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Got to BE NC Recipes: Anne’s Dumplings EZ Chicken Pastry

12 hours 4 min ago
September is National Chicken Month. In a state that ranks second in the nation in broilers, we have a lot to, umm, cluck about. Broilers alone account for more than 30 percent of our farm cash receipts.

With fall weather and cooler nights upon us, it’s a perfect time to make the quintessential comfort dish – chicken and pastry (or chicken slick depending on what part of the state you live). Many old-timers and those who make chicken pastry regularly would tell you the frozen pastry that comes in the red and yellow box is one of the key ingredients to their chicken pastry.

Anne’s pastry was the first product made by Harvest Time Foods in 1981. When Anne Grimes, her husband and son started the company, they operated out of their garage. Now the Ayden company features a lot more than frozen pastry, including an extensive gluten-free line of food products. We featured them last year and their long-time involvement with the Goodness Grows marketing program.

If you want to try your hand at some delicious chicken pastry, check out the recipe below, provided by Anne.

E-Z Chicken n Dumplings

  • 1 24-ounce-package Anne’s Flat Dumpling Strips
  • 3-5 tablespoons Anne’s Chicken Base
  • 1 13-15 ounces canned cooked chicken
  • 4 quarts water salted with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil in a large 6-quart stock pot. Add the chicken base. Remove the frozen dumplings from freezer while water is heating. Separate each layer of dumplings as needed and drop 8-10 in boiling broth, stirring under as added. As broth comes back to a boil, add more dumplings, stirring after each addition until all are in boiling broth. Cook at a full boil about 10-12 minutes or until desired tenderness is achieved Add cooked chicken and boil 2 more minutes. Check to see if more salt is needed and add pepper as desired.

Remove from heat, cover and wait 20-30 minutes before serving. For old fashioned chicken and dumplings, cook a whole chicken until tender and use the broth to cook dumplings making sure you add enough water to have at least 4 quarts of liquid to cook a box of dumplings. To enhance the flavor, add some Anne’s Chicken Base. Remove meat from bones and add to cooked dumplings. Follow rest of recipe above.

Today’s Topic: Five NC restaurants named winners of ‘Dig Into Local’ contest

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 11:34

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

Five North Carolina restaurants were recognized recently for featuring locally grown, raised, caught and made products during the second annual “Dig Into Local Best Menu NC” contest.

Menus were judged on a variety of criteria, including clear identification of North Carolina agricultural products, farms and manufacturers; highlighting seasonal produce; and identifying items with unique regional connections. Judges also looked at the offering of North Carolina wine, beer and spirit selections on the menu; the inclusion of multiple courses featuring North Carolina ingredients; and the balance of North Carolina products that were offered across protein, grain and produce categories.

Five restaurants were recognized for having outstanding menus based on those criteria. Each will receive an award to display. The winning restaurants were Bonterra and Heirloom in Charlotte, Graze in Winston-Salem, Off the Square in Albemarle and Sitti in Raleigh.

The “Dig Into Local Best Menu NC” contest is one of many promotional activities of the NCDA&CS Marketing Division. To learn more, visit www.gottobenc.com.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the “Dig Into Local Best Menu NC” contest.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Got to Be NC makes it easy to find local at NC Seafood Festival

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 14:14

Got to Be NC Seafood flags mark food vendors using locally caught seafood at the N.C. Seafood Festival in Morehead City.

This weekend, seafood lovers will flock to Morehead City for the annual N.C. Seafood Festival. The three-day event features live music, cooking demonstrations, and of course, a lot of seafood. One of the goals of the Seafood Festival is to drive awareness about the state’s commercial fishing industry. That’s why Got to Be NC is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the 2016 festival.

In fact, Got to Be NC has been presenting sponsor for the past few years. Together, the department’s marketing staff and festival organizers have made it even easier to identify and support vendors using N.C. seafood at the event.

John Aydlett, a seafood marketing specialist with the department, says it’s important to understand the impact of local fishermen on the state’s economy.

“Seafood is a $130 million business in North Carolina,” said Aydlett. “More importantly, it has been the livelihood for generations of fishermen along our coastal communities.”

Here are some of the things you can do to support local seafood at the N.C. Seafood Festival:

  1. Visit the “Cooking with the Chefs” tent.
    On Saturday, local chefs will prepare original dishes using N.C. seafood. Guests can learn how to prepare each type of fish and sample the finished products. Sunday, the tent will feature the Food Lion Cooking Challenge, where chefs will face off in N.C. seafood cooking competitions for a chance to win the coveted Chefs Hat award.
  2. Look for the Got To Be NC Seafood flag.
    Festival organizers do not require all food vendors to use N.C. seafood, but the ones that do will be displaying this beautiful flag proudly. Look for it and you’ll know you’re getting a quality product caught in North Carolina waters.
  3. Show some love on social.
    If you love N.C. seafood, let your friends know on social. Follow the Seafood Festival on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Use the hashtag #NCSEAFOODFEST. And, don’t forget to tag the department on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

The N.C. Seafood Festival opens at noon Friday and runs until 5 p.m. Sunday. More information is available at www.ncseafoodfestival.org.

News Roundup: Sept. 17-23

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 11:49

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.

  • “Crop science execs defend mergers; NC Senator cites regulation as driving deals,” WRAL: Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the deal would lead to greater investments in technology that could help American farmers. Monsanto, the American seed and weed-killer, and Bayer, the German medicine and farm-chemical maker, responded to concerns from Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. …
  • “How an heirloom watermelon breathed new life into a family farm,” Winston-Salem Journal: A thriving food community requires a lot of support, not just from chefs and consumers, but also from farmers and other food producers. Increasingly, farmers are not only the growers of the raw ingredients, but also the producers of value-added products that are made with the food they grow. Take Nat Bradford, who was at Willow’s Bistro in Winston-Salem on Sunday evening to talk about his family farm in Sumter County, S.C. Chef Travis Myers of Willow’s invited a handful of chefs, farmers and others to Willow’s to meet Bradford and taste the heirloom Bradford watermelon. …
  • “Soybean Producers Grateful for Rain,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Many soybean farmers have been hoping for rain, and now they have it. but, it’s time for it to stop, and the sun to come out says Dr. Jim Dunphy, NC State Extension Soybean Specialist: “I think most of the state is seeing the rain as welcome rain, with the exception of the far east coast. Some of these counties had already gotten a bunch of rain this month didn’t need any more, but the vast majority of the state is going to welcome the first inch or two, but then they want sunshine, they don’t want it to stay rainy. We went through that last year, and that didn’t work very well, so we’d like to see the sun come out for a few days.” When we last heard from Dr. Dunphy, about three weeks ago, soybeans were very much in a holding pattern: “Most of them, from Raleigh, east, got some moisture, came back out of it, and went back to making soybeans. West of Raleigh, much of that area stayed dry, and while that’s not the largest soybean producing area, collectively, it’s still a third or a fourth of our state’s soybean production, so it’s still a significant chunk of beans. And they stayed dry, but if they can get some moisture from this tropical storm dallying around, they’ll take it.” …
  • “Are farms the new tennis courts? Olivette opts for agrihood,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Twisted, ridgetop crabapple trees, a turkey feather lodged in the leaves, cascading creeks, meadows of goldenrod and pokeberry, a broad-winged bird dipping low over the French Broad — all these things make it easy to imagine what developer Scott Austin envisions for this property. If he’s able to populate the Olivette community — which he sees as far more than a suburban neighborhood — kids will weave through the crabapples and wade in the creek, and about 300 homes and a private school will look out on the 350 acres of farmland, meadows and woods between Woodfin and Macedonia on the west bank of the French Broad. …
  • “Ceviche’s wins Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series,” Wilmington News-Star: Two of North Carolina’s favorite ingredients — ham and sweet potatoes — were the focus of the Wilmington finale of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series held Thursday at Wrightsville Beach’s Bluewater Waterfront Grill. Two teams of chefs offered three dishes each, one using traditional Southern interpretations and another adding twists with international flair. Team Ceviche’s earned a one-and-a-half-point win with a soft egg-and-hash salad and a sweet potato turnover with lavender whipped cream and honey gastrique. …
  • “Daily Ag Summary: Summer in NC Fourth Hottest on Record,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Shorter days and the emergence of pumpkin spice everything are sure signals that we’re entering the fall. In fact, meteorological fall began on September 1, but you wouldn’t have known it from the thermometer readings alone. Indeed, North Carolina’s summer was perhaps best defined by the persistence of above-normal temperatures that stretched from June through early September. This summer was a hot one, and the numbers support that statement. The statewide average temperature of 77.69°F ranks as the 4th-warmest summer on record since 1895. But, North Carolina wasn’t alone, most of the continental US, including the entire eastern seaboard had above normal average temperatures this summer. Several cities in the Tar Heel State recorded their hottest summer on record, including Asheville, Tryon and Monroe. …

Tar Heel Kitchen: Basic Apple Pie

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 11:16
Since 1926, the Agricultural Review has been a free newspaper published by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For many years, The Tar Heel Kitchen was a featured column written by the department’s marketing home economist.

These recipes tended to be seasonal with just a handful of ingredients. We thought these recipes needed to be shared in a new format. The Tar Heel Kitchen post will unearth a few of these timeless recipes each month. This week we are revisiting the September 15, 1987, issue and a classic recipe for apple pie.
Apples signal the onset of fall, and what’s a more delicious way to enjoy them than in apple pie? Your local farmers market has plenty of varieties to choose from. This recipe was made with Pink Lady apples, but Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Crispin/Mutsu are other great options commonly grown in North Carolina.

This recipe was printed as a “basic” pie for contestants to embellish for the N.C. State Fair Apple Pie Contest, but we think it already has all the elements the contest rules said the winning pie needed: flavorful filling, textured crust, attractive appearance and, due to the lemon juice, originality.

Enjoy this recipe that celebrates N.C. apples.

Basic Apple Pie

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 cups apples, cored, sliced and pared
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (Test kitchen tip: The pie filling came out a little watery, so perhaps cut the amount of juice in half.)
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 2 9-inch unbaked pastry pie crusts

Prepare favorite pastry for double crust 9-inch pie.

To make filling: Mix together dry ingredients. Toss with fruit and lemon juice, if used. Turn into pastry–lined pie plate. Dot with margarine. Make several slits in top crust. Cover pie with pastry; seal and flute edge.

Bake in 425 degrees F oven 50 minutes, or until crust is browned. (Test kitchen tip: Keep an eye on your pie. Ours was done in just 30 minutes baked at 410 degrees F.)

BugFest visitors hear the buzz about firewood

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:24

Visitors to BugFest learned about the risk to our trees if untreated firewood is transported (top). Each year, approximately 35,000 visitors attend the festival (bottom; photo by N.C. Natural Sciences, Twitter).

On Sept. 17, 30,000 visitors swarmed BugFest, an annual event at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. While many are adventurous and take a bite out of dishes with six-legged ingredients, the N.C. Forest Service and Plant Industry Division encouraged festival-goers not to take risks when it comes to firewood.

You see, firewood is the perfect ‘Trojan Horse’ for invasive pests. Many insects and diseases are able to hitchhike in or on firewood. If firewood is transported the new areas, then the pests are, too. It is through this passive dispersal that many of these non-native pests got here in the first place (e.g., hiding with the wood of shipping materials, such as pallets).

The “Bad Bugs of the Forest” exhibit at BugFest warned visitors of this potential, encouraging them to either use locally sourced or heat-treated firewood. Visitors learned about the tree-killing invasives found in North Carolina, then tested their knowledge with a Plinko-style game.

In case you missed the action, the “Bad Bugs of the Forest” will be exhibited in the N.C. Forest Service tent at the N.C. State Fair next month! Come test your knowledge!

Today’s Topic: Yields for corn, cotton increase in latest USDA crop report

Tue, 09/20/2016 - 08:23

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

The state forecast for corn, cotton and peanuts continues to look strong, according to the latest USDA crop report. All three crops have seen their yield forecasts increase over the past month.

The latest forecast predicts a corn yield of 138 bushels per acre. That’s up 8 bushels since August, and it’s just 4 bushels less than the record set in 2013. Total corn production is forecast to be almost 130 million bushels, which is 57 percent more than last year’s total.

The cotton yield also is rising. The latest forecast calls for 960 pounds per acre, which is almost 250 pounds more than last year’s yield. Production is projected to total 550,000 bales, which is 4 percent above last year, even though farmers are harvesting fewer acres of cotton this year.

Peanuts are looking good, too. The yield forecast is 3,900 pounds per acre, and total production is projected to be 394 million pounds, 32 percent above last year.

Here are some other numbers from the report:

  • Soybean yields are projected to be 35 bushels an acre, up 3 bushels from last year. But total production is projected to be 2 percent lower because the number of acres is lower this year.
  • Flue-cured tobacco yields are projected to be 2,200 pounds per acre, a drop of 200 pounds from last year. Total production is expected to be 363, million pounds, 4 percent lower than last year.

Listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the September crop report, plus impacts from Tropical Storm Hermine.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 10 – 16

Fri, 09/16/2016 - 11:07

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.

  • “Black cohosh: WNC’s next cash crop?” Asheville Citizen-Times: Seems like it would be a slam dunk. Many of the pieces have been in place for years: the key ingredient, the wholesalers, the retailers, the customers. Yet no Western North Carolina business exists to take the indigenous black cohosh plant and transform it into an herbal supplement sold on U.S. shelves. Instead, the German company Schaper & Brümmer obtains black cohosh roots, some locally wild-harvested, and manufactures Remifemin, a natural remedy for menopausal symptoms that has been on the market for six decades. This hole in the area economy means the region is losing out on creating local jobs and revenue, said Joe-Ann McCoy, a globally recognized expert on black cohosh and director of Asheville’s North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository. …
  • “BeeCheck Helps Keep Beehives Safe Of Pesticides,” WUNC: (Audio) The BeeCheck mapping system is getting a lot of attention in North Carolina since an aerial pesticide spraying in South Carolina killed millions of honey bees. John Rintoul of Orange County Beekeepers manages the beehives at Carrboro High School. “They don’t care about you, they care about finding nectar, finding pollen and bringing it back,” said Rintoul. He signed up for BeeCheck as soon as heard about it from the state Agriculture Department. “I have two backyard beehives as well and it lets your neighbors know that you’ve got bees,” said Rintoul. Since the aerial spraying mishap in South Carolina, 140 beekeepers have registered their hives with BeeCheck, bringing the state total to 913, according to Patrick Jones, Deputy Director of Pesticide Programs at the NC Department of Agriculture. The mapping software alerts farmers and pesticide applicators to the location of hives. It’s free and voluntary. …
  • “$5.3 million awarded to NCDA&CS to establish produce safety program,” Bladen Journal:  The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently received a five-year, $5.3 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration to enhance produce safety. The funding will be used to ensure that North Carolina farmers and producers are ready to comply with the stricter production and harvest requirements of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. “This funding will help our Food and Drug Protection Division support farmers and producers in getting their businesses ready to meet these new requirements,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I am a firm believer in educating before regulating, and this funding will support training opportunities, on-farm readiness reviews and other education and outreach opportunities. This funding allows us to develop our inspection programs to meet the specific growing and harvesting needs of the farmers in our state.” …
  • “Apple season is here: Where to pick in WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times: If apple growing was considered a sport, Henderson County would be in the major leagues. Apples are big business in Henderson Couny, which is responsible for 65 percent of North Carolina’s entire apple production. From late August into November, the Winesap, Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji and all of their cousins are literally dropping to the ground along Highway 64, otherwise known as “Apple Alley.” Choose from a variety of U-Pick orchards just off the main drag for a day of delicious autumn joy. Fourth-generation apple growers Pat and Leslie Lancaster, owners of Grandad’s Apple’s N’ Such in Henderson County, have maintained their 80-acre orchard and farm since 1994. Entering the grounds, it is clear this isn’t a rookie operation. The large gravel parking lot is overseen by employees directing busy weekend traffic. Once parked, apple seekers are able to spread out and enjoy the grounds without congestion. …
  • “Bayer, Monsanto execs leave out RTP during talk on $66B deal,” BizJournals: Speaking hours after German chemical company Bayer disclosed its $66 billion buy of St. Louis agriculture innovator Monsanto, top executives at the firms gave little new insight of how the deal will impact the Triangle, where Bayer employs about 1,000 people. Since deal talks first emerged in May, executives have consistently said a transaction would move both Bayer’s North American commercial headquarters and its Seeds & Traits business from Research Triangle Park to St. Louis. Execs barely mentioned the Tar Heel State on a media call Wednesday, other than Bayer CEO Werner Baumann reiterating what the deal announcement had already said – that Bayer would continue to have an “important presence” here. …
  • “Watch out pumpkin, sweet potato beers are gaining ground,” The News & Observer: Pumpkin beers are the best-selling seasonal beer in the United States, but sweet potato beers are gaining ground as an autumnal alternative. The root vegetable is perhaps a more fitting choice in North Carolina, given its status as the top sweet potato-producing state in the nation since 1971. More than half of the country’s sweet potatoes come from right here in the Tar Heel state. Fullsteam Brewery’s Carver is one of the most well-known examples in the state. Brewed year-round but canned only in the fall, this year’s new label features an illustration of George Washington Carver and below it a proclamation: “200 pounds of sweet potatoes. Zero ounces of pie spice.” That’s a necessary distinction according to Sean Lilly Wilson, who opened the Durham brewery in 2010. “People’s impression of sweet potato is often driven by the spices that accompany it,” he says. “A lot of times a customer’s reference point for a sweet potato isn’t in the inherent flavor of the sweet potato itself, but in the accompanying spices.” When people think of sweet potatoes, in other words, they often imagine them candied or in casseroles. But you won’t find brown sugar or cinnamon in Fullsteam’s Carver. “We’re asking people to think of this as a lager first that just happens to be brewed with sweet potatoes,” says Wilson. …
  • “In one of NC’s bleakest food deserts, hope is on the horizon,” NC Policy Watch: A new sign went up this week at the once-abandoned shopping center on Phillips Avenue in East Greensboro. That’s rare enough in one of the city’s poorest areas and itself cause for celebration. But what the sign represents is much larger. “Renaissance Community Co-Op,” it reads in bright red and green. “Healthy, Affordable, Community Owned.” When it officially opens Nov. 5, it will be the area’s first real grocery store since 1998. “No one would come, the stores just gave up on us,” said co-op President John Jones Wednesday. “But the community wanted it. They believed and they organized and it’s happening now.” North Carolina is 9th in the nation in food insecurity according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which collects data on where people have the least access to fresh, healthy food. Greensboro and High Point are, as a metropolitan area, one of the worst in the nation for food insecurity. …
  • “People and Places with Pierce: NC’s Blacklands,” WNCT: Some of the richest soil in the world is right here in the East, but few people know the struggles early farmers went through to successfully farm on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. “Very few people, even the people in these counties, really know the real story of what has happened out here in what we call the Blacklands,” said Joe Landino, co-author of the book North Carolina’s Blacklands Treasure which tells the stories of these pioneer farmers. On the peninsula nestled between the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, what was once viewed as a wasteland is now some of the richest soil in the country. “The Blacklands are basically a high organic soil that exists in this region,” said Landino. The road to transform this wasteland to productive farmland was paved by true pioneers. Many, including the Wade Hubers, still farm the Blacklands today. “My parents moved here in 1958,” remembered Wade Hubers, owner of Matcha Pungo Farm near Ponzer. “I was 10 years old. It was very remote here when we moved in. We had to drive out 7 miles to the nearest phone. The clearing of the Blacklands back in the ‘50s and ‘60s was pretty primitive compared to what we have today. I sometimes wonder how they got it done, but they got it done with a lot of hard labor as kids. That was us.” …
  • “Farmer’s Day Celebrates 50 Years of Tradition,” Time Warner Cable News: Music, food, and vendors. Hundreds of people came out Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Farmer’s Day in Richlands. 70 year old Ronnie Taylor has attended the event since it began in 1966. He says it embraces the rich culture of farming in the community. “It’s just our heritage, talk about Farmer’s Day,” said Ronnie Taylor, Richlands resident. “I was raised on the farm and stayed on the farm until I did go into the military, so it’s kind of close to my heart, a lot of this stuff is.” And Onslow County Commissioner Jack Bright agrees. He says growing up on a farm helped him appreciate the hard work that goes into farming. “It was an eye opener for me to come here today to honor the people,” said Bright. “I know what kind of hard work it is and I know what they put into the farm.” …

Got To Be NC Recipes: Trout recipe from the Mountain State Fair

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 10:27
It’s that time of year again. Cooler nights, changing leaves and agricultural fair season. From August through October, North Carolina is home to more than 30 ag fairs.

Each fair offers its own local flavor on exhibits, competitions and entertainment. Showcasing the best a community has to offer in livestock, agriculture, art and cooking is at the heart of a fair.

Last Saturday, the N.C. Mountain State Fair in Fletcher held a trout cooking contest, sponsored by the N.C. Aquaculture Association. Entries could be a main dish, side dish, salad or appetizer and contain at least a 4-ounce serving of North Carolina-raised mountain trout. Below is the winning recipe by Sharon Gates.

CRISPY BAKED TROUT

  • 1 1/2 pounds N.C. trout filets
  • 1 cup crisped rice cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse trout filets and pat dry with paper towels. Add rice cereal, thyme, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to crush cereal. Pour cereal mixture into a bowl. In a separate bowl, break eggs and beat lightly. Dip each trout filet into eggs, then into cereal mixture. Repeat to coat both sides and place on a baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until trout flakes easily and coating is browned.

For more information on NC agricultural fairs, visit www.ncagfairs.org. The N.C. Mountain State Fair runs through Sunday, September 18.

The black locust tree gets bronze

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 11:20

The Summer Olympics may be over, but there is one more bronze to give out.  In parts of western N.C., hillsides covered in black locust trees are turning bronze. Despite the remaining summer temperatures, it looks like early fall color across the landscape. While the thought of early temperatures may bring hope to some, this dramatic transformation is actually caused by a common insect, the locust leafminer.

The locust leafminer (bottom left) feeds on the leaves of black locust tree (right), sometimes causing entire trees and hillsides to look bronze-brown (top left). [Images: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University (top left); Bruce W. Kauffman, Tennessee Department of Agriculture (bottom left); John A. Weidhass, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (right); all images from Bugwood.org.]

The locust leafminer is a beetle that feeds primarily on black locust trees. When they are immature beetle larvae, they “mine” the leaves, meaning they feed on the soft tissues between the upper and lower epidermal layers of the leaf, creating a tunnel in the leaf. As adults, they consume all but the veins of the leaf. This is called “skeletonization” and gives the leaves a lace-like appearance. Feeding damage will cause the leaves to turn brown, bronze or gray, and often in late summer, entire hillsides become discolored, drawing a lot of attention.

While the damage itself is quite eye-catching, in most cases it does not affect the long-term health of the tree. Natural enemies of the locust leafminer tend to help manage outbreaks, so intervention is rarely warranted. In some cases, however, when trees are already stressed or weakened, or trees are attacked by the leafminer year after year, growth loss or mortality may occur.

So these beetles may have given false hope for early cool temperatures, but they’re still right around the corner!

Today’s Topic: The NC Agricultural Sciences Center

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 08:20

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

The NCDA&CS is undertaking the biggest building project in its history — a new Agricultural Sciences Center that will bring multiple labs and offices together in one complex.

The laboratory complex will be built with $94 million in funding from the Connect NC bonds that voters approved in March. It is the first of the bond-funded projects to have its designer approved by the State Building Commission.

HH Architecture of Raleigh has been selected to design the center, which will contain offices and labs that perform tests for four of the department’s divisions: Food and Drug Protection, Standards, Structural Pest Control and Pesticides, and Veterinary. The building will replace four labs whose average age is more than 40 years.

Commissioner Troxler says the services provided by these labs are important to N.C. residents, farms and businesses. A new and modern design will promote the ability to use advanced modern technology and testing equipment. It also will be more energy-efficient. It will allow us to optimize workflows and expand programs. In short, the department will be better positioned to meet the future testing needs of our growing state and our $84 billion agriculture industry.

A multi-division working group has been involved in planning for this project for several months. They have been 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 new facility will be about 200,000 square feet in size and will include labs and office space for about 200 department employees. The center will be located on state land near the intersection of Reedy Creek and Edwards Mill roads in Raleigh. Department officials are hopeful the project can be completed by late 2020.

Listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the Agricultural Sciences Center.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

What’s Happening on the Farm: Stevia research

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 14:01

Stevia is being grown at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Clinton.

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 explore stevia research at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Clinton.

If you think about what type of crop research goes on at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Sampson County, the first crop that comes to mind is probably sweet potatoes. Sampson County ranks first in production in a state that ranks first nationally in sweet potatoes. And a lot of sweet potato research is ongoing at the station, so much in fact that the annual Sweet Potato Field Day is held there every September. But research is also ongoing for another sweet crop: stevia.

For the last two growing seasons, stevia has been in research trials at the station. The plants are grown in seed-raising beds in greenhouses at N.C. State University and then transplanted to the Clinton station in mid-May. “We are still in the learning stages with this crop,” said Rodney Mozingo, station manager. “The crop has looked really good the last few months. It is a fairly easy to grow, has low insect issues, not nearly as many as a cucumber crop.”

Stevia flowers in late August. The plant, which is part of the sunflower family, produces small white flowers. Stevia plants are harvested in from late August until October.

The plants are grown at the station in plastic-covered raised beds. Harvest is done by hand shearing, since samples of each of the different varieties must be evaluated for research. “If the plants were grown in large-scale production, I think they would be planted conventionally, without the raised beds,” said Mozingo. “Planting directly in the soil would lower production cost. The plants could be harvested conventionally, too, with a forage harvester or sickle-barn mower.”

Although popular in other countries, stevia is a fairly new crop to the United States. Todd Wehner, professor of horticultural science at N.C. State University, oversees much of the stevia research at the station. “We have five acres planted at the Clinton station, and another four acres at the Lower Coastal Plain Tobacco Research Station in Kinston,” he said.

“The sweetener produced by the stevia plant is neutral to humans,” said Wehner. “It causes no cavities, weight gain or diabetes. Our goal is to find ways to increase the glycosides, which is the sweet component of stevia, in the leaves and stems. Different varieties of the plant can range from very bland to very sweet.”

Ongoing studies look at agronomic traits, such as yield, percent dry matter, plant types and branching. Other research is focused on weed control, disease management and breeding. “Most of the stevia sold now is Rebaudioside A, which can have off flavors,” said Wehner. “We want to find ways around that and shift the type of variety sold.” Some of the funding for the research is provided by Pepsi.

Right now, stevia is a small crop for the handful of North Carolina farmers growing it. This might change as people look for ways to lower sugar consumption in their diets. “Growing stevia fits well for farmers that grow tobacco because a lot of the same equipment, including greenhouses, tractors and curing barns, are used to grow both crops,” said Wehner. “The main issue is where to process the leaves.” Currently, there are no production facilities for stevia in the United States. U.S. Stevia in Laurinburg buys the dried leaves from farmers and ships them out of the country.

Despite the lack of a production facility, Wehner sees the demand for stevia increasing. “Farmers are working out the economics of production now and how mechanized can it get, which we think is pretty mechanized.”

 

News Roundup: Sept. 3 – 9

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 12:13

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.

  • “Damage From Tropical Storm Hermine Localized,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Tropical Storm Hermine made landfall in North Carolina over the holiday weekend, with effects largely east of I-95. Beaufort County Extension Director, Rod Gurganus says corn harvest was well underway, therefore it could have been a lot worse: “This thing came right over us here, in our area. And I’d says that the winds in the Beaufort County area were, I’d say 30-50 miles per hour, you could certainly feel them. But, I think it was worse the further east you went. Down in Hyde County, I’ve not talked to many folks down there yet, but I do know over in Washington County, north of us, and east of us over in Tyrell County, they got a lot more wind and rain, too.” Since the rains left Saturday, Gurganus says combines are back in the fields focusing on corn that did fall over. And while corn ready to harvest was in immediate peril, the cotton crop was vulnerable as well…
  • “County agriculture: Farmers turn over new leaves,” Hendersonville Times-News: Today, Henderson County agriculture is nearly synonymous with one crop: apples. While 70th annual North Carolina Apple Festival is wrapping up in downtown Hendersonville today, tree fruits are just part of the farming landscape. The county’s agricultural past and present are much more diverse. “Agriculture in Henderson County has pretty much run the full gamut in terms of production as well as markets,” said Mark Williams, executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County. That’s partly thanks to a climate that can grow just about everything except tropical plants and citrus fruits. Prior to the 1950s, the county produced a lot of grains, Williams said. That was followed by flowers and bulbs, and dairies abounded. At the peak, he said, there were more than 200 dairies in the county. The area has also historically been a major producer of vegetable crops. …
  •  “CED Tech Venture profile: FoodLogiQ, improving food safety,” WRAL: More and more people want transparency about the food they are eating – and Durham startup FoodLogiQ is helping clients meet that hunger with its food traceability software. FoodLogiQ has a growing list of big-name clients, too. Dean Wiltse”We have an established customer base that includes industry leaders like Whole Foods and Chipotle,” says CEO Dean Wiltse. “Clients we’ve added in the last 12 months include Subway, Tropical Smoothie Café, Dave and Busters, Raising Cane’s, Smashburger, Robinson Fresh and Produce Alliance.” FoodLogiQ will make its case to potential investors at the CED Tech Conference next week. This profile is the latest in a series of Tech Venture presenting companies as part of a partnership between WRAL TechWire and the CED. …
  • “Muscadine grapes have uses far beyond wine,” Wilmington Star-News: In all likelihood, 2016 will go down as the hottest year since record-keeping began, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But ironically it was a cold spell back in April that took a bite out of this year’s crop of muscadine grapes destined for wine production. Even so, table grape growers like Whit Jones, who manages muscadine production at Cottle Farms in Faison, has no complaints about this year’s harvest. “Some folks were hurt with two nights of freezing weather that killed some of the primary shoots and caused some irregular maturity,” Jones said. “They might be a little short on wine grapes, but the heat is not a problem for us. It’s a good crop this year.” Wine isn’t the only way to preserve the fresh fruit of Vitis rotundifolia, and with the sweltering summer pushing well into September, there’s no better excuse to dust off that ice cream maker hidden in the back corner of the kitchen. …
  • “Bayer’s crop science division plans to spend $2.8 billion on infrastructure,” News & Observer: Life sciences giant Bayer is planning to invest 2.5 billion euros, or $2.8 billion in U.S. dollars, on capital expenditures for its crop science division over the next four years. Liam Condon, head of the division that employs about 1,000 workers in Research Triangle Park, unveiled the spending plan for 2017 to 2020 at a company event in Germany Wednesday. The infrastructure investment, which is in addition to planned research-and-development spending for the crop science division of more than 1 billion euros annually, “will help ensure a continuous innovative product pipeline that can meet the challenging needs of growers around the world,” Condon said in the Germany-based company’s announcement. Condon also affirmed the division’s earlier guidance. “In light of the continuing weak market environment, we expect crop science to continue to outperform the market with sales to remain on the prior-year level” after adjusting for currency fluctuations and for the sale of the Bayer Advanced and Bayer Garden consumer products businesses announced in May, he said. That would put the division’s revenue at about 10 billion euros, or $11.18 billion. …
  • “Abattoir blues: Demand is growing for a local slaughterhouse,” Mountain Xpress: You can hear them before you see them, four large hogs flopped out on the wet earth, snoozing and snorting in the sunlight. Unlike the majority of hogs raised for meat in America, these fat and happy animals will spend their entire lives in the pastures of Hickory Nut Gap Farm until they are ready to become bacon, pork chops or barbecue. Hickory Nut Gap in Fairview currently has 100 hogs and 90 cattle grazing in its own pastures and the fields of other farms their meet its standards for cultivating pasture-raised, free-range livestock. All of these animals will be entirely raised by the farm, whereas livestock on the majority of smaller local farmsteads are eventually sold to larger operations, provided grain feed, then led to a slaughter factory built to process upward of 30,000 head a day. By contrast, the Hickory Nut Gap animals will be brought to small, family-owned processing facilities like Mays Meats in Taylorsville, a plant that adopted fully certified-organic standards in 2011. These USDA-approved sites also provide farmers with butchering and packaging services. Every week, Hickory Nut Gap workers load up hogs to carry to slaughter.  …
  • “Australia, could we pour you a little N.C. moonshine?” Charlotte Observer: Australia is a hot and sometimes dry place. That might make it a thirsty market for one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing products – craft spirits. That’s why six distilleries, including Charlotte’s Doc Porter’s and two Wilkes County moonshine makers, are headed for Australia next week on a trade mission to introduce the Land Down Under to a growing product here in North Carolina. “The N.C. distillers, they’re a fledgling industry,” says Peter Thornton, the assistant director of international marketing for the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which helped arrange the trade mission. “They’re going to need to find as many markets as possible. I think we will be one of the first states to attempt to set up exports there.” …
  • “Richlands celebrates 50 years of Farmer’s Day,” Jacksonville Daily News: What began as a way to celebrate local farmers and a community tradition of tobacco farming has transitioned to a modern celebration of heritage in Richlands. Established in 1966, the original Farmer’s Day was “scheduled to take place at the end of harvest, primarily tobacco,” Lisa Whitman-Grice from the Onslow County Museum, said. “At the time, it was probably the one money crop. There’s a lot of tradition that surrounds tobacco farming.” The close-knit, farming community has celebrated the day every year since. “In the old days, there might be a greased pole contest,” Whitman-Grice said. She remembered attending the event as a child, when there was a greased pig chasing contest for kids. …
  • “Questions Raised as Farmers Turn to Megawatts,” Coastal Review Online: Solar power and agriculture may not seem related, but in coastal North Carolina, the two are becoming intertwined as an increasing number of farmers lease their land to solar developers. This trend, which provides economic benefits for the farmers, has communities and some state officials worried about the potential environmental and agricultural effects. The issue came to a head last week in a courtroom in Trenton in Jones County. About 25 residents gathered for a hearing organized by the North Carolina Utilities Commission for a proposed five-megawatt solar installment between Mallard Cove Landing Road and Trent Farm Road. Most who spoke during the hearing were opposed. “People do not want to live next to something that looks like a prison,” said Andy Gower, who lives near the proposed site. …
  • “Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund awards more than $3.8 million for projects,” Caldwell Journal: The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded more than $3.87 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. More than $2 million went towards obtaining conservation easements on lands that border military bases in Hyde and Bertie counties. This money was set aside by the General Assembly to maintain working lands as buffer zones around military bases. “I am excited that we have been able to assist with the funding of easements on more than 2,500 acres of farmland across our state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These easements take the development pressure off of these families and help maintain their status as working lands for generations to come.” …

Got to Be NC recipes: Grape Tart

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 15:00
September celebrates N.C. Wine and Grape Month, and in North Carolina, that is a lot to celebrate. The state is home to 180 wineries and 525 grape growers.

Hot and dry summer conditions in some parts of the state this year have produced a bumper crop of grapes. Since Muscadines are in good supply at the farmers market, it’s a great time to bring out a classic recipe for grape tarts from the 1989 Goodness Grows in North Carolina Cookbook.

This recipe was provided by the N.C. Grape Growers Association. Try it with muscadines or scuppernongs. How do you tell the difference? Remember that all scuppernongs are muscadines but not all muscadines are scuppernongs. The scuppernong grape was first discovered along the Scuppernong River in North Carolina, with the original vine located on Roanoke Island. The scuppernong variety of muscadines are bronze in color.

Grape Tarts

  • 1/2 cup grape juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup seeded grape halves
  • 6 baked tart shells
  • 1 cup whip cream
  • 6 grapes

Combine juice, sugar and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in cornstarch dissoved in a small amount of cold water. Add grapes; mix well. Simmer until grapes are soft, stirring constantly. Spoon into tart shells. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with whole grapes.

Each tart has about 352 calories.

Last year, we made a grape pie using a mix of red and bronze Muscadine grapes.  This recipes is a little more complicated than the tart recipe above, but the pie is worth the work.

DriftWatch fosters awareness and communication between farmers and beekeepers

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 11:04

It’s been five months since North Carolina became the 14th state to partner with FieldWatch, an online mapping service to help prevent crop damage and bee deaths due to accidental or unintended pesticide drifts.

“We have spent the last several months educating specialty-crop farmers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators about the program,” said Patrick Jones, deputy director of pesticide programs with the NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. “So far, 533 producers and more than 700 beekeepers have registered. Which is impressive and already outpaces the numbers in states that have had the program a lot longer than us.”

Jones will continue to meet with commodity groups and local bee chapters to tell them about FieldWatch. The goals of the program are to limit harmful pesticide spraying on sensitive crops, like pumpkins, cucumbers, strawberries and blueberries, and to avoid spraying areas around bee hives.

The BeeCheck program is for commercial and hobby beekeepers. Colleen Spiller, who lives in the Hickory Mountain area of Orange County, recently registered her hives. Her property is surrounded by farmland.

Spiller became a beekeeper just last year. “The news reports on the decline in the bee population was worrisome,” she said. “I wanted to do something because I was concerned about the continued existence of bees.”

Spiller heard about FieldWatch, and its hive-mapping program BeeCheck, during a meeting of her local Chatham County bee group. Shortly after the meeting, she added her three hives into the mapping software and placed a BeeCheck sign by her mailbox. Which got the attention of her neighbor.

“My husband and I are fairly regular walkers,” said Spiller. “We were stopped several weeks ago along our route by a local farmer. He commented on my sign, and thanked me profusely for having bees. He has 60 acres of cantaloupes, along with peach trees and various other crops, and said he was alarmed last year at the absence of bees. This year he said he has thousands of bees, and he promised me he would be careful not to harm them. He also brought me the fruit of my bees’ labor, a delicious cantaloupe.”

Bees and farms need each other, but without some type of communication or a sign, it’s impossible for farmers to know where hives are located. “It was the sign that I put at the end of my driveway that alerted him that I had beehives,” Spiller said.

Up to one-third of the food we eat can be directly attributed to the work of pollinators. Cucumbers, berries, watermelons, apples, squash and other produce need bees and other pollinators to produce. Bees are crucial to the success of North Carolina’s $84 billion agribusiness industry.

Jones hopes for more success stories like this one with FieldWatch. “It’s a great voluntary communication tool for groups that have to work closely together,” he said.

The program is one of the results of the department’s efforts to protect and increase pollinators in the state.

Over the next several months, Jones and other staff members will meet with grower groups and work through Cooperative Extension and Farm Bureau to explain to farmers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators 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.

Today’s Topic: Fall is peak season for agricultural fairs

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 08:28

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

Fall is coming, but the agricultural fair season is already here. Several ag fairs are held in August, and fairs in Burke and Vance counties wrapped up on Labor Day. But September is really the peak time for ag fairs across the state.

In fact, six fairs will get under way before the end of the week: Avery County Fair, Cabarrus County Fair, Cumberland County Agricultural Fair, Surry County Agricultural Show and the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher. That one is operated by the NCDA&CS Marketing Division.

All total, there are about 40 ag fairs across the state, and the season will continue into early November, when the Cape Fear Fair and Expo wraps up in Wilmington.

These fairs play an important role in educating North Carolinians about agriculture. Commissioner Troxler says they show agriculture’s history, present and future. And they really help people understand where their food comes from and why we should appreciate the hard work of farm families.

In addition to the educational exhibits and shows and the usual attractions like rides, games and food, these fairs also give visitors a taste of the local traditions where they take place. With so many people moving into North Carolina, that’s an aspect of fairs that we shouldn’t ignore. We want new residents to know more about the state they’ve moved to.

If you’re interested in visiting an agricultural fair, you can find a list here. And you can listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about agricultural fairs by clicking on the audio player below.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

A look back at Sept. 5, 1996

Mon, 09/05/2016 - 10:59

Hurricane Fran satellite imagery from National Weather Service

Hermine is only the latest in a long line of tropical cyclones to affect North Carolina over the past century. One particularly notorious storm struck the state 20 years ago.

If you lived in North Carolina in 1996, Sept. 5 is likely a day that you won’t forget. It’s the day most North Carolinians went to bed to heavy rain and strong winds and woke up to a world that looked like it had been torn apart. Hurricane Fran hit the coast as a Category 3 hurricane and barreled through the middle of the state, causing widespread damage to everything in her path. Almost half the state saw damage. Raleigh was particularly hard hit, with thousands of trees hitting homes and cars and causing millions in damage.

Part of the department’s staff was out of town for the third annual Mountain State Fair. But even after the fair ended three days later and we returned to Raleigh, the devastation in the Piedmont and eastern parts of the state was unbelievable. Then-Gov. Jim Hunt declared an emergency and encouraged state employees to stay home to help their neighbors. Many places were without power for days or even weeks. And North Carolinians learned the importance of gassing up vehicles and stocking up on water and other necessities before a storm hits. Lines for gas stations were long, ATMs were without power, and chainsaws and generators were hot commodities. But it created a deep sense of community as neighbors worked to help one another out. (It also brought out the worst in some people, and a price gouging law was later developed to prevent people from being scammed in a time of crisis.)

Just before Fran hit, the September Agricultural Review boasted the headline “Hurricane Bertha wallops state. Farm losses at $179 million.” Bertha hit the state in mid-July. After a visit to the eastern part of the state, then-Commissioner Jim Graham said: “I saw the numbers and heard the stories about the extent of the damage, but I was astonished to see the severity of the damage. We saw 100-acre fields of corn that were completely flattened and huge fields of tobacco that were drowned, blown over or both.” But that was to be nothing compared with the punch Fran would make six weeks later.

“Hurricane Bertha wallops state. Farm losses at $179 million.”
~September 1996 Agricultural Review

The October issue of the Agricultural Review started “Hurricane Fran caused more than $625 million in damage to North Carolina’s agriculture industry, more than three times the damage caused by Hurricane Bertha.” Graham noted that figures were likely to increase, especially with the post-hurricane flooding along rivers and tributaries in the area where the storm hit.

“Hurricane Fran caused more than $625 million in damage to North Carolina’s agriculture industry, more than three times the damage caused by Hurricane Bertha.”
~October 1996 Agricultural Review

Forests were especially hard hit. Many were uprooted after Hurricane Bertha soaked the ground and then powerful Fran blew them over. “Hurricane Fran cut deep into the state’s forest lands causing an estimated $1.3 billion in damage and affecting about 44 percent of the acreage in the state,” according the November Agricultural Review.

Hurricane Fran cut deep into the state’s forest lands causing an estimated $1.3 billion in damage and affecting about 44 percent of the acreage in the state”
~November 1996 Agricultural Review

In the October issue, alongside information for the 1996 N.C. State Fair, the article mentioned that the damage attracted the president to the state for a tour. “President Bill Clinton surveyed the damage following the storm along with Gov. Jim Hunt. Clinton later met with National Guard troops, AmeriCorps volunteers, Raleigh residents and government officials at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. In the week following the hurricane’s destructive visit through Raleigh and surrounding areas, the fairgrounds became the temporary housing site for thousands of National Guardsmen and volunteers.”

News Roundup: Aug. 27- Sept. 2

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 11:45

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.

  • “NC plans $94 million ag lab in Raleigh,” News and Observer: The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plans to build a $94 million laboratory complex off Edwards Mill Road that will allow it to close and consolidate four aging lab buildings in the city. The Agricultural Sciences Center will combine labs that test food and drugs and motor fuels, that detect animal diseases and that calibrate scales and other measurement devices into one 200,000-square-foot building. The old labs are 43 years old on average and are outdated, said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These labs we have now are cramped,” Troxler said Thursday. The money for the project will come from the Connect NC bonds that state voters approved in March. The building will take 18 months to design and won’t be completed until late 2020, Troxler said. …
  • “Farmers, old-fashioned food meet in Chatham County,” WRAL: (Video) The Carolina Stockyards hold a cattle auction every week while serving up burgers at The Carolina Restaurant next door.
  • “Boomer couple named top county, regional tree farmers,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: In 1984, “B” and Martha Ham Townes began turning their 73 acres off High Rock Road in Boomer into a diverse natural landscape for the enjoyment of their family and others. The endeavor included converting pastureland into woodland and managing for diverse tree and wildlife species as a certified Tree Farm. The couple built a home and raised a son and daughter, William and Charlotte, on the property while also pursuing their careers. For their accomplishments in timber production, recreation, water quality and wildlife habitat, the four key objectives of the American Tree Farm System, the Towneses were chosen as Wilkes County and N.C. Mountain Region Tree Farmers of the Year for 2016. Jeff Pardue of Wilkesboro, a certified tree farm inspector, and Joe Cox of Durham, vice president of outreach and education for the nonprofit N.C. Tree Farm Program, presented the awards in an event Friday morning on the Townes farm. Pardue and Cox are both private forestry consultants. The Towneses, plus central, eastern and two at-large winners, will now be considered for 2016 N.C. Tree Farmers of the Year. State winners go on to national competition. …
  • “Pilot program set to address food deserts,” Carolina Journal: North Carolina is initiating an effort to provide healthier food in areas of the state where people may have trouble finding fresh produce, though a federal study of similar efforts in other locations have found they had a “negligible” effect on the amount of produce sold in areas called “food deserts.” During the 2016 short session of the General Assembly, lawmakers set aside $250,000 for a Healthy Food Small Retailer Program to increase access to fresher food. “A food desert is an area where there is no access to a full-service grocery store within one mile in an urban area and 10 miles in a rural area, said Morgan Whittman Gramann, managing director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health. “Based on the [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s] recent data, there are 349 food deserts across 80 counties in North Carolina, affecting 1.5 million North Carolina residents,” Gramann said. The program will be administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The money primarily will pay to install commercial grade refrigerators for fresh produce at convenience stores or similar retailers. Brian Long, a spokesman for the department, said that the agency is still working on some of the details of the new program and hopes to be in the position to accept grant proposals from small retailers by late fall. “I think what we would hope to do is be able to have the grants dispersed so the retailers could purchase the refrigeration equipment and have it in place to coincide with next year’s growing season,” Long said.  …
  • “Salisbury family breeds water buffalo to create cheese,” WGHP: North Carolina has a rich history in agriculture, and whether it’s growing food, raising animals or learning how to market and sell them, many thousands of families make a living trying to feed us. But one farmer in Rowan County is using animals that you rarely see to breed something you’ll have to try – and it’s made in North Carolina. While every other farm in the state is milking cows, the folks at Fading D Farm in Salisbury are milking water buffalo to create water buffalo cheese. For more information, visit their website.
  • “From blueberries to cattle, drought leaves mark in WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Rainfall in August has taken the edge off drought conditions in Western North Carolina, but hot and dry weather have hurt some areas of agriculture and could linger into fall. Buncombe County has been in a drought since April, according to the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory report, which is published weekly. Buncombe and surrounding counties have ranged between three categories – abnormally dry, moderate drought and severe drought. Buncombe was listed as abnormally dry in the most recent report. Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, and Macon counties remained in a moderate drought, while Cherokee was listed in a severe drought. The dry conditions came as climate scientists recorded July being the hottest month on record in Asheville, with data going back to 1902. The monthly average temperature was 78.9 degrees, 4.2 degrees above normal. The previous record was set in 1993. …
  • “Tyson to launch $14-MM expansion of N.C. poultry plant,” Meatingplace: Tyson Foods Inc. is preparing to spend $14 million on capital improvements and other expansion-related activities at a poultry facility in Wilkesboro, N.C., the processor announced yesterday. Tyson said the project is expected to create as many as 75 jobs and the cooked poultry products facility, although it is contingent on the company winning approval of a community development block grant from the N.C. Dept. of Commerce. Wilkesboro officials are expected to apply for a $1.9-million state grant to design and build a clarifier at the local wastewater treatment facility in support of the Tyson expansion. …
  • “Peanuts Awaiting Rain,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) This weekend’s forecast rains could be a instrumental in saving the North Carolina peanut crop says Bob Sutter, Executive Director of the North Carolina Peanut Growers says it’s been a tale of two seasons, good moisture until August showed up: “Many people in eastern North Carolina, many peanut fields didn’t receive hardly any rain in August, some about an inch or so, they were in wonderful shape before August the first, and they’re just sitting there waiting for rain, but they can wait only so long. Hopefully we’ll get rain out of this tropical storm this weekend, it will sure make a big difference in yields if we do.” As far as disease and insect pressure…: “Thrips can be a problem when it gets hot and dry, but we’re in pretty good shape on that issue.” …
  • “Migrant labor dries up, threatening apple harvest,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Between a fungal disease that sounds like a Disney villain and farmers having their labor pool looted, apple growing isn’t quite the idyllic pursuit it seems at first blush. “It’s kind of a cutthroat business,” said Don Ward, owner of T&D Orchards, bouncing down the mountain to Polk County in a truck full of apples. Those apples were picked in Dana, a quiet Western North Carolina town, with a small post office, a few larger churches, and a Mexican mercado to supply the day laborers. It’s the heart of apple country, filled with picturesque and rolling orchards, Sugarloaf Mountain rising in the distance. It’s a peaceful scene that belies the worry the men who own these fields feel. Growers like Ward have numerous challenges: disease, weather and pests. But no challenge seems more dire than the labor shortage, with not enough workers and a crop that’s ripening at least a week or two ahead of schedule this year. …
  • “Massive crowd expected in Hendersonville,” Hendersonville Times-News: The threat of bad weather and rising gas prices aren’t likely to deter any of the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected this weekend in Hendersonville. The 70th annual N.C. Apple Festival kicks off this morning, and Beth Carden, executive director for the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, said as many as 300,000 people will be crowding into Hendersonville for the festival and the long Labor Day weekend. Local hotel owners are reporting that they’re “absolutely totally full,” she said. “We expect as big a crowd — if not bigger — this year than last,” which was estimated at 300,000. …
  • “Celebrate North Carolina Wine Month,” WFMY: (Video) Calling all wine lovers! If you need another reason to open a bottle of wine, September is North Carolina Wine Month! Tom Hughes of Divine Llama Vineyards in East Bend and Larry Somers of Lynox Castle Vineyards in Rockingham County joined The Good Morning Show this morning to help celebrate NC wine. The annual celebration the state’s $1.7 billion wine and grape industry aligns with the traditional harvest season of grapes across the state. The N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council, which promotes the industry, is encouraging consumers to visit local wineries during the month. “North Carolina is home to more than 180 wineries, and each one is as unique as the wines it offers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “On top of that, the state has 525 grape growers from the mountains to the coast.” …

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Time for Tomatoes

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 14:03

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 recipes made with delicious vine-ripened, N.C.- grown tomatoes. North Carolina farmers produce about 85 million pounds of fresh-market tomatoes annually.

The first recipe is for a  simple dish that can be served as a side dish or as a topping on fish or chicken. “Its summertime so let the delicious fresh flavor of our North Carolina ingredients speak for themselves,” said Lisa.

Tomato and corn relish

  • 3 ears corn, cut off the cob (yields about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 jalapeno, diced fine
  • 1⁄4 cilantro, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup purple onion, diced fine
  • 2 small limes, juiced
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Stir together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Then slowly add the olive oil and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This dish can be served as a side or an appetizer. Lisa suggests serving with a salad and pasta topped with marinara to make it a complete meal.

Crispy Tomatoes with relish

  • 2-3 large tomatoes (cut into 1/4 inch slices)
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 1⁄2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1⁄8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup Marinara sauce
  • Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir together the first three ingredients in a shallow dish. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and water. In another shallow dish, combine Panko and next 4 ingredients.

Season tomato slices with salt and pepper. Then dredge the tomato slices in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture.

Pour oil to a depth of ¾ inch in a large skillet. Fry tomato slices in two batches, in hot oil over medium-high heat 2 to 2 ½ minutes on each side or until browned. Drain on a paper towel or wire rack.

Place tomato slices in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheet; top each with one provolone slice and bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with a basil leaf. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

To hot to cook? “Keep it simple in the summer makes for less work in the kitchen, ” said Lisa, “and you don’t even have to turn on your oven.”

Sweet or Savory Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Sweet:

  • 1 cup tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 large cucumber, seeds removed and diced
  • 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Toss the tomatoes and cucumbers together in a bowl. Then combine the mayonnaise, sugar and red wine vinegar. Pour the dressing mixture over the tomatoes and cucumbers and stir.

Savory:

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 large cucumber, seeds removed and diced
  • 1⁄8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄8 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄8 cup basil, torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Stir together all the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heirloom tomatoes are readily available at local farmers markets or maybe in the garden of your friendly neighbor. Lisa notes that this combination of ingredients may surprise you and your guests. The fresh tomatoes, sweet watermelon and nutty pecans pair perfectly together.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons basil, torn into pieces
  • 1⁄4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced
  • 1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oilWhisk together the balsamic vinegar, garlic and brown sugar. Then gradually whisk in the olive oil. Arrange your tomatoes and watermelon on the plate and spoon the dressing over them. Top with mozzarella, pecans and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Summer ‘snow’: Woolly pine scale in N.C. trees

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 10:26

In recent years, pine trees in North Carolina have seen their fair share of ice storms, polar vortexes, and snow and ice weight in the cold winter months. Trees are safe from these threats in the heat of the summer, but there’s one snowy-looking critter that still has its sights set on our pines.

A heavy infestation of woolly pine scale looks like snow on pine branches. Photo taken by Bruce White of Gelbert, Fullbright & Randolph Forestry Consultants PLLC in Robeson County, NC.

The woolly pine scale is a small, soft-bodied insect that produces a white, waxy mass. This woolly product is snow-like in appearance and obscures the sight of the insect itself, often making first observers wonder if it’s an insect at all. While the abundant production of woolly wax may look threatening, the pest typically isn’t a major threat to overall tree health.

In North Carolina, host species include loblolly pine, slash pine, shortleaf pine, longleaf pine, pitch pine and table mountain pine. Like other scales, wooly pine scale is a sap-sucking insect that damages trees by removing nutrients with piercing-sucking mouthparts.

Under most conditions, natural enemies such as parasitoid wasps, green lacewings and scale-feeding snout moths keep woolly pine scale populations in check. While not common, outbreaks can occur and may lead to stunted shoot growth, branch dieback and in some cases, tree mortality. Significant feeding can also stress or weaken the tree, making them susceptible to other pests. These sudden peaks in woolly pine scale populations are often associated with insecticide applications that negatively impact those natural enemies responsible for keeping scale populations low. Outbreaks typically subside on their own in a year or two, but if damage reaches an intolerable level, treatment should target the crawlers when they first emerge in the spring.

Paired with the white woolly masses are obvious growths of black sooty mold. Sooty mold fungi grow on honeydew, the sweet and sticky waste product produced by the scale. While an eyesore, the fungus itself does not hurt the tree, although it may block photosynthesizing abilities of the tree or attract bees, ants and wasps.

So while landowners should monitor their infested pines for population fluctuations, they will not likely need to respond with a control measure. In most cases, this insect’s biggest offense is reminding us of snow in the hottest summer months!