5 million in capital investment and dozens of new jobs. It’s already hiring for 25 of those positions…
  • “Vertical tillage works well with no-till but can it build yields?” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University has begun a 10-year study at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury to see how vertical tillage might be used to increase yields and improve soil health. Alan Franzluebbers, a USDA Agricultural Research Service soil scientist at North Carolina State University, said the study was implemented by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture due to a strong interest in vertical tillage from farmers in the Piedmont. In vertical tillage, surface crop residues are cut up and only lightly incorporated with soil. Vertical tillage could allow for a more uniform wheat stand following crops with heavy residues, and therefore higher yields. Franzluebbers said vertical tillage works well with no-tillage, allowing farmers to otherwise maintain no-tillage in their operations. “The soil is not inverted, just lightly cut at the surface. The implements are just running through the soil, not turning it over,” Franzluebbers explained at the 2016 Central Piedmont Small Grains Field Day at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury. In the study, N.C. State will compare light turbo tillage or vertical tillage and heavy turbo tillage to no tillage, which has been utilized at the station for a number of years now. The study is a collaboration among N.C. State, N.C. Department of Agriculture, N.C. Cooperative Extension, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. …
  • “Recent Bad Weather Now Affecting Carteret County Crops,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) BEAUFORT — Recent wet weather is making life difficult for farmers in Carteret County this season. Open Grounds Farm in Beaufort said past storms like Bonnie and Colin have left up to 10 inches of rain in certain areas of their land. The farm produces soy beans and corn and they say so far the root system of the plant can’t breathe due to too much standing water. Although conditions aren’t that great, the farmers are remaining hopeful they’ll have better weather during the summer. Open Grounds Farm said bad weather could affect their harvest this year which occurs in August.
  • “Naylor uses platform to promote ag,” Sampson Independent: Jocelyn Naylor holds farming in high esteem and has made it her goal to engage young children about the importance of agriculture, not only in this community but across the globe. As the new Miss Spivey’s Corner, Naylor’s primary initiative is P.L.A.N.T. (Promoting Livestock and Agricultural Needs of Today). That initiative includes Crop in a Cup, in which she travels to elementary school across Sampson and beyond, explaining the importance of North Carolina agriculture while planting seeds with the children. “A lot of elementary school students know about farms and eat three meals a day, but they don’t associate the two things as being connected,” Naylor remarked. “It’s amazing to go into a classroom and make that connection for them — that the farms they see traveling down the road with their parents are the ones that provide the food on their dinner table or their lunch tray.” …
  • “Newly legal industrial hemp could face extra regulations in NC,” News & Observer: Industrial hemp became a legal crop in North Carolina last year, but its quick legalization is prompting lawmakers to add more regulations before the first seeds are planted. Advocates for the crop hope to start growing it early next year. Hemp hadn’t been legal in part because the plant is a relative of marijuana and looks similar. But it lacks the active ingredient that makes marijuana a recreational drug. Hemp is used in fabrics, paper and car parts. The legislature approved a legalization measure last year. The bill passed just days after it was introduced, attracting little notice in the busy final days of the session. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said he was “upset and perturbed” that the bill wasn’t reviewed by his committee first. On Thursday, Dixon’s committee approved a bill that adds further regulations for aspiring hemp growers. The bill would add four more people to the five-member Industrial Hemp Commission charged with developing a permitting process for hemp farms. Three of the additional members would be agriculture professionals appointed by the state’s agriculture commissioner, currently Steve Troxler. The fourth would be a university professor appointed by the governor. …

Got to Be NC Recipes: Blueberry Fruit Cobbler

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 09:10

Free samples from Blueberry Day at the State Farmers Market last year. This year’s Blueberry Day will be Thursday, June 16.

It’s June and we have the blues – the blueberries. North Carolina ranks seventh nationally and produces more than 48.8 million pounds of the small, round berries annually. This month the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and the Robert G. Show Piedmont Triad Farmers Market  in Greensboro will host Blueberry Days with free samples and recipes.

If you want to go pick your own berries, check out for locations in your area.

Below is a classic recipe from the 1989 Goodness Grows Cookbook for Fruit Cobbler. It’s delicious with blueberries or try it with another delicious N.C. summer-grown fruit – peaches!

Fruit Cobbler

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter

Mix blueberries with 1/2 cup sugar in bowl. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Add 2/3 cup sugar. Add milk, mixing just until moistened. Melt butter in glass baking dish, then s09poon batter into dish. Spoon blueberries into center of batter; do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown. May substitute another fresh fruit for blueberries. Yield: 8 servings. About 233 calories per serving.

Backyard poultry breeders need to take precautions to prevent Salmonella

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 09:31
Backyard poultry breeders should take extra caution when working with poultry as North Carolina is part of a multi-state outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks. The Centers for Disease Control has seen 26 cases in North Carolina. Overall, there have been seven separate outbreaks nationwide since January, several of which have included cases from North Carolina. There have been 35 states involved, with 324 reported infections, of which 66 cases involved hospitalization and there has been one reported death.

CDC map showing number of Salmonella cases per state

Despite the warning, this shouldn’t deter people from keeping their birds or starting a new hobby, says Dr. Sarah Mason, director of NCDA&CS poultry health programs. “Backyard poultry is a great hobby, and we encourage people to keep chickens if they take appropriate precautions to keep themselves, their families and surrounding poultry safe,” Mason said. “Poultry owners must remember that birds inherently have a degree of risk, and even though they feel like members of the family, birds should be kept out of human living areas.”

This shouldn’t deter people from keeping their birds or starting a new hobby, says Dr. Sarah Mason, director of NCDA&CS poultry health programs.

According to the CDC, most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites. In these cases, Salmonella can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

Mason says there is no surefire way to test your flock for Salmonella, as sometimes the birds shed the bacteria and sometimes they don’t. The best thing to do is to assume your birds are infected with Salmonella and to practice good hand hygiene. There are vaccines available for some strains of Salmonella. If you have young children or elderly people at home, discuss vaccinations with your veterinarian to determine if there is an appropriate vaccine option for your flock.

Advice to backyard flock owners

The CDC has the following recommendations for backyard poultry owners:

Contact with live poultry and their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Follow these steps for protecting yourself and others while enjoying backyard poultry:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Also wash your hands after handling clothes and shoes that have touched live poultry. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Do not eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry. People in these groups are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages, feed or water containers.
  • Read CDC’s recommendations for taking care of your backyard flock, which apply to all live poultry, regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.

Today’s Topic: Economic impact of NC agriculture, agribusiness increases to $84 billion

Tue, 06/07/2016 - 11:02

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

N.C. State University economist Mike Walden has released his yearly analysis of the impact that agriculture and agribusiness have on North Carolina’s economy. His analysis showed that agriculture and agribusiness are still the state’s largest industry, with an economic impact that now stands at $84 billion. That’s an $8 billion jump from the previous year.

Walden’s survey used data from 2014 and looked at three sectors: agriculture and food industries, fiber, and forestry. The analysis showed that there was growth in value-added income in each of those sectors. The biggest increase occurred in the agriculture and food industries sector, which jumped from about $64 billion to over $70 billion.

Commissioner Troxler has a goal of seeing this industry reach $100 billion in economic impact by the year 2020, and Dr. Walden’s report shows the state is on its way to achieving that goal.

One of the other pieces of encouraging news from the report is the continued growth in jobs connected to agriculture and agribusiness. The industry now employs more than 686,000 people, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year. It’s also the second straight year of job growth in the industry. The job figures mean that 17 percent of the 4 million employees in North Carolina work in an agriculture-related field.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the economic impact of agriculture and agribusiness, and find out how the department is continuing to work toward reaching the $100 billion goal. To download a copy of Walden’s fact sheet, click here.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: May 28 – June 3

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 11:46

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.

  • “Honeybees pick up ‘astonishing’ number of pesticides via non-crop plants,” Phys.Org: A Purdue University study shows that honeybees collect the vast majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans, and that pollen is consistently contaminated with a host of agricultural and urban pesticides throughout the growing season. Christian Krupke, professor of entomology, and then-postdoctoral researcher Elizabeth Long collected pollen from Indiana honeybee hives at three sites over 16 weeks to learn which pollen sources honeybees use throughout the season and whether they are contaminated with pesticides. The pollen samples represented up to 30 plant families and contained residues from pesticides spanning nine chemical classes, including neonicotinoids – common corn and soybean seed treatments that are toxic to bees.  …
  • “Winter peas could be grain, forage and a cover crop in North Carolina,” Southeast Farm Press: Researchers at North Carolina State University are looking to winter peas as a possible feed grain crop for North Carolina livestock production. Speaking at the 2016 Central Piedmont Small Grains Field Day at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury April 21, Rachel Atwell, a graduate student at N.C. State under the advisement of Chris Reberg-Horton, associate professor and organic cropping specialist, said winter peas show potential as a grain, cover crop and forage crop in North Carolina. “Winter pea is a legume, similar to soybean, that has high protein content depending on variety ranging from 20 to 35 percent,” Atwell said. A benefit of winter peas over soybeans is that winter peas don’t have to be heated prior to animal consumption, which means a potential reduction in processing costs for winter peas as a livestock feed ration. …
  • “Farm to Fork Is More Than a Fancy Meal. It’s an Essential Opportunity to Educate New Farmers,” Indy Week: Jillian and Ross Mickens sit perched on a wayward assembly of sagging hay bales, plopped between the short, straight rows of the small rectangular plots on their forty-three acre farm in Orange County. It’s not yet eight on this Friday morning, but the Mickenses are already nearing their third full hour in the fields. Ross has been riding a red tractor, pulling an elaborate contraption that cuts rows into the ground and instantly rolls a tight sheet of shiny black plastic over the surface. Jillian walks behind him, using hand signals or, if he’s not looking, hoarse yells to warn him that the machine has misfired again. This happens about every ten feet. Jillian reaches down, pulls a clod of grass or a root from beneath the weed-thwarting tarp, pitches it to the side, and motions him ahead. If all goes well, rows of eggplant, sweet potato, and squash will soon push through holes in the plastic. But for now, already covered in dirt and flush with the sun before many have begun the daily commute, Ross and Jillian seem content to stop and talk about, surprisingly, social media and streaming tutorials—the farmer in Winston-Salem who taught them about overhead sprinklers or the Maryland man who has offered some tips on kale production. …
  • “Raleigh man’s app connects consumers with local farms,” News & Observer: Griffe Youngleson wanted to make farm-fresh food available through a few taps on a smartphone. So he created a mobile app – for farmers, you, me, restaurateurs, chefs and anybody else who knows it’s important to eat fresh, healthy food. The Farmzie app allows small farmers to conduct their business, from marketing to sales, online. Meanwhile, we consumers can shop a virtual farmers market to buy from the inventory of farms we choose based on what we need to plan our home or restaurant menus. “We’re not a system that is obscuring the relationship between consumer, restaurant and farm,” Youngleson said. “We’re making it transparent, so the farm is always in direct connection with whoever is using their product. …
  • “Andrea Reusing joins White House chef Sam Kass for farm-to-fork dinner,” News & Observer: On Saturday, Chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern Restaurant and The Durham Hotel will join forces with Chef Sam Kass, former personal chef to the Obama family and assistant White House Chef for a special dinner as part of the 2016 Farm to Fork weekend festivities. Reusing and Kass, who left the White House in 2014 and is now a food analyst with NBC, will collaborate on the five-course meal and lead a discussion on the state of local agriculture in America as well as child nutrition and access to healthy food. The meal will benefit the W.C. Breeze Incubator Farm in Orange County and also the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a partnership between N.C. State University, North Carolina A&T University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.  …
  • “Joe Blosser: Our hunger problem is real,” Greensboro News and Record: Food insecurity and food hardship are real issues. In Greensboro. In High Point. In most of North Carolina. We have solid, scientific evidence from multiple sources to confirm it. One can look to the 2012 Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Report that ranked North Carolina 10th and the Greensboro/High Point area second in food hardship (23 percent). Based on Gallup Poll data, the most recent 2015 FRAC Report ranked the Greensboro/High Point Area first in the nation for food hardship, meaning 27.9 percent of respondents said yes when asked: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” …

New changes coming to N.C. State Fair livestock program

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 15:01

Starting in 2016, the N.C. Born and Bred livestock at the N.C. State Fair will become known as Got to Be NC champions. The change is a part of the new Got to Be NC livestock ear tag program.

Winning the N.C. Born and Bred category has long been a source of pride for exhibitors at the N.C. State Fair and N.C. Mountain State Fair. The category is a testament to the quality of cattle, goats, sheep and swine that are truly homegrown. Starting in 2016, the winning animals will be known as Got to Be NC champions.

The change is a part of the new Got to Be NC ear tag program launched by the department this spring to better promote the quality of livestock born and bred in North Carolina. The voluntary program is a collaboration between the department’s Got to Be NC marketing program, Livestock Marketing Section and Veterinary Division.

“Got to Be NC is the official state identity program from agricultural products grown, raised, caught and made in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It makes sense to align our prestigious N.C. born and bred program and other homegrown livestock with this outstanding identity program.”

To qualify for the Got to Be NC competitions, producers who have traditionally sold their animals as N.C. born and bred during the fair will need to participate in the new tag program.

Ranchers must be North Carolina residents, and participating animals must be conceived and born in the state. Participating livestock must be identified with an official Got to Be NC tag purchased by the producer before they are sold. The tags cost $5 apiece. Ranchers must complete a producer tag record and submit it to the department after tagging their animals.

In addition to promoting livestock, the tags also will help producers comply with state and federal laws governing interstate transportation of animals.

Ear tag order forms, membership applications and more information are available at

In the video below, NCDA&CS livestock marketing specialist Billy Lewis explains how to apply the ear tags and the importance of the program.



Tar Heel Kitchen: Baked Chocolate Cheesecake

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 11:21

Since 1926, the Agricultural Review has been a free newspaper published by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For many years, The Tar Heel Kitchen was a featured column written by the department’s marketing home economist. These recipes tended to be seasonal with just a handful of ingredients. We thought these recipes needed to be shared in a new format. The Tar Heel Kitchen post will unearth a few of these timeless recipes each month. This week we are revisiting the July 1, 1983 issue and a baked chocolate cheesecake that highlights delicious and nutritious N.C. dairy products. 

June is N.C. Dairy Month, what better way to celebrate than with a chocolate cheesecake recipe that features three dairy products. “There is no doubt that milk products are essential to our general health but are also important to our state’s economic welfare,” said Cynthia Higgins, former NCDA&CS home economist. Today, North Carolina has  221 family-owned and operated dairies and 47,000 dairy cows. The state produces 114.4 million gallons of milk which provides more than $1 billion in economic impact.

“Our hats off to the dairy industry,” Higgins added. “The North Carolina Department of Agriculture invites you to enjoy using dairy products in the following recipe.”

In our experience, chocolate wafers were hard to find, so a good substitute would be chocolate graham crackers.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake – July 1st, 1983

  • 1 package (8 ounce) chocolate wafers, coarsely crushed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate pieces, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

Butter the sides of a nine-inch spring form pan. Combine wafer crumbs and butter. Press firmly on bottom and sides of pan. Set aside. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and almond extracts, salt and sugar. Beat until smooth. Blend in cooled, melted chocolate. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl and beating well after each. Stir in sour cream. Spoon into crumb crust. Set cake on lower rack in preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from pan. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired. Makes 16 to 20 servings.


Leaf me alone! Trees along Roanoke River defoliated for the second year

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 11:02

It’s not hard to miss: trees in the Roanoke River area with young, new leaves or with no leaves at all. But wait, it’s almost summer, they’re supposed to be flush with lush green leaves! What’s going on?

If you’re headed towards the coast on Highway 64, pay attention while passing through the Roanoke River area. Countless forest tent caterpillars are hard at work eating the leaves of many hardwood species found in the area. Chances are, if you stop, you’ll see the caterpillars crawling around you and climbing up the trees.

The forest tent caterpillar is an important native defoliator. Normally, they aren’t a serious problem and populations are kept in check by native predators that nest in the ground below the hardwoods. Despite these normal low-level populations, periodic outbreaks do occur.

Last year, about 80,000 acres were defoliated in the Roanoke River area. This year, the outbreak is worse. Aerial surveys conducted by Bertie County Forest Ranger Mike Hoggard and Josh Powell, service forester for the district, indicated that this year’s outbreaks cover an estimated 100,000 acres. Damage can be seen along the river from the Scotland Neck area past Plymouth where the river feeds into the Albemarle Sound.  The Great Dismal Swamp also has an outbreak this year. The outbreak is so bad, that for the second year in a row, the defoliation has also been detected by U.S. Forest Service remote sensing (i.e. via satellite).

A leading hypothesis for the recent outbreaks is based on the unusual weather events we’ve been witnessing lately. Since North Carolina received significant rainfall all winter and spring, it’s thought by some that many of the predators that typically keep caterpillar populations low did not survive the prolonged flooding in the river basin. Typically, an outbreak lasts for several years before predator populations build up to the level where they can again control the forest tent caterpillars.

Can anything be done to protect the trees? The N.C. Forest Service is monitoring the outbreak but there’s nothing anyone can do to slow it down. This is nature running her course and we are spectators. Repeated years of defoliation can take its toll on tree health but widespread mortality isn’t expected, as trees are putting on new leaves for the summer. Hopefully, we will see areas returning to normal next spring!

Top right: Map showing areas of forest tent caterpillar outbreak in red; Bottom left: Close-up of the offending insect, the forest tent caterpillar (Image: William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International,; Right images: Trees defoliated by the forest tent caterpillar are conspicuous during an aerial survey to document the damage (Images: Mike Hoggard, NCFS).