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Caught in NC: Core Sound Seafood and Mr. Big Seafood store

3 hours 13 min ago

In celebration of Got to Be N.C. month we are featuring local farms and businesses and their products that are Grown. Raised. Caught. Made. here. This week we focus on Caught and highlight Core Sound Seafood and Mr. Big Seafood in Harkers Island.

North Carolina is home to 134 aquaculture farms, 227 shellfish leases and 287 crab-shedding permit holders. Last year, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries issued more than 5,000 standard commercial fishing licenses. North Carolina ranks 15th in the nation in pounds of fish and shellfish caught. In 2012, this catch was valued at more than $73 million.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services promotes aquaculture farms and commercial fisheries through its Got to Be NC Seafood Marketing program. To better connect with the industry, the department has a seafood marketing office in Elizabeth City.

Eddie Willis is a fourth-generation commercial fisherman with a long family history of fishing the Core Sound in Carteret County. His great-great-grandfather fished this area and his family operated a fish camp on Shackleford Banks until the 1980s. Willis and his wife, Alison, are co-owners of Core Sound Seafood and owners of Mr. Big Seafood. Core Sound Seafood is a community-supported fishery that sells local seafood to members in the Triangle, Triad and Boone areas. Mr. Big Seafood is a retail market in Harkers Island that sells fresh-caught seafood.

Eddie and Alison Willis of Core Sound Seafood and Mr. Big Seafood

Originally from Raleigh, Alison met Eddie met during her travels to the coast, fell in love and married in 2011. Since then, Alison has immersed herself in the family business. She can spot a keeper from a throwback when it comes to soft-shelled crabs, and she enjoys explaining how they get their soft shells. “People love to eat soft shell crabs,” she said. “But may not necessarily know how they get their soft shell. Sharing with them is a fun and educational experience.” Soft shell crab season starts for them with the first full moon in April.

Eddie Willis fishes mostly in the Core Sound, catching soft-shell crab, shrimp and pound-net flounder. His catch is sold at Mr. Big Seafood and a few local restaurants. The Willises also work with five or six other local fishermen to supply Core Sound Seafood.

Similar to a community-supported agriculture program, in which consumers buy produce, dairy or meat directly from a farmer, a community supported fishery allows you to buy seafood directly from a fisherman. Consumers buy shares that are delivered on a weekly basis during the season. The seafood is available in 2-pound and 4-pound shares. A 2-pound share is enough to feed a typical family of four. Core Sound Seafood has pickup locations in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, Boone and Winston-Salem, and sells its catch at three Weaver Street Market locations.

“The local food movement caught on quicker with other commodities,” said Alison. “However, local, wild-caught seafood is catching on. The biggest obstacle is in teaching people how to cook it, sharing recipes and introducing them to fish the may not have eaten before. But I think consumers are getting more comfortable with fresh, local seafood at the market.”

Core Sound Seafood operates for two 10-week seasons a year. Fish and shellfish, like vegetables, are seasonal, so you get a different varieties depending on the season. The busiest time of the year is during the fall when flounder is the dominant catch.

Eddie Willis fishes crab pots in Core Sound.

“Local seafood offers many advantages,” Alison said. “The first is, locally caught is usually closer to being just out of the water so it should be fresher. It also has a positive economic impact on our local economy and supports our fishermen. I like being able to share with people that the soft crab they ate today was caught by my husband, we shedded it, and at our market you bought it.”

Although local seafood is catching on, 80 percent of seafood consumed in North Carolina is imported. One way to change this is to educate consumers about looking for local seafood at markets and restaurants. Alison serves on the board of N.C. Catch. This group works to educate consumers and to promote local, wild-caught seafood. The group also works to recognize restaurants and businesses that use locally caught. The NCDA&CS Marketing Division also keeps an online seafood directory supporting these businesses.

Eddie and Alison have a 2-year-old daughter, and they would love for her to be part of the family business. “Supporting local seafood and increasing demand for N.C. seafood will help our young people see a future in fishing,” said Alison. “The more people who are aware that buying North Carolina-caught directly impacts the economies of our coastal communities, and that N.C. seafood is delicious, the brighter our future will be.”


News Roundup: July 19-25

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 11:15

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.

  • “Farm Aid concert coming to Raleigh in September,” News & Observer: Since 1985, Farm Aid has had concerts in 18 states from sea to shining sea. This year, North Carolina makes state No. 19. Farm Aid’s 2014 concert will be Sept. 13 at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. All four members of Farm Aid’s board will perform – founder Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. Over the years, Farm Aid has raised more than $45 million for family farmers with benefit concerts almost every year, pulling everyone from Lou Reed to Julio Iglesias onstage. Dylan, Kenny Chesney, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and Paul Simon are among the many acts to play Farm Aid shows. …
  • “Wonderful watermelon,” Wilmington Star News: Watermelon is a summertime treat that you’ll see popping up at cookouts and other gatherings when the temperature is at its peak. Its high water content offers refreshment and hydration in the midst of the hottest days of the year. According to information from the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the watermelon is of the cucurbitaceae, or gourd, family. The Tar Heel State ranks about eighth in the nation, producing more than 193 million pounds. …
  • “Goat Dairy Industry Sees Big Boost in NC,” Time Warner Cable News: Not everyone wakes up with the sun, but for ten years, Sammy Gray has been doing just that to tend to his more than 200 goats. “When one of my girls dies, it’s like a part of me dies, because I live with them I do everything to kept them healthy,” said Sammy Gray of Wilderness Trail Dairy. Gray spends hours milking more than 165 goats at Wilderness Trail Dairy every day. He sells the milk, which eventually becomes cheese. He says he’s seen a growing demand for goat dairy in the state with more people buying local. “There’s a large demand for the cheese, plus also fluid milk because there’s a lot of people who cannot drink cow milk,” said Gray. …
  • “Wineries thriving in mountains and across the state,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Craft beer gets plenty of attention and promotion in North Carolina. But the state also has a lively wine scene that is constantly adding new players of all sizes. The mountains are home to more than a dozen wineries including America’s most-visited (Biltmore in Asheville) and the nation’s smallest (Calaboose Cellars in Andrews, with just 300 square feet). Wineries (about 129) in North Carolina outnumber breweries (110). The same is true nationally, with 7,946 wineries (according to the National Association of American Wineries) and more than 2,700 craft breweries (according to the Brewers Association). This weekend, a cluster of wineries in Cherokee and Clay counties in N.C., and Towns and Union counties in north Georgia will be officially designated as a federal wine growing American Viticultural Area, the first AVA in the mountains and one of only four such areas in the state. Together, the state’s wineries are packing quite an economic punch, said Whit Winslow, wine marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture. …
  • “North Carolina Innovation, From Barcodes to Berries,” Xconomy: If you’ve made a retail purchase recently, chances are good you used technology developed in Research Triangle Park without even realizing it. The modern day barcode has its origins in the 1970s research of IBM scientists Joseph Woodland and George Laurer. Their work in IBM’s RTP labs was accompanied by the scanning technology to read Universal Product Codes. This technology was so transformative for retail that it found widespread adoption. These days, no one even gives the technology that facilitates their shopping transactions a second thought. Silicon Valley and Boston always top the lists and rankings of technology and life sciences hubs. Like barcodes, Research Triangle Park often remains a distant thought. But there’s a lot happening in North Carolina that the rest of the country doesn’t know about. There’s more happening here than drug research and new cloud-based software. And it’s not just in the Park. …
  • “Tour of poultry plant shows what business may bring to Cumberland County,” Fayetteville Observer: Every day, 60 tractor-trailers loaded with chickens are hauled to Sanderson Farms Inc.’s only North Carolina plant, where they are processed into fresh meat for retailers such as Harris Teeter, Walmart and Lowes Foods. Sanderson Farms, which is considering a Cumberland County site for a processing plant that would employ 1,000 workers, gave The Fayetteville Observer a tour Monday of its Kinston operations employing 1,600. …
  • “State officials close down gas pump after water discovered in tank,” WBTV: Lauren Smith takes pride in the Mercedes that she normally drives, but these days the big sticker on her rear window reads ‘courtesy vehicle,’ and she says there’s a good reason for that. This past Sunday night, Lauren had just filled up with 93 octane at the Quick and Easy convenience store near Trade Street and I-77. “I drove about a mile home and then the next morning I made it about three blocks before the she engine seized up. I had to pull off, it broke down on the side of the road,” she said. After her car was towed to the dealership, Lauren returned to the store to complain, and that’s where she learned of another problem at the pump. …
  • “Premium Lock Precision agriculture: Tech drives next big thing in farming,” WRAL: Farming continues to evolve, becoming even more high tech. The latest wave is called “precision agriculture,” and it was the topic of the NC Ag Biotech Professional Forum at the NC Biotechnology Center, uses GPS guided, self-steering equipment, drones to monitor crops, precise, hyper-local weather reports, and the collection and analysis of data in real time for immediate action or strategic planning. WRAL TechWire Insider Allan Maurer has the exclusive details. …
  • “Agribusiness: What Does NC Produce The Most Of In The U.S.?” WFMY: North Carolina’s agriculture industry contributes $78 billion to the state’s economy. Agribusiness is everything from fish to Christmas trees, cotton to sweet potatoes! North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state. Not a surprise. What is the other crop they produce more than another other state? Sweet potatoes. North Carolina ranks second in the nation for Christmas trees and the production of hogs and turkeys. Agribusiness accounts for nearly 17% of the state’s income and employs 16% of the work force! Four Triad counties are in the top 10 in the state for producing beef cows. And one ranch in Snow Camp has been doing it the old fashioned way for 40+ years. And by old fashioned, we mean the rancher herds the cows by calling them! We visited Little Creek Ranch a few years ago to show you how cattle is Made in the Triad. …
  • “N.C. State Fair makes Fodor’s Top 10 list,” Triangle Business Journal: The North Carolina State Fair, held each October in Raleigh, has made it to Fodor’ s list of Top 10 State Fairs in the U.S. Ours is the only southeastern state fair on the list, and the Midwest dominates the list with five. …
  • “Apple growers escape ‘crazy’ weather with good crop,” Hendersonville Times-News: With the N.C. Apple Festival right around the corner, Henderson County’s apple orchards are lucky to have weathered freeze, frost and hail storms mostly intact, farmers and county extension agents say. “Everybody around has got different damage in different orchards,” said Jerred Nix, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers. “Some places, Romes are affected; other places, they’re not. Some places, Galas are affected, and others they’re fine.” Despite the scattered damage, Nix said they’ll be no lack of unblemished apples in a range of varieties for sale at the Apple Festival, which starts Aug. 29 and runs through Sept. 1. “There’s going to be plenty,” he said. “One grower might be a little bit short on something, but the next two growers are likely to have it. It’s just sporadic the way the weather’s happened. It was so crazy this year.” …




Beetle-trapping wasps help track potentially invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:45

Little League, school and travel-club baseball teams are not the only ones making use of baseball diamonds these days.

Some fields are also home to Cerceris fumipennis, a native, non-stinging wasp that bores brood nests into the ground to lay lay its eggs on the beetles it traps and brings to the lair. To look casually at a field, you could easily overlook the tell-tale signs of cerceris wasps — small volcano-shaped eruptions from the ground with larger holes in the center.

A cerceris wasp emerges from its nest.

Entomologist Whitney Swink marks wasps nests with flags on a Louisburg baseball field.

Turns out these beetle-gathering wasps are scientists’ biosurveillence allies in keeping track of beetles in an area — both the good ones and the bad.  And, with North Carolina officially joining the ranks in 2013 of states with the highly destructive emerald ash borer, interest is strong in knowing what types of beetles cerceris wasps are capturing, said Whitney Swink, an entomologist working in the NCDA&CS Beneficial Insects Lab. To date, only Connecticut has been successful in identifying emerald ash borers using the cerceris wasp, but other states are operating similar programs to North Carolina’s in an effort to keep watch for the movement of the emerald ash borer.

“When it comes to destructive beetles, the wasps could locate beetles long before we would notice tree decline. So the hope is we would be able to save trees before they had too much damage,” Swink said.

On a recent sunny summer morning, Swink visited a Louisburg ball field to check wasp activity at the site. Swink and a co-worker had previously identified the field as a good, active site with around 60 easily detected nests. Using bright pink flag markers to note the brood nest sites, Swink waited and watched for the wasps to return to their nests carrying beetles.

Armed with a flowing, butterfly-style net, Swink walked back and forth between the first- and third-base sidelines watching for wasp activity. And it wasn’t too long before her efforts were rewarded. With a well-practiced swipe and twirl of the net, Swink hauled in a wasp with a paralyzed beetle. Before releasing the wasp, Swink carefully measured and wrote down information about the capture, depositing the beetle in a plastic bag to be examined at more length in the lab.

Catching a wasp takes a well-trained eye and a quick swing of the net.

This successful catch has both a wasp, pictured at top of net, and the beetle, seen near the bottom.

On one side of the field, Swink placed small, rectangular, yellow plastic pieces with holes over the nests. With stones to hold them in place, these served as collars for the nests, allowing enough room for the wasp to enter the nest, but not enough room for them to also take in beetles.

Knowing when a flying wasp was carrying a beetle requires a well-trained eye.

“They have a specific flight pattern, so once you know what they look like, then it is easier to spot them,” she said.

The wasp tends to curl its tail inward and bob up and down close to the ground, she explained. When they are trying to get their bearings to their nests, they tend to fly higher in the air and circle around the site.

Swink places a collar over a nest to aid in the collection of beetles.

While there is a good deal that is known about the wasp, there is still plenty more to discover.

“Our basic understanding is that the adults live six to eight weeks,” Swink said. “When the wasp finds a beetle, she’ll paralyze it and take it into her brood nest and she’ll lay her eggs on it. Her brood will actually kill it after they hatch. Once a female lays as many eggs as she is going to, she plugs up the entrance to her nest. At the end of their flight season, we sometimes find the female dead in the entrance.”

And there are other unexplained behaviors.

When it comes to beetles, the wasps tend to collect all sizes of them, so there is not one particular type they are partial to.

“We don’t know how they find the beetles, whether it’s by sight, by smell, by sound or from some characteristic of damaged trees,” she said. Also, these insects are not known to be social, but Swink has noticed the wasps returning sometimes in clusters, leading to some funny moments in capturing the wasps. “A bunch of them will come back all at once with beetles and I’m running around all over the place trying to collect them.”

One of the interesting aspects of the biosurveillence program is the “Adopt a Colony Program,” where community members can volunteer to monitor a site.

Volunteers will check a site once a week for five to six weeks and then send in their beetles to the lab, Swink said. Most sites are in Western North Carolina, but there are some in the East, too.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the program, contact Swink at 919-233-8214 or by email at











Flavor, NC: Currituck Soft Shell Crabs

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 14:38

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode nine of Season 3, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights soft shell crabs from Currituck County and Steamers Restaurant in Corolla. 

“It wouldn’t be summer in the South without a trip to the beach,” says Lisa. “And it wouldn’t be a trip to the beach without seafood.” The North Carolina coast is teeming this time of year with fresh and local fish and shellfish. In 2013, North Carolina’s fisherman harvested 50 million pounds of fish and shellfish. Danny Newbern, a fisherman from Powells Point, has been fishing and crabbing the waters of Currituck Sound for about 30 years. Each season he harvests 15,000 to 20,000 soft-shell crabs. A soft shell crab is a blue crab that has outgrown it’s shell. A blue crab molts its shell about 20 times throughout the course of its life, giving a fisherman about 20 times to catch him. Beginning with the first full moon of May, Newbern traps the crabs and checks for ones getting ready to molt. These soft shell crabs are then sold at seafood markets and to restaurants.

One of these restaurants is Steamers in Corolla. Lisa spent some time in the kitchen to learn the basics of cooking soft shell crabs. Chef Chris Braswell also shared a few recipes including the one below for Baked Soft Shell Crab:


  • 4 soft shell crabs washed and cleaned
  • ½ pound peeled local shrimp
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • ½ stick of butter
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 batch Chermoula Sauce (recipe follows)

Combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Season soft-shell crabs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in saute pan and saute crabs on each side until brown, about one or two minutes. Remove crabs and place in a baking dish top-side up. Deglaze saute pan with white wine. Add garlic, butter and shallots and reduce. Add shrimp to Garlic Shallot Saute. Heat for two to three minutes. Top soft shell crabs with shrimp saute and bread crumb/cheese mix. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Plate and drizzle with Chermoula Sauce

Chermoula Sauce:


  • 1 cup cilantro, stems and leaves
  • ½ cup parsley, stems and leaves
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Mix cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and spices in a food processor. Mix well, chopping stems and leaves to a pulp. Slowly blend in olive oil.

For more recipes, visit the Got to Be N.C. seafood cookbook at

Today’s Topic: Legislature makes change in farm-income requirements for sales-tax exemption

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 07:50

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

Farmers across North Carolina recently received letters from the state Department of Revenue alerting them to changes in the eligibility requirements for the exemption on sales taxes for supplies they purchase, and the steps farmers need to take if they want to continue to qualify. The NCDA&CS has received a number of calls and emails about this issue, because it’s going to affect a good number of small farmers.

The General Assembly’s tax modernization act last year increased the minimum level of farm revenue required for farmers to qualify for the sales-tax exemption. The minimum income needed to qualify was increased from $1,000 to $10,000, and it took effect July 1. Farmers can also qualify if their average gross income in the previous three years was $10,000.

The bottom line here is that many small farmers are now at risk of losing their sales-tax exemption. Commissioner Troxler says he shares their frustration over these changes and is concerned about their effects on small farms.

When legislators first began discussing possible changes to tax laws, the proposals were more far-reaching and potentially even more detrimental to farmers. The department fought to keep the sales-tax exemption for farms, but unfortunately the legislature increased the amount of revenue required to qualify for the exemption.

Farmers with questions about how to reapply for their exemption can call the Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Assistance and Collection Center at 1-877-252-4487. Information also is available on the Revenue Department’s website.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss these changes and their potential impacts.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Made in NC: Norm’s Farms

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 11:44

In celebration of Got to Be N.C. month we are featuring local farms and businesses and their products that are Grown. Raised. Caught. Made. here. This week we focus on Made, highlighting Norm’s Farms in Pittsboro.

Rodger Lenhardt, his wife Ann, and daughter Erin are elderberry farmers who use their crop plus the berries from other growers to make jellies, jams and extracts that are sold in about 60 retail locations in the state. “Our products are produced and distributed in North Carolina but only a small portion of our elderberry is grown here,” Lenhardt said. “We are hoping to change that by working with small farmers who are interested in growing elderberry for us.”  Lenhardt sells nursery stock on his website to encourage farmers and homeowners to grow elderberry on their land. It takes about five or six years for an elderberry plant to reach full productivity.

D’vine Foods in Elizabethtown processes the jams, jellies and extracts for Norm’s Farms and then the products are stored at a warehouse in Raleigh. “It’s been a great relationship with them,” Lenhardt said. “They have even helped us with sourcing local blueberries and other commodities for our products. We introduced blueberry-elderberry preserves at the Taste of Charlotte show last month it was a big hit. I think it going to be a great seller.”

Norm’s Farms is a frequent participator in shows and events hosted by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It was at one of these shows he met buyers from Whole Foods that offered him good advice. He was packaging his elderberry juice in barbecue sauce-style bottles. The problem was they didn’t fit on store shelves except for the very top or bottom, which isn’t an ideal place for selling. Also, calling his product a juice confused the consumer. “They weren’t sure if the product was a juice or a sauce, or how to use it,” Lenhardt said. He took the buyers’ advice and changed the shape and size of the bottle to one that fit on shelves easier, and changed the name of the product to extract instead of juice. “Extract actually is a better description of the product and its use,” he said. At the next Flavors Show, the regional buyer for Whole Foods placed an order that put Norm’s Farm’s Elderberry Extract and Elderberry Wellness Syrup in all 10 North Carolina stores. “We stay busy doing demos at these locations as well as other retail locations we are in,” Lenhardt added.

Norm’s Farms display at a Whole Foods in Chapel Hill.

Norm’s Farms continues to participate in NCDA&CS-sponsored events and shows. These include Flavors of Carolina, Got to Be N.C. Food and Wine Expo and, Lenhartd’s favorite, The Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. “We were in the Got to Be N.C. section last year and it was a successful show for us,” he said. “It opened a few doors for us to be at other music festival shows that were coming up.”

“Setting up a booth and attending shows is a great way to get your product known with food buyers and the public. It certainly has helped us form relationships with customers, other small businesses and interested buyers. We extend a huge thank you to the NCDA&CS staff that set up and sponsor shows like Flavors of Carolina.”

Lenhardt’s goals for future growth include growing more elderberry in North Carolina, including finding two or three acres in Chatham County to grow. “We would really like to be a part of the Chatham County Farm Tour,” he said. He is also looking into gaining a few angel investors to help fund test plots in North Carolina in the Piedmont, Mountain and Coastal Plain areas. “We would like to get some national attention for elderberry, and its health benefits, as well.”

More information on N.C. specialty foods can be found online. For upcoming events visit

News Roundup: July 12-18

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:00

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.

  • “NCDA’s ‘Dig Into Local’ Restaurant Week Underway,” Southern Farm Network: This summer’s restaurant promotion through North Carolina Department of Agriculture is a bit different than in years past. Tim Parrish, Food Service Marketing Specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, explains: “We have taken a spin off a restaurant week promotion and created a promotion called ‘Dig Into Local Restaurant Week’ as a fixed source week. These chefs are agreeing to put at least four items in their menu that have NC connections.” …
  • “New Sales Tax Exemption Guidelines for North Carolina Farmers,” Southern Farm Network: North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Jake Parker and Paul Sherman are featured in a short video that outlines the new sales tax exemption guidelines that affect the state’s farmers – enacted by the state’s General Assembly recently. Parker and Sherman outline how a farmer maintains sales tax exemption for his farm, and the procedures required to qualify, the forms needed, and corresponding deadlines. …
  • “Hydroponic Lettuce Takes Root In Eastern NC,” Perishable News: Jedd Koehn is a young and innovative agricultural entrepreneur. Raised on an organic row-crop farm in western Kansas, he moved to North Carolina about nine years ago, wanting to live “where it was green.” Last November, his Pitt County company, Coastal Plains Produce, harvested its first crop of hydroponic lettuce. Now he finds himself surrounded by lots of green: 13 kinds of lettuce, plus watercress, arugula and dandelion greens. …
  • “Eat a peach, Asheville,” Asheville Citizen-Times News: Along with tomatoes and corn, peaches rank high on the list of most-coveted summer foods. Even those who rarely set foot in a farmers market are likely to be drawn by the prospect of buying a bushel of the fragrant, fuzzy fruit. How about the thought of a still-warm cobbler with vanilla ice cream mingling with the syrup as it melts? See WNC Parent editor Katie Wadington’s cobbler recipe and peach-buying tips (at the end of this story). The WNC Farmers Market (570 Brevard Road) is bursting with peaches these days, though plenty come from out of state. There’s no shame in that, but plenty of local orchards grow peaches, too, even though we have precious few streets named after the sweet fruit for which Georgia is known. Molly Nicholie, of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project said even though our area is best known for berries and apples, local orchards also bear plenty of peaches and plums. “South Carolina’s heat helps with the sweetness, but it’s not that much hotter,” she said, adding that ASAP’s Local Food Guide lists a large number of local farms growing peaches. …
  • “Store caters to local food lovers,” Winston-Salem Journal: When Becky Zollicoffer worked in a medical office, she never found time to go to farmers markets. She still doesn’t have time, but that’s OK. …
  • “Lorillard deal keeps Greensboro ahead of pack,” Greensboro News & Record: Greensboro leaders breathed a tad easier Tuesday after learning there’s a chance the massive sale of Lorillard might keep many of the tobacco company’s 2,900 jobs intact, including cigarette-making, product research, sales and management functions. As part of the 250-year-old cigarette-maker’s $27.4 billion sale to Reynolds American, a British company — Imperial Tobacco — would take control of Lorillard’s manufacturing, headquarters and research facilities in the Gate City. …
  • “Tobacco Company Merger Not a Great Concern for Producers,” Southern Farm Network: Triad-based Reynolds-American and Lorillard cigarette makers have agreed to merge, who together will have about 45% market share, with Phillip Morris continuing to have the majority of market share in the US. Blake Brown, NC State Extension economist says producers should take note of the merger, but not be especially concerned: “I think its something to take note of but it’s a trend we have seen for three decades. We have seen consolidation consistently and we will see some more. The part they need to be concerned about is what happens with e-cigarettes and noncombustible products. The new types of nicotine delivery will really have an impact on them over the next five years. It could have an impact on how much tobacco the companies need.” …
  • “Good morning! I’m here to scout your crop,” Delta Farm Press: They stir the imagination and tickle the fancy of possibility, but for now, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in agriculture are still a work in progress. They don’t zap insects, pull pigweeds or drive hungry deer from soybean fields – just yet. When a GPS signal shifts without warning, they might just land in a ditch full of water. Sometimes, they just fly off into the wild blue yonder. But they can “see” fields from new perspectives, detect pest infestations more quickly, spot problems in equipment and get around the farm faster than you ever could in a pickup truck, leaving you more time to figure out, say, the new farm bill. …
  • “Late blight threatens Carolinas tomatoes,” Lake Norman News: Late blight, the dreaded disease that wiped out the East Coast tomato crop in 2009, has shown up again in North Carolina. First identified in late June on potatoes growing in the Coastal Plain, it has also attacked a field of tomatoes in the mountains near Hendersonville. Dr. Lina Quesada-Ocampo, plant pathologist with N.C. State University, warns that the late blight pathogen can travel long distances and lurk in gardens and fields until environmental conditions are right, then destroy crops virtually overnight. …
  • “Recent Heavy Rains Not Hampering Crops,” WITN: The summer growing season is well underway and we wanted to see how crops are faring after all the heavy rains we’ve had lately. At the Davenport Farm in Pitt County growers tell us crops like soy beans and tobacco are handling the rain well. They did caution that those crops, along with peanuts and cotton, still have to make it through to the fall before they’ll be ready for harvest. …



Peach ice cream is a cool treat for a hot summer day

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:50

Today is National Peach Ice Cream Day and nothing compares to the sweet taste of homemade ice cream on a hot summer’s day. With North Carolina’s peach season in full swing, it’s the perfect time to head over to your local farmers market, pick up a few fresh peaches and whip up some homemade peach ice cream. North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for peach production, with farmers growing about 35 million pounds of peaches each year. That makes for a lot of peach ice cream!

Also, if you are in the Triad area tomorrow, head over to Peach Day at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax where they’ll be giving away free peach ice cream samples from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Celebrate Peach Ice Cream Day by trying out the recipe below.


  • 3 cups peach pulp
  • 2 quarts milk
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 4  eggs (slightly beaten )


To the peach pulp add the lemon juice and 1 cup of the sugar–all to stand 1 hour. Add the other cup of sugar and salt to the beaten eggs. Then blend in half of the milk. Cook the sugar, egg, and milk mixture over boiling water to create thick custard. Cool. Add the remainder of milk, the cream that has been partially whipped, the flavoring, and sweetened peach pulp. Pour mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Instructions and time may vary.) Recipe makes 1 gallon of ice cream.



The Butterfly Effect: The impact of an invasive disease on native butterfly populations

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 11:34

If we lose the redbay tree, we may also lose the Palamedes Swallowtail, which feeds almost exclusively on redbay as a caterpillar (caterpillar pictured left; adult pictured right). Images: Left: J. N. Dell, University of Georgia,; Right: J. Payne, USDA,

Laurel wilt disease, a disease caused by a fungal pathogen, has already had major impacts on redbay trees across the Southeast. The pathogen is spread from tree to tree by the non-native redbay ambrosia beetle, a small insect that seeks out healthy redbays. A single beetle attacking a tree can spell doom and trees may die in as little as a few weeks. Already known to occur in six N.C. counties, the disease continues to spread.

While the death of redbay may not garner as much attention as, say, the death of a valuable lumber species such as walnut or ash, the ecological effects of losing redbay could be quite significant, especially for one of North Carolina’s most charismatic butterflies.

The Palamedes swallowtail feeds almost exclusively on redbay as a caterpillar. In turn, many fear that losing the redbay also means losing the Palamedes swallowtail. To determine if this is true, the N.C. Forest Service Forest Health Section has teamed up with Dr. John Riggins at Mississippi State University to survey the populations of swallowtails in areas both affected and unaffected by laurel wilt. By comparing the population dynamics in these areas over time, a population trend of the butterflies can be determined.

Are the populations indeed decreasing? Preliminary data seems to suggest so, but only time will tell. This summer marks the second year that NCFS will conduct the survey. For more information about laurel wilt, visit NCFS’ laurel wilt FAQ page.

July: What’s happening on the farm?

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:45

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.

There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs.

Alex Addison trims the research station’s Fraser fir crop.

The Christmas season may be several months away, but in Ashe County, known as the Christmas tree capital of the world, it’s growing season and Christmas tree farmers are busy. The Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs has about 15 acres of Christmas trees. These trees are used in research including ground cover studies, needle retention rates, shearing practices, pest management and fertilization techniques.

“Christmas trees are a year-round crop,” said Tracy Taylor, interim superintendent. “In the dead of winter after harvest it’s a little slower, but spring through the growing season is busy managing weeds and insects. Just like any other crop, it’s a full-time job during growing season.”

Trees are sheared annually in the spring, and during July research station staff are spraying for weeds, keeping the grass mowed between the trees and other maintenance needed on the fields of trees at the station.

Research station employee Bill Fairchild walks through a stand of young Fraser firs.

Most of the trees at the station are about 5 to 12 years old. Christmas trees start their life in a seed bed, where they grow for about two to three years, then they are transferred to a line bed for another year or so. The Christmas trees that dot the landscape at the station are already around 5 or 6 years old when planted.

The station also maintains a seed orchard for Fraser firs. A seed orchard is a managed area of trees that are maintained for their genetics and used to create new trees or to re-establish a forest. At the station, the trees are grafted with specific genetics and seeds cans be harvested with these known genetics.

In addition to the fertilizer, weed control and pest management studies, several post-harvest studies are performed on the trees. These studies include best harvesting time, needle retention rates and flammability studies. One study is being done of a different variety of tree, the Turkish fir, to study its disease resistance and tolerance to North Carolina’s climate. Many of the results of the research being done at the station is presented to growers at the annual N.C. Christmas Tree Association meeting. The good news for consumers is that many of these studies will lead to hardier trees for the Christmas season.

Cows graze at the research station.

Christmas trees are not the only crop keeping staff busy at the station this month. The Upper Mountain Research Station is just one of two stations in the state that grows burley tobacco for research. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries also are grown at the station as part of the effort to study ways to extend the availability of fresh North Carolina berries. And, the station is the only seed orchard for the Carolina Hemlock in the United States.

During the hot summer months, beef cattle from the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville are relocated here to spend the summer. In July, there are about 150 beef cattle at the station. Just like kids at summer camp, the cattle enjoy the cooler temperatures  and graze on the abundant cool season grasses. “Other stations will use their fields to grow hay and other silage during the summer months,” said Taylor. “Sending the cattle here allows them to get their work done in the fields. It sounds like they are coming up here for summer camp, but there is really a lot more behind it.”

Recently, North Carolina changed its approach to beef cattle and has moved toward creating a single statewide beef research herd. This will help remove variability in research and increase the study size for research. Another advantage to the cattle spending the summers in cooler mountain air is that they stay reproductive in the heat of the summer.

To help support the beef cattle research, the station is in the middle of renovating one of its buildings into an indoor livestock facility for working cattle. This would include space for vaccinating, de-worming, weighing and more. Also underway is a project to replace fencing at the station, including 50 acres of pasture land, and provide well water instead of creek water for the cattle to drink.

Whether you think of work at the Upper Mountain Research Station this month as Christmas in July, or cows gone camping, one things for sure: It’s a busy time at this farm.




Today’s Topic: Tobacco growers approve assessment program

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:59

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

Flue-cured tobacco growers in North Carolina recently approved an assessment to support the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina’s efforts to promote the interests of its farmers. The assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Growers approved an assessment of up to 15 cents per hundred pounds of flue-cured tobacco sold in North Carolina. But initially, the association will collect only 10 cents per hundred pounds. The assessment will begin this year and will be collected when farmers sell their tobacco. Tobacco buyers will submit collected funds to the NCDA&CS for distribution to the association.

Until now, tobacco was one of the few commodities in the state without a checkoff program to support advocacy work. Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill authorizing the Tobacco Growers Association to conduct the referendum.

This assessment joins existing checkoff programs that support tobacco research and export promotion.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the new tobacco checkoff program.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Seven N.C. specialty food companies compete in national contest

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:55

We all know that when you want the best that’s Grown, Raised, Caught or Madeit’s Got To Be NC! Now let’s let the rest of the nation know. Seven North Carolina food companies are competing in the national Specialty Food Association’s second annual My Story My Ad contest. And they need our help to win. Each contestant has shared their story and why they should win. The top 10 entries will be selected by the number of votes received on the contest’s website, and then a panel of judges will narrow down a winner, based on originality, creativity and relevance to brand. A People’s Choice winner will also be selected from the top 10 entries based on votes through contest’s website.

The grand prize winner will receive an advertising campaign valued at $15,000. Campaign will include concept, design, copywriting, professional photo shoot, artwork production and placement in all Specialty Food Media products. The people’s choice winner will receive an iPad (valued at $500).

Your vote helps support local businesses, and shows our pride in the products that are Made in North Carolina. So take a look at the entries below and pick a favorite. You can vote once a day through midnight on July 20. Click on photos below to read their stories and be sure to vote!

Big Boss Baking, High Point

Good Rub Seasoning, Morrisville

Millchap Sweet Potato Company, Charlotte

Miss Jenny’s Pickles, Kernersville

Nello’s Tomato Sauce, Raleigh

Owem G. Willikers’ Chocolaty Chile Elixirs

Slawsa, Cramerton


Raised in NC: Harris-Robinette Beef

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 11:41

In celebration of Got to Be N.C. month we are featuring local farms and businesses and their products that are Grown. Raised. Caught. Made. here. This week we focus on Raised and highlight Harris-Robinette Beef in Edgecombe County.

Raised represents our state’s thriving livestock industry. Livestock, dairy and poultry represented almost 63 percent of the $11.7 billion in farm cash receipts in 2012.

There are about 750 farmers registered as meat and poultry handlers in North Carolina. These farmers sell their products at farmers markets, restaurants and direct to consumers. All meat and poultry handlers must be registered and inspected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Meat and Poultry Inspection Division. This segment of the industry has seen explosive growth over the last few years, with an additional two or three farmers seeking registration weekly.

Many of these meat handlers are smaller operations, selling to a few neighbors or at a local farmers market. Some, like Harris-Robinette Beef in Pinetops, have a broader consumer base and have been around a little longer. Owner Patrick Robinette raises Senepol Cross cows and has been selling since 2000. “Our main market is restaurants,” he said. “We had a chef ask us if we would sell directly to his restaurant, then a friend of his who owned another restaurant was interested, too, and sales just snowballed from there. We are in about 31 restaurants on a steady basis, and an additional 16 regularly.” A little more than a year ago he also obtained a slaughter facility, Micro Summit Processors, which allows him to control all aspects of production and provide services for other meat handlers. Robinette remodeled the facility for beef, lamb and goat slaughter.

Patrick Robinette (left) and family

Robinette sees market access becoming easier as consumer attitudes toward buying local become more mainstream. “Millennials are controlling the food purchasing and they want to know the story,” Robinette said. “They are looking for a food experience and want their plate to be a work of art.” For a limited time, Robinette offered his beef at the Carlie C’s IGA in Raleigh, and sees that as the likely next step. “Local grocery stores like Lowes Food are probably the next step for offering locally grown meat products,” he said. “It’s not quite widespread there yet, but it is coming.”

“My advice for farmers just starting out in selling their own products would be to know your product, know your production and tell your story,” Robinette said. “Customers want to know the story.”

Robinette has also benefited from his relationship with staff in the NCDA&CS Marketing Division. “The marketing specialists have connections and have been helpful in getting into several restaurants,” he said. In 2012, the department began the Savor NC on the Menu program as part of the Got to Be NC marketing initiative. This program recognizes restaurants, along with chefs and distribution partners, that support sourcing, purchasing, preparing and promoting N.C. products and ingredients. Department staff help farmers such as Robinette get his products into restaurants and helps promote restaurants that support local farmers. “They are awesome in connecting and networking,” Robinette said. “The staff is forward thinking and that’s a real benefit.”

Today is the kick-off of the Savor NC “Dig into Local” Restaurant Week. Diners in eight Piedmont counties can enjoy special, locally sourced menu items at 42 participating restaurants through July 23.

For more information about Savor NC and a list of participating restaurants, visit Information about Harris-Robinette Beef can be found online at

Next week: Made in North Carolina, featuring a Chatham County specialty foods producer.




News Roundup: July 4-11

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 11:22

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.

  • “Hurricane Arthur Damaged Hyde County Corn Crops,” WUNC: The path that Hurricane Arthur took last week hit an area of the state where a lot of corn is grown. And several farmers will be affected. Leoneda Inge reports on corn damage in Hyde County caused by Hurricane Arthur. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and staff traveled by Forest Service plane to see the crop damage first hand. …
  • “Pig virus devastates production,” Fayetteville Observer: The way Amanda Hatcher sees it, the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus “is still a work in progress.” Hatcher is a livestock agent from Duplin County, which along with Sampson County, rank first and second in hog production in North Carolina. “This is not just an economic impact. It’s something terrible. Something difficult,” Hatcher said. “It’s like a problem, and you have to find a solution.” The virus has killed an estimated 8 million pigs nationwide, mostly pre-weaned piglets, over the past 14 months, according to the National Pork Producers Council. …
  • “Many questions surround stevia production in North Carolina,” Southeast Farm Press: Stevia is so new to North Carolina that researchers and farmers say there are far more questions than answers on producing the crop, but because of an established market and growing demand, they are committed to expanding acreage in the Tar Heel State. Stevia uses similar production practices as tobacco, which makes it as a good joint crop with tobacco in North Carolina. However, David Shew, professor of plant pathology at North Carolina State University, said farmers must do their homework. …
  • “Keeping gas stations compliant,” WNCT: It’s a routine we’re all too familiar with, filling up at the pump and we all want to make sure we’re getting what we pay for. John Gurkin is an area supervisor for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Standards Division. He and his team of inspectors make sure you’re not getting cheated. …
  • “NC funds 6 cellulosic biofuel, bioenergy research projects,” Ethanol Producer: North Carolina recently awarded six projects a total of $500,000 through the state’s Bioenergy Research Initiative, which is a program of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Special consideration is given to projects that focus on field and forest crop production for cellulosic ethanol feedstocks. “We are excited to have the opportunity to explore bioenergy potential through these grants for North Carolina’s agricultural and forestry industries,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, in a press release. …
  • “N.C. beekeepers meet here: Importance of sharing information emphasized,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Illustrating that there is no “perfect way” to raise honeybees, Dr. David Tarpy, state apiculturist, quipped in an interview Tuesday that asking five beekeepers the same question can result in 10 different answers. Amid challenging times and new questions for people with honeybees, said Tarpy, North Carolina still leads the nation in beekeepers per capita partly because of the willingness of the state’s beekeepers to work together and share what they know. He said this strength of the community of beekeepers and growth of apiculture in the state is reflected in the N.C. State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA), which has grown from a membership of about 1,200 when Tarpy started teaching at North Carolina State University 11 years ago to over 4,000 now. …
  • “US (SC): Using science to grow better strawberries,” Fresh Plaza: “North Carolina is able to grow strawberries because of all the science and technology that is devoted to the crop,” said Debby Wechsler, executive secretary of the North Carolina Strawberry Association. “It’s really what is known as intense management. It takes a lot of care. It’s not like you just throw them out and let them grow.” A good example of that intense management can be seen on the Waller Family Farm in Durham, NC. Mark Waller farms 40 acres of strawberries on what used to be a tobacco farm. Customers can pick their own strawberries or visit the market he runs during the strawberry season, which lasts anywhere from April through June. …
  • “Dollar General in Eden fined for price-scanning errors,” Greensboro News & Record: A Dollar General store in Eden has been fined for a high rate of price-scanning errors, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The store, located at 519 Morgan Road, paid $600 in civil penalties. An initial inspection found an error rate of 6 percent, according to the department’s Standards Division. A second inspection in April revealed an error rate of 2.67 percent. …
  • “Taxes on e-cigarettes benefit Big Tobacco, Big Government,” Charlotte Observer: From Stewart Dompe, an adjunct professor of economics at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, and Adam C. Smith, an assistant professor of economics and director of the Center for Free Market Studies at Johnson & Wales University: North Carolina recently levied a five-cent tax on each milliliter of nicotine liquid used by electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes are a new technology that allow smokers to inhale their fix via a cloud of water vapor, flavor and nicotine, and are widely viewed as an aid for nicotine addicts to kick the habit. …
  • “Business, ag groups call for immigration reform,” Asheville Citizen-Times News: A group of business, manufacturing and agriculture leaders, including a nursery owner from Western North Carolina, is pushing for Congress to take up immigration reform this year. “The issue of immigration reform cannot wait any longer,” said Burt Lemkes, a co-owner at Van Wingerden International, a large greenhouse operation in Mills River. “Our businesses are hurting, and our employees and employers are scared.” Lemkes spoke during a conference call hosted Wednesday by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of more than 500 Republican, Democratic and independent mayors, as well as business leaders who support immigration reform as a way of creating jobs for Americans today. …
  • “Fantastic Peanut Season Underway,” Southern Farm Network: It’s hard to remember a better year for growing peanuts than this one says Bob Sutter, CEO of the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association: “Its been good this year. Most everyone has plenty of water and for the most part the entire crop looks good.” As to USDA’s planted acres report last month, Sutter says the report showed more peanut acres in the Tar Heel State: “We went up to about 90,000; a 10,000 acre increase.” …

Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Dean Thompson

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 14:26

Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This month, we are featuring Chef Dean Thompson of Flights in Raleigh.  Thompson was the 2013 Fire in the Triangle Champion.

The Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces off two local chefs in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. The chef’s menu is created around a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed at noon on the day of the competition. This secret ingredient must be used in each of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. The competition is held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.
Thompson went up against Chef Joseph Yarnell of Cantina 18 in the opening battle of Fire in the Triangle on June 23. The secret ingredients were sourdough and whole wheat breads and white chocolate baguettes from La Farm Bakery in Cary and Kolsch-style beer from White Street Brewing in Wake Forest. Thompson will compete in the sold out July 14 battle against Chef John Childers of Herons at the Umstead in Cary. Tickets are still available for a few remaining Fire in the Triangle events in Raleigh. Tickets for Fire in the City in Charlotte are also available.

Following is Thompson’s recipe for Kolsh Hollandaise, which was part of the highest scoring dish of the battle – White Street Kolsh-Marinated Venison, Kolsh-Braised Mushrooms, Savory Lobster Bread Pudding and Kolsh Hollandaise.

Kolsch Hollandaise

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups clarified butter
  • A dash of truffle oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire
  • A dash of Texas Pete
  • 1 cup White Street Brewery Kolsch

1. Whisk eggs in a figure-eight-style movement, over double boiler. Make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl. The figure-eight technique will help keep the hollandaise fluffy. You will need to occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl to prevent the egg from scrambling. You are looking for the egg to lighten in color to a pale yellow. If overcooked you will see little pieces of scrambled yolk, start over. Once you achieve the proper color remove from the heat and place on a wet towel or a pot with a wet towel to hold the bowl in place.
2. Now take clarified butter that is about 140 degrees, it needs to be hot. You are going to slowly ladle the butter into the egg while figure eight-ing your whisk at a fairly rapid pace. When the mixture starts to get thick like mayonnaise add a teaspoon of the beer. Continue to add all of the butter with occasional beer in between to keep the consistency the preferred fluffy and pourable, but not runny. Remember you can always add more liquid but you can’t take it out. You may or may not use all of the beer. The trick is to get a consistency that is a little thicker than desired finish product.
3. When the hollandaise is just a little thicker than you want, start to add truffle oil, salt, lemon juice, Worcestershire and Texas Pete, one ingredient at a time, while still whisking at a somewhat rapid pace. This should finish it off, and it will be ready to serve immediately. Hollandaise is a weak emulsion and cannot be held hot or even all that warm. Try and make it as close to service as possible to eliminate the possibility for a broken sauce.


Got to Be NC is taking to the airwaves

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 09:25

A new commercial will start airing across the state today featuring North Carolina agricultural products. The commercial was produced by the NCDA&CS Marketing Division and timed to air during Got to Be NC Month. The commercial features the division’s newest marketing slogan, Grown. Raised. Caught. Made.

The commercial narrative goes like this:

In North Carolina, we get up before the sun rises and stay up into the wee hours of the night.

We believe in working hard. And playing harder.

Behind every meal, there is a farmer.

And behind every farmer, there’s Got to Be NC, the official state identity program for North Carolina agricultural products.

Look for the Got to Be NC logo wherever you shop or eat and you’ll know you’re getting a quality product grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina.

 Watch the commercial and let us know what you think. And don’t forget to support your local farmers by purchasing products that are grown, raised, caught or made right here. Because if you want the best, it’s Got to Be NC!

Take a trip to a farmers market for Got to Be NC Agriculture Month

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 07:52

July has been declared Got to Be NC Agriculture Month in North Carolina. To celebrate, why not take a trip to one of the four state-operated farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax or Raleigh? There is plenty of fresh produce available, as well as meats and cheeses, wines and specialty products made in North Carolina. In addition, the farmers markets are hosting these special events this month:

Celebrate Watermelon Day at all four of the state-operated farmers markets this July.

Peach Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
Free peach ice cream and a peach dessert contest are part of the lineup of activities at the State Farmers Market for Peach Day July 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Blackberry and Blueberry Day, Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax
This event has become very popular in the Triad with free samples of N.C. berries and plenty available for purchase. Stop by from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 11 to for a “berry” special event.

Watermelon Day, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte
The N.C. Watermelon Queen will be on hand July 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. passing out free slices of fresh, juicy N.C. watermelon.

Watermelon Day, Western NC Farmers Market, Asheville
If you missed the event in Charlotte, take a trip to Asheville July 18 for another day of watermelon fun with free watermelon slices, a visit from the N.C. Watermelon Queen, and a watermelon-eating contest for the kids from 11 a.m.  to 1 p.m.

Peach Day, Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax
Also on July 18, the Triad farmers market will host a Peach Day celebration with a peach recipe contest and free peach samples from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Watermelon Day, Robert G. Shaw Triad Farmers Market, Colfax
The following week on July 25, the market will be passing out free slices of fresh, juicy N.C. Watermelon to shoppers from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit the market and have your photo taken with the N.C. Watermelon Queen.

Watermelon Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
The State Farmers Market will host its Watermelon Day on July 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop by for free watermelon slices and meet the N.C. Watermelon Queen.

If you can’t make these special events, look for other opportunities to support local agriculture in the month of July. Visit a pick-your-own farm or brewery or winery, eat at a restaurant that supports local food during the inaugural Dig into Local Restaurant Week, or simply try a new North Carolina specialty product you’ve never tried before.

However you choose to celebrate, be on the lookout for the Got to Be NC logo wherever you shop. That way you’ll know you’re getting a quality product grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina. And while you’re celebrating, share with your friends through social media using the hashtag #GottobeNC. Find out other ways to get involved in the Got to Be NC celebration at



Today’s Topic: June report shows increases in soybean acreage

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 09:04

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

The June crop acreage forecast from USDA has been released, and it shows significant gains in soybean acres in North Carolina. The state is forecast to see a 16 percent increase in soybean acreage this year, with growers expected to plant 1.7 million acres.

The forecast in North Carolina reflects the interest in soybeans across the country. U.S. farmers are forecast to plant about 85 million acres of soybeans this year, which is a record. There are a couple of reasons for that. There is tremendous international demand for U.S. soybeans, particularly from China. And soybean prices have been strong for quite a while.

With all the interest in soybeans, corn acres in the U.S. and North Carolina are expected to decrease this year. The corn forecast for North Carolina is 860,000 acres, which is 8 percent less than a year ago.

The state also saw a drop in wheat acreage this year. The total was 830,000, compared with a record 990,000 acres last year.

Overall, though, the state is expecting increases. Other crops with acreage gains include sweet potatoes, which are forecast to be up 22 percent, and peanuts, which are expected to rise by 10 percent.

After two straight years of declines, the cotton crop is forecast to increase by 5,000 acres this year, to a total of 470,000.

And the tobacco crop is expected to be 182,800 acres, slightly above last year’s total of 181,900.

Planted acreage is only part of the story. Ultimately, it comes down to how many acres you are able to harvest, and how much you yield from those acres.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the latest acreage forecast.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Grown in NC: Garner Farms

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 14:43

Got to Be NC has a new marketing slogan – Grown. Raised. Caught. Made.

In celebration of Got to Be N.C. month we are featuring local farms and businesses and their products that are Grown. Raised. Caught. Made. here. To kick things off, we focus on Grown and highlight peanut farmer Ray Garner of Garner Farms in Halifax County.

North Carolina has about 5,000 peanut farms that produce 292 million pounds of peanuts each year, which ranks the state fifth in the nation in peanut production.

Ray Garner grows about 230 acres of peanuts on his farm in Halifax County. His family has been farming in North Carolina and Virginia for more than 300 years. The current farm, run by Garner, his dad and uncle, produces peanuts, wheat, soybeans and more than 1,700 acres of cotton. “The land we farm now has been in the family since my great-granddaddy bought it in 1900,” Garner said. If his children decide to follow him into the family business, they would be fifth-generation farmers. “If they would like to farm, I hope they really try and make a go of it,” he said. “I would help them be successful.”

“Getting started in farming is hard,” Garner said. “You almost have to have relatives in the business to be successful. Farming is expensive, it takes a phenomenal amount of capital to farm and it is hard to find land. A tractor can cost about $200,000 and a peanut combine is around $140,000.” Garner said for those who want to go into farming, coming from a farm family is an advantage, but he has seen others break into the business by choosing a mentor that farms and working with him. “Sometimes a farmer’s children will decide not to go into the business, in cases like this a farmer might look to train someone outside the family to take over the operation. I’ve seen this happen.”

Garner attended N.C. State University and earned his degree in agronomy, but he believes farming also takes experience that you only gain on the farm. “The only thing that helps you be ready to run your own farm is experience and common sense; you can’t farm by the book.” During growing season, Garner works six days, spending 60-plus hours a week in the field and even more doing paperwork once he’s finished in the fields. “Some of the challenges we face every year include having enough land to farm and the weather. My wife jokes about how much I watch The Weather Channel,” he said.

Farmer Ray Garner in one of his peanut fields

For peanuts, the soil is prepped in early spring and peanuts are planted the first of May. Garner plants about 130 pounds of peanuts per acre. Summer is spent managing the crop and protecting it from insects and diseases. In late September, the peanuts, which grow underground, are turned up and left to dry in the field for about five days. After drying, the crop is harvested and delivered to a nearby buying point where they are graded by N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors.

Most of Garner’s peanuts are purchased by Golden Peanut Company, which has a regional office in Ahoskie. Golden Peanut Company prepares the peanuts by cleaning, shelling (if needed) and storing the peanuts before they are sold to end users. The peanuts are shelled at the company’s shelling facility in Aulander. Most North Carolina peanut farmers grow the Virginia-type peanut that is often sold as cocktail peanuts or the in-shell peanuts that are popular at ballgames. Virginia-type peanuts have a large oval shape, reddish brown skin, and are among the largest peanuts grown. The Virginia Carolina Peanut association says the average person eats about 12 pounds of peanuts annually.

Some of Garner’s peanuts are sold overseas as well. Demand for North Carolina products is increasing in the global marketplace. “It is truly a world marketplace for agriculture,” Garner said. “But that also means prices on the global market affect prices for our commodities in North Carolina.” In 2012, total agricultural exports were $3.7 billion, a 189 percent increase from 2005. Earlier this month Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and staff from the department’s international marketing section visited Germany, Switzerland and England to promote N.C. agricultural products. “Demand for food worldwide is expected to increase by 60 percent by 2050,”  Troxler said. “Through inbound trade missions, overseas trips and our NCDA&CS office in Shanghai we want Got to Be N.C. to be known internationally as a symbol of quality.”

Agriculture may not be the same as it was when Garner’s great-great grandfather started farming; he probably couldn’t imagine $200,000 tractors and sales to China. Times have changed and farming has changed but agriculture remains our state’s number one industry and it’s growing, in part due to the hard work of farmers across our diverse state who deliver quality whether it’s Grown. Raised. Caught. or Made.


Next week: Raised in North Carolina. We will feature an Edgecombe County beef cattle farm.

News Roundup: June 28 – July 3

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 08:58

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.

  • “Bladenboro farmer producing electricity from hog waste,” Fayetteville Observer: From inside a red metal building on a hog farm, a roaring engine is generating enough electricity to supply about 300 homes. The fuel for the generator comes from the gassy byproduct of decomposing pig manure – waste that until now had been stored in six open-air lagoons spread over 21 acres just outside this Bladen County town of 1,750 residents. …
  • “High Point company sets sights on exporting,” High Point Enterprise: Since starting their granola business a few years ago, Rodney and Lavinia Hensley have found that tapping into new markets has been a key to the growth of Big Boss Baking Co. Retail chains like The Fresh Market and Whole Foods carry their homemade products — flavors such as Honey Vanilla, Apple Cinnamon, Honey Almond and Cranberry and Blueberry Walnut are especially popular — on the shelves of their stores all over the country. The High Point husband and wife have now found what they hope will be a vast new frontier of consumers. The Hensleys recently exported their first shipment of granola to China. The purchase came as a result of an inbound trade mission that was held in Concord in March that was organized by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. …
  • “For N.C. farmer, growing peaches is a labor of love,” Virginian Pilot: … Peach season is here, and North Carolina experts predict the harvest will be a good one. Growers in the state produce between 10 million and 11 million pounds a year, ranking 13th in the country, according to the National Peach Council. …
  • “Minnesota now the No. 2 U.S. hog state,” St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press: Minnesota has just surpassed North Carolina to become the nation’s No. 2 hog-and-pig state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday. According to the Hog and Pig Inventory taken June 1, Iowa still easily claims the No. 1 spot, with 19.2 million hogs and pigs. But Minnesota has inched past North Carolina, with 7.75 million hogs and pigs. “This marks the first time Minnesota has had the second largest inventory in the U.S. since records began,” USDA’s Minnesota office reported. The new ranking was due more to North Carolina’s losses rather than Minnesota’s gains. North Carolina has 13 percent fewer hogs and pigs than it did a year ago, in part due to outbreaks of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which kills young pigs.  …
  • “John Vollmer was among first in NC to adopt sustainability, move from tobacco,” News & Observer: John Vollmer’s decision in the 1990s to transform Vollmer Farm, which had been in his family for generations, came after a number of omens that seemed worth noting. Vollmer had made his living not only in farming, but also in supplying local farmers with agricultural chemicals. His soil wasn’t rebounding, crop after crop as it once had. New federal regulations were going to make his small-scale tobacco farm far less profitable. …
  • “Piedmont blueberry crops ‘incredible’ this summer,” WGHP: If you are going to have crop damage, this is the kind of damage Rick Langhorne wants to see. “The fruit load is incredible,” Langhorne said. “The branches are about ready to snap off. In fact one did snap off at the base.” At Langhorne’s Blueberry Thrill Farm in Gibsonville, his blueberry bushes are loaded with large berries that are easy to pick. On the other side of Guilford County, Bruce Henry’s Blueberry Hill in Colfax also has buckets of blueberries. “We had a cold winter and a late spring. It got the bushes ready for a lot of berries,” Henry said. The North Carolina Blueberry Council is expecting five percent more blueberries this year. …
  • “Local restaurant is part of unique ‘week’,” Burlington Times-News: The Eddy Pub is one of 42 restaurants participating in the “Dig Into Local” restaurant week July 14-23. “Dig Into Local” is a program of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Participating restaurants will feature menus showcasing at least four North Carolina-inspired items and one North Carolina wine. The Eddy Pub is at 1715 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road. …
  •  “Impact of PEDv Analyzed,” Southern Farm Network: After the latest USDA Hogs and Pigs Report – analysts have questioned what impact will be seen in future hog numbers with the availability of a new PEDv vaccine. Dr. Patrick Webb – Pork Checkoff director of swine health programs – says it will take time to understand that impact. “There is conditional licensing for a product developed. The conditional licensing will make it easier to obtain the product for those producers and vets who want to incorporate it into their health program. It’s one of the factors that is playing into the hog numbers. Over time we will see what effect it has. We don’t have a lot of data yet and we will see the effects in the future.” …
  • “Research station to open for Field Day July 10,” Hendersonville Times: When it was first established in 1908, the Mountain Research Station was located in Swannanoa. But as a result of the need for a hospital, the U.S. Army selected the Swannanoa site for its facility in 1944, leading to the relocation of the Mountain Research Station to its current 400-acre site in Waynesville. The station is one of 18 sites located across the state with the mission of providing research to make farming more efficient, productive and profitable. Each research station was strategically placed so that scientists can conduct research in the climate and soil type that are representative of the area. Research conducted at the Mountain Research Station reflects the diverse needs of farmers not only in Western North Carolina but also across the state. Research program areas include livestock, field and forage crops, Christmas trees, burley tobacco and horticultural crops. …
  • “July designated Got To Be NC Agriculture Month,” Greensboro News & Record: Farmers across North Carolina are taking their fruits and vegetables to market, and Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed July as the month to salute their work. In recognition of agriculture’s importance as the state’s top industry, McCrory has proclaimed July 2014 as Got to Be NC Agriculture Month. …