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Today’s Topic: Hurricane season arrives

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 08:16

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

Hurricane season officially began June 1, but as we’ve already seen, the weather doesn’t always wait for the calendar. Tropical Storm Ana kicked off the season nearly a month ahead of schedule when it dumped rain on eastern North Carolina in early May.

Unfortunately, farmers in North Carolina have a lot of experience with hurricanes and tropical storms. And as Commissioner Troxler is fond of saying, it only takes one storm to ruin a farmer’s year. That was the case last year, when Hurricane Arthur damaged corn and tobacco fields in several Eastern N.C. counties. It was the only storm to hit North Carolina in 2014.

Hurricanes can do major damage to the coast, the mountains and all points in between. No county in North Carolina is immune to hurricane damage. It doesn’t even take a direct hit from a storm to cause a lot of damage. For example, in 2004, the remnants of three storms caused flooding in the North Carolina mountains.

It’s important for farms and agribusinesses to have an emergency plan. Discuss the plan with your employees and family so they will know how to react if power is lost or the farm or business is at risk for flooding. Being prepared can make a difference in salvaging a crop or saving livestock.

Also, review your insurance policies now to make sure you have proper coverage, including wind, hail, flood and catastrophic coverage if necessary.

The department has online resources to help farms and agribusinesses plan and recover from a disaster. You can download a Farm Emergency Plan Template to help organize information that is needed after a disaster.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the importance of being prepared for hurricane season.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Reardon honored by national organization

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 15:11

Joe Reardon

Assistant Commissioner Joe Reardon recently received the presidential award from the Association of Public Health Laboratories at the 2015 APHL Annual Meeting & Ninth Government Environmental Laboratory Conference in Indianapolis. The award is selected by the APHL president and given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the association’s work to promote policies that strengthen public health laboratories.

“Joe always made it a priority to make sure that laboratories were at the table where food safety program optimization was concerned and really help elevate the participation of laboratories in many important conversations and decisions – a legacy that still stands,” said then-president Dan Rice about why he nominated Reardon. “One accomplishment that I would really like to recognize Joe for is the FDA funded ISO 17025 cooperative agreement program, which is funding 30 state laboratories to get accredited to the ISO 17025 standard, or to expand scope of accreditation. This program would not be here today without Joe’s vision and tireless efforts to advocate for the labs and to promote the value and importance of regulatory labs getting accredited to this standard.”

Reardon was director of the NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division until he went to Washington, D.C., in 2009 to work for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He returned to the department in 2013 to serve as assistant commissioner over consumer protection programs.

 

News Roundup: May 23-29

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 10:55

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “FAA’S Approval to Spray Fields from UAVs Limited,” Southern Farm Network: The Federal Aviation Administration released information last week that they would begin approval for unmanned aircraft to spray crops. Kyle Snyder, director of the NextGen Air Transportation Program at NC State, leading the unmanned aircraft initiative for the state says the exemption was pretty specific: “They approved a section 333 exemption for the Yamaha RMax helicopter to provide aerial application services. It’s a new process to allow for specific operators to operate specific aircraft for commercial use.” And, according to Snyder, the exemption will stay in place until there’s an approved rule: “The exemption until the proposed rule becomes a live rule is in 2017.” Snyder explains that the exemption for aerial spray application was for only one particular aircraft: “It is just for the one aircraft, its about 150 pounds and it will be a while before those are used every day. The FAA determines the air space laws and the state determines who is allowed to do aerial application. An aerial applicator must have about 200 hours of apprentice time before they can apply for a license.” …
  • “Tobacco farmers deal with chaotic market, emphasize quality,” Southeast Farm Press: There is one certainty about the chaotic market situation tobacco growers are facing: The best chance for success will come from producing the best possible quality. “What we really need to produce this year is good, ripe, clean tobacco,” said Tim Yarbrough, a flue-cured grower of Prospect Hill, N.C., and president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina (TGANC). “If it is not clean, you need to pick out the foreign material.” There has been a particular problem the last few years with mechanically harvested flue-cured: The harvesters are pulling some stalks or pieces of stalks into the harvested leaf. “Our buyers don’t like this and you can see why,” said Yarbrough. “It is not difficult to avoid — all you have to do is run your leaf through a picking line and you can get the majority of it.” In Yarbrough’s area of North Carolina — north central Piedmont near Danville, Va. — transplanting was expected to begin the last days of April. But because of near constant rain, as much as 50 percent of field preparation remained to be done at that time. Fortunately, the supply of transplants is good, he added. …
  • “US bird flu causes egg shortage, emergency measures,” Fox News: As a virulent avian influenza outbreak continues to spread across the Midwestern United States, some egg-dependent companies are contemplating drastic steps – importing eggs from overseas or looking to egg alternatives. A spokeswoman for Archer Daniels Midland Co said that as egg supplies tighten and prices rise, the food processing and commodities company has received numerous inquiries from manufacturers about the plant-based egg substitutes it makes. With a strong dollar bolstering the buying power of U.S. importers, some companies are scouting for egg supplies abroad. “The U.S. has never imported any significant amount of eggs, because we’ve always been a very low-cost producer,” said Tom Elam of FarmEcon, an agricultural consulting company. “Now, that’s no longer the case.” The United States is grappling with its biggest outbreak of bird flu on record, which has led to the culling of 40 million birds.  …
  • “Local chef serving vegetables straight from his own farm,” Winston-Salem Journal: A lot of chefs have embraced the farm-to-table movement by buying food from local farms. Adam Andrews has gone one step further. He started his own farm. Andrews is the chef and a co-owner of Jeffrey Adams and also the chef and general manager of The Old Fourth Street Filling Station. In 2013, Andrews decided he liked having local produce so much that he would start growing it. …
  • “Carolina growers expect strong vegetable season,” The Packer: Despite a cold and wet spring that delayed plantings on some vegetables, grower-shippers in South Carolina and North Carolina expect to bring typical supplies on most items. Tropical Storm Ana, which made landfall in South Carolina on May 10, drenched fields in both states and further delayed production of some vegetables, said Kevin Hardison, agricultural marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “The crops overall are looking good now,” Chris Rawl, president of Lexington, S.C.-based Clayton Rawl Farms, which grows and ships sweet corn, cabbage, squash, greens and eggplant, said in mid-May. “Being so wet and cold, we had a hard time getting things planted in a timely manner, but we managed to get everything in. We will have good volumes on all of our items.” …
  • “EPA plans temporary pesticide restrictions while bees feed,” Charlotte Observer: If honeybees are busy pollinating large, blooming croplands, farmers wanting to spray toxic pesticides will soon have to buzz off, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing. A federal rule to be proposed Thursday would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.
  • “How Will New EPA Water Rules Affect NC?” WUNC: Depending on the perspective, the announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency was instituting a new, updated and clarified Clean Water Rule is either a cause for celebration in North Carolina or a cause for fear that it will choke the state’s economy. What is most likely, of course, is that the rule will come under further partisan attacks. While Congress and President Obama fight it out, examine some of the ways in which the Water Rule will affect North Carolina: 1. The main purpose of the Clean Water Rule, according to the EPA, is to “more precisely define” what bodies of water “form the foundation of the nation’s water resources” and are thus protected by the Clean Water Act. Where the headwaters of a river begin, for example, can have important ramifications on development near it. In various decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has made matters more confusing, so the agency is attempting to make it as clear as possible to farmers, developers, and anyone else who has a significant interest in land and water management. Because of its growing population, status as a major hog and chicken producer, and long and varied coastline, North Carolina is uniquely impacted by any water rule changes. …
  • “Sanderson says committed to responsible use of antibiotics,” Meatingplace.com: Saying it will not compromise its moral obligation to care for sick animals, Sanderson Farms pledged to continue administering to its chickens antibiotics that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A number of U.S. companies, from Walmart to Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride, are setting goals for eliminating antibiotics used in human medicine from their meat products. Sanderson said its policy on antibiotics takes into account animal welfare, food safety and environmental considerations. “After very deliberate, careful and measured consideration of this issue, we informed our customers last week that we will continue our responsible use of antibiotics when prescribed by our veterinarians,” CEO Joe Sanderson Jr. told analysts Thursday during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. …
  • “Working on Immigration Reform One Piece at a Time,” Southern Farm Network: US Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina is in the state this week talking agricultural business about the H2B program and worker shortages. Tillis outlines what he hopes to learn from the business owners he’s spending time with: “We are trying to get a definitive answer to see which visas they have already issued or which applications they have granted that have not been used, so we can see if there is capacity to help take the pressure off the worker shortage that is only a few weeks away. We have been promised this information just about every day but haven’t seen anything.” Several large sectors of the American economy, not just agriculture, have been lobbying for immigration and guest worker reform, and Tillis agrees that we’re no closer than we were five years ago: “This is one of the true examples of bipartisan failure. In states like NC, where we have the economy moving in the right direction, there are certain jobs being left unfilled and it’s a threat to the ag industry. We are talking about legal immigration and granting work visas where we cannot find Americans to fill these jobs.” …

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Blueberry Recipes

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 12:06

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Got to Be Good Cooking segment using local ingredients. This month Brian and Lisa share a few delicious blueberry recipes. Fresh blueberries are abundant in North Carolina right now. It’s a great time to stock up and freeze.

Blueberries are North Carolina’s highest-ranked fruit crop, contributing $71 million in cash receipts in 2012. This month’s recipes include a fruit salad with citrus marinade, blueberry milkshake, blueberry barbecue sauce, blueberry salad with raspberry and a blueberry lemon cake.

The first recipe is for a fruit salad that can be made the night before. You can choose the fruit you like or use what is in season.

Fruit Salad with Citrus Marinade

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh N.C. blueberries
  • 1 1⁄2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup N.C. strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 1⁄3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions:

Layer the fruit in a bowl. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour cooled sauce over fruit and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before serving.

The next recipe is for a milkshake that Brian calls “quasi-, semi-healthy” because of the delicious  blueberries added.

Blueberry Milkshake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1⁄2 cups N.C. blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions:

Blend blueberries first and then add the remaining ingredients. Mix on high until smooth.

The next recipe is “a great way to use blueberries other than for dessert.” This recipe was submitted by Wendy Perry during a viewer recipe contest and Lisa saved it until blueberries were in season. Wendy combined three great North Carolina products in one recipe: Nashville’s George’s BBQ sauce, N.C. blueberries and N.C. honey. This barbecue sauce is good on grilled chicken, fish or pork.

Blueberry BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups N.C. blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup Georges Special BBQ Sauce
  • 1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh thyme, several sprigs
  • 1⁄2 cup honey

Instructions:

Put the blueberries, barbecue sauce, vinegar and thyme into heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to slow boil, stirring frequently. Cook until the berries have popped and the sauce has cooked down and thickened. Remove woody thyme twigs. Whisk in honey.

Lisa suggests serving the next recipe as a side salad, or top with grilled chicken and serve as a delicious meal.

Blueberry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mixed salad green
  • 1⁄4 cup feta cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup pecans or walnuts
    1 cup fresh N.C. blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons shallots (sliced thin and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes)

Raspberry Vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1⁄2 cup vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 cup good quality olive oil

Instructions:

Salad: Place salad ingredients on 4 salad plates or 2 dinner plates. Then drizzle with raspberry vinaigrette.

Raspberry Vinaigrette: Put first 5 ingredients into a blender and combine until smooth. Then on low speed, slowly add in the olive oil.

The next recipe is for a delicious dessert that is perfect for spring and summer.

Blueberry Lemon Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 1⁄2 cups cake flour (sifted)
  • 2 1⁄2 teapoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 ounces N.C. blueberries

Light Lemon Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 3 1⁄2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions:

Sift flour with baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cream butter with lemon zest. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add about ¼ of the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Beat in milk. Add remaining flour mixture alternately with the lemon juice, beating after each addition until smooth. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch layer cake pans. Sprinkle each pan with blueberries, divided evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on racks. Once the cake is completely cooled, frost with light lemon butter cream frosting.
Cream the butter, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the milk to the butter mixture. Then add ½ cup sugar at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Once all the sugar is added, beat on high for 2 minutes.

Today’s Topic: NC Forest Service is 100 years old

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 08:45

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

The N.C. Forest Service is 100 years old this year.

Back in 1915, state lawmakers recognized the need to protect our forest resources, so they created the N.C. Forest Service. To carry out that mission, John Simcox Holmes was appointed as the first state forester.

Over the past 100 years, the duties of the Forest Service have increased dramatically. In addition to fighting about 4,500 wildfires each year, the agency also is involved in education, landowner assistance, urban forestry, insect and disease control, and a lot more. The N.C. Forest Service has more than 700 employees, and there are offices in just about every county of the state.

North Carolina has more than 18 million acres of forestland, and the vast majority of that land is privately owned. Forest products generate about $24 billion for the state’s economy.

The Forest Service staff gives landowners advice and assistance in managing their forest resources for a wide variety of benefits, including timber, soil and water quality, wildlife, aesthetic value and recreational uses. By helping landowners sustainably manage their forests, we’re helping to keep our forests productive while providing many other benefits. Keeping these lands as working forests helps prevent them from being lost to development.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Forest Service’s centennial and why the agency’s firefighting duties are so important to North Carolina.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: May 16-22

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 11:21

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “A massive bird flu outbreak could make eggs, and just about anything made with them, a lot more expensive,” The Washington Post: This past December, the first case of avian flu was reported in Oregon. The second, in Washington state, was documented in early January. The third was detected six days later. And the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh all surfaced before month’s end. At the time, there was little sense of how serious the problem would be. Avian flu, though it had proved lethal elsewhere in the world, was unfamiliar to farmers in the United States. And February, which brought only three additional cases, eased anxiety a bit. But today, farmers from Iowa to California have learned that there is nothing forgiving about H5N2 — this particular strain of bird flu — which has spread like wildfire, paralyzing chicken farmers throughout the Midwest and casting a gloomy shadow over the U.S. egg industry. …
  • “Commercial catches are up for the first time in four years,” The Outer Banks Voice: North Carolina’s commercial fishing harvest increased by 23 percent in 2014, boosted by higher landings of blue crabs, spiny dogfish and summer flounder. Commercial fishermen sold 61.7 million pounds of fish and shellfish to North Carolina dealers last year, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Commercial Trip Ticket Program. It was the first year commercial landings rose since 2010, an upward tick in a long declining trend since the late 1990s. …
  • “NC ag officials concerned with impact of avian flu,” WNCN: State agricultural officials are concerned with the spread of the Avian flu to North Carolina and its impact on egg prices. While the avian flu hasn’t reached North Carolina yet, it could as soon as August. More than 38 million birds at turkey and chicken farms across 20 states have died from the virus. North Carolina has sent people to Minnesota and Iowa, some of the states hardest hit by the avian flu, to help and learn about the virus in case it arrives here later this year. Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon believes the virus could arrive in just a few months. “Our concern is later this year in the fall, those same birds will be migrating through the eastern flyway back through North Carolina and will bring it with them,” Reardon said. Poultry in North Carolina is an $18 billion industry, employing around 100,000 people. …
  • “Budding biotechs convene in Durham,” Durham Herald-Sun: Two out of state agricultural biotechnology companies came away with $12,500 in funding Tuesday after winning a pitch contest at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Texas-based SynShark and Pennsylvania-based ConidioTec were two of nine companies that came to the annual Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase, which is intended to drive commercialization by congregating investors, entrepreneurs, researchers and others. Company specializations ranged from regenerating tissue in injured horses, an LED light system that is controlled by the processes of the plants it grows, and a process to extract a rubber substitute from sunflowers. SynShark, which also operates out of Cornelius, has developed a process to extract squalene from tobacco plants, as opposed to traditional methods of using shark livers. …
  • “To fight bee decline, Obama proposes more land to feed bees,” Charlotte Observer: The Obama administration hopes to save the bees by feeding them better. A new federal plan aims to reverse America’s declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research and considering the use of fewer pesticides. While putting different type of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists told The Associated Press that this a huge move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn that don’t provide foraging areas for bees. …
  • “Former teacher navigates expanding industry as The Vapor Girl,” The News & Observer: Over the past two-and-a-half years, Victoria Sylvestre has gone from teaching at Carrboro High School to co-owning five stores centered on the sale of electronic cigarettes and flavored e-juices.
    Sylvestre and her husband Marc own The Vapor Girl, which has two locations in Chapel Hill and stores in Durham, Burlington and Pittsboro. Yes, Sylvestre said, people ask her how, as a former teacher, she can sell vaping items such as e-cigarettes and e-juices. …
  • “Tar Heel of the Week: Rev. Richard Joyner preaches the value of local food,” The News & Observer: Rev. Richard Joyner, pastor of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in one of the gardens he helped start to help congregants develop healthier eating habits. There’s a certain irony in the fact that the Rev. Richard Joyner’s church sits in what is considered a food desert, surrounded by vast tracts of farmland. Yet with most of that land devoted to large-scale farming and the nearest grocery store more than 10 miles away, the congregants at Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church subsist on the type of diet to blame for so many of our country’s health problems: fried, fatty, high on sugar and salt, low on vegetables. …
  • “Best Tobacco Crop … Ever,” Southern Farm Network: Like most crops, tobacco had something of a shaky start this spring, with persistent cold, wet weather. Don Nicholson, region 7 agronomist, with North Carolina Department of Agriculture says the crop is now some of the best he’s ever seen: “Our tobacco crop is pretty much done and we have the best stand that we have seen in my life. We had a shaky start with the wet and cold but the crop has done very well. We have had very few acres that folks have had to go back and reset or having problems with. My phone has been very quiet and there are not the problems we have had in the past.” …
  • “Behind The Butcher’s Counter,” WUNC: Cliff’s Meat Market has been a cornerstone of the food industry in the Triangle for more than four decades. Cliff Collins started the shop when he was in his 20s, and it’s now one of the last family-owned markets in the area. Many have noted that the key to Cliff’s success is his ability to evolve alongside the community he serves and create products to meet their needs. The market now caters to the area’s growing Latino consumer base with specific styles and cuts of meat, as well as a supportive and welcoming work environment for new immigrants. A new documentary “Un Buen Carnicero” tells the story of Cliff and one of the butchers in his shop, Gerardo “Tolo” Martinez, who has been working at the meat counter for almost 18 years. Host Frank Stasio previews the documentary with director Victoria Bouloubasis, who co-founded Vittles documentary film company, Cliff’s Meat Market owner Cliff Collins, and Cliff’s Meat Market employee Tolo Martinez. …
  • “NC House backs food desert program to put produce in corner stores,” The News & Observer: The House voted 67-49 Thursday to budget for a new program to put fresh produce in convenience stores. The Healthy Food Small Retailer Fund would spend $1 million to put refrigerators full of fruits and vegetables in 6,000 convenience stores located in “food deserts” that don’t have easy access to grocery stores. “Getting nutrient-rich foods to these people is critical in many communities – to be able to buy more than a honey bun and a Coke,” said the budget amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Yvonne Holley of Raleigh. “We have people in a city that have access to all the junk food in the world, and they can’t get nutrient-rich food.” The program would use local farmers to supply produce to the stores. Funding for the program is contingent on a separate House bill becoming law; that bill hasn’t moved yet in the House or Senate. …

Tar Heel Kitchen: Blueberry Dump Cake

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:59

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 June 15, 1970, issue and a couple of delicious ways to enjoy fresh North Carolina blueberries.

Blueberry season is just getting started across the state. Farmers markets, grocery stores and pick-your-own farms are likely to have plenty available. While the berries are in season, be sure to stock up. “Of all fruits, blueberries are probably the easiest to freeze,” said York Kiker, former home economist. “Select full-flavored ripe berries of uniform size. Pick over to remove stems. Do not wash. Pack dry in freezing containers leaving a half inch of space. Seal completely and freeze. Before using frozen berries, place in a strainer and rinse under water. Shake well to remove extra water.”

Here are a few blueberry recipes to enjoy.

Blueberry Dump Cake

  • 1 pint blueberries, sweetened to taste
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 ½ cup broken nuts
  • 1 ½ sticks of butter, melted

Put berries in oblong type baking dish, approximately 6×11 inches, cover with pineapple, Pour on dry cake mix and scatter nuts over top. Melt butter and drizzle over all. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes

  • 1 1/3 cups unsifted flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Stir all dry ingredients together thoroughly. Combine egg, sour cream and milk in a separate bowl. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to combine ingredients. Add blueberries, stirring just enough to mix in the blueberries. Drop batter onto hot, greased griddle. Cook until surface is covered with bubbles, turn, cook until other side is browned. Top with favorite syrup.

Biology of the beautiful: Sphinx moths

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:38

By guest blogger Wren Gershman

I was working at Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs when I had my first encounter with a sphinx moth, also known as a hawk moth. It was hovering and humming near a native shrub in bloom, and it tricked me into thinking it was a hummingbird. It hovered and darted side-to-side.

Not all sphinx moths look like hummingbirds. Generally, sphinx moths have beautiful, colorful patterns, up to foot-long proboscises (straw-like mouthparts), large bodies (some are among the largest moth species that exist, with wings spanning up to eight inches), and relatively narrow wings. They can fly quickly, with rapidly beating wings, and even backwards briefly, confusing the matter even more.

They even feed similarly to hummingbirds, as well as the type of flowers they feed on: long, tubular shapes housing nectar. They need this nectar to fuel their energetic flight. Some sphinx moth species (like the hummingbird and bumblebee moths) are also active during the daytime, unlike many of their moth cousins. Of course, hummingbirds and sphinx moths are very different animals, so the explanation for their uncanny similarities is convergent evolution, or when two species independently evolve similar characteristics. Their wings appear more streamlined and aerodynamic than typical moth wings, as though they are the sporty model of moth. Indeed, they can get up to flying speeds (12 mph) that might be considered breakneck for the average insect.

The larvae are not as harmless. They have a characteristic ‘horn’ at the tip of their abdomen, and are often considered pests of tomatoes and tobacco (tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm, respectively). As relatively large defoliators, they consume a lot of plant material, making the damage quite visible, however, not enough to warrant concern. There are many natural enemies (e.g., birds, parasitoids wasps) that keep populations relatively low. In smaller gardens, hand removal is an easy control method. When they grow up, adults sphinx moths are pollinators.  In fact, there are rare plants in the southwest and Mexico (e.g., datura) that they specialize in.

Several more fascinating facts about sphinx moths: There are about 1,450 species in the Sphingidae family, most of them located in the tropics. Females can lay 1,000 eggs on leaves. The eggs take several days to hatch, and the larvae take several weeks to grow to full size. Larvae pupate in the soil, and this process, depending on the species, can take anywhere from several weeks to an entire season. Interestingly, in adults, some species lack scales on part of their wings, giving that part of the wing a clear appearance. These species’ common name often includes the word “clearwing.”

Image by Whitney Cranshaw, Bugwood.org.

 

Today’s Topic: New exhibit at Museum of Natural Sciences digs into secrets of soil

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 08:12

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

A new traveling exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh aims to educate us about the world beneath our feet. “Dig It! The Secrets of Soil” opened May 16 and continues through Aug. 16. Admission is free.

NCDA&CS employees Richard Reich, Beth Farrell and Paul Jones were on the exhibit planning committee, and David Hardy, chief of the department’s soil testing lab, helped with some of the agronomic components.

“Dig It!” uses videos, hands-on models, interactive displays and real soil samples to present an eye-opening story about soil, which is responsible for the vast majority of our food, fiber, building materials, clean water, medicine and climate regulation.

The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and curated by some of the country’s leading soil scientists. It explores the extensive role of soil in agriculture, architecture and construction, art and rituals, medicine, water filtration and more.

North Carolina has rich soil biodiversity that allows a variety of crops to flourish. Also, our clay-rich soils form the groundwork of the state’s status as the handmade pottery capital of the United States. The exhibit takes a look at both the art and science of pottery in North Carolina.

“Dig It!” is a very timely exhibit. The United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils to raise awareness of their importance. This exhibit will be important to educating the public about the need for protecting our soils for the future.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss “Dig It!” and why it’s fitting for the exhibit to be in North Carolina.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: May 9-15

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 11:08

 

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story

  • “Lett’s Set a Spell: Agriculture applauded in Got to Be NC Festival,” The Sanford Herald: When I attended Broadway School in the late 1960s, all boys were required to take at least one agriculture course, and we girls attended home economics classes. Back then we assumed that most guys would focus on farming and the gals would reign in the kitchen. We took for granted that most of our food would always come from gardens in the backyard. The commitment to agriculture changed when many farms couldn’t provide ample income for families and because of more accessibility to products beyond the farm. Also the passion for living off the land lost its appeal because of the attraction of jobs in the city. The philosophy and practice of farming has changed dramatically through the decades. In recent years, many men and women are combining skills in farming, gardening, cooking, canning and creating unique food products to make a living. All over the United States, there is a growing trend, from creating gardens in boxes on terraces in apartment complexes to producing bounty in the backyards of upscale communities. Today folks can hear chickens cackling and roosters crowing in neighborhoods near big shopping malls. Goats are becoming a favorite commodity in some urban areas, praised for their milk and cheese production. Agriculture will be highlighted this weekend at the eighth annual Got to Be NC Festival with a full lineup of food choices and family activities at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. The festival provides numerous opportunities to learn about cultivating land, growing crops, producing food and raising animals in our state. …
  • “America’s $45 Billion Poultry Industry Has a (Really) Bad Case of Bird Flu,” Fox Business: “Wait, what did you say about bird flu?” Apparently, the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t apply to sick chickens. A highly virulent strain of the avian flu is sweeping across the American Midwest and devastating chicken and turkey farmers, but it hasn’t garnered media coverage proportional to its importance and potential consequences. …
  • “NC Officials Preparing For Avian Bird Flu Outbreak,” WUNC: North Carolina officials are closely monitoring an outbreak of the avian bird flu spreading in the Midwest and Western United States. 30 million birds have either died from the disease, or have been killed as a preventive measure to control the flu from spreading, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The states that have seen the avian bird flu include: Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, California. North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told state lawmakers Tuesday morning the department is preparing for an outbreak while helping other areas that have been affected. The state sent staff from its veterinary and emergency divisions programs to help Minnesota farms depopulate their infected chickens and plans to send another team to Iowa this week. …
  • “Why would a teenager today look to the ag industry for a future?” Southeast Farm Press: With conviction, the thirteen-year-old boy said he was going to be a plant breeder or an agriculture teacher or do something with plant diseases when he got older – or maybe even do all three. Good choices. He’s got a good future in his future, according to a recent report. The boy, I’m happy to say, is my nephew. He made his statement about his preferred long-term employment not long ago. A report out this month from USDA says the skills and know-how he wants to develop are in big demand – at least over the next five years. The report “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment — United States, 2015-2020,” was pulled together by USDA and Purdue University. …
  • “Eastern Corn Crop Looked Good Until Ana Came Along,” Southern Farm Network: It’s no secret that the corn producers in the eastern US have had some difficulties fighting cold and rain just to get the crop planted. NC State Extension corn specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger: “Its been a real struggle. Last week was the busiest week. And then along comes Ana and dumps a bunch of rain in the east, where the west could use some rain.” As we mentioned earlier, planting corn acres this spring has been a lot of stopping and starting depending on the weather, but Heiniger says a solid week of good, dry weather last week made a difference: “I think most producers will finish up the corn this week. Last week we really hit it hard. They know what it means to start early and work late in the day. We went from 45% to 85% in a matter of 6-7 days.” …
  • “After long growth, Triangle farmers markets see numbers flatten,” The News & Observer: A couple of headlines earlier this year grabbed my attention: “Has the Farmers Market Movement Peaked?” ran in the Los Angeles Times, and “Are Farmers Market Sales Peaking?” appeared on NPR’s The Salt blog. The headlines were based on a U.S. Department of Agriculture report from January that showed while more farmers are selling directly to consumers, what consumers are spending has decreased slightly. Here are the details: Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farmers selling directly to consumers increased 5.5 percent, while the value of sales declined by 1 percent. (These sales include transactions at farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own farms and community-supported agriculture subscriptions.) For a little historical context, between 2002 and 2007, the number of farmers selling directly to consumers increased 17 percent and the value of sales increased 32 percent. …
  • “Berry Good: Local strawberries are ripe for recipes,” Winston-Salem Journal: As the co-owner of Plum Granny farm in King, Cheryl Ferguson is mostly likely to eat strawberries whole out of hand. In fact, most of the strawberries she eats probably never make it out of strawberry patch. But when she does make something, she likes to enjoy a salad that’s simple to make but offers a complex combination of ingredients. …
  • “Biltmore Winery, America’s most-visited wine-maker, turns 30,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Long before Asheville was Beer City USA, the Biltmore Winery was turning out reds, whites and sparklers and building a brand that now stretches across 30 states. The winery, which turns 30 this month, is America’s most-visited wine-making operation, pulling 60 percent of the Biltmore’s annual 1.2 million visitors. It’s also North Carolina’s third oldest winery, producing 40 wines sold around the Southeast and throughout the Ohio Valley. The winery produces 150,000 cases a year. The Biltmore estate, including a large garden attraction, was built in 1895 and opened to the public in 1930. It was the largest private residency in the United States. …
  • “Surry County neighbors push for more say-so over chicken farm locations,” Winston-Salem Journal: Thick, sunburned and worn, the hands of Eddie Brown tell his story. He’s a farmer, a Surry County farmer. Tobacco. Soybeans. Strawberries. By his estimation, farming has been in his family for 150 years. Monday night, Brown wasn’t at his farm in the Shoals community. He was at the King library, attending a meeting of about 30 property owners fed up with the stench coming from large-scale chicken farms. …
  • “Trouble with truffles in Stokes County,” WGHP: There is a trifle of trouble with the truffles. Every industry in North Carolina had pioneers that helped it get started. Textiles had the Cone family, wine had the Sheltons and now truffles have a couple of dozen farmers, including Jane Morgan Smith. But truffles are a difficult project — you can work for five or 10 years before the trees fruit. Jane did her work, had some of the most famous people in the kitchen praise her product and that’s when the trouble started. See what, in this edition of the Buckley Report and, more importantly, see why Jane isn’t ready to give up. …
  • “City on board with NC 41 hatchery,” Robesonian: After winning over members of Lumberton’s Planning Board, Sanderson Farms is another step closer to building a chick hatchery on N.C. 41. The City Council, heeding a unanimous recommendation from the Planning Board, voted Monday night to allow rezoning of a 12.88-acre lot near Snake Road to make way for the hatchery. An application to rezone the parcel passed through City Council before it was referred to the Planning Board. There, the matter was tabled in order to allow a Sanderson Farms representative to answer questions form the board and the public. Board members toured the poultry giant’s hatchery in Kinston, and returned in full approval. The hatchery would include 52 hatchers and incubators as well as office space for about 75 employees, including management, accounting, human resources and service technicians. In exchange for property tax incentives approved by the City Council on April 13, the company would invest $17 million in the hatchery. The company is also building a $115 million processing plant near St. Pauls. …
  • “Farmer recovers from crop damage after storm,” WWAY: Tropical Storm Ana’s effects on local produce will be felt long into the summer. Ana brought torrential downpours leaving local farmers in Brunswick County with flood and wind damage to crops and structure. Produce Farmer Keith Ludlum says the storm has set planting his tomato crop two weeks behind schedule. He will have to wait until the fields dry out which means it will take longer for consumers to have their fresh produce. “In 54 years of my family farm, we have never taken out crop insurance,” said Ludlum. “We never asked for no benefits or anything. We just pretty much rely on Blessings and Grace.” Ludlum says to meet the customer demand this summer, he plans to work everyday to make sure the work gets done and the produce is available for visitors to buy when they visit the Holden Beach area. …
  • “Land trusts present awards to conservation leaders,” Hendersonville Times-News:
    North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts bestowed their annual awards on deserving winners during a lunch celebration at the land trusts’ annual meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville. The N.C. Land Trust awards are given annually to businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals who lead efforts to protect the state’s streams and lakes, forests, farms, parkland and wildlife habitat, thereby protecting clean drinking water and air quality, local food and outdoor recreation. The State Government Conservation Partner of the Year Award went to state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. He was nominated by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Conservation Trust for North Carolina for his dedication to the conservation of farms and forest land. Troxler strongly supports farmland preservation and the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. During Troxler’s tenure, the ADFPTF protected nearly 10,000 acres and allocated almost $16 million in grant funding for working lands conservation easements and agricultural development projects. …

 

Flavor, NC: In Good Heart Farm

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 11:05

Twice a month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight the sixth episode of season two, in which host Lisa Prince highlights In Good Heart Farm in Clayton and Chef Chad McIntyre of the former Market Restaurant in Raleigh. 

“Sliced, diced, mashed, grated or fried – there’s not much you can’t do to the versatile potato,” said Lisa. In this episode she visits with Ben Shields and Patricia Parker, owners of In Good Heart Farm, to learn a little about their Johnston County farm and about picking and storing the perfect potato.

Ben suggests looking for potatoes that are blemish-free, firm to touch, no dark or brown spots, and no sprouts. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place like a cabinet or closet.

Lisa visits Ben and Patricia to learn a little about what it is like to start a new farming business, how produce is grown in a hoop house or high tunnel and about the farm’s community-supported agriculture program. Lisa then samples a few potato recipes with Chef Chad McIntyre of the former Market Restaurant. Although the Market Restaurant is now closed, Chef Chad will be the head chef at Person Street Pharmacy Cafe, which will feature fast causal gourmet and should open soon.

Chef Chad and Lisa make potato latkes, potato salad and pommes frites, also know as french fries. Below is Chad’s recipe for gluten-free Potato Latkes with Blueberry Crème Fraiche.

Potato Latkes

  • 2 large potatoes (3 cups)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for pan frying
  • blueberry crème fraiche
  • chopped green onion for garnish

Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into a large bowl. Add eggs and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Mix until well blended. Add the rice flour in batches, blending after each addition until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes. Heat a cast iron skillet and add the oil. When hot, add the potato mixture by spoonfuls and spread it out to create the size latke you prefer. Let the latke fry in the hot oil for two to three minutes until set and browned, then carefully flip and continuing cooking until golden brown and cooked through. Garnish with blueberry crème fraiche and chopped green onion.

Blueberry Crème Fraiche

  • ¼ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend the blueberries into the sour cream, crushing the berries slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

NCDA&CS assists other states with avian flu outbreak

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 13:50

The first Poultry Foam Task Force sent to Minnesota in early April, left to right: Tim Worley, Wendy Lane, Will Thompson, Jimmy Collie, Scott Rackley, Bruce Akers, Tom Guy and Mark Howell.

Three NCDA&CS task force teams recently traveled to Minnesota at the request of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to help with the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The Poultry Foam Task Force teams, a combination of animal health technicians, veterinary health technicians and emergency programs staff, each spent about five days helping depopulate infected commercial turkey flocks. Another team leaves today for Iowa to help there.

“Our staff trains regularly to deal with emergencies such as weather, fire and disease outbreaks,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious concern for the U.S. poultry industry, and we are glad we are able to assist other states during this emergency. Swift depopulation is imperative to controlling the spread of this disease.”

The current strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza identified in the United States does not cause illness in humans. However, it spreads quickly within poultry flocks. Birds that are exposed must be humanely killed to control the spread. Sick birds are not allowed into the food supply, so poultry and poultry products are safe to consume. The disease has been found in poultry flocks or wild birds in 19 states. It has not been found in North Carolina.

The teams used a foaming method to humanely depopulate the flocks. “Foam is used only in instances where an entire flock needs to be depopulated because of disease or injury. Our department has become a national leader in this technique,” said Troxler. “Our staff has developed the equipment and has literally written the manual on how to use it.”

NCDA&CS teams and equipment are deployed in North Carolina a few times each year due to disease outbreaks or injuries related to collapsed poultry houses. Foam is considered a humane option because it does not overly excite the birds and kills them quickly. It is also less stressful on workers, who are typically already stressed because of the bigger issue at hand. The foam is also environmentally safe to use and dissipates on its own. This is not the first time a team from the NCDA&CS has assisted in an emergency. A team traveled to Alabama in 2011 to assist in depopulating poultry flocks after a tornado outbreak there.

Harvell is new regional forester in Piedmont

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 09:48

The N.C. Forest Service has a new regional forester for the Piedmont. Kevin Harvell takes over for Mike Hendricks, who retired this year with 36 years of service.

Harvell said he admires Hendricks’ work ethic and dedication to the NCFS, and intends to carry on with the great work Hendricks was doing. Harvell also said he’s looking forward to working with what he considers the best regional and district staff in the NCFS. The region encompasses a wide swath of central North Carolina, ranging from Surry County at its most northwestern point, to Cumberland County in the southeast.

Harvell admits to being a little nervous about the unknown and the “exponential increase in the email load” that accompanies his new position. His goals are to work with his staff to provide great customer service to North Carolinians, to increase the use of prescribed fire as an ecological and fire prevention tool, and to provide information and education to the public. The last of these goals also fits in with one of his personal passions, which is working with the Boy Scouts.

“I’m very active with the Boy Scouts,” Harvell said. “I can see how the North Carolina Forest Service can have a relationship with the Scouts, taking a leadership role in helping to teach the younger generation.”

Harvell also plans on being a strong advocate for the field personnel to try and create a seamless transition up and down the chain of command. He understands the importance of this from his many years in the field. After graduating from N.C. State University in 1996, he went to work in the Mount Holly District as a service forester before becoming the county forester in Mecklenburg County two years later. Eventually, he became a water quality forester. Along the way, Harvell has worked as a district forester and an assistant regional forester before being promoted to his current position.

Harvell married his wife, Jennifer, in 1996, the same weekend as Hurricane Fran. They live in Asheboro with their two children: Garrett, 14, and Carson, 12, both ardent Boy Scouts and soccer players.

Today’s Topic: Got to Be NC Festival

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 08:05

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

The eighth annual Got to Be NC Festival returns to the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh May 15-17. It’s our celebration of North Carolina agriculture and food. And this year, Lowes Foods has joined us as a presenting sponsor.

The company will be part of Homegrown Fare, the festival’s popular showcase of North Carolina food, wine and beer.

Agriculture is at the heart of the festival. Many kids today are at least two generations removed from the farm. The festival is a great place for families to see farm animals and learn more about the hardworking men and women who make up North Carolina’s leading industry.

This year’s festival features an expanded Agri-Plaza full of animals of all sizes. Visitors can see baby chickens hatch and watch ducklings slide into a wading pool. In addition, they can try their hand at milking a cow. There also will be chickens, cows, sheep and alpacas on display, and farmers will share information about each animal.

Besides the livestock displays, the festival also will host its first rabbit and cavy shows. The cavy is a family of animals that includes guinea pigs.

The festival favorites also will be back, including the Carolina Pig Jig barbecue cook-off for charity, lots of antique farm equipment and the daily tractor parade, food, carnival rides and a bluegrass band competition.

Festival admission and parking are free. For festival hours and other information, visit www.gottobencfestival.com.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the 2015 edition of the Got to Be NC Festival.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: May 2 – 6

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 14:44

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story

  • “Top cheese: N.C. Cheese Trail puts locally made cheeses on the map,” Burlington Times-News: Is there a food more universally adored than cheese? Bacon is within spitting distance, but there are religions that forbid it. Pastries or freshly baked bread might vie for the trophy, but they fall short. Cheeseburgers, cheese fries, cheesecakes, cheese Danishes, cheese balls, cheese straws, cheese bread, cheese sauces, cheese quesadillas, cheese toast, extra-cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese. Heck, there’s even a cheese dog that’s literally just cheese on a bun. Kids won’t eat broccoli? Add cheese. Use it to make salads, soups and plain old potatoes decadent. Pair it with fruit or wine and launch your taste buds into the flavor stratosphere.Face it, there is no food quite as wonderful as cheese. That’s why we now have the N.C. Cheese Trail, actually the state’s second cheese trail. The WNC (western North Carolina) Cheese Trail covers the hills and dales of our Appalachians and foothills. Both trails have sprung up in the last five years, following the local food trend and a shift back to agriculture. …
  • “May: The Perfect Time To Pick Strawberries In The Triad,” WFMY: You probably didn’t like all the rain in April, but strawberry farmers loved it. North Carolina strawberries are ripe, fresh and ready to pick. WFMY News 2’s Tracey McCain showing you around the patches at May Farm, but there are several in the Triad. Harvest generally starts in the southeastern Coastal Plain in early April, in the Piedmont in mid- to late-April, and in the western part of the state in early May. According to the North Carolina Strawberry Association, depending on weather, most farms pick for 5-8 weeks. Cool spring weather prolongs the season, while hot weather, especially in May, shuts it down. May is considered the main season and is “Strawberry Month” in North Carolina. …
  • “North Carolina festival looks to showcase agriculture,” Farms.com: In an effort to promote the importance and opportunities agriculture provides to the state of North Carolina, the State Fairgrounds will play host to the 2015 Got to Be NC Festival from Friday, May 15 – Sunday, May 17. “Many kids today are at least two generations removed from the farm,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The festival is a great place for families to see barnyard animals and learn more about the hardworking men and women who contribute to our state’s top industry.” The festival is also a stop on the 2015 Tour D’Coop so in addition to milking cows, goats and learning about other farm animals and their importance to agriculture, poultry specialists from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture will offer free workshops on how people can start and maintain safe urban chicken houses. As far the agricultural sector goes, North Carolina contributes about $78 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for employing about 16% of the state’s work force. …
  • “US gives farmers approval to spray crops from drones,” WRAL: A drone large enough to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides has won rare approval from federal authorities to spray crops in the United States, officials said Tuesday.The drone, called the RMAX, is a remotely piloted helicopter that weighs 207 pounds (94 kilograms), said Steve Markofski, a spokesman for Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., which developed the aircraft. …
  • “Talking Turkey: Bird Flu May Bite Supplies This Thanksgiving,” NBC News: The largest-ever U.S. outbreak of avian influenza, which has devastated Midwestern poultry and egg producers in recent weeks, could be felt at Thanksgiving tables across the nation come November, farmers and some trade groups say. The virulent H5N2 strain has already spread to 14 states and led to the deaths or scheduled euthanizations of more than 21 million birds, including 3.3 million turkeys in Minnesota, the nation’s top turkey producer. And now, with Thanksgiving just seven months away, farmers say they may be running out of time to raise enough turkeys -the traditional centerpiece of holiday feasts – to meet the demand. Once a farm has been infected, flocks must be culled, composted in barns, then disposed of. Buildings must then be thoroughly disinfected. The whole process can take up to three months before a new flock of turkey poults can be brought in, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. …
  • “Op-Ed: Trade Promotion Authority would help NC farmers reach full potential,” The News & Observer: At BASF, we use science and innovation to contribute to the success of our customers. For BASF Agricultural Solutions, the customer is many times the farmer, and farmers need Congress to enhance their success through increased export opportunities. That is why passage of Trade Promotion Authority is so critically important and should proceed without delay. American agriculture is enormously productive. Thanks to technologies developed here in North Carolina at companies like BASF, farmers are producing more with less every day. In fact, because farmers are able to produce more than is needed domestically, the U.S. has a trade surplus in agricultural products, and there is tremendous opportunity to increase exports of food and feed products even further through new trade agreements. There continues to be a growing demand for U.S. agricultural products around the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three of North Carolina’s top agricultural products have experienced substantial export growth in recent years. …
  • “Photo Gallery: What does it ‘feel’ like to be a blueberry from harvest to package?” Southeast Farm Press: The U.S. leads the world in blueberry production, and the Southeast is the country’s top supplier and growing. But blueberry producers face many challenges when it comes to harvesting and handling the tiny, tender fruit. To get a better idea of what blueberries endure as they tumble through a packing line, Charlie Li developed the Berry Impact Recording Device, or BIRD. An embedded electronic chip records all the bumps and bruises as the device rattles along with the berries. Changying “Charlie” Li, an associate professor who specializes in sensor technology at the University of Georgia, is leading a four-year study designed to identify ways to improve the efficiency of the nation’s blueberry harvest. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $2.37 million grant to Li and his colleagues at 10 universities across the nation for the project. …
  • “This is What Science Looks Like at NC State: April Hamblin,” NCSU News:  On Thanksgiving, I like to thank bees for their pollination services. Have you ever thought about what actually happened to the food in front of you before it was food? If you love pumpkin pie, you may want to thank the Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa) for pollinating squash. If you are more of a blueberry cobbler kind of person, you should thank the Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa). And, if you just adore apple strudel, you would want to applaud the Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria) for all her hard work. While Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) are the most common bee managed for agriculture, native bees must also be commended for their work, especially in urban areas like your backyard. As a graduate student at NC State in Dr. Steven Frank’s lab, I study these native bees in urban areas like the city of Raleigh. I am trying to understand how temperature influences the native bee population. Cities and other urban areas have hotter temperatures than the natural surrounding areas around them. This is called the urban heat island effect. …

Tarheel Kitchen: Chicken hash on corn waffles

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 11:33

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 June 1, 1976, issue and a delicious North Carolina Chicken Cooking contest winner. 

“Whether by coincidence or design, the Bicentennial 13th annual North Carolina Chicken Cooking Contest had only women contestants,” said York Kiker, former home economist. “Ordinarily several men are strong contenders and winners. Were the ladies asserting independence, claiming thirteen as their lucky number, or simply better cooks this year than men?”

Ten women from the mountains to the coast competed in the competition. The winner, Mrs. Donald Griffin of Jamestown, received a microwave oven and an all-expense paid trip to the national competition in Philadelphia. The national competition offered a top prize of $10,000.

The state competition was “a way of paying tribute to the amazing North Carolina poultry industry,” said Kiker. In 1976, Kiker notes that broilers provided 11.7 percent of North Carolina agricultural income and represented the state’s largest food industry. Today, broilers represent more than 20 percent of the state’s farm cash receipts.

Below is Mrs. Griffin’s winning recipe.

Chicken Hash on Corn Waffles

  • 1 broiler-fryer, cut in parts
  • 1/3 cup Mazola corn oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon Accent flavor
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat corn oil and butter in fry pan over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Cook until fork can be inserted with ease. Cool. Remove meat from bones and cut into small pieces. Add onion and celery; cook until tender but not brown. Add the flour and stir to blend with pan juices. Add chicken and flavor enhancer. Add broth all and once, and stir until gravy thickens. Add salt and pepper. Serve over corn waffles. Yields 6 servings.

Corn Waffles

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 5 tablespoons bacon drippings

Beat together eggs and milk. Add the flour and cornmeal all at once and stir. Add drippings and stir again. Bake on waffle iron at medium heat.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina strawberries are now on school lunch menus

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 14:13

North Carolina strawberries are in season now and being served in participating school systems across the state as part of the Farm to School Program.

Students are now enjoying North Carolina strawberries for lunch as the first shipment of berries hit the lunchrooms of schools participating in the Farm to School Program.  The Alleghany County School System is among the systems that placed orders for strawberries.

Penny Walker, the school system’s child nutrition director, said that students are used to eating strawberries throughout the year in the form of canned or frozen berries, but fresh berries usually elicit a completely different reaction from students.

Walker was recently near the serving line at one school and said she could overhear the chatter about the berries as students made their way down the line. “You could hear them say, ‘They are serving strawberries today. Fresh strawberries, with green tops.’

“One little girl that came through the line, her eyes got huge and she said, ‘Ohhhh, strawberries!’ And she lifted both of her little hands up to take the cup of berries, like she wanted to be sure she didn’t drop them,” Walker said.

Walker said it makes her feel good that kids enjoy what is being offered.

“I try to offer different forms of food, and the students like having the canned and frozen varieties, but there’s nothing like fresh,” Walker said, adding kids and staff are also looking forward to blueberries, which is the next local commodity coming to schools.

Strawberries are by far the favorite produce offered through the Farm to School Program, and this year could set a new record for strawberry sales if all the school orders can be filled, said Gary Gay, director of the Food Distribution Division. This year school systems have ordered more than 20,000 flats of strawberries. The record for strawberry purchases totaled 19,473 flats during the 2012-2013 school year.

Weekly shipments will continued through May 18. Walker said the strawberries are so well liked, she placed orders for them every week they were offered.

“We have had a cold, cold winter in the mountains, and just to see those beautiful bright red strawberries, they represent hope that we are going to get into some warm weather now,” she said.

 

 

Dip in Danger: Laurel wilt threatens guacamole

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 09:33

Cinqo de Mayo may change soon as we know it. The holiday, which commemorates Mexico’s 1862 victory at the Battle of the Puebla, also celebrates the Mexican culture, cuisine and music.  Few Mexican restaurants were unfilled as celebrations took place yesterday.

Unfortunately, one of Mexico’s trademark culinary delights, guacamole, is threatened by an invasive species. Laurel wilt, which was just recently found in the seventh North Carolina county, is a devastating disease of redbay trees and other plants in the laurel family. Many of these plants are of ecological and cultural importance, but one stands out for its economic and culinary worth: the avocado — the main ingredient in guacamole.

Laurel wilt is not a secret ingredient you want in your guacamole. Like redbay trees, avocado trees die very quickly following an infestation. Avocado farmers must be constantly on the lookout for the disease, because prompt treatment with a fungicide may save the tree and therefore, their avocado crop.

To find the disease before signs become apparent, some have called in the cavalry — of dogs, that is. Fungus-sniffing canines are using their keen noses to sniff out trouble, literally. They are able to find trees that are infected before external symptoms of the disease develop. This gives farmers a jump-start on treatment and better odds at saving their trees.

While North Carolina does not have an avocado industry, there are some landscape trees here and there that are susceptible. However, the real threat in our state is to redbay trees. We have countless redbay trees in the state and it is irreplaceable for some ecological functions it serves. We also have countless guacamole eaters… they may not be too happy either! If you suspect laurel wilt, please contact your local N.C. Forest Service county ranger.

Today’s Topic: Teaching North Carolina’s future ag leaders

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 08:10

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

It’s the end of another academic year at North Carolina colleges and universities, and Commissioner Troxler is among those who just wrapped up the spring semester.

Over the years, he has periodically taught courses at N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and this past semester he taught alongside Richard Linton, the dean of CALS.

There were 30 students in the class, including a few who were planning to return to the family farm after college. The course covered a variety of topics pertaining to agriculture, such as agricultural policy, economic development and international trade. In addition to lectures, students heard from guest speakers in the agriculture industry and went into the field to see ag research.

The Commissioner says the students were very bright, and his hope is that they will become tomorrow’s leaders in agriculture and agribusiness.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the semester and what’s in store for the future.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Volunteers return stolen Venus flytraps to the wild

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 10:13

Venus flytraps, with their exotic good looks and hinged, fly-eating claws, have an innate allure that brings out both the good and bad in human beings.

The Venus flytraps’ charming appeal. also threatens them.

Recently, the plants brought both sides together as ones taken illegally from public lands were returned by good-hearted volunteers interested in seeing this protected species continue to exist in its native North Carolina location. In fact they were so intent on helping these plants that volunteers Robert and Ruth Jones, Linda Phillips, Kathy Schlosser, Judy West and  Mimi Westervelt drove more than three hours to get to the Wilmington area where the plants grow naturally. Schlosser serves as the chairperson for both the state Plant Conservation Board and the Friends of Plant Conservation.

That area, and a few acres in South Carolina, are the only places in the world where the plants grow naturally. Land development naturally threatens pockets of the plant on private land, which is a concern for conservationists.  But an even bigger concern are poachers, hoping to cash in on people’s desire for the plants, who are robbing preserved lands and the greater community of these “protected” natural resources.

Outrage and concern about a number of large thefts from public lands in the past few years has prompted recent changes in the law, making it a felony to steal plants from public and private lands. But clearly, the problem continues.

A tray of the small, squatty plants that were part of the recent replanting effort, were confiscated following a September 2013 arrest. They had been in the care of Southeastern Community College science teacher Becky Westbrooks and her students, who were  intent on nursing the plants back to health in the hope of giving them a better chance of  survival on return. A second tray of plants is being cared for at the N.C. Botanical Garden, which serves as a kind of witness protection home of sorts for the plants.

“If the places where we replanted are safe, we’ll plant the rest of them back out,” said David Welch, program administrator with the Plant Industry Division. “If not, we’ll look for another location.”

Seeds produced while the plants are in the care of the N.C. Botanical Garden will become part of the garden’s seed bank, which is part of national and international initiatives conserving the seeds of rare plants.

 

Robert and Ruth Jones of Greensboro were part of a group of volunteers replanting Venus flytraps that were confiscated following the theft of the plants from public lands.

Their chances of survival and propagation will likely be just as dependent on staying out of the eyesight of poachers.

“Several of the spots where we intended to replant the flytraps had signs of recent poaching, which is very disheartening,” Welch said. “We don’t want to put them back in a place where we know poaching is occurring.”

While scouting new locations, Lesley Starke, a plant protection specialist with the Plant Industry Division, also revisited places where plants are known to be to get an idea of the number of plants there, and whether any areas showed signs of poaching.

As the group journeyed deeper into the woods, it seemed that the dense underbrush might offer a natural deterrent to unwanted visitors, but based on plant counts it was obvious a couple of the sites had been visited.

Protecting plants on public lands is challenging, Welch said, particularly with larger sites. For example, the Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve in Brunswick County includes nearly 7,000 acres.

Welch said getting people to understand what is at stake here is critical to conservation efforts.

“North Carolina is ground zero for flytraps,’ Welch said. “People should understand that the world is counting on us to keep them as protected as we can.”

The loss of plants is real, and Welch said we are past a point where taking plants is a harmless activity.

“Too many people are taking too many flytraps,” Welch said. “Now they are becoming rarer and rarer. If we continue on this track, they will be wiped out.

“It’s getting to a tipping point,” he added. “It started in the ’90s, when there were millions of the plants. Now there are thousands. And that was just in a couple of decades. Part of the loss was due to development of private land, but now most of the plants are saved on conserved lands, and they are getting poached. It’s pervasive and it’s getting worse.”

 

 

Rob Evans, a plant ecologist with the Plant Industry Division, talks about some of the ecological features of the preserve with volunteers.

 

Welch encourages people who are interested in helping save these plants to get involved with and support organizations that are focused on flytrap conservation, such as The Nature Conservancy, Coastal Land Trust and Friends of Plant Conservation. Each one of these groups have specific initiatives focused on flytrap conservation and outreach.

Raising awareness about the plight of these plants is important, too, Welch said. If plants on public lands continue to be poached, people may not have the opportunity to see them in a natural setting. “The only place where the plants will be are places without public access,” Welch said.