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Today’s Topic: August crop report forecasts big year for soybeans, cotton

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 07:59

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

USDA’s August crop report forecasts a big year for soybeans, cotton, flue-cured tobacco and peanuts in North Carolina.

More than 1.6 million acres of soybeans have been planted in North Carolina this year, and the yield is forecast to be 37 bushels per acre. That combination of acres and yield should push production up 32 percent compared with 2013.

Cotton acres are a little higher than last year, but the yield is forecast to be 939 pounds per acre. That’s 140 pounds higher than last year’s yield. Total production is forecast at 910,000 bales, which is a 19 percent increase.

Production of flue-cured tobacco is forecast at 416 million pounds, which is 16 percent higher than last year. Commissioner Troxler says some in the business are describing the crop as a barn buster, but recent wet weather in eastern North Carolina may temper the yield.

Peanut production also is expected to increase this year. The yield is projected to be 4,000 pounds per acre, which is not far off the record of 4,100 pounds that was set just two years ago. Peanut acreage is forecast at 89,000 acres, and total production is expected to be 356 million pounds. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2013’s totals.

These crops are on the rise, but corn production is forecast to dip about 15 percent this year. Acreage is forecast to be 800,000 acres, and the yield is projected to be 132 bushels per acre. That’s 10 bushels less than last year’s record yield.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the latest crop report.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Photos from the field: Commissioner Troxler attends Blackland Farm Managers Tour

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 16:01

Commissioner Troxler recently visited the Tidewater Research Station for the Blackland Farm Managers Tour. Troxler and Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, talked about equipment and technology upgrades to the 18 research stations across the state that are operated in partnership between N.C. State, N.C. A&T State University and NCDA&CS. Following are photos from the event.

The entrance to Tidewater Research Station near Plymouth.


From left to right, N.C. Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, Rep. Paul Tine, N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, Commissioner Steve Troxler, Rep. Jimmy Dixon and Dawson Pugh, president of the Blackland Farm Managers Association.


Commissioner Troxler, center, talks with Dean Linton , left, and legislators Tine and Dixon.


Some of the new equipment being added at the research stations to improve efficiency in production and research. Different brands of equipment are being added since farmers today use a variety of brands.


Bethany Pugh, in the white shirt, was recognized at the Blackland Farm Managers Tour as the regional winner of Monsanto’s America’s Farmer’s Mom of the Year.


News Roundup: Aug. 9-15

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 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.

  • “Grafting operation called ‘a day to remember’ in farm economy,” Hendersonville Lightning: A global partnership’s decision to locate a plant-grafting operation in Mills River was described as a “monumental” recruitment coup and a “day to remember” for the business of farming in Henderson County and Western North Carolina. The international venture, a partnership of American, Italian and Israeli companies called Tri-Hishtil, announced the greenhouse operation that will bring 125 agricultural, marketing and management jobs to a 42-acre site formerly owned by Van Wingerden International on NC 19. Company officials and local agricultural leaders said the Mills River operation represents the first large-scale vegetable-grafting operation of its kind in the U.S.  …
  • “NC forest ranger from Morganton killed,” Morganton News-Herald: A state forest ranger from Morganton died Wednesday afternoon at Tuttle Educational State Forest. Education Ranger Jimmy Halliburton, 31, died while he and other forest staff members were trying to remove a tree that had fallen in the road, according to information from the state forest service. The crews were trying to use a tractor to remove the tree when the tree hit Halliburton in mid-section. EMS responded but Halliburton was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the information from the state. “We are heartbroken over the loss of Jimmy Halliburton, and our prayers are with his family,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. …
  • “North Carolina Pork Had Been Surging In Russia… Not Anymore,” WUNC: Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt. Russia released the list Thursday for what Western products it will no longer allow into the country. The move comes in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions leveled against Russia as a consequence for its interventions in Ukraine. The news is not a death knell for meat producers (nearly all of North Carolina’s exports to Russia come from the two Smithfield plants in Clinton and Tar Heel). But it will likely mean lost revenue. “The world demand for meat is greater than the supply,” said Peter Thornton, Assistant Director of the NC Department of Agriculture’s International Trade Office. “Yes, you will find a different market. But each time you lose a buyer you lose one more person who will influence the price in a positive direction. So that will have an impact. Hopefully it’s only slight. But it’s nothing you ever want to see.” …
  • “Popular No Calorie Sweetener Being Grown in the Carolinas,” Southern Farm Network: The alternative, no calorie sweetener, Stevia has been under cultivation in North Carolina since 2011 on private lands as well as research plots. Molly Hamilton, Extension Assistant in the Department of Crop Science with NC State: “It is winter hearty, but we had a really hard winter this year and there was a lot of kill in the fields. We are looking at what temperatures it can tolerate and what types of soil it is best grown in. We are expecting that this crop will be harvested for 3-5 years. The growth comes on in the spring and its harvested 1-2 times in the summer then it dies in the winter and resprouts in the spring.” …
  •  “Hops farming takes root,” The Wilson Times: The increasing interest in craft beer in North Carolina has taken off and inspired Guilford and Pam Leggett to grow their own hops in Wilson County. The idea came from their son, Justin, a homebrewer, and resulted in the Leggetts planting their first crop in April on a patch of land off Packhouse Road where they eventually plan to build a house. What they didn’t expect was to have a bumper crop at their first harvest, Aug. 2, and plans are already in the works for a second harvest in September. “We had no idea we would have 50 pounds of hops with our first harvest,” said Pam Leggett. “We were told we would have no hops this year.” …
  • “Growing a new cash crop with Chinese medicinal herbs,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The tobacco raised by Western North Carolina farmers once provided a good cash crop for a product deemed unsafe by the U.S. Surgeon General. Now farmers could make good money raising herbs for better health through traditional Chinese medicine. “These mountains have been growing medicinal herbs forever. A lot of these herbs grow well here and it’s more sustainable agriculture,” said Amy Hamilton, who operates Appalachian Seeds Farm & Nursery in Rutherford County. Hamilton is a founding member of the Appalachian Botanical Alliance, a cooperative of women exploring how to grow and market healing plants from a medical tradition halfway around the world. …
  • “Q&A: Why Farmers Markets Are Growing in the American South,” National Geographic Daily News: Federal assistance programs allow low-income regions to enjoy the season’s bounty. For many living in the lower reaches of the United States, it’s a touch of southern comfort: Farmers markets—with offerings of peaches, sweet corn, watermelon, and cantaloupe—are cropping up across the region, filling “fresh food deserts” with local produce and offering healthier alternatives to low-income families. New data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that between 2013 and 2014, five of the states that saw the biggest increase in farmers markets were in the South — Tennessee (20.2 percent), Louisiana (12.1 percent), Texas (6.6 percent), Arkansas (5.4 percent), and North Carolina (4.8 percent). Combined, the five states now support 725 unique markets. …
  • “Race-team owner’s NC vineyard marks 10 years,” Lexington Dispatch: Richard Childress is best known for developing world-renowned race teams, but his name has now become known in a different industry where his demand for perfection has led to a successful winery that is celebrating a major milestone. Childress Vineyards is holding a variety of special events to pay homage to 10 years of wine making. “It’s gone by so fast,” Childress said. “It’s been good. Like everyone else, we have been through challenges, but we’ve had so much support from locals in Davidson County and tremendous support from throughout the state.” …
  • “Port could be home to new cold storage warehouse,” Wilmington Star-News: Plans have been submitted to the city for a major cold storage warehouse to go up at the Port of Wilmington. The plans, submitted Wednesday, call for a 101,537-square-foot building on 6.72 acres at 1 Shipyard Blvd. It will be 44 feet tall, said Charles Schoninger, who heads the facility’s developer, USA InvestCo. The warehouse will have 3 million cubic feet and approximately 11,000 pallet positions, according to its website. …
  • “Sweet potatoes lead produce hit parade in North Carolina,” The Produce News: North Carolina produce crops brought in $608 million last year for fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. And sweet potatoes led the way, Kevin D. Hardison is quick to point out. Hardison is a marketing specialist with a 14-year career in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Raleigh that brings a working knowledge of the 60 kinds of produce grown in the Tarheel State. “We’re ranked first in the nation for growing sweet potatoes,” Hardison noted, gesturing toward racks of publications touting North Carolina vodka, butter and chips made from sweet potatoes, microwave-ready yams and even recipes for gourmet meals with sweet potato French fries. …
  • “Deadly U.S. Pig Virus Can Be Carried In Animal Feed: Study,” Reuters: A research study has shown for the first time that livestock feed can carry a virus that has killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd, the study’s lead author said, confirming suspicions among farmers and veterinarians battling outbreaks. The findings, published this month in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, bring increased scrutiny on the feed industry in the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv. The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million piglets since it was first identified in the United States last year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs. …


Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 15:17

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 Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West in Raleigh. He describes his cooking style as “cooking with love,” and “French classic and modern.”

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces 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 of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Falcoz-Vigne  went up against Chef Adam Jones of Dean’s Seafood Bar and Grill in the quarter-final round of Fire in the Triangle on July 21. The secret ingredients were Kerala Curry from Pittsboro and Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh . Chef Falcoz-Vigne won the night and went on to compete in the semifinals on July 29.

Fire in the Triangle ended Aug. 4 with Chef Dean Thompson of Flights besting Chef Steve Zanini of Jimmy V’s Steak House & Tavern. Tickets for Battle in the City in Charlotte are on sale now, with a few dates already sold out.

Chef Falcoz-Vigne provided the following winning Elk Meatloaf recipe from course four of the quarter-final battle:


  • 2 pounds ground elk meat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/5 cup of Kerala Curry tomatoes, plus 1/2 cup for spread on the top
  • 1/2 cup bread crumb
  • 1 cup of duck fat
  • some chopped sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the duck fat in a pan or skillet. Mix carrots, celery and onion together and saute. Add the garlic, toss, and move off the hot burner. Let rest until you need it again.

Meanwhile, grind the elk meat, and incorporate all the elements left, mix well with your hands, it’s always better than all mechanical stuff (another tip from the chef)

To be sure of the seasoning, take 1-2 tablespoons of the mix and cook it in a pan and eat it. That way you will be able to taste if there is enough salt or pepper or if there is other seasoning you would like to add a bit more.

When you are happy with the flavor, form the mixture into a loaf, either in some individual greased containers, or one large one. Spread the Kerala tomato chutney on top.

Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let the dish rest a little before serving it, first because it will be too hot to eat and, a burnt tongue can’t taste very well. Second, because it’s always better to give a rest to this kind of product, when we expect all the flavor to come together… just relax a moment and let it rest .

Parsnip Puree with Labneh yogurt

  • 2.5 pounds of parsnips, peeled and cleaned
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • ½ pound of Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh
  • white salt and white pepper
  • 1 pound of love

Cut the parsnips and cook until soft. Puree in a food processor, add the butter.

Next, add the labneh yogurt cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Company, but not with the electric appliance, because at this point we need to be delicate… Let’s respect the product, this cheese is a fine one, so, you have to be careful when blending.

Add salt and pepper, but white pepper. Why? because What you see influences what you taste! And the labneh parsnip puree is so pretty, with no trace of black pepper. The specks of the black pepper will deter your attention when it come s to the moment of using your taste buds.

Use a spoon and try, If you like it, it’s good, if not, simply add more seasoning!

Heirloom tomato demi-glace:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup cup duck fat or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes
  • celery, garlic, thyme
  • 1 quart of veal, beef or chicken (or all three of them)

In a pot, add some duck fat, carrots, onions, celery, garlic cloves, thyme, and heirloom tomatoes cut into chunks. Heat over medium heat, let cook, like confit (we said that when the products cooked in some kind of fat, together, like when friends hang-out and chill with each other and each bring the best of themselves to the party).

When the color and the smell looks right, add the veal or beef base, combined with some chicken base too if you got some, and let cook slowly, until the consistency looks thick and not runny. You can also add a little bit of the Kerala tomato chutney, if you have extra, it will be a delicious addition.

Use a strainer to separate the vegetables from the liquid, retaining the jus, or sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste, if needed, with the salt and the white pepper.

For the finished plate – a spoon of parsnips, a ladle of sauce, a slice of meatloaf, and voila! Bon appetit!


Invasive insect vs. invasive plant: The kudzu bug and kudzu

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 09:42

Kudzu. You’ve probably heard of and seen this climbing vine that can cover, smother and kill other plants. The kudzu bug is an insect that may feed on not only kudzu, but other legumes as well. It may sound like a biological control effort gone awry, but the story is quite the opposite. Kudzu was an intentional introduction, while the kudzu bug was accidental. Regardless, both species are non-native and both species can be quite a nuisance to North Carolinians.

The kudzu bug (close-up, left) can be quite a nuisance to homeowners, congregating on the outside of light-colored structures in the fall and eventually finding their way inside. Images: D.R. Suiter, University of Georgia,

Kudzu was first brought to the United States in the late 1800s and planted throughout the Southeastern U.S. until the 1950s. The plant was primarily used to combat erosion, with more than 85 million kudzu seedlings distributed for planting. Talk about planting a bad idea! It wasn’t until 1970 that kudzu was identified as a pest and now, known to be a noxious weed. Today, kudzu is a common sight in the Southeast, covering trees, shrubs and sometimes abandoned houses and cars, and it has become a major threat to forest health. The vines spread quickly, takes over native ecosystems killing native plants, and is difficult to manage.

The kudzu bug, on the other hand, is a relatively new find in North Carolina. Because kudzu is so widespread, the kudzu bug is able to quickly and effectively expand its range into new areas. It was first detected near Atlanta in 2009, and has since been found in most counties in North Carolina. The good news about this new invasive insect is that it loves kudzu. Both species are from Asia and in its native range, kudzu is a favored host plant of the insect. Unfortunately, they’re not just munching on kudzu. The kudzu bug also feeds on many plants in the legume family: soybeans and other beans, wisteria and vetches. As an agricultural pest, the stakes for managing this insect are suddenly much higher.

The kudzu bug has also become a major household pest. This fall, you may notice them congregating on the outsides of white or light-colored homes. If you’re unlucky, they’ll come find your home. And if you’re really unlucky, they might find a way to slip inside. The bugs find small cracks and crevices, such as doors, vents and gaps around windows, to accomplish a home invasion. Not only are the bugs annoying, but they’re smelly house guests. Kudzu bugs stink, and the foul chemical they emit could also cause rashes or blisters on those who handle or crush them.

Best way to protect your home this fall? Act now and seal up any cracks, crevices or gaps that might be used to gain entry. You can also try to find a nearby food source (is there a kudzu patch nearby?) and attempt to control it. No one likes an uninvited house guest, especially when they bring all their smelly friends!

To learn more about the kudzu bug, visit the NCSU Insect Notes on the critter!

Today’s Topic: Tenth annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum takes place Aug. 26

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 08:49

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

Registration is open for the 10th annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum, scheduled for Aug. 26 at the State Fairgrounds. Commissioner Troxler will host the event from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Expo Center. It is sponsored by Harris Teeter and Publix.

The forum is open to farmers, food businesses, regulators, health professionals and others with an interest in food safety. Admission is free and includes lunch.

This year’s forum will focus on how the federal Food Safety Modernization Act will affect international accountability, international trade and the importation of food products.

Keynote speaker will be Dr. David Acheson, who has worked in food safety for 30 years. He is a former associate commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and he now runs The Acheson Group, a food safety consulting firm. His presentation will focus on the impacts of the food safety law on international trade.

Other speakers include Jeff Hawley, food safety manager with Harris Teeter, and Kim Taylor, meat and seafood director with Delhaize America. In addition, a panel of North Carolina producers will discuss consumer food choices and food safety practices on the farm.

To register for the forum, click here. Registration deadline is Aug. 22.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this year’s Food Safety Forum.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Versatility, variety help Cleveland County farm stay profitable

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:15

When it comes to making sure his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, Jason Rhodes, left, listens attentively to Steve Dillon, NCDA&CS regional agronomist.

First-generation farmer Jason Rhodes is not afraid to try something new.

Over the past 15 years, he has grown more than 12 crops under five different production systems at his Rhodesdale Farm in Grover. He currently produces about 650 acres of mixed seasonal produce and row crops.

Rhodes began farming part time in 1999 with an ornamental plant nursery. He went full time in 2002, adding cattle and soybeans to his operation. That same year, he planned ahead and planted five acres of blueberries and an acre of asparagus, crops that take several years before they start producing.

When the economic downturn in 2009 caused him to close the nursery, Rhodes shifted his focus to growing produce for local market. By 2012, he was selling an assortment of tomatoes, peppers (cayenne, jalapeño, habañero), squash, crowder peas, cucumbers, asparagus, garlic, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, peaches and muscadine grapes.

Rhodes says crop diversity is important from a business perspective, even if that philosophy doesn’t always translate into dollars.

“I’ve found that cucumbers are not an economical crop,” he said, “but we grow them to meet the customer demand at our roadside stand.”

‘I like what I do’

Last year, Rhodes converted several greenhouses from his nursery so he and his wife, Shelley, could produce tomatoes year round. This was also his first year growing garlic. In the past two years, Rhodes has added milo and canola to his field crop rotation. He is already talking about wanting to try his hand at popcorn and cotton and maybe even aquaculture trout production.

“When I wake up, farming is what I think about, and when I go to sleep, farming is what I think about,” Rhodes said. “I like what I do and that is priceless.”

Rhodes will tell you frankly that one of the reasons he likes farming is because he does not like to be told what to do. Even so, when it comes to making sure that his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, he listens attentively to Steve Dillon, regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is not unusual for Rhodes to call Dillon three times a week.

“Steve does the math for me to make sure I’m thinking right (with respect to fertilizer application rates),” Rhodes said.

Dillon said he is happy to double-check Rhodes’ fertilizer calculations. “A small error can mean too much fertilizer and wasted money, or too little fertilizer and reduced crop yield,” Dillon said. “No matter what crop you grow, it is imperative to get soil pH and nutrient levels correct to prevent potential problems. High-value crops like fruits and vegetables require intensive nutrient management. Since fertilizer is applied daily or weekly, is it important to sample the plant tissue to ensure that nutrient applications are on target.

“I have been working with Jason for 12 to 14 years, and he is always coming up with new ideas, which is a great challenge for me,” Dillon said. “It’s exciting to hear his latest plan and then help him carry it out.”

The Field Services Section of the Agronomic Services Division has 13 regional agronomists throughout the state. They are available to visit or consult with growers who need help taking agronomic samples, adjusting fertilizer programs, pinpointing nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, identifying nematode problems, or interpreting agronomic reports. For more information or for the name of the regional agronomist in your area, call Michelle McGinnis at 919-733-2655 or click here.

News Roundup: Aug. 2-8

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 14:24

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.

  • “Workshop to offer advice for food businesses,” Burlington Times-News: Opening a food business and knowing how to run it are two different things. The state Department of Agriculture hopes to improve the odds for operators with a workshop, “The Business of Being in Business,” from 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 27 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The session is open to existing food businesses, but only 30 slots are available. The session will focus on the nuts and bolts of running a food business, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. It will tackle basic issues such as trademarks and tax and business structure. “Learning the ins and outs of running a business can be a daunting task,” Troxler said in a news release. “If you plan on being successful in selling your product, then learning the difference between a corporation and a sole proprietorship, how to collect and pay sales tax, and registering a trademark are essential.” …
  • “Photos: Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party,” Hendersonville Times-News: Rose Pierce, 7, and Mark Barnett, 4, give Smokey Bear a big hug as they take part in Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party at the Cradle of Forestry Saturday. Smokey Bear is the symbol of wildland fire prevention for 70 years, officials said.
  • “Fresh produce crates available at Lowes Foods,” Greensboro News & Record: Shoppers can now get crates of locally-grown fresh produce at select Lowes Foods stores. More than 200 local farmers are participating in the Lowes Foods Carolina Crate program. …
  • “If successful, Ebola serum is significant for tobacco’s future,” Greensboro News & Record: A small company owned by Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American is making an experimental drug that apparently is being used to treat two Americans infected with the deadly Ebola virus. The drug, called ZMapp, is made from modified tobacco plants grown by Kentucky BioProcessing, an Owensboro, Ky., company that Reynolds bought in January. …
  • “USDA: Farmers market growth in N.C. among top 10 in the U.S.,” Triangle Business Journal: North Carolina is among the top states when it comes to the growth of farmer’s markets. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a Farmers Market Directory, due to the continued growth of food hubs across the nation. North Carolina, ranked seventh in growth, has 240 farmers markets, compared to 182 in 2010, and 86 in 2004. …
  • “Two horses die after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis,” Jacksonville Daily News: One of two reported cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) this year in North Carolina included a horse in Carteret County that was euthanized due to the disease, state officials said. Two horses have died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis within the past two weeks, state officials have confirmed. EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable in equine by vaccination. Both horses that died were unvaccinated, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. …
  • “Like last year, expect Farm Aid concert to benefit N.C. agricultural sector,” Triangle Business Journal: Farm Aid concert organizers expect a sold-out show at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in September. But the event’s Raleigh location won’t directly help North Carolina farmers financially. Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization that uses concerts featuring big-name artists Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp to raise money to promote family farming and access to locally grown foods. Among its activities, the organization provides grants to ground-level farming organizations throughout the country. It also occasionally grants money to individual farmers in crisis. Concert net revenues, which average $1.3 million to $1.5 million per show, go back into the organization’s general fund instead of being distributed in the locations where concerts are held, says Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder. The concert does, however, offer an opportunity for local farmers to display their work. The all-day concert event will feature concessions made with locally sourced ingredients and a tent village where attendees can view exhibits on soil, water and farming techniques like seed-saving. More than a quarter of the land in North Carolina is farmland. The state ranks seventh in the nation for farm profits, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Last year, Farm Aid sent a total of about $28,000 to North Carolina organizations and farmers, representing about 5 percent of grant money distributed nationwide. Most of that went to Triangle-area organizations. Farm Aid provided a grant of $17,500 to Pittsboro’s Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA to provide financial counseling and mediation services to farmers, provide advocacy for farmers, and ensure fairness for farmers who contract with large-scale processors. …
  • “Plant company to employ 125 in Mills River,” Asheville Citizen-Times:  A collaboration between companies in the United States, Israel and Italy will result in 125 new jobs in Mills River at a facility that will graft vegetable plants for growers all along the Eastern Seaboard. The new company, Tri-Hishtil will build the grafting operation on 42 acres in Mills River, land it is buying from the Van Wingerden plant nursery operation. The project has been in the works for two years and brings together major players in the plant grafting and breeding, soil management and plant distribution. The plants produced will be disease resistant, reducing the need for chemical applications. The grafted plants are created in a manual process that melds the top of one plant with the root stock of another, and Tri-Hishtil plans to start in Mills River with tomatoes and watermelons. …
  • “State laws deny public access to information on farm operations,” Winston-Salem Journal: Kathy Kellam would like to know which chicken farms are dealing with viruses near her home in Surry County. But she’s not allowed to find out. Last year, the General Assembly approved a confidentiality clause that keeps her – the general public – from finding out. The N.C. Farm Act of 2013 – or Senate Bill 638 – put a cloak over documents collected by the N.C.Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that might reveal the identity of farmers dealing with animal viruses. …


Flavor, NC: Pie Birds

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:00

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC.” This week, we review the last episode of Season 3, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights pie recipes from Piebird in Raleigh that feature locally grown ingredients purchased at the State Farmers Market and the Raleigh City Farm.

The Raleigh City Farm is a one-acre urban farm in the heart of Raleigh. Many area restaurants, including Piebird, use the farm for locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, vegetables gathered from the Raleigh City Farm are so local, they are often delivered on foot.

The State Farmers Market is open year-round and offers seasonally available produce, meats and more at its farmers building and Market Shoppes. The market also offers a wholesalers building. The NCDA&CS operates four markets located in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Asheville.

Piebird opened its doors in March 2011 with an emphasis on all things pie. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, serving a wide selection of savory and sweet pies made with locally grown ingredients. Piebird also offers whole pies to go.

“North Carolina specializes in just about everything when it comes to agriculture,” said Lisa.  The pie recipes featured in this episode highlight the diversity of N.C. agriculture with ingredients that include local seafood, tomatoes, honey and ham. The recipe below is for Tomato Pie, which can utilize all those great tomatoes that are fresh this time of year.

Tomato Pie

Butter Crust ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 pound chilled butter, cut into small pieces (lard can be substituted)
1⁄2 cup chilled shortening

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add butter and shortening, and cut into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 4–5 tablespoons ice water, until dough just holds together. Divide into 2 uneven balls: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top. Pat each into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the dough to rest. Roll out on a floured surface to fit a 9″ pie pan.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2-3 large, fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix goat cheese, mayo, Gruyere, hot sauce, flour, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Place one layer of red onions in unbaked pie crust. Top with one layer of sliced tomatoes and a layer of basil, pour the filling over the layers and then top with another layer of sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with more Gruyere cheese and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Click here for a link to all recipes featured on the show.

Today’s Topic: North Carolina’s wine industry, UNCG collaborate on strategic plan

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:30

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

The NCDA&CS, the N.C. Wine and Grape Council and the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro have gotten together to develop a road map for the industry’s growth. The resulting plan covers a variety of topics, such as quality assurance, marketing, research, tourism and the regulatory environment.

The plan was put together with input from stakeholders, including people from the industry and government, as well as business leaders and academics.

North Carolina’s wine and grape industry has seen explosive growth over the past decade. The state has 400 commercial grape growers and 125 wineries. The industry employs more than 7,600 people and has an economic impact of $1.3 billion.

The strategic plan is a chance for the wine and grape industry to take a look at where it is, what its key concerns are, and how it wants to develop in the next five years.

Certain initiatives, such as a push to enhance the state’s reputation as a producer of high-quality wines and grapes and increase market share, are being given high priority. Two studies already are under way. One is focused on the use of highway markers to draw tourists to wineries and vineyards. The second study seeks to classify the various types of wineries in the state by looking at factors such as source of grapes, tasting-room size and marketing.

North Carolina is ranked 10th nationally in wine and grape production, but one of the state’s key strengths is the diversity in grape and wine products. North Carolina’s fertile soil makes it possible to grow both native muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes.

In addition, wine tourism offers a unique activity to the state’s existing tourism mix. This creates additional business for local hotels, restaurants and tour companies. Whit Winslow, the department’s wine marketing specialist, says the winery is one of the best places to enjoy North Carolina wine. “We want to make it easier for consumers to find wineries when they are traveling throughout North Carolina,” he says.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss North Carolina’s wine industry and the strategic plan.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: July 26 – Aug. 1

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:02

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.

  • Let them eat vegetables, Durham Herald-Sun: At the South Durham Farmers’ Market, it’s a pleasure to see our youngest shoppers excited about local fruits and vegetables. And, we hope that their experience at the farmers’ market helps to instill lifelong healthy eating habits and a dedication to supporting local agriculture. To encourage this connection and with the help of many in the community, we have created the Children’s Corner at the market. …
  • “USDA overhauls decades-old poultry inspections,” News & Observer: The Obama administration is overhauling poultry plant inspections for the first time in more than 50 years, a move it says could result in 5,000 fewer foodborne illnesses each year. Final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors. But those who remain will focus more on food safety than on quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. More inspectors would check the facilities to make sure they are clean. The changes would be voluntary, but many of the country’s largest poultry companies are expected to opt in. …
  • Peachy keen season, Wilmington Star News: There’s a reason Roald Dahl didn’t pen “James and the Giant Pear.” Only one fruit is sweet enough for such a starring role. Now is the time to indulge in one of North Carolina’s best-kept secrets, with ripe fruit available through late August. We all love peaches’ top billing in cobblers, pies, ice creams and cakes, but they’re a versatile fruit that some say deserves a spot on the savory side of the menu as well. “I think the peach flavor really complements meat, pork in particular,” said Paige Burns, a horticulturist and peach enthusiast with the N.C. Cooperative Extension. …
  • Milking camels for the next super food, Asheville Citizen-Times: Dr. Frank King is looking for the next super food on his farm north of Asheville. Against the backdrop of the Newfound Mountains, his herd of 300 majestic bison graze the rolling pastures — raised for their leaner, healthier meat. But Leicester is more than where the buffalo roam. The farm is also home to a herd of 23 camels — humped dromedary camels, familiar in tour shots of the Egyptian pyramids, and double-humped hairy Bactrians, native to Asia and comfortable in mountain cold. “Those are the animals that built the Great Wall of China,” King said. Now King hopes to build a new business on the camel’s milk.  …
  • NCSU researchers look at ways to make strawberry fields last longer,  News & Observer: Strawberry fields may not be forever, but scientists at N.C. State University are trying to make them last longer. Amanda McWhit, a crop science doctoral student, is researching how to maintain soil nutrition in strawberry fields. The effort involves using a combination of crops planted in vacant soil to retain soil fertility and decrease erosion, as well as inserting a mixture of fungi and compost, known as an inoculate, into strawberry plants.  …
  •  Good as Gold, Winston-Salem Journal: Tony Golding has always had a small-town sensibility. Growing up on a farm near Mount Airy, it was ingrained in him. Golding hasn’t changed one bit, not even as owner and founder of Golding Farms Foods, a large and successful condiments company that distributes its products to hundreds of grocery chains, mom-and-pop stores, and Walmart locations across the Southeast. He runs the company with the same personal touch he had when he bought it more than four decades ago.  …
  • Precision ag vital for increasing yields, meeting growing food demand, Southeast Farm Press: Precision agriculture tools such as Real Time Kinematic (RTK) satellite navigation will go a long way in helping farmers remain competitive, improve efficiency and increase yields as they work to feed a growing world population, says Sandy Stewart, director of the Research Station Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Speaking at a forum on precision agriculture held at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park on July 16, Stewart said that by  2050, the global middle class is projected to grow from 1 billion to 3 billion.  …
  •  Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market is thriving, Greensboro News & Record: It may be the liveliest 140-year-old in town. The Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market, established in 1874, is thriving, with more programs, more events, more access and, most important, more customers. The Curb Market is always packed on Saturdays in the summer, but it has also doubled its attendance at Mid-Week Market on Wednesdays. A free Curb-2-Curb market shuttle runs between Renaissance Plaza on North Elm Street downtown and the market on Yanceyville Street. Since it began May 28, 120 downtown workers have caught the shuttle to shop during their lunch hour. …
  • Swine Health Recommendations for Fair Season, Southern Farm Network: Fair season is just around the corner, and for pig exhibitors – vigilance is recommended to minimize disease. Pork Checkoff director of swine health information and research Dr. Lisa Becton encourages exhibitors to learn to identify a sick animal. “As they are coming into a show where they know they are going to show, if their pig is showing any kind of illness, whether it be a diarrhea or respiratory, its up to them and their parents to decide whether its appropriate to participate. …
  • Appeals court upholds labels on meat packages, WNCT: A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld new government rules requiring labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The meat industry has attempted to block the rules, which went into effect last year, saying they are costly and provide no health benefits to the consumer. …
  • EPA/Corps/NRCS alliance spells trouble for farmers, Rep. Crawford says, Delta Farm Press: A “regulatory triad” composed of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service holds the potential for a lot of headaches for agriculture, says Republican Rep. Rick Crawford, who represents Arkansas’ first district. At the heart of the problem, he said at the annual conference of the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, are proposed changes to the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. “Both, if adopted, will have huge negative impact on your ability to produce the cheapest, safest, most abundant food supply in the world,” he said. …








In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: salad recipe roundup

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:55

Sensational summer salad recipes were featured in July on the WRAL Local Dish segment with Lisa Prince and Brian Shrader.

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.

All month long we have been celebrating Got to Be N.C. and highlighting the bounty of good things that are grown, raised, caught and made right here in our state. These four salads showcase the wide variety and abundance of produce Grown in our state. Following are recipes for Steak Summer Salad, Asian Shrimp Salad, Pork and Peach Salad, and Grilled Chicken Lemon Salad. Click on the recipe name below for a printable recipe and video.

The first recipe features several locally available ingredients including tomato, bacon, kale, spinach, romaine and beef. Lisa suggest pairing this salad with grilled French bread for a delicious summer meal.

Steak Summer Salad


  • 2 filets of beef (grilled)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1⁄4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1⁄4 cup raisins
  • 4 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled)
  • 4 cups kale (torn from stem and torn into pieces)
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 cups romaine (torn into pieces)
  • 1⁄4 cup blue cheese (crumbled, optional)


  • 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


Grill beef until desired doneness and let rest. Divide salad ingredients onto four chilled plates. Slice filets and place on salads. Combine dressing ingredients and drizzle on salads.

This salad also features a wide variety of fresh N.C ingredients including shrimp, honeydew, pecans, spring onions, mixed greens and honey. Lisa notes that the salad can also be made with fried shrimp and cantaloupe.

Asian Shrimp Salad

1 pound medium to large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 cup long grain rice (cooked and cooled to room temperature, 1/4 cup cooked rice per serving)
2 cups honeydew melon (cut into large chucks or balls)
1 cup candied pecans
1 cup rice noodles
1⁄4 cup spring onions (chopped)
8 cups mixed salad greens

5 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar


Grill shrimp, turning after two to three minutes. Shrimp will be pink on both sides when done. Place ½ cup rice in center of 4 plates. Arrange other salad ingredients around the rice. Place grilled shrimp on the rice. Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle on the salad.

Pork, salad greens, basil, dill, peaches, tomatoes, pecans and goat cheese are the fresh and local ingredients in the Pork and Peach Salad.  Lisa suggests packing this salad for a picnic. “Pack each ingredient in individual containers and lay out a buffet for your guests to make their salad,” she said. “Just have the dressing pre-mixed.”

Pork and Peach Salad

8 cups mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons basil, shredded
2 tablespoons dill, chopped
1 pound pork loin, marinated
1 peach, peeled and diced
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1⁄3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the pork. Marinate pork for at least one hour. Grill until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove from grill to rest. Combine salad greens with basil and dill then place onto four plates. Top the salads with remaining ingredients. Slice pork and place on top of the salads. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle on pork.

The final recipe in the month-long celebration of salads features chicken, bibb lettuce, red pepper and parsley. Lisa notes that the lemon vinaigrette also pairs well with pasta, rice, salmon cakes or fish.

Grilled Chicken Lemon Salad


  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled
  • 2 cups orzo pasta, cooked and cooled to room temperature
  • 8 cups bibb lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • fresh shaved Parmesan cheese


  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Grill chicken until cooked through and set aside. Combine orzo, lettuce, red pepper and parsley. Place on four salad plates. Thin slice the chicken and place on top of salad. Add fresh shaved Parmesan. Whisk together vinaigrette and drizzle on salad.






Some insects have the gall to deform plant structures

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 09:38

The eyespot galls found on red maple leaves are caused by the larvae of a midge, a type of small fly. Image: D. D. O’Brien, Cornell University,

Have you ever seen an abnormal swelling or structure on a plant that normally shouldn’t be there? It probably caused you to scratch your head and wonder what was going on. And if it’s on an ornamental tree in your yard, you probably thought that swelling did not look so swell. It’s possible you were looking at a gall – a condition of abnormal cell development and enlargement caused by insects or other organisms.

To form a gall, chemicals are released by the insect into the plant. These chemicals manipulate the way the plant grows, altering its structure to benefit the insect. For example, they may cause changes that provide nutrients or shelter needed for survival. They say a change would do you good, but in this case, a change does the insect good! Galls come in many shapes, colors, sizes, textures and longevity. Many are so characteristic that one can determine the causal insect/agent just by looking at the features.

While there are many kinds of gall-forming insects (e.g., aphids, wasps, midges, beetles, sawflies, adelgids), they are typically species specific, meaning they cause gall formation in a specific species or group of plants. For example, the larvae of the maple eyespot gall midge (a small fly) form round, often reddish, “bulls-eye” patterned galls on the leaves of red maples (pictured). No other organisms will cause that and the midge typically does not infest other tree species.

Galls can be seen on any part of the plant: leaves, flowers, twigs and branches, shoots, main stems and buds. But not to worry—despite the alarming appearance, galls typically cause aesthetic damage only. Because they cause little or no harm to their host plant, management is typically not recommended.

The horned oak gall is caused by a wasp that typically infests pin, scrub, black, blackjack and water oaks. Image: J. Sharman, Vitalitree,

Today’s Topic: Free workshop Aug. 27 will help food businesses learn about trademarks, business structure, sales tax

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:04

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

The NCDA&CS is sponsoring a free workshop for food businesses to provide information about a variety of business issues. The title is “The Business of Being in Business,” and the workshop is scheduled for Aug. 27 from 8:30 to noon at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The workshop will address topics such as trademarks, sales tax and business structure.

Commissioner Troxler says there has been a lot of interest in starting food businesses over the past five years, and some of them have become successful very quickly. Even with good products on the market, small food companies may need help navigating some of the less glamorous aspects of being in business.

Learning the ins and outs of running a business can be a daunting task. If you plan on being successful in selling your product, then learning the difference between a corporation and a sole proprietorship, how to collect and pay sales tax, and registering a trademark are essential.

Registration for the workshop is open to existing food businesses and limited to 30 people. Registration deadline is Aug. 22. To register, contact Annette Dunlap at 919-707-3117.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this workshop and other services offered by the department’s Agribusiness Development Section.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 11:13

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