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9 hours 49 min ago

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

Even without a strike from Hurricane Joaquin, crops across North Carolina are suffering because of prolonged rainfall that has gripped the state for nearly two weeks.

North Carolina farmers have dealt with their share of inhospitable weather this year. A wet spring was followed by drought and high heat this summer. Many farmers needed rain, but they got far more than necessary. And the extensive rainfall hit at harvest time, when farmers need to be bringing crops in from the field.

The ground is saturated, and farmers aren’t able to harvest. And that means a variety of crops across the state are being affected. In some cases, crops that just a few weeks ago were suffering from drought are now being drowned by water. There are reports of soybeans sprouting in the hull and cotton seed sprouting in the boll. Peanuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples and tobacco are among the crops being affected by the excessive rainfall.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the agricultural impacts from the fall rains and what might happen next.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 26-Oct. 2

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 11:41

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.

  • “Pork industry wants Duke to use NC swine waste at plants,” Greensboro News & Record: Congress is considering mandating the production of 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol annually by 2015 and that would be bad news for pork producers. The average pig in the United States consumes more than 500 pounds of corn, and an increase in corn’s cost would damage the hog farmer’s bottom line. …
  • “With bottles ready, N.C. distilleries prep for on-site sales,” Triad Business Journal: Come Oct. 1, North Carolinians will be able to do something they haven’t done since before Prohibition — purchase a bottle of liquor directly from their favorite distillery. A change in state law that goes into effect next month means customers can head to one of the state’s growing number of craft distilleries, take a tour and then take home a bottle at the end of their visit. Each customer can purchase only one bottle per year, with distilleries responsible for ensuring that restriction is adhered to. …
  • “Corn & Sorghum Struggling to the Finish Line,”  Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The sudden turn to rainy, humid weather is just insult to injury when it comes to the corn crop, especially in the Coastal Plain where they’ve had a very wet spring and summer. NC State Extension corn specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger says all the corn should out of the field by now, but isn’t: “It has been slow going with the harvest across the state. Some beans are still waiting as well. It’s kept everyone guessing and a bit frustrating with the rain coming and going. This weekend really did slow us down when we needed to get rolling.” Heiniger says mycotoxin issues have been a worry all summer, but with the current rainy, humid weather pattern, it’s now more of a concern. …
  • “Capital Tonight Sept. 28: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler,” TWC News: (Video) On Capital Tonight: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler talks about a fact-finding trip to Cuba, preparations for avian flu, and what to expect at this year’s State Fair. Pat Gannon of NC Insider and Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal join our Reporter Roundtable.
  • “From a Charlotte-area farmer, 5 things to know about pumpkins this season,” Charlotte Observer: There are two things farmer Doug Carrigan wants you to know before you make a pilgrimage to the nearest pumpkin patch this fall: 1) Pumpkins are like people: They come in different shapes and sizes. Some are big and wide; others are small and scrawny. Some are beautiful and attractive; others are homely and “plug-ugly.” 2) You can eat them: You can toss them in a stew or soup or mix up your own pumpkin glaze, sauce or gravy.  …
  • “Turns out, money does grow on trees,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: Managing your forestland can be an excellent long-term investment. Over the years, income from managed timber stands has exceeded that from most other crops in terms of value added per acre per year. Even managed pre-salable timber stands have increased the property value of forestland substantially over bare or unmanaged, cut-over woodland. Annual returns from 0-40 percent are possible from forest management. The range of returns is wide because of variations in soil productivity, stand condition, tree species, markets (both availability and price fluctuations), intensity of management and availability of financial incentives. …
  • “Farmers urged to prepare for several days of heavy rain to be followed by possible hurricane conditions,” Bladen Journal: Farmers across the state are urged to clear drainage ditches, secure signage and loose objects, stock up on fuel and feed to be prepared for days of wet weather that may be followed by hurricane conditions. The state has already seen almost a week of rain that has saturated the ground. If Hurricane Joaquin tracks close to the coast, it could cause trees to topple and create widespread power outages, something that can be especially devastating to poultry and tobacco farmers. “Now is the time to take a tour through the farm and clean things up to help minimize damage caused by debris, wind and flooding,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. …
  • “Massive Rain Event Threatening Coastal Plan Crops,”  Southern Farm Network: (audio) Massive quantities of rain all season and the potential for a tropical event are just adding insult to injury for Blacklands farmers. Rod Gurganus, Director of Beaufort County Extension: “It seems like for us it’s more bad news. We have been wet all year long. For us we have been hurt by too much water and this is a continuation of that.” Gurganus says all combines are rolling trying to get the remaining corn out of the field: “The guys had hesitated because they don’t have driers on their farm to dry the grain. Unfortunately now with the hurricane potential it puts them in to an almost panic to get the harvest in.” …
  • “Seafood Festival slated to go on despite storm,” Jacksonville Daily News: If you are heading to the North Carolina Seafood Festival this weekend in Morehead City, look for the yellow. More than 50 food vendors will line the streets along the waterfront, serving up the seafood that is the star attraction: shrimp, crab, fish, oysters, clams and more. At a majority of those booths, a yellow flag will be flying to indicate they have local and North Carolina seafood for sale. “People are coming to get the good stuff and we’ll have it for them. Just look for the yellow flag,” NCSF Executive Director Stephanie McIntyre said. …
  • “Cuban tobacco farmers relate well with NC agriculture officials,” WRAL: When conversations happen in different languages, things can often get lost in translation. But in a chat between farmers from Cuba and North Carolina, tobacco is a word that crosses linguistic boundaries. And while the word may be the same, there are major differences between how tobacco is produced in North Carolina and Cuba. North Carolina’s agriculture delegation, which has been exploring new trade opportunities in Cuba this week, noticed the differences right away. …



Market Report: Find plants and pumpkins this October

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 10:41

Did you know the four state-operated farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax and Raleigh are open year round? That means you can support local farmers throughout the year. October is a great time to find pumpkins, apples and grapes, as well as plants, trees and shrubs for your fall landscaping projects.

In addition to the wide variety of fall produce, meats and cheeses, and other specialty products, the markets will be hosting the following special events this month.

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – On Saturday, Oct. 10, the market will host a Master Gardener Plant Clinic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers with N.C. State’s Master Gardener Program will help identify horticultural pests, plant care and management of plant diseases.

Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – The Triad market will host the Piedmont Antique Power Association Tractor Show on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event features a wide array of antique farm equipment.

October 3 is also Fire Safety Day at the market. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests can learn about fire safety and how to protect their homes.

State Farmers Market, Raleigh – The State Farmers Market will host its annual Decorated Pumpkin Contest on Thursday, Oct. 8. Visitors can drop off decorated pumpkins for judging with the chance to win bragging rights and prizes. The winning pieces will be on display at the farmers market.

Tar Heel Kitchen: Peanut Broccoli Casserole

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 12:29

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 Feb. 15, 1977 issue and a recipe for peanut broccoli casserole.

“The Chinese people have a way of designated years with names of animals,” said York Kiker, former NCDA&CS home economist. “Perhaps in the United States we can follow suit by using foods and calling this the “year of peanut.” Everyone is well aware from the news, the peanut jewelry, cartoons and jokes that a peanut grower has been elected President.”

Of course Kiker is referring to the election of Jimmy Carter, our 39th president. In 1977, North Carolina led the nation with 60 percent production of the large Virginia-type peanuts and ranked 3rd nationally in peanut production.

Peanuts are still an important crop in North Carolina, with more than 400 million pounds harvested in 2014, according to the USDA.. The state now ranks 5th nationally in peanut production, and the kind we produce the most of are still the large Virginia-type peanuts.

Kiker’s recipe combines nutritionally-dense peanuts with another nutritional powerhouse – broccoli. This casserole would be great to take to church homecoming or to fix for an upcoming family dinner.

Peanut Broccoli Casserole

• 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained (**or use fresh if in season)
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 cup chopped N.C. salted peanuts
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• ¼ cup onion
• 2 N.C. eggs, beaten
• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mix together all ingredients except cheese. Pour mixture into greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The casserole was enjoyed by all in the test kitchen. The crunchy peanuts added a nice texture. Some of use would have left the broccoli pieces bigger as well. To make it a complete meal, add turkey or chicken.


USDA designates 3 more NC counties as primary natural disaster areas because of drought

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 11:26


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated McDowell, Polk and Union counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

Farmers and ranchers in Anson, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Henderson, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Rutherford, Stanly and Yancey counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 30, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for programs. Additional information is also available online at

-Information from USDA

Today’s Topic: Number of organic farms in NC is on the increase

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 08:09

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

A recently released USDA survey showed that the number of organic farms in the U.S. is increasing, and some of that growth has occurred here in North Carolina.

In 2014, North Carolina had 264 organic farms producing $66.9 million in organic products on more than 22,000 acres. That indicates the sector has grown since the last survey in 2008, when there were 246 organic farms producing $53 million in organic products on 9,600 acres.

Nationally, there are more than 14,000 organic farms, which sold $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014.

One of the challenges organic growers face is becoming certified. Fortunately, NCDA&CS has a program where growers can apply for partial reimbursement of the cost of becoming certified or recertified. The program is funded through a $212,000 grant from the USDA.

Growers who had expenses for certification or recertification between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, can apply for assistance through the program. The program will pay 75 percent of the cost of certification up to a total of $750. Operations can be certified and reimbursed in four separate categories: crops, livestock, wild crop and handler/processor.

Applications must be postmarked by Dec. 1, but Commissioner Troxler encourages organic growers to get their applications in early because the funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information about the organic cost-share grant program, contact Heather Barnes at 919-707-3127 or click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about organic farming and the cost-share program.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Not just a hike in the woods; Plant Industry Division works to protect ginseng from poachers on public lands

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 11:48

Plant protection specialists April Bauder, left, and Jim Corbin, right, recently searched for ginseng plants in the thick underbrush at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A man on a mission

For 22 years, Jim Corbin has scoured the rugged terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park searching for wild ginseng. While this may sound like the introduction of a character on a reality television show about ginseng harvesters, it is not.
Corbin, a plant protection specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, isn’t looking to harvest the highly prized plant at all. Instead, he wants to find them and mark them with a silicon dye to discourage poachers looking to cash in on the park’s protected population of ginseng.
The National Park Service was created in 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” – From the National Park Service website
Poaching ginseng from federal lands runs counter to that mission.
Each year law enforcement rangers with the National Park Service seize between 500 and 1,000 illegally poached ginseng roots, according to a press release announcing the recent sentencing of a repeat poaching offender. Over the years, park biologists have marked and replanted over 15,000 roots seized by law enforcement.
Corbin developed the marking program from scratch, tinkering with mixtures on his own until he fine-tuned the best combination of materials that would absorb into the plant. Roots marked with the dye will glow a reddish-orange under a black light, indicating that the roots came from federal lands, Corbin said.
The dye can also transfer on to poachers’ hands and clothes when they come in contact with it, which can also help rangers in the field.

This photo shows a marked ginseng root glowing orange under black lighting.

Illegal poaching has long been a problem on federal lands such as national parks in part because of the availability of the plant in the park, the vast amount of land involved and a limited number of human resources to patrol that land.
Current prices for wild ginseng range from $180 per pound for green to $450 per pound for dry, but it has been higher at $300 per pound for green and $850 per pound for dried in 2014. Those numbers provide plenty of incentive for poachers to try to find wild ginseng wherever they can. Corbin’s efforts give park rangers a tool to pursue legal action against illegal poachers, and it has been effectively used in court to prosecute cases of poaching.
Legally harvested ginseng is sold through licensed dealers in the state, often with yearly totals fluctuating with the prices paid per pound. Since 2004, the N.C. Plant Conservation Program kept numbers on annual ginseng harvest totals, with them ranging from 4,265 to 12,799 pounds dry weight. Since 2011, the number of harvesters selling to licensed dealers has increased nearly 60 percent to more than 16,700. For the 2015 season, which runs from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, the program has licensed 45 dealers who are based mostly in the western third of the state. That represents a nearly 10 percent increase from previous years.
The total number of harvesters has seen a steady increase since 2011.

Year Number of harvesters
2011 10,393 2012 11,228 2013 13,168 2014 16,729

On the hunt

Every year, Corbin organizes a team of sharp-eyed plant specialists and volunteers to look for and mark plants. They typically head out before the September start of the harvest season, when plants are visible, blooming and easier to spot. This year’s group included a mix of seasoned ginseng markers and new plant specialists, male and female, younger and older. The group also included three park rangers.
With walking sticks in hand and backpacks secured, each day they headed into the woods to begin the search. On day three’s search, it quickly became obvious that trails were not going to be involved in much of the hike and that walking sticks were a necessity to keep you from sliding down steep and treacherous embankments.
The searchers fanned out across the rocky, leaf-covered terrain, eyes down, searching for the plant that sports red berries when in bloom. To a novice, the plants look a lot like others in the thick underbrush of low-growing greenery.
Not so for Corbin, who seemed to be able to spot the plants from hundreds of feet away. But, it wasn’t always that easy.
As a youth, Corbin said he had an uncle who dug ginseng, “but I couldn’t find it if I fell on it.”
Gradually that changed when he started working with the plant regularly. “It took about a year to get where I could see it from a distance,” he said. “You just develop an eye for it.”
Corbin clearly has developed an eye for the plant, and a passion for his work. The term “ginseng whisperer” comes to mind for his incredible ability to spot plants in the midst of a chaos of underbrush.
“Got one” and “There’s a couple over here,” could be heard as the workers soon began finding plants on their own.
When they find a plant, searchers carefully expose the root, spray it with glue and then dust the root with the distinctive orange-sherbet-colored dye. The glue holds the dye on the plant long enough for it to be absorbed. The root is then covered back up and the foliage nipped off at the ground, essentially protecting the plant for another year.

Plant pathologist Leah Roberts sprinkles silicone dye onto a ginseng plant root.

Applying the dry dye to the root of a ginseng plant.


This area, not far off a main road, is the type that Corbin intended to target this year. A spot with easy enough access that it has seen poaching activity. It was a calculated move that resulted in a record year for plant markings, 4,209 in total.
“We worked to mark areas that we could physically defend,” Corbin said. “We cut down the amount of area we covered to try to be more successful, and we tried to narrow it down by how poachers work.
“I have had to use a more scientific approach that gives me information on terrain. Some terrain is so rough that poachers don’t go into those areas,” he said.  “Basically with age, we have become smarter in our approach.”
That doesn’t mean the hiking was easy by any means. The first day, the team hiked 10 miles, followed by 12 miles the second day. The third day involved about five miles of hiking, which Corbin assured was much easier in comparison with the first two days.
“That first day, even the 30-year-olds were struggling,” he said.
Despite his assurances, and even with the beauty of nature to temper the physical demands of moving up and down steep terrain, it was still hard, dirty work. At the end of the day, every member of the team walked out of the woods soaked with sweat, clothes dirty from hip to hiking boots, dirt jammed under their fingernails and likely feeling a little itchy. The earlier pitfalls of hiking – such as falling down and disturbing a ground nest of yellow jackets, resulting in a volunteer getting stung multiple times – were avoided on day three.

Another ginseng plant find.

April Bauder, a plant protection specialist who covers Durham, Orange, Person and Wake counties, was marking ginseng for the first time and admitted being a bit nervous about the hiking.
“I didn’t know what to expect and I had heard stories about these long hikes in pretty rugged terrain,” she said. “We were in pretty rough terrain to begin with, but once you get in the woods, it’s just so beautiful everywhere you look as you are hiking, you just forget about that. Your head is down to the ground and you are just focusing on trying to spot these plants.
“All of your inhibitions about being clean and tidy go out the window. You are going to get dirty, you will fall, you will slide, but it is all OK,” Bauder added.
The more experienced searchers offered suggestions on finding the plant, which Bauder said was helpful.
“It’s kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack, there is so much Virginia creeper and other plants that at first look like ginseng, that it is hard,” she said. “They were like mentors telling you what to look for.”
Some of the veterans suggested looking near downed logs or the base of trees. If a plant was spotted on a hilly area, it was a decent bet that you might find a few plants above or below that one as the seeds likely shifted downhill after they fell off, said John Scott, a retired plant protection specialist who volunteered for this mission. Seeing certain plants in an area was another sign to look closely for ginseng.
While it is not illegal to harvest wild ginseng on private lands with permission or in national forests during the harvesting season with a permit, it is illegal to harvest the plant from state and federal parks. But that doesn’t stop people from illegally harvesting the plant which is prized, particularly in non-Western cultures, as an energy booster and for its medicinal qualities.
In August, a Bryson City man was sentenced to six months in jail for illegally possessing ginseng. It was his fifth conviction and followed a five-month prison stint, illustrating the challenges involved in protecting the park’s ginseng population in a region where the tradition and culture of harvesting runs deep.
Scott and David Brown, another volunteer, spotted an especially nice plant specimen on the way out of the woods. It was a four-pronged plant that stood about 18 inches tall. When they exposed the root, which was about a pinky finger wide, they knew they had found a mature plant, easily 8 years old or more.
After marking the root, Brown pinched off the tell-tale green foliage, leaving no trace of the plant behind.

Volunteers John Scott, left, and David Brown, right, found this older, four-pronged ginseng plant during the search.

“You don’t find plants like that too often, especially not that close to a trail. That’s probably the oldest one we have found yet,” Scott said, clearly excited about the discovery.
Three continuous days of hiking in pursuit of wild ginseng plants had obviously forged a strong bond between team members.
During a lunch break in one of the few flat areas the group hiked to on day three, they recounted stories from the first two days, good naturedly picked on one another, offered up a pointed rock “chair” to one another to rest on, and shared a bag of cookies.

The ginseng marking team.

At the end of the day, when it came time to total up the week’s work, there was a sense of pride about what had been accomplished and a hope that the effort would ensure that future generations were able to enjoy these natural resources.
“I didn’t realize how many people poach ginseng,” Bauder said. “We want to be able to preserve the supply we have. I have children and when I see what we are doing in trying to protect this plant, I realize just how important this work is.”


News Roundup: Sept. 19-25

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 16:59

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.

  • “Southern fairs won’t press broiler industry’s bird flu luck,Minnesota Public Radio News: The South is the heart of U.S. broiler chicken production and escaped the deadly bird flu virus that devastated flocks in the Midwest this spring. Autumn, however, brings the possibility that migrating wild birds will carry the virus to the lower half of the U.S. To try to keep bird flu at arm’s length, a number of states are barring or limiting poultry shows and public sales, including those at state fairs in September and October — something their northern neighbors did this summer. That’s forcing kids who’ve worked for months to raise and qualify poultry at fairs to get creative with their exhibits. “We want to be cautious because our industry is so huge,” Mississippi State University Extension Service poultry science instructor Jessica Wells said of the state, which is the No. 5 broiler producer in the U.S. …
  • “Bee supporters press to curb use of pesticides,” News & Observer: If companies won’t stop making a certain group of pesticides that can kill honeybees and other pollinators, and if growers won’t stop applying the chemicals to seeds and fields, consumers will have to force change by refusing to buy the foods produced from the yields, environmentalists said Saturday. “Be an activist with every bite,” Tony Cleese, a longtime advocate for organic agriculture in North Carolina, told about three dozen people gathered for a rally on the Capitol grounds Saturday morning. The event was organized by Toxic Free NC, Friends of the Earth, and other groups that say the overuse of pesticides is killing bees and may threaten humans.  …
  • “Local hard cider scene is red hot,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Asheville beer is famous around the country, but local craft cider is exploding in popularity and sales. Western North Carolina is home to six of the state’s 17 craft cider makers. A seventh cidery, Virginia’s Bold Rock, soon will open its expansion operation in Mills River and will become the region’s largest producer with dozens of jobs and more to come. And with a new location and taproom in Asheville, Noble Cider is looking to substantially increase production and market share. An Asheville cider festival in November will celebrate the industry. Many of the hard cider makers are fairly small operations with a handful of employees and sell their product just on draft, but some have plans to add packages for sale in stores. …
  • “NC Investigators Narrow Contaminated Blister Beetle Hay to 500 Bales,” Rate my Horse Pro: After six horses died from eating alfalfa contaminated with blister beetles, North Carolina officials say they have determined a single load of 500 bales from Kansas was the source of the problem. The hay was delivered the Murphy Hay and Feed in Louisburg on August 11th.
    The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirms the bales from the tainted load were bound with a reddish-orange twine. Murphy Farm Hay and Feed sold much of the hay at retail. The alfalfa was also distributed to Jones Farm Hay and Feed in Middlesex. No other North Carolina locations received hay from this Kansas farm. …
  • “NC Farm Offering Customers Opportunity to Pick Their Own Muscadine Grapes,” TWC News: (Video) This fall, one North Carolina farm is doing something new and different to attract visitors. Casie Ingram’s family has been farming in High Point for more than a century. “The farm’s been in our family since the 1800s,” she said. “It’s been passed down. I am the fourth generation that’s farmed here. I love it, I wouldn’t do anything different.” With the demise of tobacco several years ago, the family needed a Plan B to save their farm. “They transitioned into strawberries,” Ingram said. John Ivey with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, said that a lot of the tobacco farmers who got out during the buyout are looking for the most economical way to keep their farm in production. “We’re seeing a shift to vegetable and fruit production,” said Ivey. The Ingrams are now offering “pick your own” muscadine and scuppernong grapes. …
  • Cover crops, no-till shine in drought year,” Southeast Farm Press: Ever since he started farming in 2012, Russell Hedrick of Hickory, N.C. has used a combination of no-till and multi-species cover crops to build soil health and increase yields. The system has worked well for him for the past three years but is really proving its merit this year when heat and drought has devastated crops in North Carolina’s Piedmont. “We’ve only had four inches of rain. We’re really dry,” Hedrick said on Aug. 21, as his corn was nearing the dent stage. “We’re hoping to average 110 bushels per acre this year. The insurance company insured my neighbor out at nine bushels per acre. Cover crops really saved us this year.” This has been the hottest and driest year the 30-year old farmer has faced in his four years of full-time farming. …
  • “Small Flock Owners Receptive to NCDA Meetings,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Earlier this month there was series of meetings across the state for backyard and small flock owners to talk about bird flu. Dr. Sarah Mason, director of poultry animal health programs with NCDA says the turnout was good: “We had a very good attendance and a lot of questions. The bird owners were curious about the disease and the risks. They wanted to know ways they could protect their birds.” Earlier in the summer, NCDA asked that all flock owners, small and large, register their flocks with the department strictly as an avenue to disseminate information. Mason says most people that attended the meetings were receptive to that concept. …
  • “Goat Lady Dairy celebrates 20 years,” Winston-Salem Journal: When Ginnie Tate started raising and milking goats in the Piedmont in the late 1980s, some folks thought it a little peculiar.
    They called her the Goat Lady. But her brother Steve Tate didn’t think raising goats odd. He moved to North Carolina with his wife, Lee, to help his sister start a goat dairy. They purchased an old farm between Climax and Liberty and in 1995, Goat Lady Dairy opened and became one of only a handful of licensed goat dairies in the state. …
  • Biogas A Possible Victim Of Renewable Rollbacks,”  WUNC: (Audio) To a visitor, the hog houses down a dusty dirt road outside Magnolia, North Carolina look like any other hog houses. Here in Duplin County, there are low-slung buildings like this one around every bend, filled with hundreds of thousands of hogs. But this facility is different—just how different can be found down the hill behind the building. Manure, flowing from the hog house, falls out of a pipe and into an open-air cement tank. From here, it goes to a much larger, circular, blue tank called a digestor. “It’s basically an indoor lagoon, is what it is,” says Wiley Williams, the operations manager for Revolution Energy Solutions. On a typical farm, hog manure goes into a lagoon, separates, and then gets sprayed out onto fields. Here, Revolution Energy Solutions takes the manure from ten hog houses and sends it to two digestors. The methane is then separated, captured and pumped through underground pipes a few hundred yards away to a circular, inflatable storage facility. There, it goes into a generator, where it is burned to make enough electricity for about 800 homes. …
  • “Veteran farmers thrive with USDA, DoD partnership,” Fayetteville Observer: As Ed Spence was growing up in Harnett County, he dreamed of nothing more than escaping his family’s farm. It was hard work and he’d had enough. So at 18, he joined the Marine Corps. He left the farm to fight in Vietnam and Desert Storm. After 24 years, he retired as a master gunnery sergeant. Spence’s life came full circle in 2010 when he decided to start his own farm to establish a sustainable career. “I didn’t know about soil or crop insurance,” said Spence, who is 61. “I’m a small farmer. I knew nothing.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which seeks veterans to start their own farms and ranches, provided Spence with the resources and classes he needed to launch his own farm in Spring Lake. A partnership between the USDA and the Department of Defense has expanded to ensure service members know there are loans, grants, training and technical assistance for careers in agriculture. …
  • “Counting down the days to The North Carolina Seafood Festival,” WCTI: The North Carolina Seafood Festival is a week away and local fishermen are already catching fresh fish for the big weekend. The festival, presented by the NC Department of Agriculture, is celebrating its 29th year. This year it’s expected that over 200,000 people will addend the Morehead City festival from October 2nd – 4th. The festival is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help strengthen the local economy, community, and fishing industry by supporting local seafood. A mission Morehead City local Mindy Fitzpatrick is passionate about. Fitzpatrick has worked with the festival for the past four years but this year she’s the festival chair. She said this year the Chef’s tent will be opening a day early….
  • “Cuba could be new outlet for North Carolina agriculture business,” WTVD: On Sunday, a delegation of North Carolina farmers, agribusiness executives, state agriculture officials and NC State University officials is headed to Cuba. They are hoping it is the first step in trying to sell the country agricultural products. Analysts believe Cuba could become a $2 billion a year market for American farm products. ABC11 traveled to a farm outside Havana to examine what kind of reception the group from North Carolina can expect and what kinds of opportunities they may find to boost the North Carolina economy. …
  • “Devastating avian flu threatens state,” Asheville Citizen-Times: North Carolina has stepped up measures to protect the state’s poultry industry from an avian flu that devastated farms in the West and Midwest over the summer and caused egg prices to as much as double in one week in some parts of the country. A similar outbreak in sprawling chicken farms in the eastern part of the state and in smaller Western North Carolina operations could also affect Thanksgiving and Christmas tables — and even have worldwide implications on the food supply. The disease is not transferrable to people and does not contaminate meat or meat products, but has proved to be a swift-moving bird killer. “It’s the largest single disease outbreak that’s come to the United States,” said N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services State Veterinarian Dr. R. Douglas Meckes. …

Market Report: Pumpkins! Pumpkins! Pumpkins!

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 09:20

Fall is finally here, and that means the regional farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax and Raleigh are full of pumpkins. But, that’s not all. Read on to see what’s available at the market near you.

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – The apple season in the mountains is in full swing with many varieties available at the WNC Farmers Market. Also, the pumpkins are coming in more plentiful with all sizes, shapes and colors. The market has a good selection of the specialty pumpkins like the Cinderella and One too Many along with the very large pumpkins. In addition to the apples and pumpkins, the market has tomatoes, peppers of many varieties, fall squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, Asian pears, muscadine grapes and much more. The Retail Shoppes are gearing up for the fall leaf season, with lots of fresh produce, crafts, local cheese, N.C. wines, local honey, homemade fudge, essential oils and  seafood.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte – In addition to pumpkins, the Charlotte market has a great selection of apples, grapes, muscadines, plums, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, beans, peppers, leafy greens, onions, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Also be on the lookout for local  honey, various meats, eggs, fish, cut flowers, nursery plants, baked goods and handmade crafts.

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, Sept. 26, is Johnny Appleseed Day at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Vendors will be passing out free apple recipes as well as selling tasty treats made with apples. There are more than 12 varieties of apples at the market with more on the way. Come to the market and fall in love with apples.

Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – The Triad market has a great supply of pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors. There are also a lot of mums for fall planting, and several varieties of N.C. grown apples. Triad farmers are still supplying a good selection of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and okra.

UPCOMING EVENT: On Saturday, Oct. 3, the market will host the Piedmont Antique Power Association’s Tractor Show, featuring a sea of antique tractors and farming equipment.

State Farmers Market, Raleigh – The State Farmers Market is open seven days a week, and has lots of pumpkins, mums, gourds, and other items needed for fall decorations such as corn stalks and bales of straw. They also have fall vegetable plants, pansies, shrubbery, perennials and herbs for fall planting. In addition, you’ll find several varieties of apples including Honey Crisp, Fuji, Cameo, Rome, Golden and Red Delicious, and Gala, just to name a few. Other items include muscadine grapes, fresh apple cider, dried apples, peanuts, collards and other greens, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. There’s still a few peaches, watermelons, cantaloupes and peppers, but there won’t be for long.

UPCOMING EVENTS: Thursday, Oct. 1, the market will celebrate Apple Day. On Saturday, Oct. 3, WPTF’s “Weekend Gardener” show will broadcast live from the market. And, Thursday, Oct. 8, the market will host its annual Decorated Pumpkin Contest.

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Fall Flavors

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 12:26

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. This month Brian and Lisa are featuring recipes made with North Carolina sweet potatoes and apples.

The first recipe is provided by the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission. Lisa calls it “an unusual way to prepare sweet potatoes and perfect for that morning on the go.”

Sweet Potato Smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1⁄2 cup cold mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a blender combine yogurt, sweet potato, orange juice and vanilla. Blend until smooth and serve.


“I like this recipe because it highlights a lot of what we grow in North Carolina,” said Lisa. Donna Barefoot of Benson won first place in the 2014 N.C. State Fair Apple Recipe Contest, sponsored by the N.C. Apple Growers Association, for this tangy slaw.

N.C. Apple Slaw

  • 1 gala apple (sliced thin)
  • 1 golden delicious apple (sliced thin)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (sliced thin)
  • 1⁄4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 8 cups fine shredded Napa cabbage (we used 4 cups, 1 head of cabbage = 4 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper (seeded and cut into thin slices)
  • 1⁄2 cucumber (sliced thin)
  • 1⁄4 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted)
  • 1 ounce radish sprouts

Slice apples and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add apples and toss to coat. Add remaining ingredients except sprouts. Toss to coat. Just before serving, scatter sprouts over top of slaw. Serves 8.

The next recipe is for a delicious soup full of fall flavor. Lisa says an alternative would be to use only one cup of heavy cream and no milk to turn the recipe into mashed sweet potatoes and apples side dish instead of soup.  Garnish the soup with black pepper and toasted pecans.

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1⁄2 pound apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1⁄2 cup milk
  • salt
  • black pepper

Combine the sweet potatoes and apples in a large pot and cover with salted water, bring to a boil. Boil 10-15 minutes until well cooked, drain. Heat butter, cream, milk, and rosemary until it comes to a simmer. Pour the butter/cream mixture over the sweet potato/apple mixture and mix with a submersible blender until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

The next recipe is for a delicious side dish that Lisa calls perfect for tailgating, because it makes a lot and would travel well.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup honey butter
  • 1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, raisins and onion. Spread sweet potato mixture in a single layer 12×16 inch rimmed baking sheet. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add pecans and thyme and stir until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Top potatoes with pecan mixture, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


USDA designates 3 NC counties as primary natural disaster areas because of drought

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 08:30

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Cleveland, Gaston and Rutherford counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

Farmers and ranchers in Buncombe, Burke, Henderson, Lincoln, McDowell, Mecklenburg and Polk counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 23, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for programs. Additional information is also available online at

–Information from USDA

Entire state now quarantined for emerald ash borer

Wed, 09/23/2015 - 16:22

On Sept. 10, Commissioner Troxler signed an emergency order that expanded the emerald ash borer quarantine from a handful of infested counties within North Carolina to the entire state. This means that regulated articles may move about freely within the state and other quarantined zones, but cannot move into non-quarantined areas, such as into South Carolina. Regulated articles include the insect itself, all ash material and all hardwood firewood (pieces of wood less than 4 feet in length).

The decision to quarantine the entire state comes on the heels of emerald ash borer detections across the state, bringing the county total to 18. In 2013, emerald ash borer was found in the state for the first time in four counties: Granville, Vance, Person and Warren.  In 2014, no movement of the pest was detected despite statewide trapping and surveys. This year, 14 more counties were found to have the invasive insect: Buncombe, Catawba, Durham, Franklin, Graham, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Lincoln, Madison, Orange, Wake, Wayne and Wilson.

Surveys for the emerald ash borer are ongoing. Updates to the range expansion will be announced via NCDA&CS press releases and occasional updates on this blog. If you believe you have come across an infested ash tree, report it to the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333 or by email at A major part of the survey relies on reports from the field. To learn more about the emerald ash borer, visit the Forest Service’s FAQ on emerald ash borer.

Today’s Topic: Projected yields for several crops slide in latest USDA report

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 08:21

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

USDA’s latest North Carolina crop report continues to lower expectations for yields and production of major crops in the state.

Weather has hampered farmers in many areas of the state this year, Commissioner Troxler says. In some regions, wet conditions in the spring delayed planting. And a good chunk of the state has dealt with dry conditions ever since.

The September forecast for corn yields is 110 bushels per acre. That’s down 22 bushels from last year and five bushels below the August report. Total corn production in the state is now projected at 18 percent below last year’s total.

Cotton, peanuts and soybeans all had record yields in 2014, but it doesn’t look like any of the three will set records this year.

Like corn, the projected cotton yield also has dropped since August. The latest forecast is for 891 pounds per acre. That’s 121 pounds less than last month’s forecast and 147 pounds less than last year’s record yield.

The peanut yield forecast now stands at 3,800 pounds per acre, which is 500 pounds less than in 2014. And total production is forecast to decrease 15 percent from last year.

Soybeans are projected to yield an average of 33 bushels per acre, which is seven bushels below last year’s record. Total soybean production in our state is now forecast at just over 60 million bushels. That’s 13 percent below the 2014 total, even though N.C. farmers planted more acres of soybeans this year.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the latest crop production forecast for North Carolina.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 12-18

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 14:29

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.

  • “Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Arrests Ginseng Poacher, Charged With Felony,” High Country Press: This past weekend, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office arrested Eric Moretz, 27, of 1351 Brownwood Road in Deep Gap, for poaching ginseng in a wooded area near Blowing Rock and charged him with a felony for poaching ginseng. This comes several months to a year after the agricultural community applauded the first-ever felony conviction for poaching ginseng on private property in North Carolina. According to an incident report, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a “suspicious person” walking out of the woods near Niley Cook Road with a machete on Sept. 12 at about 1:45 p.m. Deputies walked along the trails and found Moretz, who eventually admitted to poaching ginseng. He possessed four ginseng roots at the time of the arrest. Prior to poaching the ginseng, the property caretaker had personally warned Moretz to stay off the property, according to the call log. The arrests comes days after Watauga County Extension Director Jim Hamilton and N.C. Department of Agriculture Plant Conservation Program Administrator David Welch met with about dozen individuals with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office to present info about the economic impact of ginseng in the county, to let them know about potential charges and to answer any questions officers might have about ginseng. …
  • “North Carolina Distilleries Allowed to Sell to Tourists Starting October,”  TWC News: (Video) The craft distillery business is booming across the state of North Carolina. “It’s really a fundamental art that goes back since colonial days,” said Donald Walton, president of Walton’s Distillery. From Jacksonville to Asheville, there are 25 distilleries so far, and that number is growing. “People in North Carolina…entrepreneurs are coming in. They’re using family recipes a lot of times or creating their own recipes. It’s really the unique culture that is taking over North Carolina,” said Paul Jones, public information officer for NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. …
  •  “Mountain State Fair off to strong start,” Hendersonville Times News: Brisk temperatures and steady winds were heralding the beginning of fall Sunday morning, but they didn’t slow down the crowds streaming into the WNC Ag Center for the third day of the 21st annual North Carolina Mountain State Fair. In the shadows of behemoth rides spinning and swaying overhead, crowds meandered through lanes of booths selling lemonade and funnel cakes and giant turkey legs and booths tempting them to try their luck at skee ball and baseball and ring toss. Along the back edge of the fair just before 11 a.m., Sunday, Dennis Cook was getting ready for the crowd that was about to appear outside his small sawdust-laden racetrack to fill his bleachers and the crowd around the low red fence.  …
  • “Clinton project would convert turkey droppings into a gas for energy,” The News & Observer: A proposal to convert turkey droppings into electricity in Clinton would be first in North Carolina to turn the bird waste into an energy-rich gas rather than burning the dung as a fuel. Prestage AgEnergy proposed a facility last week to generate steam for its own use and electricity for Duke Energy Progress, using turkey droppings supplied by more than 50 farms in eastern North Carolina. The N.C. Utilities Commission is likely to approve the 1.6-megawatt project this year, and it could be generating electricity as early as January if the power company agrees to buy the electricity output. …
  • “Get lost in this Beaufort County corn maze this fall,” WNCT: Fall is just around the corner. And with our first real round of cooler weather here in the East, it won’t be long before corn mazes like this one get pretty busy. This 8 acre maze at the Raised in a Barn Farm in Beaufort County is actually a sorghum maze if you want to get technical. But putting that aside, the owner and manager here wanted the maze to be something special for Chocowinity. ”The design of the maze was a little more intricate,” said Mandie Boahn, manager of the Raised in a Barn farm. “We try to do things that really support our community, and so with that being said, we used our town name. So we want to put Chocowinity on the map.” And that they did. It took a corn maze expert 5 to 6 hours to cut 3 separate mazes totaling a little over 4 miles. He did it all in one day using some high tech equipment: a GPS guided tractor. This is the first year the farm has had a maze…and the owners wanted to make sure they stayed true to their commitment to the community. …
  • “N.C. Officials Stop Sale of Potentially Contaminated Alfalfa,” The Horse: North Carolina state officials issued a stop-sale order Monday (Sept. 14) on alfalfa hay received from Kansas and being sold at Murphy Farm Hay and Feed in Louisburg and Jones Farm Hay and Feed in Middlesex for blister beetle contamination, which can be deadly for horses. Store owners voluntarily recalled the alfalfa hay when they learned about the possible contamination and are cooperating with feed inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to notify any animal owners who might have purchased the alfalfa hay. The hay was delivered from Kansas and sold at the stores during recent weeks. “Department feed inspectors are conducting tracebacks to determine whether any other feed stores received alfalfa hay from the same source in Kansas,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “While the investigation into this case is ongoing, we wanted to alert animal owners, especially those in the equine community, to this situation.” …
  • “Pumpkin growin’ ain’t easy in the East,” WNCT: Farmers grow a lot of things in the East, but only a few grow this fall favorite: pumpkins. Orange pumpkin, white pumpkin, big pumpkin, small pumpkin. Porter Farm in Lenoir County grows them all. But the climate here in the East makes it a challenge. ”We have a high humidity and just diseases thrive in this environment,” said Stephen Porter, owner of Porter Farms in Lenoir County. “That’s why a lot of people in this…it’s a very intense managed crop.” And that proved true this year too. Mother nature dealt pumpkin farmers a tough card here in the East. …
  • “Virginia, North Carolina cotton farmers face growing plant bug problem,” Southeast Farm Press: Plant bugs are becoming a bigger and bigger challenge for farmers in Virginia and North Carolina. At the Virginia-Northeast North Carolina Cotton Field Day held Aug. 11 at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Tech Entomologist Ames Herbert and Dominic Reisig, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist, outlined some of their plans and strategies for plant bug control in region. “In the Mid-south they have developed a lot of research on plant bugs because they have had a lot of plant bug pressure. It’s newer for us in the East. We’re seeing it now and we’re seeing it more and we’ve had some heavy hits in Virginia and some heavy hits in North Carolina,” Herbert said the field day. …
  • “Grape growers find industry blooming in North Carolina,” Winston-Salem Journal: People who grow grapes in Davidson County are a pretty close bunch, and they recognize they are part of a rising industry in North Carolina. In an area where agricultural roots go deep, growing and manufacturing of grapes and their subsidiary industries is beginning to bloom into a sustainable and profitable endeavor. According to a recent study by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the wine and grape industry had a $1.7 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013, which is an increase of more than 33 percent since 2009. …
  • “It’s a honey of a time at Asheville, Buncombe markets,” Asheville Citizen-Times: It has been a light year for honey, according to apiaries at area farmers tailgate markets. Honey has always been a special, prized treat in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, but on a year such as this — drought-like conditions scattered throughout the growing season — it is even more dear. Dan deBettencourt of Swarm Apiary (find him at Asheville City Market) says that the dry weather made the late-summer production of honey from basswood and sourwood trees minimal, and so the bees began to eat their stores of honey from the spring. …
  • “State agency sets meeting on ‘severe’ gypsy moth infestation in Buxton Woods,” Island Free Press: (Photos) The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Plant Industry Division has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Fessenden Center on Highway 12 in Buxton. At the meeting, division officials will present a plan to eradicate a severe, isolated infestation of the invasive gypsy moth in the Buxton Woods State Reserve area of Buxton and Frisco — an infestation that threatens the maritime forest’s live oak trees with defoliation and eventually death. …

What’s available at the farmers market this weekend?

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 11:57

Grape Day is Friday, Sept. 18, at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. In case you miss it, you can still find fresh table grapes, muscadines, wines and other grape products at your local farmers market.

Your regional farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax and Raleigh are full of delicious fall produce like apples and grapes, as well as a large selection of late-summer favorites. Selections vary by location, so read on to see what’s available at the market near you.

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – The different varieties and colors of apples and pumpkins are bringing fall to the WNC Farmers Market. The pumpkins are coming in all sizes, shapes and colors with some very unique painted ones to select from. Also, the fall items are available like mums, bales of straw, and corn stalks for decorating. In addition to the apples and pumpkins, the market has tomatoes, peppers of many varieties, fall squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, Asian pears, muscadine grapes and much more.

The Retail Shoppes are gearing up for the fall leaf season, with lots of fresh produce, crafts, local cheeses, N.C. wines, local honey, homemade fudge, essential oils and seafood, to name a few. The Ice Cream Shoppe/Deli serves delicious homemade ice cream. The Garden Center is full of fall products and the Moose Café serves a wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte – The Charlotte market is full of apples, grapes, muscadines, plums, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, peppers, leafy greens, pumpkins, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, honey, various meats and seafood. You also can find cut flowers, nursery plants, baked goods, delicious culinary items and handmade crafts.

UPCOMING EVENT: Johnny Appleseed Day is September 26. Vendors will be highlighting all things apple related. There are more than 12 different varieties of apples at the market that visitors can choose from, along with tasty baked goods filled with apples. Guests to the market can stop by the crafter areas to purchase a lovely basket or skillfully crafted wooden bowl to display their apples at home.

Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – Market vendors have plenty of N.C. apples, with new varieties being added each week. You will find a full line of produce at the market including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, string beans, peas, new crop sweet potatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, eggplants, peaches, cabbage, corn, sweet and hot peppers, new potatoes, blackberries, pears, herbs and more. There’s also award-winning goat milk cheeses, home baked goods, N.C. wine, candies, sauces, fresh salsa and local pimento cheese. You can find chicken, beef, pork, lamb and fresh seafood from the coast. And, if you are ready to start some fall planting, you’ll find trees, shrubbery and bedding plants.

State Farmers Market, Raleigh – Stop by the State Farmers Market to pick up fresh produce, like new crop sweet potatoes, muscadine grapes, a great selection of apples, apple cider and other apple products. You’ll also find peanuts, and of course all of the summer harvest that is still coming in. The market also has an abundant supply of herbs, perennials, trees, shrubbery and mums.

SPECIAL EVENT: The market will be celebrating Grape Day Friday, September 18. Stop by for samples of locally grown grapes, wines and other grape products.

Tar Heel Kitchen: Chicken Slick

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 08:19

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 April 15, 1971 issue and a timeless recipe for chicken slick or pastry.

“As yet no solution has been reached as to where the term “Chicken Slick” originated. One reader thought the term began in Louisburg, N.C.,” said York Kiker, former NCDA&CS home economist. “Another person indicated that “slick” was used for a dumpling with no baking powder. One friend opined “That thar’s a city dish – like a city slicker.” Regardless of the origin of the name, chicken pastry (or dumplings) needs to be rich and “slick” to be good.”

Chicken Slick or Pastry is a Southern Sunday dinner staple.

September is National Chicken Month and a perfect time to try your hand at a classic chicken dish. “Apparently this is a favorite food for many families. It is a wise choice, for North Carolina has an abundant supply of excellent poultry,” Kiker added. “It would be hard to feed the family a better or more reasonably priced main dish than “Chicken Slick.”

Chicken Slick

  •  1 fat hen or large broiler – cooked
  • salt and pepper to taste

In large Dutch oven or pot, cover chicken with water, add salt and pepper to taste. Boil chicken gently until very tender and meat falls from bones. (Test kitchen tip: Don’t use too much water or your broth will be weak.)

  •  3 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons lard or shortening
  • 1 cup or more hot water

Cut lard or shortening into flour. Add enough water, as hot as you can stand, to flour mixture and work to form firm dough. This requires some kneading to make smooth. Roll out dough very thin on floured surface. Cut dough into strips approximately 1-inch by 3-inch. Drop strips of pastry into pot with boiling broth and chicken. It is suggested that only one layer of pastry be put in at a time. Replace lid, cook pastry a few moments, stir, then add another layer of pastry until all pastry is used. Replace lid and continue cooking about 15 minutes until dumplings are done. You may prefer to take chicken from the pot before adding the pastry and remove the bones. Return chicken after the pastry has finished cooking.

We tried this recipe in our test kitchen and recommend making the recipe your own by adding some seasonings such as a dash of salt and pepper or celery salt. We also added a small onion. This recipe is good right off the stove, but it was even better as leftovers. A short cut would be to use ready-to-use dumplings, such as North Carolina’s own Anne’s Dumplings. To prove that every Southern family has a recipe that’s just a little different, check out this Local Dish segment where Lisa Prince shared her grandmother’s chicken and dumplings recipe.

Today’s Topic: Survey says more than 3.6 million acres of NC farmland are rented

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 08:08

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

A recent survey by USDA showed that almost half of North Carolina’s 8 million acres of farmland are rented out.

The 2014 Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land survey showed there are more than 3.6 million acres of farmland rented out by landlords in North Carolina.

Cropland made up 84 percent of rented farmland, and 9 percent of the acres were rented for pastures. The rest consisted of acres rented for forests and other land uses.

The report also showed there are almost 75,000 landlords renting out farmland in North Carolina. So there are more farm landlords than there are farmers.

Here’s another interesting fact: About 35 percent of these landlords never farmed.

The rising cost of buying land seems to have created more interest in renting, Commissioner Troxler says .

Two other items of note in the report:

  • On average, landlords are almost 67 years old, making them older than the average North Carolina farmer. The average age of farmers in the state is 58.9.
  • Landlords expect to transfer more than 705,000 acres of farmland to different owners in the next five years. Of that number, about 322,000 acres are expected to be sold to non-relatives, which Commissioner Troxler says could lead to the loss of productive farmland to other uses.

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


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Two inducted into N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 15:50

Commissioner Troxler is joined by Mike Stiles of NCDA&CS’ Veterinary Division to induct Dr. Beverly Hargus, far left, and Betty Reeves into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler inducted two new members into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame on Friday during opening day of the 2015 fair. Betty Reeves and Dr. Beverly Hargus were recognized for their longtime support of the livestock shows at the annual 10-day fair.

“The N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding contributions to the livestock industry,” said Troxler during the presentation. “I cannot think of two more deserving individuals than Mrs. Betty Reeves and Dr. Beverly Hargus.”

Reeves, of Leicester, has been assisting with the livestock shows since the N.C. Mountain State Fair opened 21 years ago. Her late husband, Robert “Burder” Reeves, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Reeves is heavily involved with the WNC Beef Cattle Commission, which hosts a yearly livestock show during the fair. She also oversees the fair’s Gospel Singing competition and was recognized as the fair’s Volunteer of the Year in 2014.

Hargus, of Zirconia, is a practicing veterinarian and the owner of Animals R Us in Flat Rock. Hargus is one of the few large-animal vets in Western North Carolina. She is heavily involved in 4-H, and is one of the organizational leaders of the Barnyard Bandits 4-H Club in Henderson County. During the fair, Hargus volunteers her services to treat show animals as needed.

The N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame was created by livestock show staff to recognize individual contributions to the livestock industry in Western North Carolina. The 2015 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs through Sept. 20 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. More information is available at

What’s Happening on the Farm: Eastern Broccoli Project

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 10:52

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 highlighting broccoli research at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville.

Since 1944, the Mountain Research Station has been located on 410 acres in Haywood County, but it first opened in 1908 in Swannanoa. This site offers researchers a good representation of soil types and elevations found in western North Carolina. Research projects include Christmas trees, burley tobacco, livestock, horticultural crops and, for the last five years, broccoli.

Broccoli is among the crops grown at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville.

“Ninety percent of broccoli consumed in the eastern United States comes from California and other points west,” said Kaleb Rathbone, station manager. “That means most of our ‘fresh’ broccoli is actually iced down and trucked in. This research could lead to a significant East Coast broccoli crop.”

The station is in its fifth year of field trials as part of the Eastern Broccoli Project. Led by Cornell University in New York, other universities participating include N.C. State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Oregon State. The project is also supported by several seed companies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s vegetable laboratory.

The Mountain Research Station has about four acres dedicated to broccoli research. “Broccoli is a labor-intensive crop since it is harvested by hand,” Rathbone said. “Pests can also be a significant issue.”

Broccoli is evaluated in the field through visual observation. To unify the process, researchers developed a rating system that all collaborators could use when making field observations. “That way we are all working off the same metrics and color charts,” he added. “My perception of a shade of green might be different than another person’s.”

Broccoli is evaluated by the quality of the broccoli head, size of the beads on the broccoli head, color and taste. Samples are also rated on susceptibility to pests and disease. A sample is then sent for nutritional analysis. Since broccoli is a cool-season crop, heat tolerance is one of the characteristics researchers look for in varieties being tested. “Part of the rating process includes leaving the broccoli in the field and letting it over-mature and flower out. After this, not much left is edible. Any part of the crop that might be edible after the research is done is donated to the food bank,” Rathbone said.

The project is currently entering the third phase, with on-farm trials. Each phase involves narrowing down test varieties and planting on larger plots. “Growing broccoli on the East Coast is an opportunity for farmers,” Rathbone said. “It would be good for diversification and a good fit among other crops, especially cucurbits and tomatoes.”

Broccoli is harvested at the station in late August and September. The Mountain Research Station’s peak growing months are April through October, with a total growing season of about 160 days.

News Roundup: Sept. 5 – 11

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 11:09

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.

  • “NC Farmers Prepare For Bird Flu; ASAP Farm Tour Cancelled,” WLOS:  The Appalachian Sustainable Project (ASAP) cancelled its largest event of the year. The fall Farm Tour was called off, because of concerns about Bird Flu. According to the CDC, the strain of this virus will largely not affect humans, but to poultry it is deadly. A farmer says it’s just a matter of time before the virus reaches NC.  …
  • “North Carolina Celebrates Wine and Grape Month,”  TWC News: (Video) September is North Carolina Wine and Grape Month, and wineries and vineyards across the state are planning wine tastings, grape stomps and other special events to celebrate the industry. Over the holiday weekend one Triad vineyard gave wine connoisseurs a first-hand look at how wine is made in the Tar Heel state. Cathy Fowler and her husband Ken consider themselves regulars at Grove Winery and Vineyards in Gibsonville. “We just love having this in our backyard,” said Fowler. …
  • “NCDOT spreads pollinator habitat in roadside flowerbeds,” The News & Observer: The state Department of Transportation is shifting the mix in its roadside wildflower plantings, hoping to attract more bees and other pollinators while sustaining the beauty that motorists have found attractive for the past 30 years. With a grant from Bayer CropScience and a partnership with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, DOT planted 58 acres of sunflowers across the state this spring and will have 28 acres of canola in the ground in western counties this fall. “I’ve always enjoyed the wildflower program as I drive across North Carolina,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Thursday at a state Board of Transportation meeting. “But it’s even better when I know we’re concentrating efforts on creating pollinator habitat.” …
  • “Bird Flu Concerns Lead To Changes at Mountain State Fair,” WLOS: With gray clouds hovering above the midway, you could call it the calm before the storm. Workers prepare for nine days of fun inside the fences at the Mountain State Fair, only this year — there’s a new twist. There’s an agricultural tradition you won’t see. No poultry because of concerns about the avian flu. “We wanna make sure we are prepared,” says NC surveillance veterinarian Karen Beck, showing us one of three signs that will be displayed on the fairgrounds. …
  • “Generational farms keep county apple legacy alive,” Hendersonville Times-News: Trey Enloe earned an engineering degree and worked for large companies like Duke Energy, but Henderson County’s apple orchards lured him home. Enloe, 32, joined his father, Tony Enloe, and his uncle, Mack Enloe, about three years ago in the family business — Lewis Creek Farms on Pilot Mountain Road. He grew up around the orchards and packing house his grandfather and great-uncles owned. “The pay’s not near as good as engineering, and some people might not think it’s glamorous,” he observed, “but there are a lot of perks to being able to be outside, work with fellow farmers.”  …
  • “New federal food safety rules issued after deadly outbreaks,” The News & Observer: Food manufacturers must be more vigilant about keeping their operations clean under new government safety rules released Thursday in the wake of deadly foodborne illness outbreaks linked to ice cream, caramel apples, cantaloupes and peanuts. The rules, once promoted as an Obama administration priority, ran into long delays and came out under a court-ordered deadline after advocacy groups had sued. Even then, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the Aug. 30 deadline to pass without releasing the rules to the public. The new rules will require food manufacturers to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean. …
  • “Preventative measures: Case Farms among companies working to prevent avian influenza,” Shelby Star: The spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza in the West and Midwest is having an impact on farming and industry, even in areas where the breakouts have not spread. Industries dealing with livestock, like the poultry industry, are taking extra precautions as they prepare for birds to migrate south during the fall. Case Farms, which has a feed mill in Shelby and farms across North Carolina and Ohio, is one company working to prevent avian influenza at their farms. …
  • “Appeals court blocks pesticide use over concerns about bees,” Charlotte Observer: A federal appeals court Thursday blocked the use of a pesticide over concerns about its effect on honey bees, which have mysteriously disappeared across the country in recent years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not adequately study the pesticide sulfoxaflor before approving its use in 2013 on a wide variety of crops, including citrus and cotton, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. …
  • “NC under quarantine for tree-eating beetle,” WXIA-TV Atlanta: (Video) The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (NCDA&CS) said the entire state is under quarantine for emerald ash borer Thursday. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler signed an emergency order expanding the quarantine for emerald ash borer to include the entire state, following the discovery of borers in several more counties across the state. …