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News Roundup: Sept. 13-19

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:31

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.

  • “Small farmers, female farmers to benefit from Louisburg event,” The News & Observer: On Sunday night, Franklin County farmer Martha Mobley will gaze out on a meadow across from her family’s home place and, she hopes, see hundreds of people gathered for a feast. For Mobley, this will be more than another farm-to-table event in a community where those happen every other week; it will be the fulfillment of a promise made to her late mother and her late husband.Mobley, 55, works as a livestock extension agent in Franklin County and owns Meadow Lane Farm in Louisburg. She sells grass-fed beef, pork and goat meat as well as organic vegetables at the Durham Farmers’ Market. In 2012, she lost her mother, Marjorie Leonard, who ran the family’s 1,000-acre farm for decades. In August 2013, Mobley lost her husband and fellow farmer, Steve, at the age of 58. After her mother died, Mobley and her husband accepted donations instead of flowers to start a nonprofit to help women in agriculture, a cause dear to her mother. Steve Mobley was actively organizing an event for last fall as a fundraiser to fulfill his mother-in-law’s wishes. …
  • “Public gets behind-scenes look at at Person Co. buffalo farm,” Durham Herald-Sun:  Visitors to 14 Person County farms were treated to a behind the scenes look at what it means to be part of the number one industry in the county. The third annual Person County Farm Tour allowed for a variety of tours to take place across the county. From organic vegetables to a dairy farm, and even a farm where buffalo are raised, there were plenty of options for farm-goers. Guests at the Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm just outside of Roxboro were able to get a look at a portion of the meat industry that many don’t get to see. …
  • “Hog virus cases dwindle over summer, but threat remains,” WRAL: Summer temperatures in North Carolina have slowed the spread of a virus deadly to young pigs that has decimated swine herds across the country. The highly contagious porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has hit hog farms across the country hard since it was first detected in April 2013. Since then, the disease has killed 10 percent of the nation’s hog population by some estimates, primarily in the winter months. But with fall looming, livestock farmers and veterinarians in North Carolina say they hope the measures they’ve put in place to stop the virus will prevent the massive die-offs they saw last winter, which resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the state’s $2 billion industry. “We’re all holding our breath to see what happens,” said Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health programs at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We’ve only had one winter, and that’s been kind of a horrendous winter for us.” PEDv is classified as a coronavirus, which all share a common enemy in heat and humidity. Summer means PEDv can’t spread as regularly, and that’s brought the number of new cases identified nationally down to around 60 per week from a peak of about 350. …
  • “Festival pays homage to the grape,” Wilmington Star News: The billboards along I-40 shout about the hoopla that is the N.C. Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville – 260 wines to tempt you, loads of regional foods and crafts to interest you, and four bands to move you Sept. 26-27. The event originated as a serious business, with a plan put together by Lynn Davis, a Kenansville native with an MBA from East Carolina University, who was working for a Winston-Salem health-supplement company when the festival launched in 2005. “There were three reasons it made sense to do this,” says Davis, now the event’s executive director. The tobacco buyout across the state in 2004 gave farmers a reason to consider alternative crops. “Why not wine,” says Davis. “Especially since our dry sandy soil is conducive to grape growing.” …
  • “Mycotoxins a concern for North Carolina corn farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: The issue of mycotoxins in corn isn’t one of the most pleasant conversational topics for corn farmers, but North Carolina Extension Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger stresses that mycotoxins are a major concern in North Carolina that needs to be addressed. “There are no good mycotoxins. We want it gone, stomped out, eliminated. It’s just like a weed in a field. There is no good weed, and the same is true about mycotoxins,” Heiniger said at a corn aflatoxin control field day held Aug. 14 at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station’s Fountain Farm in Rocky Mount. A mycotoxin that is of top concern in North Carolina is aflatoxin which is caused by ear rot fungi Aspergillus Flavus, according to Heiniger. Aflatoxin is harmful to livestock and humans, and by law corn with high mycotoxin levels cannot be sold and should not be harvested, Heiniger said. …
  • “Richmond County in top 100 for farming,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Richmond County is one of the United States’ 100 best places to farm, according to a magazine group’s analysis of census data from more than 3,000 U.S. counties. Farm Futures, whose corporate parent FarmProgress publishes 17 agriculture-industry magazines, ranked Richmond County 81st in the nation. Susan Kelly, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Richmond County extension center, said she wasn’t surprised. “If you’re thinking about starting a farm, Richmond County is the place to be,” Kelly said. “Many counties weren’t even mentioned in the top 3,000. It is very significant.” The Tar Heel State fared well in the Farm Futures survey. …
  • “Hoke County’s 30-year Turkey Festival to get new name,” Fayetteville Observer: Lady Bird has been strutting her stuffing for the past 30years. This week, the well-seasoned mascot of the North Carolina Turkey Festival will waddle off into the sunset. The Turkey Festival, which annually swells the population of Hoke County with a home-grown collection of events and competitions, will close its barnyard door after this Saturday. In its place, community volunteers hope to launch what they’re calling the North Carolina Poultry Festival, with similar activities and wider commercial appeal. …
  • “Sky Top Orchard named one of the best places to go apple-picking,” Hendersonville Times News: Zirconia’s own Sky Top Orchard is tops in the country when it comes to apple-picking, according to recently published article from Bustle, a national online women’s magazine. “We’ve been lucky over the years to have different editors, readers and folks in the media take notice of our uniqueness,” said David Butler, who runs Sky Top Orchard alongside his wife, Lindsey. “We’re thrilled about it. We’re just flattered.” The article published less than a week ago names the 10 best places in the country to go apple-picking. Sky Top was joined by nine other orchards from around the country, including Stribling Orchard in Markham, Va., Brighton Woods Orchard in Burlington, Wis. and Johnson Orchards in Yakima, Wash. …
  • “NC State receives $12.4 million grant from Gates Foundation for sweet potato research,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University will receive $12.4 million over the next four years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve a crop that is an important food staple in sub-Saharan Africa – the sweet potato. The grant will fund work to develop modern genomic, genetic and bioinformatics tools to improve the crop’s ability to resist diseases and insects and tolerate drought and heat. Sweet potatoes are an important food security and cash crop with potential to alleviate hunger, vitamin A deficiency and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 13.5 million metric tons are produced in sub-Saharan Africa annually; they are predominantly grown in small plot holdings by poor women farmers. …
  • “Forget the Bookmobile—This Town’s Getting a Farmers Market on Wheels,” TakePart.com: Summer interns can do more than fetch coffee and fix the photocopier. In Guilford County, N.C., an intern’s experience with a family-owned food truck is helping bring fresh food to the area’s 24 food deserts. More than 60,000 residents of Guilford County live more than a mile from a supermarket, more than 20 percent live below the poverty line, and many don’t have cars. “We got an idea about two years to do a mobile farmer’ market, and we wrote a grant about a year ago to a local foundation to refurbish a bus,” Janet Mayer, a nutritionist with the Guilford Department of Health and Human Services in Greensboro, the county seat, said in an interview. “When we received the grant and started to lay the groundwork for the bus, we realized there was a lot of money and details we hadn’t counted on.” …
  • Peanuts focus of field day,” Kingstree News: Peanuts are continuing to grow in popularity among farmers. As peanut production increases so does the need for knowledge to produce high quality and high yields. Local farmer Brian McClam hosted a field day event that brought 113 farmers from two states for that purpose. Representatives from Severn Peanut Company, the Department of Agriculture, several chemical companies, and Clemson Extension provided a wealth of information applicable to peanut production. McClam, who farms 418 acres of peanuts, is host to 80 test plats. “Field trails are priceless to farmers being that they allow you to take a look into the future on seed varieties and chemicals without ever having to purchase them,” said McClam. “This allows you to make better management decisions when the time comes.” McClam said Wayne Nixon, agronomist for Severn, oversaw the test project. “He (Nixon) is the star of the show,” said McClam of the former NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Regional Agronomist and respected advisor to farmers. “He’s the one that did it all. He visited these test plats every week.” Nixon and Dr. Jay W. Chapin, professor of entomology discussed the varieties planted on McClam’s test site as well as diseases and timely management. Attendants also enjoyed a demonstration of a Brazilian made rotary-system peanut combine. …
  • “Two new dehydration facilities in North Carolina to open, another possible,” The Produce News: North Carolina is the nation’s leading grower of both sweet potatoes and tobacco, and two or possibly three new facilities opening Sept. 30 and in the second quarter of 2015 will build on both products to create new markets for farmers. The new companies will be located in Farmville and Nashville, and possibly Goldsboro, in eastern North Carolina where about half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown. The plants will produce dried sweet potatoes — sliced, diced or ground into flour — and juices that will compete in the $60 billion global health and wellness beverage market, the $143 billion U.S. healthy foods market and the global pet food market, expected to reach $74.8 billion by 2017. …
  • “The Label You Should Look for at Your Supermarket,” NationSwell.com: Farming runs in Robert Elliot’s family — but he never expected that he’d make a living off of the land. Instead, he served in the Marines, completing five years of active duty service before returning to the U.S. and taking a job as a contractor for the Marine Corps. In 2011, he was abruptly laid off along with many others due to budget cuts, and he didn’t know what to do. “It was hard to make ends meet so I moved home,” he tells Shumurial Ratliff of WNCN News. Back home in Louisburg, N.C., on the land his family used to farm, Elliot decided to try his hand at the old family profession, establishing Cypress Hall Farms with the help of the nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition. The organization supports veterans looking to transition into farming with resource guides, training and funding opportunities. It partners with Homegrown by Heroes to help veteran farmers label their produce with a patriotic-looking sticker that informs consumers know that they’re buying food grown by vets. …

 

Flavor, NC: Goodnight Brothers County Ham, Boone

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:26

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 three of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Goodnight Brothers County Ham and The Gamekeeper Restaurant in Boone.

“Think country ham only comes on a biscuit?” asksLisa. “Well get ready to think again if you are talking about all-natural country ham from the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains.”  Ham is the hind leg of a hog and country ham is the salted and seasoned version. Goodnight Brothers County Ham hasn’t significantly altered the way they season their country ham since opening in 1948.  In the video below,  they show it is still all about ingredients, aging and climate.

 

After learning a little about the curing process, Lisa visits with the chef and owner of Gamekeeper Restaurant, Ken Gorden. He provides the recipe below for Seared country-ham-wrapped asparagus.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 6 slices Goodnight Brothers thin-sliced country ham
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Preparation:
Trim away the fibrous base of the asparagus then blanch in seasoned boiling water for a couple of minutes until cooked but still crisp. Shock in an ice bath to cool. Wrap asparagus with ham in groups of two to five, depending on size of asparagus. Sear in hot pan or on griddle with a splash of olive oil until ham is lightly bronzed on all sides. Place on serving dish. Serve hot or room temperature with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction, crumbled goat cheese, roasted tomato slices and cracked pepper.

To make balsamic reduction, simply cook ½ cup of balsamic vinegar in a small pan until reduced by at least half. Test by drizzling a few drops of reduction on a room temperature plate, waiting a few seconds for it to cool, then test consistency with your finger.
Watch Flavor, NC on WUNC TV. Season four premiers Thursday, Oct. 2 at 10:30 p.m.

Today’s Topic: New reports from Market News Service focus on sales of local food

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 08:14

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

The NCDA&CS State and Federal Market News Service is launching a series of new reports focusing on locally produced agricultural products. Reports for the state-operated farmers markets in Raleigh and Asheville, which list current wholesale prices, are now online. Another new report is Farm to School information, which provides total produce sales delivered plus unit prices.

In addition, the Market News Service is developing reports for direct-to-consumer sales, which will capture the prices of commodities that farmers market to consumers. Reports on grass-fed beef are expected to be available this month.

Consumer interest and demand for locally grown foods has grown significantly in the past 10 years. This has been a win-win for farmers and the economy. Consumers are enjoying more foods straight from the farm, which is creating new markets and supporting the local economy.

According to USDA figures, the total value of direct sales from farms to consumers was $31.8 million in 2012.

The new reports will provide users with information that can assist them with making informed business decisions. The information can assist producers with their financial planning, assist insurance companies with settling insurance claims, and benefit other members of the industry. These new reports will be a nice addition to the wide variety of information provided by the Market News Service. Reports include information on prices, volume, quality, condition and other market data on farm products in specific markets and marketing areas.

To view reports, click here .

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this topic.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

September: What’s happening on the farm?

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:59

Muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. 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 Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

September is N.C. Wine and Grape Month and a perfect opportunity to highlight some of the research going on at our stations with muscadine grapes. Muscadines are grapes that are native to southern North America and are for sale this time of year at farmers markets and grocery stores. The grapes are also used in wine production. Muscadine grape research is conducted at Upper Piedmont, Sandhills and Castle Hayne research stations by James Ballington, professor emeritus of horticulture science at N.C. State University.

“The research we are doing is mostly to identify additional breeding varieties,” Ballington said. “We are looking for large-fruited grapes for the fresh market (retail sale), cold hardiness, and for red-fruited wines, grapes that maintain a stable color.” The grapes are also evaluated for disease resistance. “We do not spray the grapes,” he said, “we let nature take its course. With some varieties, fruit rot is a problem.”

White muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station.

Only about two acres of grapes are grown at Upper Piedmont Research Station. However, the research going on here is important to study cold hardiness of the vines. “Last winter was really cold and you can see a lot of damage on the vines,” Ballington said. “However, the fruit that the vines are producing is promising. There is uniform ripening within the clusters.” Muscadines are typically harvested by picking individual berries. If the grapes could be harvested in clusters, similar to the way table grapes are sold in grocery stores, they would have a longer shelf life.

Ballington’s trials will continue a few more years with these vines. “The next step is replicated trials,” he said. “This is where we compare the fruit being produced to what is considered to be industry standard. For white grapes the fruit would be compared to the Carlos variety, for red grapes, the Noble variety.”

After the replicated trials, Ballington would hope to propagate the cuttings and do observation trials with grape growers. He hopes the research leads to better grapes for the wine and grape industry.

Compared to other crops at the Upper Piedmont Research Station, maintaining the vineyard could be seen as easy. “We keep the middle rows cut, undergrowth sprayed back with herbicide and the trunks cut back,” said Joe French, station superintendent. But a two-acre vineyard is just one of the projects going on at this 835-acre research station.

“Right now we are harvesting about 20 acres of sorghum,” French said. “We are also gradually getting back about 50 cows from the Upper Mountain Research Station.” The station is sending its bull calves to Butner for a feed-efficiency study. “Animals are like people,” French said. “Some eat a lot and gain a little, others eat a little and gain a lot.”

Other work at the station includes horticultural trials of medicinal herbs. The Upper Piedmont Research Station is also home to one of the longest soil science trials, with research on no-till corn and soybeans ongoing for more than 30 years.

For the past 15 years, the station has hosted the N.C. Angus Association Spring Feeder Sale on the first Saturday in May. The station is also home to the Rockingham County Farmers Market, which is held Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to October. The market offers produce and crafts by local farmers and artists, and the station hopes that in the future the market can be used to test market new crops being grown at the research stations. In addition, the station hosts the 1.5-mile Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail, which is maintained by station staff and open to the public.

With harvest time here for many crops and cows returning home, it’s a busy time to be in Reidsville.

The Upper Piedmont Research Station is home to about 150 head of cattle.

 

 

 

 

 

USDA designates 5 coastal counties as disaster areas

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:07

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Pamlico County as a primary natural disaster area because of damages and losses caused by excessive rain and winds that occurred when Hurricane Arthur hit the North Carolina coast on July 3. Farmers and ranchers in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven and Hyde counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 10, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.

Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

-Information from USDA

News Roundup: Sept. 5-12

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 02:37

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.

  • “From Equipment Manufacturing to Wine Making on the Same Farm,” Southern Farm Network: September is wine and grape month in North Carolina, and you can’t talk about either without talking to Ron Taylor, with LuMil Vineyards, and DiVine Foods in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Taylor talks about how they got their start in the grape and wine business: “Well, what we were doing at Taylor Manufacturing making tobacco, cotton and peanut equipment, that kind of thing, and with the buyout of the federal tobacco program, and we were looking for other implements to make. So, we put in a few acres of grapes just to do research & development to make equipment. We made an automatic grape harvesters, sprayers, and pruners, we have sold this equipment throughout the muscadine belt, primarily and in other grape producing areas particularly, and that put us in the grape growing business.” …
  • “The great pumpkin: NC man’s 1,296-pound fruit sets a state record,” The News & Observer: By Aug. 22, Danny Vester’s prize pumpkin had grown to the size of a small boulder, so he loaded it onto a forklift and gently dropped it in the bed of his 4×4 pickup, where it fit with only a half-inch to spare. Vester then drove south to a pumpkin weigh-off in Alabama, his treasure secured in a nest of hay. Passing drivers snapped pictures, waved arms and honked horns, so distracted by the moon-sized fruit that they wouldn’t let him change lanes, forcing Vester to tote his giant gourd through the middle of Atlanta. “Something about a big pumpkin on the back of a pickup truck will make people happy,” said Vester, 60. He came back with an official North Carolina record that made the drive worthwhile: a 1,296-pound pumpkin, heavier than a baby elephant. Vester named his champion “Sammy.” And as you read this, a larger beast grows by 30 pounds a day in Vester’s Nash County pumpkin patch, ready to put its little brother to shame. …
  • “Farm Fresh offering early cured sweet potatoes,” The Produce News: With most North Carolina farms growing diverse crops, it’s hard to pinpoint a solid start date for the harvest of North Carolina sweet potatoes, according to Steven Ceccarelli, the owner of Farm Fresh Produce Inc., based in Faison, NC. Ceccarelli said Sept. 5 that about 10-20 percent of the sweet potato harvest was complete. But many growers also harvest tobacco, and from a farm management and labor point of view, tobacco harvest would precede sweet potatoes. Farmers of peanuts or other crops would have still other harvest schedules. But for Ceccarelli, an early start is important, and he planned to be the season’s first exporter of cured sweet potatoes. “We will have cured potatoes this weekend,” which would be Sept. 6, he said. The curing process can take between two and six weeks, depending on variables such as ambient temperature and humidity. The two-week process is a “quick cure” he said. “It takes a month for a full cure, but six weeks if you have unfavorable conditions.” …
  • “Area breweries investing millions, adding staff,”Asheville Citizen-Times: Asheville’s craft brewery boom continues to see explosive growth, with local beer producers dropping millions on expansions and staff. The $175 million New Belgium brewery going up in West Asheville along the French Broad River stands out as the area’s biggest project, and it reflects the nation’s growing preference for craft beer, such as IPAs, pale ales, bitters and others styles. Year-to-date sales for craft beer are up 20 percent in 2014 from 2013 numbers, according to the Brewers Association trade group. Overall, craft beer was 7.8 percent of beer sold in 2013, the association said. …
  • “Chickens come home to roost for Tim Cathey,” Lincolnton Times-News: Tim Cathey is a disruptive innovator. He finds unexpected solutions to problems and creates new technology in the process. Some of that technology may soon impact farming practices in Lincoln County and beyond. Through his company, Novovita, Cathey has developed a line of bio-based agricultural products that can organically suppress weeds, reduce erosion and create fertilizer from industrial chicken waste. Two of the products are currently being tested in the county. Cathey’s business card says he is an environmental designer. Recalling the environmental movement of the late 1960s, Cathy speaks with an air of ownership regarding issues of the time. His design process is mindful of the natural world. “I try to design things in a way that is acceptable environmentally by choosing materials based on recyclability and performance,” he said. …
  • “Crank Arm Brewery Nabs Best of Show in State Fair Competition,” TWC News: The winners of the NC State Fair’s 2014 N.C. Brewers’ Cup competition have been announced, and Best of Show went to Rickshaw Rye IPA by Crank Arm Brewing in Raleigh. The competition was organized by the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild and presented by All About Beer Magazine. The third-year competition drew 228 professional entries and 182 home-brew entries. Entries were evaluated by 30 professional beer judges Sept. 6 and 7 at Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough. The top winners will be displayed in the Education Building at the N.C. State Fair Oct. 16-26. …
  • “FDA’s Taylor says food-safety inspections to change in post-FSMA,” The Produce News: The Food & Drug Administration is retooling inspectors to be more specialized in food and teaching them to assess a company’s food-safety culture for the first time when deciding whether to return for another inspection, Mike Taylor, the FDA ‘s food-safety chief, said Sept. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here. This was just one of several messages he brought to the breakfast meeting of the conference as he mapped out the FDA’s plan for assuring compliance with the massive Food Safety Modernization Act. …
  •  “Efficiency key to success for Steve and Archie Griffin,” Southeast Farm Press: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Steve Griffin’s return to the family farm in Beaufort County North Carolina. Much has changed in farming since 1974, but one constant is the importance of efficiency. It’s a lesson Griffin has taught to son Archie, who returned to the farm three years ago after completing a degree in soil science and crop production at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Ever since I came back, Dad has stressed the more efficient you are with your farm, the more you get out of it. You can always better your farm by being more efficient,” Archie says. The Griffins farm six miles north of Washington in Beaufort County, where sandy soils have always been a challenge. A key to efficiency is incorporating new technology. The Griffins say it’s a must for controlling costs. …
  •  “NC Fish Fry: Farmer’s Market Hosts Seafood Day,” WUNC: North Carolina is known for its diverse agriculture offerings. And you can always count on the State Farmer’s Market to feature the best the state has to offer, from collard greens to sweet potatoes. But on Thursday, for the first time, the State Farmer’s Market hosted Seafood Day. Enthusiasts said it’s been a long time coming. It was the perfect day for a fish fry. It was hot outside and the fish was hot, right out of the skillet. Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh could hardly get a break. “We steamed about 600 clams and they’re all gone,” said Armstrong. “I’m actually surprised. Pleasantly, surprised.” …

 

 

 

 

Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Heirloom Resturant

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 14:22

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 Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte.

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series two local chefs face off in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. Each 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 course — appetizer, entree and dessert. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Chef Clark Barlowe and his team from Heirloom competed again Chef Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro in the first round of Fire in the City on August 18. The secret ingredients were NC-raised eggs and Harrell Hill Farms Molasses. Harrell Hill is the largest producer of sorghum-syrup molasses in the state. The farm is located in Bakersville and has been in operation since the late 1700s.

Passion8 won the night and went on to compete in the next round of competition on Sept. 8. Fire in the City continues through Sept. 29. Remaining dinners are sold out.

Pastry Chef Joselyn Perlmutter, a member of Chef Barlowe’s team from Heirloom, provided the following recipe for sorghum cake. Heirloom Restaurant’s sorghum cake was the second highest scoring dish of the night and made great use of both eggs and molasses.

Sorghum Cake

    • 1/2 pound brown sugar
    • 7 1/2 ounces butter
    • 3 local farm eggs
    • 1.5 cups Harrell Hill Farms sorghum-syrup molasses
    • 12 1/2 ounces cake flour
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add in molasses. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk until the bath is just incorporated. Bake in a half sheet pan at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The cake is finished when a tester comes out clean.

 

Dark Chocolate Sorghum Cremeux

  • 1200 grams heavy cream
  • 240 grams yolk
  • 150 grams Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 700 grams dark chocolate

Bring the heavy cream and sorghum to a boil and temper in the yolks. To temper in the yolks whisk a cup of the hot cream into the yolks, and pour the now warm yolks back into the cream. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or coats the back of a spoon. Once at temperature, pour over the chocolate. Wait five minutes for the chocolate to melt, and whisk the chocolate and cream mixture together.

 

Sorghum Raspberry Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces butter

Mix the water and sugar in a medium pot until all of the sugar is wet. Juice the lemon into the sugar, and rub it on the sides of the pot. This will keep the sugar from crystalizing. Let the sugar boil on medium heat until it is a dark amber color. Add the butter, cream, sorghum and raspberry puree. Be careful to add the cool ingredients slowly as the caramel will bubble.

 

Raspberry Anglaise

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 ounces local egg yolks
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree

Bring the cream, sugar, and raspberry puree to a boil. Temper in the egg yolks, and whisk over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or when the mixture can coat the back of a spoon. Serve cold. Once cool, this can also be used as a raspberry ice cream base. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to churn.

Coming soon to a tree near you! (Maybe.)

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 09:50

North Carolina has its fair share of invasive insects and diseases that threaten to destroy our natural resources. In 2010, laurel wilt was first found in the state. In 2011, thousand cankers disease was found. And in 2013, the first detection of the emerald ash borer was made. But what does the future hold? Will the invasive species just keep on coming? The short answer is: most likely, yes.

There are already some invasive insects that have used their one-way ticket to the U.S. They threaten other parts of the nation and have the potential to enter North Carolina either through natural spread or via long-range dispersal in firewood. In the case of invasive species, all good things do not come to those who wait.

The Asian longhorned beetle is one of these. It is a striking beetle with long antennae. Native to Asia, it has been found in several states, including Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. To date, it has not been found in North Carolina. Unlike many of our other invasive species that only attack a single group of trees, the Asian longhorned beetle attacks many tree species. Among its favorites are maple, willow, and elm. When the Asian longhorned beetle comes to town, it leaves dead trees in its wake. But only if you let it!

The good thing about the Asian longhorned beetle is that in areas where small infestations have been detected, eradication has been possible. Trees with any signs or symptoms of infestation are removed quickly and a quarantine is typically put into place to prevent further spread. This plan, while leaving an area with much less trees that it had before, has shown to be successful more than once.

The interesting thing about these early detections is that almost all of them have been detected by homeowners. These homeowners have taken the bug by its horns and been proactive participants in efforts to mitigate damage caused by the Asian longhorned beetle, equipped only with the ability to identify the insect and the damage it causes.

So, equip yourself! Identifying this pest and its signs is fairly simple. The Asian longhorned beetle is fairly large, measuring 1 to 1½ inches in length. They are black with about 40 white spots on their wing covers. Their antennae are very long, extending past the tip of their abdomen, and have black and white banding. Not only will an infested tree likely look in poor health, but it may have exit holes or egg laying niches on the bark.  Exit holes are round and about the diameter of a pencil (up to ¾ inch). Egg-laying niches are round or oval depressions in the bark, chewed out by the female beetle.

LEFT: The adult Asian longhorned beetle is black with white spots and has banded antennae. Early identification of the insect is critical in an eradication program. Image: Joe Boggs, Bugwood.org. RIGHT: Exit holes of the Asian longhorned beetle are round and about the size of a pencil (shown below finger). Egg-laying niches are oval or round depressions in the bark. Image: Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Now, you’re ready. If this insect ever does make its way to North Carolina, then maybe it could be you who alerts authorities to its presence. Hey, there are worse ways to become famous! To report an invasive species, call 1-800-206-9333 or report by email: newpest@ncagr.gov.

Today’s Topic: September is NC Wine and Grape Month

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 07:49

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

Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed September as North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. Commissioner Troxler says it’s a good month for celebrating the state’s wine and grape industry, as wineries are popular attractions in the fall, and September and October are prime time for the muscadine grape harvest.

The state’s wine and grape industry continues to grow and is now home to more than 140 wineries and 400 commercial grape growers.

Whether it’s buying a pint of grapes at the farmers market, trying a new North Carolina wine or planning a trip to a vineyard, Commissioner Troxler encourages everyone to find a way to support the state’s wine and grape industry this month.

Farmers produce native muscadine grapes, including the famed scuppernong, which was the nation’s first cultivated wine grape. Muscadines are grown in the Coastal region of the state. The fresh-market muscadine crop is looking good this year, thanks to some dry weather at the beginning of the harvest. Drier weather concentrates the juice inside the grape and enhances the sweetness. You can find muscadines at farmers markets and roadside stands.

North Carolina farmers also grow European-style grapes, such as merlot and chardonnay. These are grown mainly in the Western and Piedmont regions of the state.

North Carolina is now home to four federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. The latest is the Upper Hiawassee Highlands AVA in the western part of the state. It joins the Haw River, Swan Creek and Yadkin Valley AVAs. These regions are important in helping consumers identify a wine’s origin.

For more information about North Carolina wine and grapes, plus special events planned throughout September, click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Wine and Grape Month.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

New members inducted into the NC Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 14:23

The livestock shows are an integral part of the annual N.C. Mountain State Fair. From beef cattle and meat goats to swine and llamas, the livestock shows represent the diversity of livestock found in Western North Carolina.

Started in 2011, the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame honors individuals who have contributed to the continued success of the livestock shows. This year’s inductees were Gary and Joy Stamey and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and his wife, Sharon. The couples were inducted during a presentation Sept. 5, opening day of the 2014 N.C. Mountain State Fair.

Gary Stamey was the livestock director at the Mountain State Fair from 2003 until his passing in November 2013. He and his wife, Joy, were heavily involved in organizing livestock shows at the fair and throughout Western North Carolina. Vance Muse, a longtime family friend, provided remarks on behalf of the Stameys. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler presented the award to Joy Stamey and Gary’s father, Neal, during the ceremony.

Commissioner Troxler and Neal Stamey present Joy Stamey with her plaque for being inducted into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame.

After presenting the award to the Stameys, Commissioner Troxler learned that he and his wife, Sharon, also had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The award came as a surprise to Commissioner Troxler, who thanked the organizers of the livestock show for their continued hard work.

“Sharon and I have a special place in our hearts for the people of Western North Carolina,” Troxler said. “I can’t thank you enough for this incredible honor.”

Commissioner Troxler and Sharon Troxler are inducted into the N.C. Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame with members of their family by their side.

The 2014 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs through Sept. 14. This year’s livestock shows feature 3,840 animals across 19 departments. A complete schedule of livestock shows is available at www.mountainfair.org.

 

 

 

News Roundup: Aug 30 – Sept. 5

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 13:19

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

  • “Fish food: Aquaponics offers full-circle farming,” Smoky Mountain News: Tucked away along a squirrely offshoot of Jonathan Creek Road, Dennis “Bear” Forsythe’s 15-by-15-foot greenhouse is like his own private Eden. The small outbuilding in rural Haywood County holds 500 plants representing 58 species, everything from pineapple to pepper. “I just love doing it,” Forsythe said. “You have running water and it’s soothing, it’s relaxing. You come out here and you say, ‘I grew everything here from seed.’” The running water is a bit of an anomaly compared to most greenhouses. So is the complete absence of any soil. Instead of soil, the plants get their nutrients from the fish swimming in two separate fish tanks inside the building. Specifically, from their waste. It’s a method of agriculture that’s been gaining traction over the last decade or so, a method known as aquaponics. …
  • “N.C. Mountain State Fair opens,” Asheville Citizen-Times: In its 21-year history, the North Carolina Mountain State Fair has followed an established course. But why should it change? Last year’s fair pulled a record crowd of 191,596, and if the weather holds out, the 2014 edition should equal that. The fair, Sept. 5-14 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher, is a feast for the senses. The fairgrounds are lit by colorful carnival rides. Booming pop music pours from speakers. Games line the midway. Vendors sell an assortment of tasty foods (this is no place to be on a diet). The Mountain Heritage Stage has live bluegrass, mountain music and dance. Agricultural and livestock exhibits are plentiful. Side show entertainment ranges from stilt puppets to sea lions and racing pigs. …
  • “Ag Summary: September is Wine & Grape Month,” Southern Farm Network: September is wine and grape month in the Tar Heel State. One indicator of the industry’s maturity is the federal government’s recent designation of a fourth American Viticultural Area in the state. North Carolina’s grape-growing history dates to the late 1500s, when Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers first noticed wild scuppernongs on Roanoke Island. North Carolina boasts more than 400 commercial grape growers. Muscadines are grown mainly in the East, while European-style vinifera grapes are grown in the West and Piedmont. While many of the grapes are used to make wines and other specialty products, there is also a significant fresh market for the fall fruit. In September and October, shoppers can find fresh, native muscadine grapes at farmers markets and roadside stands. …
  • “Forest service seeks tree nuts and seeds,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: The N.C. Forest Service office in Wilkesboro is seeking the public’s assistance in collecting acorns, hickory nuts and other nuts and seeds of trees to produce seedlings at the state nursery in Goldsboro. Michael Crouse, assistant county ranger with the forest service in Wilkes, said Thursday that he and other forest service personnel will gather tree nuts and seeds on private property with owner permission. The forest service doesn’t pay for what it collects. Crouse, seedling collector for Wilkes, said forest service personnel sometimes use non-motorized devices with wire mesh baskets, pushing them along on the ground, to collect nuts. He said church lawns often are among the best places to gather tree nuts. He said removing them also helps avoid accidents. Crouse noted that trees produce considerably more nuts and seeds some years than others. …
  •  “Couple’s dream turns into thriving cheese business,” Greensboro News & Record: Harold and Carol Penick were college students on their first date when they discovered that they shared a dream of building a farm.And now, nearly 40 years later, the two Auburn University graduates have not only worked to bring their dream to fruition, but also have launched a thriving goat cheese business. “We use a really old style of cheese making, so it’s different than anything else around,” their daughter, Jesse Penick, said. “It’s extremely creamy, very mild and very smooth — more like cream cheese — and people just can’t seem to get enough of it.” Situated on what used to be a tobacco farm, the 20-acre operation just north of Kernersville was nothing more than a meadow when the Penicks bought it three years ago, which inspired the farm’s name: Once Upon a Meadow. …
  • “LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Elected leaders ignore farmers’ biggest concern,” Hendersonville Lightning: By most accounts, Henderson County’s 2014 apple crop is high in quality and lower in quantity. A shorter crop is not necessarily a bad thing. Last year, despite record rainfall that ruined most of the sweet corn and produce in the French Broad Valley, apple farmers harvested a bumper crop. And not just in Henderson County. It was a big year up and down the East Coast. When all the apples came off the trees, the market was flooded with cheap fruit. “We had two extreme variables last year,” recalled Edneyville grower Jerred Nix. “We had 45-cent Galas early and a half-a-cent juice at the end of the year.” …
  • “Muscadines on the rise,” Wilmington Star News: It’s no secret that chefs, diners and home cooks have all embraced the farm-to-table and local food movements. And that trend may be just the boost that’s needed for one North Carolina agricultural product that’s more used to being the butt of a joke than served with a cloth napkin. “Some restaurants, a lot more lately, have gone to serving and cooking with muscadine wines, a lot more than five years ago,” said Jonathan Fussell, who owns the Duplin Winery with his brother David. “Our wines used to be one or two out of a hundred. Now it’s more like 15 to 20.” Fussell’s account is backed up by recent data tabulated by the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association. “Over the past five years, the number of muscadine grape growers has increased exponentially,” said organization spokeswoman Ashley Graham Phipps. “People want to grow them for personal pleasure, and most of our growers have seen an increase in food use.” …
  • “Looper numbers gaining in N.C. soybeans,” Southeast Farm Press: Remember that the threshold for soybean loopers (and all defoliating pests) is 15 percent defoliation throughout the canopy (thresholds and defoliation guide here). Loopers generally defoliate from the bottom of the canopy up so peel back those plants when you scout. Looper numbers have really picked up in soybeans. Loopers are migratory pests that sometimes show up late season and eat leaves, but not pods or seeds. Remember that the threshold for soybean loopers (and all defoliating pests) is 15 percent defoliation throughout the canopy (thresholds and defoliation guide here). Loopers generally defoliate from the bottom of the canopy up so peel back those plants when you scout. …

 

Farmers markets offer apples, grapes and more this September

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 09:25

September offers a great opportunity to enjoy both late-summer and early-fall produce at local farmers markets. The state-operated farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax and Raleigh offer a large selection of fresh produce for school lunches, meats and cheeses for tailgating, and wines and specialty products made in North Carolina. You can also find flowers, trees and shrubs for your fall plantings. Many markets have events planned to celebrate Wine and Grape Month, in honor of the state’s fast-growing wine industry.  Here are all the events taking place at our markets this month:

Enjoy free apple tastings Sept. 19 at the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville.

Grape Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
September is prime time for fresh-market muscadine grapes. Enjoy grapes, jellies and wine during this annual event Friday, Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Seafood Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
This is the first-ever Seafood Day at the market. Shoppers can purchase fresh seafood from the North Carolina coast and sample seafood dishes prepared by Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh. Seafood Day is Thursday, Sept. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

12th Annual Taste Carolina Wine Festival, Robert. G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax
During the Taste Carolina Wine Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13,  guests will get to sample a variety of N.C. wines from noon to 6 p.m. All guests will receive a complimentary tasting glass and a program to help find their favorite wineries.

Apple Tasting, WNC Farmers Market, Asheville
Locally grown apples are in plentiful supply this time of year. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the many varieties available at the market on Friday, Sept. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sweet Potato Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh
North Carolina is the top sweet potato producer in the nation and the market will be celebrating on Thursday, Sept. 25. Market vendors will offer plenty of sweet potatoes for purchase. Shoppers can sample a sweet potato dessert from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

These are just some of the ways to celebrate the best of local agriculture this September. Be on the lookout for other promotions and special events later this year that will focus on fall products, including pumpkins, collards, pecans and Christmas trees.

Flavor, NC: Goat Lady Dairy

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 11:24

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 two of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Goat Lady Dairy in Climax.

“When you think cheese, most think cows,” said Lisa. “Maybe it’s time to think goats instead.” Goat Lady Dairy, located in the sprawling farmlands of Randolph County, makes about 40,000 pounds of cheese per year. The farm was one of the first in the state providing handmade goat cheese.

Jenny Tate and her brother, Steve Tate, bought a 200-year-old tobacco barn in the 1980s and opened Goat Lady Dairy in 1995. The 75-acre farm produces several varieties of goat cheese, operates a 15-acre community supported agriculture farm and, during several weekends of the year, offers farm tours and a slow-food dining experience. Dining is offered monthly in the spring and fall. Information and reservations are accepted online.

Following is a recipe provide by Steve Tate for Skillet Eggs with Kale and Italian Sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb Italian sausage or Chorizo
  • 1 small onion, diced small or slivered
  • 1 bunch kale, separate stems from leaves, coarsely chop both
  • 6 eggs
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled Goat Lady Dairy Smoked Round, Farmers Cheese or both

Preparation:

Heat large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add crumbled sausage, onion and kale stems and cook, stirring often for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are starting to brown. Add kale and cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle a little lemon juice and pepper over the mixture and toss well. Reduce heat to medium and crack eggs, one at a time, at intervals over the sausage and kale mixture; cook briefly uncovered. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over pan contents and eggs; cover and cook until eggs are set, about 3 minutes.  Top with crumbled cheese. Serve immediately

 

Bladen Lakes State Forest, Elizabethtown Fire Department reach deal on land for training

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 08:58

Bladen Lakes State Forest is known for its stands of longleaf pine trees. The N.C. Forest Service has reached an agreement that will allow the Elizabethtown Fire Department to use a portion of the forest to train firefighters.

The N.C. Forest Service and the Elizabethtown Fire Department have worked out a deal that will allow for a 10-acre fire-training facility to be built on Bladen Lakes State Forest.

The idea of putting a training facility at the forest came out of a monthly Bladen County Firefighters Association meeting a few years ago, said Elizabethtown Fire Department Deputy Chief Jamie Smith, the association’s chairman.

That meeting led Bladen County Board of Commissioners to ask if it was possible for the N.C. Forest Service to donate 10 to 15 acres of the forest, which encompasses about 32,800 acres. The forest staff offered 10 acres of property on the corner of Johnstontown Road and Bill Martin Trail.

“Currently, there is no public safety training facility in Bladen County,” Smith said. “The main factor here is our jobs entail us to make training scenarios as close to ‘real world’ as possible. With us having no place to conduct training of such nature it puts us years behind. … We must have a facility conducive to the jobs we do.”

Smith said the fire departments in Bladen County share props used in training, which limits their current training scenarios to one or two topics. A facility would allow them to combine a lot of topics together, enabling more realistic training. Their hope is to have a wide variety of training, ranging from basic firefighter to law enforcement, wildland fire training, incident management and a whole lot more.

Michael Chesnutt, supervisor of Bladen Lakes State Forest, said the objective was to locate the facility so as to minimize fragmentation of the forest’s wildlife habitats. The chosen location also minimizes the negative impacts to those who work at the forest, as well as hunters and others who enjoy activities there.

The property where the training facility will be located is in an area adjacent to Bladen Lakes Elementary School, which sits on property that formerly was part of the forest. The school is within a zone that is already designated as a no-hunting safety zone, so there would not be a need to designate another safety zone on the forest.

“This endeavor has been yet another example of cooperating with other agencies to fulfill some real needs,” Chesnutt said. “I am sure that one day I will see a nice training facility on this site, and that I will be proud to have played a part in it being there. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future the North Carolina Forest Service were to make use of the training facility.”

Smith says the objective for the facility is for it to be a training center for local fire, EMS, law enforcement as well as state and federal agencies such as the N.C. Forest Service, State Highway Patrol, State Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and any emergency service organization that wants to use it.

The timeframe for opening the facility isn’t known yet, Smith said. First, the fire department needs to work out the funding, which he believes will take about 1 ½ years.

Today’s Topic: NC trust fund awards 23 grants for farmland preservation, agricultural enterprise projects

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 08:39

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

The North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded nearly $2.3 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and develop agricultural enterprises. The trust fund awarded 23 grants to counties, nonprofits and universities.

Funding resources included statewide general appropriations, money from the state’s settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority and, for the first time, funds from the military.

The trust fund collaborated with the military to support agriculture and agribusiness in areas of the state where military bases and training are located. TVA settlement funds were distributed to a 17-county region in Western North Carolina. And general appropriations supported projects across the state.

The 23 projects include conservation easements on farms and forests and helping counties develop farmland protection plans. The grants also support agricultural enterprise projects, such as studying the potential for value-added soybean processing in Eastern North Carolina.

From 1970 to 2010, North Carolina lost 6.6 million acres of farmland. In recent years, the state has been able to slow the rate of farmland loss considerably. But with North Carolina’s population continuing to grow, Commissioner Troxler says development pressure will continue to threaten farms and forests.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss these grants and why partnership between agriculture and the military is important.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Grants awarded for hemlock restoration projects

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 16:14

Dead hemlocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C. Image: Ben Smith, Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests

WNC Communities announced three awards totaling $75,000 to help to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The awards program is a part of the new Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and the NCDA&CS through a grant to WNC Communities.

Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism. The goal of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative is to work with and through current restoration initiatives to ensure that Eastern and Carolina hemlocks can resist the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on North Carolina’s public and private lands by 2025.

An advisory committee recommended three projects for funding. Together, these projects advance three complementary treatment and restoration methods: chemical treatment to stabilize hemlock trees until more lasting solutions are available, predator beetles to provide long-term adelgid control, and the search for native resistance or tolerance. The recipients are:

The three projects provide opportunities for hemlock restoration across all 17 Western North Carolina counties eligible for the award funds, and each project will also include efforts to educate the general public on how they can help support these restoration efforts.

These projects will each receive $25,000 in award funds, thanks to $50,000 allocated from the NCDA&CS Hemlock Restoration Initiative grant to WNC Communities, and $25,000 donated to WNC Communities by Brad Stanback, a Haywood County landowner and member of the advisory committee.

“We are very grateful to Commissioner Troxler, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and Mr. Stanback for making these funds available,” said Linda Lamp, executive director of WNC Communities. “We also sincerely appreciate the recipients, the other award applicants, the rest of the advisory committee, and countless other individuals, groups, and agencies who are offering help and hope for restoring our hemlocks to long-term health.”

“Hemlocks are important to fish, wildlife, homeowners, businesses and tourism,” Troxler said. “It’s going to take a team effort to protect and restore these trees, and we’re happy to support the search for potential solutions.”

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative Advisory Committee includes representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, NCDA&CS, the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests, WNC Communities, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Each agency and group has provided considerable time and financial support for hemlock restoration activities throughout Western North Carolina.

-Information from WNC Communities

News Roundup: Aug. 23-29

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 10:53

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.

  • “Several Facets to Implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Southern Farm Network: At the Food Safety Forum this week, several speakers outlined the coming changes with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is being implemented in stages, with the export segment coming next. NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler explains why we need food safety legislation: “There is no doubt that we have the safest food supply in the world. So the question is why do we need this system. Think back to the tomato recall a few years ago, it did about $250 million in damage but it turned out it wasn’t even the tomatoes.” Troxler explains that the new food safety system will be an integrated system: “Out of this bad came a lot of good and that is an integrated food system. Integration between FDA and the states and the local food safety official to make it all work is needed.” …
  • “Worms, stink bugs prove to be problems for North Carolina farmers this year,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist Dominic Reisig says this year is shaping up to be one of the worst years ever for plant bugs in the state with heavier infestations of stink bugs, tobacco budworms and corn earworms being found in more fields. “I’ve been here for five years and it’s been as bad as I’ve ever seen. It’s probably as bad as we’ve seen for 30 years or longer,” Reisig says. “I expect plant bugs are a trend that’s here to stay so farmers are going to need to remain ever-vigilant in their scouting.” The insect infestations appear to be hitting the northeastern part of North Carolina the hardest. …
  • “Officials to hold public meeting on Sanderson Farms poultry processing center,” Fayetteville Observer: To help counter the opposition by some residents and landowners, local officials are holding a public meeting Tuesday to talk about a proposed chicken processing plant. The Fayetteville Regional Chamber is hosting the meeting on the floor of the Crown Coliseum with the support of the Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, whose members are eager to land the $113 million plant that would employ about 1,000 workers. …
  • “NCSF wants local fare,” Carteret County News-Times: A push to use more local seafood and a ticketed concert are two changes for the N.C. Seafood Festival this year. More than 65 festival sponsors, media, board members and affiliates met Thursday at Chef’s 105 to learn what’s new at this year’s event, set for Friday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Oct. 6. In its 28th year, the festival that packs downtown will feature live music, food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides, a few athletic events and the Blessing of the Fleet nondenominational ceremony Oct. 6 that honors the commercial fishing industry. The community-oriented event benefits many of the county’s nonprofit groups, churches and more through their various efforts. Festival board members are making an effort to promote local seafood and produce in partnership with sponsors Got To Be N.C. Agriculture and Got To Be N.C. Seafood, a part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture, according to this year’s festival chairman Patrick Conneely. Thirty-two of 51 food vendors will sell local seafood, Mr. Conneely said. They’ll display a yellow flag at their booths that reads, “Fresh. Local. Got to be N.C. Seafood.” …
  • “Cabarrus County Farmer Takes Educating the Consumer Seriously,” Southern Farm Network: Earlier this week at the 10th Annual Food Safety Forum, hosted by NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler, poultry, swine and cattle farmer Tommy Porter sat on a panel discussing food safety issues from the farm to the plate. Porter takes his responsibility seriously when it comes to educating the consumer about where their food comes from: “I would much rather be home on the farm than sitting on a panel. But I would never turn down an opportunity to talk about the farmers side of the story. The consumer needs to know where their food comes from and how safe it is. And how its produced, everything from the land to the fertilizers to the equipment. We have the safest and most economical food supply in the world and consumers need to know that. And how it gets to their table. There is a lot of science and work that goes into it. There is science, for example breeding stock, to get to what the consumer demands on their table. If we can reach out and educate, that is why I’m here. That is why I took the day off from the farm and I think its worthwhile.” …
  • “Get out on the farms for fall,” Charlotte Observer: Once school starts and the vacation season ends, a lot of things compete for our attention. But some of the best local food all year hits fields in fall. It’s also cooler and less humid, the perfect time to make an excursion to a farm. What can you get and where can you get it? Here are a few farms with special things to offer in fall. For the full lists of you-pick farms and farmers markets that stay open through October, including the markets that are open all winter, go to …
  • “Farmers expect to offer plenty of fruit,” Hendersonville Times-News: Despite hard freezes, frost and hailstorms, Henderson County’s apple orchards emerged from all the bad weather with plenty of fruit for the N.C. Apple Festival. “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 there will be no lack of unblemished apples in a range of varieties for sale at the Apple Festival, which starts Friday and runs through Monday, Labor Day. …
  • “Charlotte’s Gleaning Network gets food from fields to the hands of hungry people,” Charlotte Observer: It started in a field of corn on a farm near Concord. It ended with a hungry family in Charlotte. In between, a chain of volunteers gave time, sweat and gasoline to pick the corn, drive it where it was needed and hand it out. “It’s the best job ever,” says Jean Siers, the Charlotte coordinator for the Gleaning Network, which matches volunteers with farms that have more food than they can pick. “At the end of the day, you know somebody ate something healthy and good because you picked up the phone.” The Gleaning Network is one of a half-dozen groups in the Charlotte area that make up the system of food banks, emergency pantries and community gardens. It is also one of the few that focuses exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies by the USDA have found that 17 percent of North Carolina households were in danger of not having enough nutritious food in 2012. …

 

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: August recipe roundup

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:41

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their Got to Be Good Cookin’ segment using ingredients grown and available right here in North Carolina. Featured this month are salads made with fresh, local ingredients found at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the state.

This month, Brian and Lisa make an appetizer, dessert, main dish and salad using an abundance of fresh N.C. produce.

The first recipe is a appetizer that was originally entered in the N.C. State Fair by Gail Fuller of Raleigh. Lisa says the Summer Sushi Roll is “perfect for summer” and a “great way to get kids to eat their vegetables.” The recipe below uses Savoy cabbage but any type of cabbage can be used.

Summer Sushi Roll

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 1⁄2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 10 large Savoy cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium fresh carrot
  • 15 spears fresh asparagus
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 2 slices fresh onion

Instructions:

For the rice:

  • In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix to a boil.
  • Add the rice, cover and steam until rice is tender. (about 10 minutes)
  • Cool and add the cream cheese, mixing well.
  • Refrigerate until cold and solid.

To prepare vegetables:

  • Cut carrot into about 6 inch sticks, the sweet pepper into slices and cut the onion slice in half.
  • Bring 1 cup of water and chicken bouillon to simmer.
  • Add all vegetables and blanch about 2 minutes (until just tender, but still whole).
  • Remove cabbage leaves, pat dry and let them come to room temperature.

To make the sushi:

  • Lay 2 cabbage leaves flat on work surface.
  • Spread about ½ cup rice mixture evenly on cabbage. (mixture will be sticky)
  • Lay 1-2 asparagus spears, 1-2 carrot sticks, 1-2 slices of yellow pepper and 1-2 half rings of onion lengthwise across the spinach leaves.
  • Roll cabbage leaves tightly around vegetables.
  • Cut each roll into 4-6 slices

Next Lisa and Brian make peach wontons from fresh N.C. peaches. Brian calls these a “new take on the peach turnover.” Lisa suggests making these wontons with a variety of N.C. fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or plums. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Peach Wontons

Ingredients:

  • 8 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
  • 1⁄2 cup N.C. peaches (peeled and chopped, 1-2 peaches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • peanut oil
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream

Instructions:

In a sauce pan, add butter, honey and peaches. Sauté until the peaches are soft. Stir in cornstarch and let boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool fully in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Beat the egg and add a little water to make an egg wash. Place a dollop of the peach mixture on the wonton. Brush egg wash around the edges and press together at the tips.

In a large, heavy duty pot, add enough peanut oil to allow wontons to swim and heat to 350 degrees. Add wontons and fry until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Place 2 fried wontons on a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Lisa’s husband, Robert, provided the next recipe, which Brian notes uses so many ingredients that their might not be “anything left at the grocery store after this one.” Lisa suggests it is a “great way to use all that stuff coming from the garden.” It is her version of Chinese comfort food. Add a little sriracha if you want a little extra heat .

Robert’s Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sticky rice, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 green onions (green only cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons celery, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce plus and few dashes
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 3⁄4 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cups broccoli florets and stalks cut small
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces water chestnuts, sliced and drained
  • 5 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups peppers (red, yellow, green, sliced)
  • soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

For the Broth:

Combine chicken broth, green onion, celery, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Let simmer on low for 30 minutes then turn off to cool.

For the Chicken:

Chicken is easier to slice thin if slightly frozen. Place the chicken in a zip lock bag add the egg white and coat. Combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Pour into the bag and shake to coat.

In a large pan or wok, set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add the yellow onion and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger, cook for 10-20 seconds. Don’t burn it. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink and starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Continue to toss and stir the chicken. The chicken can be cooked in 2 batches but remember to divide your oils, onion, garlic and ginger. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

For the Sauce:

Combine ¼ cup soy sauce, ¾ tablespoon oyster sauce and ½ cup of the broth mixture. Then add ½ tablespoon cornstarch and stir to combine.

For the Vegetables:

In same pan, still set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add spring onions and cook for 30 seconds add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger and cook for a few seconds, and then add the mushrooms. Continue to stir so the garlic does not burn. Cook for a minute so the mushrooms can sweat. Then add water chestnuts, dash or two of soy sauce, pinch of salt and pepper cooking for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and celery with another pinch of salt and dash soy sauce and cook until they begin to soften. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the sauce to the pan and then the broccoli. Turn heat down to medium. Add the rest of the broth mixture if more juice is needed. Stir occasionally keeping the broccoli on top as much as possible. Cover to steam the broccoli for 2-3 minutes and serve over the rice.

The month wraps up with a cold marinated salad which Lisa says is perfect for summer.

Edamame and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces Edamame (shelled soybeans)
  • 1 pound green beans (trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 green onions (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1⁄2 red pepper (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
  • 1 can Garbanzo beans (15.5 oz drained and rinsed)

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper; gradually add olive oil.
  • Cook edamame in boiling water for 5 minutes, then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Cook green beans in boiling water for 3-6 minutes then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Combine the edamame, green beans, garbanzo beans, green onions, red pepper and parsley. Pour dressing over the salad and gently stir to coat. Refrigerate a few hours before serving.

 

Taking care of your lawn also means taking care of your trees

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:47

Mowers and trimmers can damage trees and may cause dieback, disease or decay. Image: J. O’Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

It’s summer in North Carolina and that means many homeowners are pulling out the mowers on a regular basis to keep their grass trimmed throughout the growing season. While mowers may make your lawns look great though, they have the potential to make your trees look terrible.  Mowers and trimmers have the potential to damage trees, causing mechanical injury.

Trees can’t really “heal” the way you and I think of healing.  That’s why when a branch is trimmed, a permanent scar remains on the tree rather than new bark growing over it.  Instead, trees compartmentalize damage so that it does not injure other parts of the tree.  When trees are injured over and over or injured severely, it could lead to dieback, disease, decay and in some cases, death.  They just may not be able to get over the injury you cause them.

So, while you’re out in the yard this summer, cut your trees a break by not cutting them with power equipment.  Take extra care when mowing or trimming around your trees.  Another option is to mulch around your trees.  Not only will this result in a healthier tree with better soil moisture available, but you will not need to mow or trim against the main stem of the tree.

Today’s Topic:

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:03

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

The state budget approved by the General Assembly directed the N.C. Forest Service to start charging fees for woodland plans, which are commonly known as forest management plans. The budget bill also allowed the state Board of Agriculture to review and approve the fees, which the board did in early August.

Woodland plans will have a base fee of $45. In addition, there will be a fee of $3 per acre for forest management plans and forest stewardship plans, both of which are comprehensive plans. Practice plans, which are simpler plans that usually address just one management practice, will cost $2 per acre in addition to the base fee.

Commissioner Troxler says there are financial and environmental benefits to having a woodland plan. For example, certain types of plans can qualify a landowner for participation in the state’s Forestry Present Use Valuation Program, resulting in significant property tax reductions.

Woodland plans provide detailed forestry recommendations, but they can also advise landowners on wildlife habitat, soil and water protection, and recreational opportunities. In addition, they can help qualify landowners for forest certification.

The N.C. Forest Service continues to offer a variety of programs and services that are free of charge.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss forest management plans.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.