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Throwback Thursday Recipe: Hot Milk Shortcake

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 11:31

In case you haven’t heard the good news  – strawberries are early this year.  Strawberry growers in eastern counties are already picking berries, and growers in the Piedmont and western regions of the state should have berries in the coming weeks.

This means that now’s the time to plan your visit to the farm to pick up buckets of the ripe, red berries. With about 250 strawberry farms in North Carolina, it should be easy to find a pick-your-own farm near you.

To help prepare you for your visit, rewatch this episode of Flavor, NC, where Lisa visits Carrigan Farms in Mooresville and gets great advice for storing and freezing strawberries once you get them home.

North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation. In 2015, N.C. growers produced 14.3 million pounds of strawberries, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Fresh strawberries makes us think of strawberry shortcake. We pulled out a great recipe from the 1989 Goodness Grow in North Carolina cookbook for an easy to make hot milk shortcake – with strawberries.

Hot Milk Shortcake

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar

Combine eggs and 2 cups sugar in mixing bowl; mix well. Add flour; mix well. Combine butter and milk in small saucepan. Heat just until the butter melts, stirring constantly; do not boil. Sir into batter gradually. Pour into 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees until shortcake tests done. Cut into squares. Combine strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar in bowl. Let stand for several minutes. Pour over shortcake. Combine sour cream and confectioners’ sugar in small bowl. Spoon dollops of sour cream mixture on each square.

Makes 8 servings. Each serving has 554 calories.


Eastern tent caterpillar camps out in NC trees

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 12:06

Over the past several weeks, growing silk tents can be seen adorning many roadside trees, nestled between branches. These aren’t off-season Halloween décor and spiders aren’t the only creatures that create silken structures. The offending organism is much less scary: a caterpillar. The eastern tent caterpillar, to be exact.

The eastern tent caterpillar is a native, leaf-eating caterpillar. They are hairy with a white stripe down the center of their back. They live communally in the silken tents they build with their nestmates and as the larvae grow larger and larger, so do their tents. They eat leaves of the tree in which they perch; their favorites being cherry, apple and crabapple trees. Other common hosts include ash, birch, blackgum, willow, maple, oak, peach and plum.

While the infestations are always in tents, they can also be intense. Usually, the damage they cause is restricted to the eyesore that many consider their silken homes, but in some years, outbreaks arise and cause more significant damage. Outbreaks are considered cyclical and occur on average every 10 years. A single year of defoliation typically doesn’t cause long-term damage to tree health, but repeated defoliation can kill or weaken the tree, making it susceptible to other insect or disease pests.

Because damage has relatively little impact on overall tree health, control is usually not necessary. Trees that are defoliated by these very hungry caterpillars can re-leaf by midsummer. For high-value trees like landscape or fruit trees, insecticides are available. For a non-chemical approach, the silken tents can be removed and destroyed, but be sure the caterpillars are inside when this happens. Caterpillars and egg masses themselves can also be plucked off by hand for smaller trees.

The eastern tent caterpillar creates silken tents on the trees they infest. Images: USFS – Region 8 (top left); R. Anderson, USFS (bottom left, right); all images taken from

Today’s Topic: Governor’s Food Manufacturing Task Force releases final report, recommendations

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 08:27

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

The N.C. Food Manufacturing Task Force on April 21 released its final report and recommendations aimed at boosting food manufacturing in the state.

Created through Executive Order by Gov. Pat McCrory and chaired by Dr. Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, the task force’s core leadership also included Commissioner Troxler, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla. All total, 35 task force members with expertise in food manufacturing, agriculture and agribusiness worked since last summer on a plan focused on bringing more food manufacturing companies to North Carolina.

The task force was divided into four subcommittees, each focusing on a specific area: infrastructure needs and assets for the food manufacturing supply chain; food manufacturing needs assessment; business recruitment; and communications and advocacy.

Commissioner Troxler says food manufacturing could create more jobs for rural areas where they are needed and create more markets for specialty crops being grown in the state. “We’ve come up with a plan to achieve the goal,” he says.

To listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Food Manufacturing Task Force’s recommendations, click on the audio player below.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Food fraud is focus of NC Food Safety and Defense Task Force Annual Conference

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:02
Food fraud, or the intentional misrepresentation of food and food ingredients for economic gain, is the focus of the sixth North Carolina Food Safety and Defense Task Force Annual Conference, May 11 and 12 at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in Durham.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates the global cost of food fraud at $10 billion to $15 billion a year. As our food supply becomes more globalized, incidences of food fraud are expected to increase.

Well-known cases of food fraud include the addition of melamine, a chemical used in plastics, in pet food from China that sickened and killed a large number of dogs and cats in the United States in 2007. More recently, consumers in England, France, Greece and other countries unknowingly purchased meat products that contained horse meat. Food fraud can hit closer to home as well, and include “farmers” who purchase wholesale and then sell the produce as their own, or fishermen passing off a cheaper or inferior species of fish for another.

Conference topics include background and case studies, recent developments and a threat assessment. Session topics also include seafood fraud, meat labeling claims, international seafood fraud and honey fraud in North Carolina. The conference agenda is available online at the N.C. Food Safety and Defense Task Force website.

Registration is $75 for industry representatives, $50 for government employees and $25 for students. Registration forms are available online.

The N.C. Food Safety and Defense Task Force is tasked with improving the protection of the food supply in North Carolina, and includes representatives from state and local governments, academia and private industry. It is chaired jointly by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Secretary of Environmental Quality and the Secretary of Heath and Human Services or their designees.

News Roundup: April 16-22

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 13:03
Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories.

  • “Pork council appeals hog waste decision,” Greensboro News & Record: The N.C. Pork Council served notice last week that it will challenge a recent ruling by the state Utilities Commission that designated the Dan River Combined Cycle Plant near Eden and another Duke Energy plant in Salisbury as “renewable energy facilities” that get credit for running partly on fuel derived from out-of-state hog waste. …
  • “NC Apples Persevere Through Cold Temperatures,”  Southern Farm Network: (Audio) While late freezes are not that unusual, apple growers in the North Carolina mountains keep a very close eye on the orchards, versus the weather. Last week there were two close calls, and Jack Ruff, NCDA Marketing Specialist for apples, based in Asheville says it’s still a little early to tell if there will be crop loss or not: “The two varieties, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith, were the ones that were in bloom, and a few Mutsu’s, and little Red Delicious, and some of the others, but we did have a couple of instances of the low temperatures, and we know we have some damage, but we just don’t know how much yet. It really takes a four or five days afterwards, to really get out and see how much damage was done.” The freezing temperatures may actually end up being a help says Ruff: “We have to thin apples, and it may just be a good thinning job, which is good, that helps us, or it may be more significant. And in talking to apple growers, what I’ve found out … course the cold air sinks to the valleys and the lower orchards are more prone to damage than the higher elevation ones. So, we know we’ve got some damage, we just don’t know how much yet.” …
  • “Agritourism Helps Support North Carolina’s Economy,”  Time Warner Cable News: (Video) The Powells were celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary Sunday at the Plum Granny Farm in King. The couple drove from Henderson for the farm’s plant sale and open house. “We do something special every year,” smiled Charles Powell. Charles and Debbie Powell are spreading their dollars like the farmers spread their seeds on their land. “We came up yesterday and spent the night on the other side of the mountain,” explained Charles Powell. Then they spent money at local restaraunts and gas stations. The Powells are just one of thousands of people who travel across North Carolina every year to take part in what is known as agritourism. Which is important for the state. Cheryl Ferguson runs the Plum Granny Farm. It’s been in her family for more than 150 years. “We don’t have the industry,” explained Ferguson, ” We have beauty, natural beauty in this county.” …
  • “Small farmer finds success with prawn industry,” The Daily Tar Heel: When former tobacco farmer Joe Thompson had his first hip replacement in 1995, he knew he had to find a less intensive job. Three hip replacements later, Thompson began Thompson’s Prawn Farm in Cedar Grove, N.C. Thompson said his surgeries coincided with the 2004 United States government buyout of the tobacco industry. “When the tobacco buyout happened, I had medical problems, so this is why I got out of tobacco farming,” he said. “If it weren’t for that I would still be farming tobacco.” The Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 eliminated price support loans, which Thompson said forced small farmers like him out of tobacco farming. “If you don’t get big, you get out,” he said. Richard Reich, assistant commissioner for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the number of tobacco farms has decreased statewide in the last few years for several reasons. He said there have been consolidations of smaller tobacco farms to improve efficiency, which had led to a decrease in the number of total farms. “The tobacco industry has even more pressure on it, so the demand for tobacco has declined and that’s been a factor as well,” Reich said. …
  • “Salisbury farm tackles cheeses made from buffalo – as in water buffalo – milk,” Charlotte Observer: That must have been one heck of a bite of cheese. David DiLoreto, a family physician in Salisbury, and his wife, Faythe, were on vacation with their family about five years ago when it happened: Their first taste of mozzarella di bufala, the real mozzarella, made the way Italian cheesemakers have made it for hundreds of years, using milk from Asian water buffalo descended from ones that historians believe were brought by the Romans to farm rice fields. “It’s the flavor,” DiLoreto says today. “How do you describe it? Mild, but afterward, you get a sweet milk taste in your mouth.” …
  • “New Food Safety Law Gives States a Big Role,” Stateline: Growers of fresh fruit and vegetables will be subject to food safety regulations for the first time under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. States will start to decide this year if they will enforce the law or leave it to the federal government. With the most extensive food safety regulations in history set to take effect soon, state agriculture officials across the country are preparing to enforce the federal law, but say their ability to inspect farms and enforce the new standards depends on the receipt of promised federal funds. The law — which Congress approved in 2011 following several high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, linked to contaminated spinach, tomatoes and peanut products — comes at a time when demand for fresh vegetables is increasing. …
  • “Strawberry season begins earlier this year,” Lexington Dispatch: For many people, the sight of ripening strawberries heralds the beginning of the entire season of fresh, locally grown spring and summer produce. This year, according to experts with North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, despite a recent cold snap, the strawberry season is beginning nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. “Our growers are very experienced with dealing with late frosts and know how to protect their crops,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a written statement. “Because of their diligent efforts, this season shows a lot of promise with plenty of strawberries available. Plus, since we had warm weather in winter, consumers will be able to enjoy fresh berries even earlier.” North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation. In 2015, N.C. growers produced 14.3 million pounds of strawberries, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Producers Sylvia and Jack Berrier of Berrier Farms in Reedy Creek said they are ready to start picking. Jack Berrier said the weather has helped bring the harvest slightly earlier than normal. He said despite the hard frost a few weeks ago, the crop seems to have survived. “The weather has been good,” Berrier said. “We had a pretty mild winter, so the season is just a little early this year.” …
  • “US farmers on path to worst fiscal troubles in two decades,” Southeast Farm Press: U.S. feed grain, oilseed, wheat and cotton farms face the bleakest outlook they’ve seen since the late 1990s in terms of financial condition and their long-term prospects for survivability. Based on the records for 63 representative crop farms maintained by Texas A&M University’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center, many of the nation’s commercial crop farms face highly uncertain futures over the next four years. “The results for our feed grain and oilseed farms, as well as wheat and cotton farms, are the worst (in terms of the highest percentage of farms in the poor category) since the late 1990s,” said Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agriculture and Food Policy Center. Specifically, he says: 11 of the 23 feed grain and oilseed farms are projected to end the baseline period at the end of 2016 and 2020 in poor financial condition. 6 of the 11 wheat farms are projected to end the period in poor financial condition. 8 of the 15 cotton farms are projected to end the period in poor financial condition. 4 of the 14 rice farms are expected to end the period in poor financial condition. “These results already include any projected ARC and PLC support that would be triggered by low prices or low incomes in future years,” said Dr. Outlaw, who testified before a House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing on April 14. …
  • “Fundraisers to support hemp industry held in Asheville,” WLOS: The annual, global celebration of cannabis culture, known as 4/20, was on Wednesday. Cannabis is still illegal in North Carolina, but industrial hemp is legal. Before any farmers can grow hemp, private donors need to come up with $200,000 for a regulatory commission to oversee the hemp industry. So, The New Mountain Theater and The Block Off Biltmore held fundraisers on Wednesday. The events attracted local artists, musicians and supporters of the pro-marijuana and hemp movements. Event organizers told News 13 that proceeds went towards funding the Industrial Hemp Commission. …

Flavor, NC: Herbs

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 09:48
Each month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight an episode from season 4 and a trip to J & B Herb Plant Farm in Roxboro and Tony’s Oyster Bar & Grill in Cary. 

This episode of Flavor, NC finds Lisa tracking down the freshest herbs from basil to sage. She visits with John Wrenn of J & B Herb Plant Farm. The farm grows more than 250 varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetables on 14 acres and in 20 greenhouses. Wrenn shows off a few unusual varieties as well as herb-garden staples. He suggest that those new to herbs start with the basics, “parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme – just like the song says.”

Lisa then experiments with a few fresh herbs with Chef Joseph Fasy of Tony’ s Oyster Bar & Grill.  Below is his recipe for Scarborough Fair Potatoes.


  • 2-3 pounds red skin, Yukon Gold and/or North Carolina blue potatoes, halved
  • 3 young carrots, peeled and blanched
  • 1-2 stems each fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover with salted water and boil potatoes until just fork tender. Drain and set potatoes aside. Over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the potatoes to the pan in a single layer. If they won’t all fit in one layer do the potatoes in two batches. Sprinkle potatoes liberally with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes without stirring for two minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to prevent sticking. Add rosemary, thyme and sage and continue shaking the pan and turning the potatoes. When almost browned on all sides, add the chopped garlic, blanched carrots and parsley and continue to cook until the carrots are heated through and the potatoes are browned on all sides.

What’s Happening on the Farm: Researching ways to prevent fescue toxicosis in cattle

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 12:00
Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Periodically, we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.
There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are focusing on beef cattle research at Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

In the last few years, North Carolina has been moving to a single, statewide registered-Angus beef cattle herd. Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville is one of the stations that has cows as part of this herd. This allows the state to be more competitive when applying for research grants that require a large number of animals with similar genetics. Upper Piedmont Research Station serves as a cow/calf operation for the herd. The station has about 180 cows, 130 calves and about a dozen bulls.

Much of the research done at this station is feed-efficiency studies. Animals are fed at calan gates they are trained to eat from. Station employees monitor daily intake and how much weight the cows gain. “The goal is to identify the animals that eat less and gain more,” said Joe French, station superintendent. “Since we have been working on the study, we’ve seen as much as a 100 percent difference in intake and weight gain, which is surprising. Like people, some cows eat a little and gain a lot, and others eat a lot and gain a little.”

“In each cow herd you find cow families, with about eight to 10 cows per family,” he added. “There are differences in feed efficiency by family as well. The studies look at what characteristics make these cows more or less feed efficient.”

Dr. Dan Poole, a reproductive physiologist at N.C. State University, and his students do much of the ongoing research at the station. One study looks at ways to reduce the negative impacts of an aggressive forage grass used in the state. Kentucky 31 grows in what is commonly called the fescue belt of the United States, which includes the Piedmont and mountain regions of North Carolina. Unlike some other types of forage, Kentucky 31 possesses a superpower. A fungus lives within this plant that allows it to survive harsh climate conditions including drought, high heat and high humidity. Unfortunately for the cattle that graze on this grass, the same fungus causes a condition called fescue toxicosis. This condition causes growth and reproductive problems with cows, Poole said.

“The fungus that lives in the grass allows it to thrive, but it also produces ergot alkaloids toxins that reduce the amount of progesterone in heifers,” he said. “The toxin also makes the animals unable to dissipate heat quickly, and cows are like people, if you are hot you don’t want to eat.”

The study includes supplementing the cows with progesterone during a critical period in embryo development. This three-year study included more than 900 cows statewide, including 130 heifers at Upper Piedmont. “The goal is to see if the progesterone supplements counteract the negative effects of the grass,” Poole said. “The next step is to publish findings in extension publications and with producers. We also want to know what causes some animals to become more tolerant to the toxins than others. Our research looks into if cows that are chronically exposed become tolerant, or if female heifers can pass along immunity to their calves.”

The progesterone supplementation, at seven days post-breeding, improved pregnancy rates in cows greater than seven years of age and in cows that receive a frozen embryo thus providing a means to prevent low pregnancy and calving rates in these animals when consuming the toxic tall fescue.

In addition to the cow research, Upper Piedmont is home to a long-term study on the effects of no-till to conventional till production for corn and soybeans. The station grows tillage turnips and radishes as a feed source. In the fall, the turnips and radishes grow deep in the soil and serve as a natural tillage tool that helps enhance the health of some of the pastures. Last year, the station also conducted research into varieties of sorghum that grow well in the Piedmont region that can be used as a substitute for corn silage.

For the past 17 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. In addition, the station hosts the 1.5-mile Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail, which is maintained by station staff and open to the public.

Today’s Topic: Strawberry season in North Carolina gets an early start

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 08:15

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

Last year, North Carolina’s strawberry season got off to a late start because of the weather. This year, growers have been able to get an early start despite a recent cold snap. In fact, many growers in the eastern part of the state started picking berries nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.

North Carolina strawberry farmers are very experienced in dealing with late frosts and know how to protect their crops, Commissioner Troxler says.

Some you-pick farms have been open since April 1, and growers across the state report having a good crop this year. The majority of growers in the eastern part of the state have strawberries available now. In the Piedmont, you can expect strawberries by the last week of April. Western growers should have strawberries available by the first week of May.

The NCDA&CS maintains a database of strawberry growers, roadside stands and farmers markets that carry strawberries at

North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the country, with growers harvesting more than 14 million pounds of strawberries in 2015.

Strawberry Days scheduled at each of the four state-operated farmers markets

Strawberry Days will be held at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax on May 6; the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on May 12; the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market in Charlotte on May 20; and the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville on May 27. Each event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features free samples of strawberry ice cream, plenty of fresh local strawberries for sale and a visit from Suzy Strawberry.

To listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the 2016 strawberry season, click on the audio player below.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Rural safety is a focus of Red Cross app

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:26

The Red Cross First Aid App now has a section dedicated to Rural safety.

A lot can go wrong on a farm. From scratches and bruises to heat exhaustion or even dismemberment, farming is one of the most dangerous professions out there. With this in mind, the American Red Cross has partnered with Monsanto to provide life-saving information specific to farms and rural life on its First Aid app.

Auger, tree stand, electrical, grain bin, sun and other safety topics are all covered in the Rural Safety section of the app. When combined with general first aid information found on the app, such as heat stroke, poisoning, bleeding and other first aid topics, an individual can prepare for or assess a number of emergency situations.

The app provides information through videos, tips and interactive quizzes. And once it’s downloaded, you don’t need an Internet connection to access the data, an important factor in rural areas. The information is also available in English or Spanish.

 The app is free and you can download it by texting the word “GETFIRST” to 90999, searching “American Red Cross” in the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace or by going to

Take a quiz on the Red Cross First Aid app to test your rural safety knowledge.

Board of Agriculture gets update on proposed laboratory

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 14:00
Planning has begun for a new facility that would bring five NCDA&CS laboratories into one location, members of the N.C. Board of Agriculture were told at their April 14 meeting.

The Connect NC bond package that voters approved in March contained $94 million for the new lab, which would replace the following five facilities: Veterinary Diagnostic, Food and Drug Protection, Structural Pest Control and Pesticides, Standards, and Motor Fuels. (Find out more about the need for the lab here.)

Kent Yelverton, the department’s director of property and construction, told the board that a working group composed of representatives from the involved divisions is already looking at business processes in each of the current labs so that the information can be factored into the design of the new lab. The department will soon begin the process of selecting a design firm, but cannot enter into a contract for design until the bonds are sold, which could occur in August, Yelverton said.

Also at the meeting, the board approved rental rates for the new Tobacco Pavilion at the N.C. State Fairgrounds. The 5,040-square-foot, open-air, covered pavilion was built last year. Rental for a non-agricultural event will cost $1,000 per day, or 10 percent of the gross gate receipts for a ticketed event, whichever is higher. For agricultural events, the rate will be $500 per day, or 10 percent of the gross gate receipts for a ticketed event, whichever is higher.

About the Board of Agriculture

The Board of Agriculture is a policymaking body that adopts regulations for many of the programs administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Members are appointed by the governor. The commissioner of agriculture serves as chairman of the board.

News Roundup: April 9-15

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 11:28

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.

  • “When hives don’t thrive, pollinators needed,” Hendersonville Times-News: At Gary Steiner’s home on Newmann Road in Hendersonville, a row of neatly stacked white wooden boxes lines the side of his cow pasture and another stands beside his house. But instead of buzzing with life, they lie quiet. Last year, Steiner had 35 bee hives. Over the winter, 34 of them died, representing about a $10,000 loss, $6,000 for the bees and $4,000 in other losses. The culprit is the varroa mite, a small parasitic insect that looks like an orange crab, attaching itself to fullygrown and developing bees and transmitting a deadly virus. Two years ago, Steiner was up to 45 hives and his ultimate goal is to reach 100, moving toward a commercial-scale operation that may one day become his main source of income. …
  • “North Carolina has high hopes for industrial hemp,” The Daily Tar Heel: A newly organized association is seeking private fundraising to allow farmers in the state to produce industrial hemp. The N.C. Industrial Hemp Association hopes to use money raised to create a commission for regulation and permitting procedures that will allow farmers to finally cultivate the crop. The North Carolina legislature voted to legalize the production of industrial hemp in September. Now, seven months after this decision, members of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association hope to kickstart production of the crop in the state. Industrial hemp, or Cannabis sativa, lacks the potent chemical most identified with the mind-altering effects of marijuana, which is derived from THC. According to the association, sativa typically contains less than one percent of THC. A low-information crop Jeffrey Cartonia, executive director of the association, said the common misconception surrounding the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana can be attributed to the plant’s history. “I think there’s an education process, which is very simple, once you talk to somebody and actually discuss what each variant is and what the differences are,” Cartonia said. …
  • “Scientist and local fisherman work to restore oysters at the Crystal Coast,” Public Radio East: (Audio) There’s an environmental and economic crisis along our coast and around the world. Oyster populations are drastically low, as compared to their numbers a century ago. In North Carolina, oyster populations have dropped 90 percent. But two men in Carteret County think they may have the answer to the shortage. One is a scientist, the other is a fishermen. It’s an unlikely partnership, since scientists and commercial fishermen haven’t traditionally had the best relationship. Against big odds, these two have worked together for the past six years to figure out the best way to increase oyster populations in the estuarine of North Carolina’s coast. Waters were once abundant with oysters, but now their populations have been decimated because of overharvesting and habitat destruction. “It’s also important to note that the environment has changed dramatically over the years.” Dr. Neils Lindquist is a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. “One of those big changes has been to allow more salt water into our estuaries, dredging inlets and building the intercostal waterway. When you change the water and make it saltier, it’s harder for oysters because there are so many more predators and pest that love to eat oysters as much as we do.” …
  • “Milk Prices Hurting NC Dairy Farmers,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) Good news for you at the grocery store! The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a gallon of milk selling for $3.21. That’s the lowest price in six years. But that’s not good news for everyone. North Carolina dairy producers are facing tough decisions on operating in the red, or going out of business. “We’re the biggest dairy producer in North Carolina,” said Dr. Ben Shelton, owner of Rocky River Dairy Farm. “Each morning, it’s about 97 pounds of milk per cow. About 110 thousand pounds a day.” Dr. Shelton’s owned the farm for nearly a quarter of century. But he now faces uncertain times. “2016 looks like it could be a really bad year,” said Dr. Shelton. “We’re about 60-65 percent price wise where we were in 2014. It’s a global problem. Supply and demand for the whole world is out of balance.” There are 43 dairy farmers in Iredell County, making it the largest producer in the state. The slump in milk prices is costing the region millions. “Milk prices for farmers around here are below the break even cost, so when they actually go to the barn in the morning, they’re losing money,” said Nancy Keith, County Extension Director COOP Iredell County. Dr. Shelton adds trying to stay afloat is only causing the industry to sink deeper. “Everybody makes more milk and ship more volume to overcome the lack of margin. Then it takes longer for the cycle to work its way through,” said Dr. Shelton. They say you can help, by drinking more milk.
  • “State’s strawberry season in full swing,” Jacksonville Daily News: The open strawberry season is the perfect time to enjoy farm-fresh fruit that your whole family can pick themselves. There are more than 200 farms in North Carolina with “Pick Your Own” experiences and these interactive farms are educating families like yours on local agriculture through family fun. North Carolina is the country’s fourth largest producer of strawberries with 1,800 acres harvested each year. Strawberry season typically begins in early April and lasts through mid-June, but always check local farm websites or Facebook pages for opening dates, hours and directions. “The strawberry fields just opened Thursday,” said Caitlin Lafferty on Friday at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville. “Our strawberry plants are bigger than they were at this time last year and we have a lot more green berries than we normally would too.” …
  • “Sen. Grassley authors bill to stop ‘farm subsidy loophole” Southeast Farm Press: Farmers already being hammered by low commodity prices and a reduced safety net in the 2014 farm bill may face additional challenges if new legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, gains passage. Grassley, who calls himself one of the only working family farmers in the U.S. Senate, has introduced the Farm Payment Loophole Elimination Act. The bill would close “a farm subsidy loophole that was intentionally included in the 2014 farm bill,” according to the senator. “The original actively engaged language that both bodies of Congress passed as part of the 2014 farm bill would have limited the number of ‘non-farming managers’ to one per entity,” Grassley said in a statement released by his office. “However, conferees denied these reforms put forth by Grassley and overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress, and instead opted for instructions that restricted the Agriculture’s Department’s ability to fix blatant abuses of the farm safety net.” …
  • “COLUMN: Support the Food System; you’re a part of it,” The Technician: It can be easier to overlook the underemphasized concern of food sustainability in the community when being taught about those in impoverished areas. However, according to the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, 18 percent of North Carolinians do not know where their next meal will be coming from. North Carolina is also ranked one of the highest food-insecure states among individuals under 18 years of age, involving approximately one out of every four children. o state the obvious, everyone is connected to food by the need to consume energy. But this is why a relationship and participation with the food system is essential. Calgary defines a sustainable food system to be “a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being.” Most people travel to grocery stores or farmers’ markets to access fresh produce. But an alternative to this conventional method of acquiring food is a local food system. This sustainable solution makes food more geographically and economically accessible in the closer proximity. ..
  • “The Looming Threat of Avian Flu,” The New York Times: Even at a distance, it was obvious that there was something odd about the compost pile behind one of Brad Moline’s long white barns. Moline, 37, tops six feet, but the pile towered above him. It was 30 feet wide and 100 feet long, and the compost was crumbly and rich. But its sloping sides were studded with bones. There were seven other piles like this on the Moline family farm, in northwest Iowa, enough to fill three football fields up to the first row of seats. Bleached pelvic crests and the knobby ends of shins poked up from the humus alongside an unbroken wishbone. They were all that was left of the 56,000 turkeys that Moline and his older brother, Grant, and their father, John, were raising last May, when avian influenza arrived on their farm. When they went to bed one night, their turkeys were healthy; the next morning, almost 100 were dead and hundreds more were gasping for breath. Thousands of birds died in days. “I’d never seen anything like it before,” Moline said when I visited him last October. “My father, who is 70 years old, he’d never seen anything like it before, and some older relatives that have been around this area for a long time, they’d never seen anything like it. It rolled through the farm like a runaway train.” …

Got to Be NC Recipes: Ballpark Boiled Peanuts

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 12:40
Baseball stadiums across the state are welcoming back the boys of summer. And whether you are a fan of the Asheville Tourists, Durham Bulls, Winston-Salem Dash, Burlington Royals, Carolina Mudcats, Charlotte Knights, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads or Kannapolis Intimidators, one thing is for sure, you can enjoy some North Carolina-grown peanuts while cheering on your team.

Chances are good that the bag of peanuts you pick up at the stadium were grown right here in North Carolina. Many Major League Baseball teams use Hampton Farms peanuts, so look for the Got to Be NC logo on the bag.

North Carolina peanut growers produced 400 million pounds of peanuts in 2014, which ranks us sixth in the nation in production. Leading peanut producing counties are Martin, Pitt, Halifax, Bertie, Edgecombe and Hertford. Most N.C. peanut farmers grow the Virginia-type peanut that is most often sold as cocktail peanuts or as the in-shell peanuts that are popular at ballgames.

One summer-time staple for many Southerners are boiled peanuts, which can be a bit of an acquired taste for those not familiar with this style of peanut. The recipe below for boiled peanuts is provided by Bertie County Peanuts in Windsor. This company has been growing peanuts in the state since 1915.

Boiled Peanuts

  • Raw, shelled peanuts
  • Water
  • Salt
  1. Wash raw peanuts thoroughly in cool water; then soak in cool, clean water for about 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Put peanuts in a pot and cover completely with water. Add 1 cup of salt per gallon of water – or salt to taste.
  3. The cooking period for boiled peanuts varies according to the maturity of the peanuts used and the variety of peanut. The cooking time for a “freshly pulled” or green peanut is shorter than for a peanut which has been stored for a time or a dried peanut.
  4. When fully cooked, the texture of the peanut should be similar to that of a cooked dry pea or bean. Boil the peanuts for about 4 hours, then taste. Taste again in 10 minutes, both for salt and texture. Keep cooking and tasting until they reach desired texture. For dried in-shell peanuts soak 8 hours in salted water, then boil 8 hours. Dried shelled peanuts can be cooked the same.
  5. Drain peanuts after cooking or they will absorb salt and become oversalted. For extra salty tasting peanuts, soak overnight.

Boiled peanuts are usually served as a snack, but they make a great substitute for dried cooked beans at any meal. They may be eaten hot, at room temperature, or chilled in the refrigerator and eaten cold, shelling as you eat. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days, or can be frozen for later.

Also, if you are visiting the Carolina Mudcats, Kannapolis Intimadators, Greensboro Grasshoppers or Wilson Tobs, check out special in-stadium Got to Be NC promotions.

Today’s Topic: USDA report indicates NC farmers will plant more acres of corn, sweet potatoes this year

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 08:36

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

North Carolina farmers intend to plant more acres of corn and sweet potatoes this year, according to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report.

Corn plantings in North Carolina are expected to increase by 18 percent over last year, to 930,000 acres. If the forecast holds, it will reverse a downward trend in corn acreage that occurred the past two growing seasons.

Sweet potato acreage also is expected to increase this year. Farmers say they will plant 105,000 acres, which is 21 percent more than last year. And if the forecast is true, it will be the highest sweet potato acreage ever recorded in North Carolina. The previous high was 101,000 acres way back in 1932.

Two other crops with expected increases in acreage are hay and peanuts. Hay acreage is forecast to rise by 7 percent over last year, and peanut acreage is projected to be up 6 percent.

As acreage rises for some crops, it will fall for others. Cotton growers intend to plant 290,000 acres this year, which is 25 percent fewer than last year. And winter wheat acreage already is down 25 percent from last year, with 490,000 acres planted.

Flue-cured tobacco acres are expected to drop by 6 percent, to 160,000. And burley acreage is forecast to be 5 percent lower than a year ago.

Finally, soybean plantings are forecast to total 1.7 million acres, down 7 percent from last year.

Actual plantings may change because of weather, input costs, commodity prices and other factors. More will be known about actual plantings when the USDA’s acreage report comes out on June 30.

To listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss N.C. farmers’ planting intentions, click on the audio player below.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: April 2 – 8

Fri, 04/08/2016 - 11:54
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.

  • “Working for change in the meat industry,” The Technician: Sarah Blacklin, program director of NC Choices, was recently recognized in a national search for 100 Fresh Perspectives shaping the rural United States and agriculture. Blacklin was recognized for her role in creating Working Women in the Meat Business, a program involving trainings and conferences intended to help women overcome barriers in their careers with the meat business.  …
  • “Tar Heel: Farmer Robert Elliott will teach his craft to fellow veterans,” The News & Observer: Robert Elliott sits on the porch of the stately colonial home where he grew up, a cacophony rising from roosters occasionally interrupting him as he tells the story of his evolution from Marine to free-range farmer to veterans’ advocate. Chickens, turkeys and ducks mill about the yard, now and then making it up to the porch. Out back, pigs frolic and more chickens roost in the wood shack where Elliott says his grandfather used to make moonshine. Nearby, neatly stacked logs grow shiitake mushrooms. Elliott, 36, started Cypress Hall Farms on part of his family’s land three years ago, creating a niche business selling free-range meat to local customers. But along the way, he became a contact person for other veterans interested in farming. He has worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, and recently created a statewide network that helps veterans who are farmers connect and support one another. Soon, he plans to convert Cypress Hall Farms into the Veteran Farm of North Carolina, helping veterans transition to careers in agriculture. …
  • “Johnston County sweet potato farmer files lawsuit over pet food idea,” Triangle Business Journal: What started as a simple idea aimed at improving the quality of pet food made in China with North Carolina sweet potatoes has become a lawsuit filed March 23 by a farmer against a Virginia agriculture giant. Johnston County farmer Frank Lee filed suit against Universal Corporation, alleging that the tobacco company stole his ideas and turned them into a company. He’s asking for a jury trial, as well as damages from future revenues of a company he alleges was founded on his know-how. It’s a complicated story that, according to a complaint filed by Shanahan Law Group last month, starts with a 2011 trip to China. Chinese pet food manufacturers were having difficulties with locally sourced ingredients, Lee observed. He believed the “poor quality” of Chinese sweet potatoes contributed to the contamination of pet food across the globe and became convinced that N.C. sweet potatoes, governed by USDA standards, could be substituted for Chinese products – improving quality and reducing field waste in the state, where “a significant portion of the North Carolina sweet potato crop every year was not used.” …
  • “Farmers watch, prepare for freeze,” Hendersonville Times-News: After hearing the freeze warning issued for Sunday morning, farmer Danny McConnell worked from early Saturday into that afternoon to protect his strawberry crop. McConnell also has cherry, plum, pear and apple trees, though there’s not much to do but hope for the best for the trees. On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for overnight Sunday, from 2-10 a.m., and warned of damage to budding trees. With a forecast low of 30 degrees, the risk of frost damage to delicate blossoms was not as strong as it could be, but there was still concern among farmers. “The critical temperature is 28 degrees,” said Marvin Owings Jr., Henderson County N.C. Cooperative Extension director. “With a breeze, there’s less worry about frost.” …
  • “Food center in Ayden could create hundreds of jobs,” WNCT: Big economic development is in the works for a small town in Pitt County. Ayden is pursuing a grant to construct the N.C. Food Commercialization Center, which would spark economic growth throughout the East. The town is applying for a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create what’s being called a regional food hub. The center is an innovative idea to connect entrepreneurs and local farmers to the marketplace. Locally grown farm food would be produced, marketed, and distributed out of the center in Ayden. …
  • “Peach Growers Worry About Upcoming Freeze as Harvest Approaches,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) This week’s forecast has some North Carolina peach growers worried about their harvest. Freezing weather could threaten the peach crop in orchards across the state just weeks before picking time. Time Warner Cable News reporter Kathryn DiGisi stopped by Kalawi Orchard in the Sandhills and has more. …
  • “A different kind of TV dinner: Farm-to-fork food for your freezer,” Charlotte Observer: A Salisbury steak, slathered in gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and maybe some apple cobbler, each in its own little compartment of the plastic tray. That’s probably what you think of when you think TV dinner. What Zone 7 Foods offers is a little bit different. There’s still the plastic, oven- and microwave-safe tray with little compartments, but it’s filled with local, farm-to-fork and organic foods. …
  • “Dan Gridley’s beer farm” Southeast Farm Press: Dan Gridley calls his 90 acre operation near Pittsboro, N.C. a “beer farm” because he grows the ingredients that are used to make the tasty brew. “We are a diversified farm. We just grow beer,” Gridley said at the South Atlantic Hops Conference in Richmond March 5. “We grow barley; we grow wheat; we grow rye; we grow sorghum, and six different varieties of hops. Our goal is to be a farm brewery and we are getting closer to that.” Gridley and his wife started Farm Boy Farms in 2011 to provide local ingredients to the growing craft beer and home brew industry in North Carolina. Gridley is a native New Yorker, spent time in Boston and Honolulu and has lived in Raleigh for 10 years. He inherited his 90-acre farm by marrying his wife. His goal was to use the 90 acres to produce high quality locally sourced ingredients for North Carolina’s microbreweries. In 2009, Gridley reached out to North Carolina State University to learn what grain and hop varieties can be grown in North Carolina for beer production. “We grew as the market grew. When we started in 2009, there were 32 microbreweries. Now there are more than 160 and that number continues to grow.” …
  • “The Very People Worried About Food Cost and Availability Behind Blocking GMO Labeling Bill,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The Senate has stalled with the GMO labeling situation, and Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina is mystified as to why the legislation can’t move forward: “We tried to get support from some of the democratic members, and failed to get to the 60 votes, so we’ve put it back on the calendar, and continue to work on it. It’s amazing to me, how the very people who come to the senate floor, talk about the rising cost of food, and talk about some of the most challenged among us, and then they turn around and block a policy that will avoid a close to $1,200 a year increase in food costs, and for no real gain. And the other fallacy in all this is with all the exceptions and exemptions, it’s not going to better inform the consumer. So, we get a more complicated environment for giving people the information they rightly deserve, and ti costs more. We’ll continue to fight for it. We’d like to do it sooner, because the industry now is going to have to incur costs to be ready to co ply with the Vermont law, and those are just going to be wasted dollars at the expense of food prices, and ultimately the taxpayer and working families.” Speaking of food companies they have actually stepped ahead of the senate, and many of the biggest players in the industry are going ahead and labeling their products now. “Well, that’s right. What they’re trying to do is come up with a consistent way of trying to inform the consumer about the content of their products, and you do that, again with a consistent approach.” …


Tar Heel Kitchen: Potato-Cabbage Soup

Thu, 04/07/2016 - 11:26
Since 1926, the Agricultural Review has been a free newspaper published by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For many years, The Tar Heel Kitchen was a featured column written by the department’s marketing home economist. These recipes tended to be seasonal with just a handful of ingredients. We thought these recipes needed to be shared in a new format. Tar Heel Kitchen posts will unearth a few of these timeless recipes each month. On the menu this week is a recipe for Potato Cabbage Soup from the March 1, 1983 issue.

“Soups are a welcome addition to any meal during the chilly months,” said Cynthia Higgins, former NCDA home economist. “The versatility of soup cannot be overestimated as a hearty meal itself. Serve a robust vegetable soup with some homemade bread and you are sure to be a hit with your family.”

Higgins also offered advice for making a good stock for soup. “Stock making is an exception to almost every other kind of cooking. Mature vegetables and aged meat can be very flavorful. Instead of making the effort to keep juices in the vegetables or meat, you want to extract the flavor from them and trap them in the liquid.” Meat stocks should be simmered on low heat for a few hours, vegetable stocks deteriorate in flavor if simmered longer than 30 minutes. Higgins also warned readers not to salt too heavily at the beginning of stock making.

The weather forecast calls for a chilly weekend across North Carolina. We think it is the perfect weekend for a big bowl of soup.

We tried the recipe below out in the test kitchen and thought the cabbage added a nice texture to the soup. And, as with many recipes, we thought a little bacon would have made it better. Another suggestion was to try sweet potatoes as a substitution.

Potato-Cabbage Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 small cabbage
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups light cream
  • salt, pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan. Mince half a medium onion and cook in butter until translucent. Finely slice a small head of cabbage to make about 2 cups shreds. Peel and dice 3 potatoes. Add cabbage and potatoes to the saucepan with 1 cup boiling water and a little salt. Simmer over low heat until the potatoes are soft. Add 3 cups light cream and heat slowly.


USDA designates 6 NC counties as natural disaster areas because of January flooding

Wed, 04/06/2016 - 13:48
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington and Wayne counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by excessive rain and flooding that began on Jan. 2 and continues.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous: Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Duplin, Greene, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Sampson and Wilson.

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

Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at

–Information from USDA

Wisteria hysteria

Wed, 04/06/2016 - 10:27

For the past few weeks, many North Carolina treetops have been clothed with a gorgeous drooping purple flower that reaches high into forest canopies. The thought by many is that the plant is a stunning reminder that spring has arrived — and they’re right! The purple blooms are breathtaking and prized by many for their landscapes and gardens. They ascend to great heights, often higher than 50 or 60 feet! But don’t let the beauty of Japanese and Chinese wisteria fool you … the plant’s attractive exterior is deceitful.

Non-native wisteria may be pretty, but it is a major threat to the native forests it invades. Images: K. Oten, NCFS.

Wisteria is considered one of the more damaging invasive plants in our forests. When non-native wisteria escapes cultivation to the natural forest setting, it isn’t the innocent, pretty plant as originally intended. Not only can wisteria block light and water for forest plants, but the woody, heavy stems can pull large trees down by their sheer weight. Even worse, the vines wrap tightly around tree trunks, slowly cutting into the bark and strangling the tree as it attempts to grow outward in diameter. But not all problems are up in the air. On the forest floor, wisteria can trail as a vine or create dense, shrub-like thickets that interfere with natural regeneration of the forest, leaving little to replace the dying overstory.

This flower power arrived in the U.S. long before the 60s and 70s. Non-native wisteria first showed up stateside in the 1800s. The plants were desired for not only their beauty, but for its rapid growth and dense foliage. These characteristics make them ideal plants for gazebos, walls, porches and gardens. They are also the same characteristics that enable them to invade quickly and densely in our forests. For those wanting a plant with the appearance of wisteria without the threat to our native forests, there is a native wisteria suggested by many as a substitute to the Japanese or Chinese cultivars. The flowers are more compact and similar to a pinecone in shape, but the purple showiness is there each spring, without the potential risks.

For those who are taking on the plant in their own backyard, a multi-pronged approach is often best. Entire plant removal or cutting the vine at its base paired with judiciously applying appropriately-labeled herbicides often yields the best results. Fair warning: engaging this invasive plant in battle will test your patience.  Wisteria sprouts will need to continually be retreated until the plant exhausts its remaining resources.

Today’s Topic: New online tool to help prevent crop damage, bee deaths from pesticide drift

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 08:15

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

North Carolina is joining 13 other states in offering an online service that allows producers of pesticide-sensitive specialty crops to map their crop locations.

Commissioner Troxler says DriftWatch seeks to enhance communication and awareness between pesticide users and producers of high-value specialty crops. A companion program, BeeCheck, allows hive owners to map the locations of their beehives. The goal of using both of these tools is to prevent crop damage and bee deaths due to accidental pesticide drift.

The program is voluntary, non-regulatory and free to use. Other states, particularly in the Midwest, have had success in getting pesticide users, farmers and beekeepers to use the site.

Producers of high-value specialty crops, such as tomatoes, tobacco, fruit trees, grapes and vegetables, can map their sites and provide contact information about their operation on DriftWatch. Using BeeCheck, beekeepers can choose which details of hive information are displayed on the map by denoting their hives with half-acre circles.

This program should help specialty crop producers, beekeepers and pesticide users be good neighbors and work together to protect pollinators and control drift on sensitive crops, Commissioner Troxler says.

The program was purchased with a grant from the Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund and is one of the results of the department’s efforts to protect and increase pollinators in the state.

Over the next several months, department staff will meet with grower groups and work through Cooperative Extension and Farm Bureau to explain to  farmers how DriftWatch works and how to use the online tools. To learn about the programs and for detailed instructions on how to sign up and use the mapping tool, click here.

To listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss DriftWatch, click on the audio player below.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: March 26 – April 1

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 11:26
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.

  • “Agribusiness still No. 1 in Robeson County,” Fayetteville Observer: A drive down the back roads of Robeson County reveals farmers who seem always to be working the fields to provide crops for the community. Agribusiness includes crops, livestock production and forestry, said Mac Malloy, an agricultural agent for Robeson County specializing in corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and peanuts for the N.C. Cooperative Extension. “It’s the No. 1 industry in the state and No. 1 in Robeson County,” Malloy said. “There are probably about $420 million in gross cash receipts coming into the county each year.”
    Despite the large volume of money involved, there probably is less than 2 percent of the population engaged in farming, Malloy said. …
  • “ASAP announces June dates for Farm Tour,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has announced dates for its popular annual Farm Tour. This year’s event, a self-guided open-barn tour of area farms, dairies and other places where local food is produced, will take place June 25-26. During the event, more than two dozen Western North Carolina farms will be open to the public with tours, tastings and demonstrations. ASAP canceled last year’s Farm Tour, which was to take place Sept.19-20, in the wake of concerns over Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, a virus that infects wild birds and domestic poultry. The threat of spreading flu also caused the state to ban live poultry shows, including those at the N.C. State Fair and Mountain State Fair poultry shows. The ban has since been lifted. That’s good news for ASAP, whose cancelling of the Farm Tour last year was a voluntary measure to protect local farmers. …
  • “Sampson County couple are top small farmers in North Carolina,” Sampson Independent: Sampson County growers Donnie and Alease Williams were named the 2016 North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year by The Cooperative Extension Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University during ceremonies last week on the campus. The couple and their D&A Farm were lauded for more than 50 years of farm production, including pastured hogs. The Williamses attributed part of their success to guidance from Sampson County Cooperative Extension, whose staff nominated D&A for the farming award, and to Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T, which produces the award and hosts the annual Small Farms Week ceremonies. Located in Autryville, the Williams have about 150 pigs that are bred in a natural free-range operation and are fed without growth hormones or chemicals.  …
  • “From Cow to Cone: The story behind Maple View Farm,” WRAL: The story of Maple View Farm begins in Maine, and it begins in winter. Bob Nutter, now 87, grew up on his family’s dairy farm there, and unlike his bookish sisters, Bob had a knack for farm work and “liked everything about it.” But in 1962, when he was 33, it snowed 42 inches between Christmas and New Year’s. “And the wind blew every day,” he remembers. That spring, Bob loaded three bull calves into a truck and delivered them one at a time to farms in New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia. “I got back home in April, and I told my father there was a better place to be in the dairy business,” Bob recalls. “And he said, ‘If you want to move, go on ahead,’ so we called the auctioneer Monday morning and we scheduled a sale and sold our milking cows. And then we came down here – me, my wife and five kids – and bought this farm.” …
  • “GRO to nurture farmers, local food movement,” Hendersonville Times-News: In a culmination of work done over the years at Mill Spring Agricultural Center, a new nonprofit arm is looking to take the mission of the center to new heights by promoting farming and local food in Polk County. A launch event on April 9 will celebrate the inception of GRO (Growing Rural Opportunities) to advance economic drivers as well as strengthen communities across Polk County and in Landrum, S.C. “It really boils down to supporting our local farmers and promoting local food,” said GRO Executive Director Patrick Mclendon of the organization, which officially got off the ground this January after receiving its nonprofit designation…
  • “Bloomberg: Harvesting sunshine more lucrative than crops at some U.S. farms,” Farm Futures: For more than a century, Dawson Singletary’s family has grown tobacco, peanuts and cotton on a 530-acre farm amid the coastal flatlands of North Carolina. Now he’s making money from a different crop: solar panels. Singletary has leased 34 acres of his Bladen County farm to Strata Solar LLC for a 7-megawatt array, part of a growing wave of solar deals that are transforming U.S. farmland and boosting income for farmers. Farmland has become fertile territory for clean energy, as solar and wind developers in North America, Europe and Asia seek more flat, treeless expanses to build. That’s also been a boon for struggling U.S. family farms that must contend with floundering commodity prices. …
  • “Day Trips: A cool event for ewe at Historic Brattonsville,” Charlotte Observer: Feeling a little warm out in the spring sunshine? You can always change into shorts. Sheep, however, don’t have that option. Even though winter is over, their wool will continue to grow. In an 2013 interview in Modern Farmer magazine, Dave Thomas, head of sheep studies at the University of Wisconsin, explained why wool will just keep growing if humans don’t cut it off: It’s evolution triggered by selective breeding. “Primitive sheep like bighorns in the West still shed most of their wool every year. And domestic sheep, the ones raised primarily for their meat, will do some shedding,” Thomas said. “But for the majority of sheep, there is continual, year-round wool growth.” He noted that there’s a down side to this: “Full fleece can be bad in very hot weather, sometimes leading to heat stress.” …

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Clams three ways

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 15:38
WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. This month Brian and Lisa featured three delicious ways to serve up North Carolina clams.

Clams are in season year round in North Carolina. Ask your local grocery store if they carry fresh N.C. clams, or visit the online seafood directory.

This first recipe is for a reliable and classic way to make clams. “It’s stuffed clams, you can’t go wrong,” said Lisa. She suggest serving with lemon wedges, or place mixture in a serving dish and then serve with toast points or crackers.

Stuffed Clams

  • 12 large shell N.C. clams
  • 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 3⁄4 cup sweet onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped (we used Baby Bella)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 cup Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing mix
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley

Shuck clams and chop the clam meat. Wash shells thoroughly and set aside. Place ¼ cup butter in a medium-size skillet and melt on medium-high heat. Once melted, add the onion and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes or until tender. Blend in the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Add the clams and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Combine stuffing mix with melted butter and then add the parsley. Stir the clam mixture with the stuffing mixture. Fill 12 well-greased clam shells and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until browned.

Next up is a clam dish that can be served as a main dish or appetizer. “Don’t be afraid of clams,” said Brian. “They are so easy.”

Spicy clams with Risotto


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 thyme branch
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 cup dry N.C. white wine (optional)
  • 40 cherry stone clams
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


  • 2 cans low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1⁄2 cup dry N.C. white wine, optional
  • 1⁄2 cup reserve clam liquid
  • 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

Add butter and oil to a large Dutch oven and heat on medium until butter is melted. Add garlic, shallot and thyme stirring until the garlic and thyme are fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds. Add capers, wine, 1 cup wine (2 cups water if not using wine) and bring to a simmer. Increase heat to medium-high and add clams. Cover and cook just until clams open, 4 to 5 minutes. Discard unopened clams. Spoon off ½ cup clam juice broth to be used in the risotto recipe at the end. Place clams around the plated risotto and garnish with bacon.

Risotto Recipe:

In a small saucepan, combine broth with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and keep at a bare simmer. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium. Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice, and cook stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add wine (optional), and cook, stirring occasionally, until absorbed; 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 cups hot broth; simmer over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until mostly absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Continue adding broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, 20-25 minutes total (you may not need all the broth). Add reserved clam juice broth and simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Then gently add the tomatoes. Place in center of bowl and top with cooked spicy clams.

Chef Keith Rhodes, owner of Catch Restaurant in Wilmington,  shared this delicious recipe with Lisa. She has made it as an appetizer for friends and as a meal for family. Serve with warm crusty French bread for dipping in the broth.

Thai Coconut Steamed Littleneck Clams

1 can coconut milk
1 can dry N.C. white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound N.C. Littleneck clams
1⁄2 cup minced shallots
1 1⁄2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, julienned
1 pound N.C. deveined shrimp
2 tablespoons lime juice
1⁄3 cup slivered fresh basil leaves, cilantro & mint
1⁄3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Pour the coconut milk, wine and olive oil into a large skillet or heavy bottom stock pot, add the clams, cover and steam the clams for about five minutes until they open. Add in the shallots, garlic, ginger and simmer for a minute or so. Add in the shrimp and simmer until the shrimp are cooked. Add in the lime juice and herbs. Pour into a large bowl for sharing, garnish with green onions and serve.