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Today’s Topic: Jr. Livestock Sale of Champions garners nearly $168,000

14 hours 44 min ago

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

The annual Junior Livestock Sale of Champions took place Saturday at the N.C. State Fair, and it took in the highest total ever. This year’s auction garnered $167,700 for the youth winners and to support a new scholarship program and educational activities. That’s a substantial increase over last year’s total of about $97,600.

The annual auction features the champion and grand champion junior market steers, barrows, goats, sheep and turkeys. Commissioner Troxler believes the State Fair’s livestock shows highlight some of the best animals and brightest kids in North Carolina. The sponsors of the sale recognize that youth exhibitors are the future of agriculture in North Carolina.

A good crowd was in the stands to watch the sale this year, and Troxler says he hopes to see that interest grow.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Sale of Champions and the importance of youth livestock shows. You can read more about the Sale of Champions here.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Oct. 11-17

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:01

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

  • “Pig farms rebound from virus; meat prices may drop,” WRAL: A virus that killed millions of baby pigs in the last year and led to higher pork prices has waned thanks to warmer weather and farmers’ efforts to sterilize their operations. And as pigs’ numbers increase, sticker shock on things like bacon should ease. Already, hog supplies are on the rise, with 5.46 million baby pigs born between June and August in Iowa, the nation’s leading producer — the highest quarterly total in 20 years and a record 10.7 surviving pigs per litter, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. …
  • “4-H gives students hands-on science lessons,” Richmond Daily Herald: In an effort to engage Richmond County youth outside of the classroom, Richmond County 4-H recently partnered with Richmond County Schools, local professionals and volunteers to offer 4-H Science Adventures for all the fifth-grade students in the county. 4-H Science Adventures, held from Oct. 6-9, was geared toward giving teachers and students a day of learning about science topics that are currently included in the North Carolina Essential Standards for fifth-grade science in the natural beauty of Millstone 4-H Camp. Students were given the opportunity to experience hands-on how science occurs in the world around them. …
  • “Yadkin Co. Farm Reinvents Itself After Demise of Tobacco,” Time Warner Cable News: A North Carolina farming family reinvents its business after the demise of tobacco. They’ve been working the same land in Yadkin County for over 100 years and have made the switch to one of the area’s newer crops. RagApple Lassie Vineyard was never supposed to grow grapes. “We didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to own a winery?’” said owner Lenna Hobson. “We have a winery, and you’re here before me, because you’re on a 106 year old family farm that has been in the Hobson family since way before the turn of the 20th Century.” …
  • “Sweet potatoes lead produce hit parade in N.C.,” The Produce News: North Carolina produce crops brought in $608 million last year for fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. And sweet potatoes led the way, Kevin D. Hardison is quick to point out. Hardison is a marketing specialist with a 14-year career in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in Raleigh that brings a working knowledge of the 60 kinds of produce grown in the Tarheel State. “We’re ranked first in the nation for growing sweet potatoes,” Hardison noted, gesturing toward racks of publications touting North Carolina vodka, butter and chips made from sweet potatoes, microwave-ready yams and even recipes for gourmet meals with sweet potato french fries. …
  • “McCrory to France, Ireland: Leave cigarette packaging alone,” The News & Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory made headlines overseas on Wednesday after he asked the French and Irish ambassadors to the United States to stop new cigarette packaging regulations in their countries. France and Ireland are considering new restrictions that would require cigarette packaging to use uniform sizes and colors. Companies would have to replace logos with the brand’s name in a standardized font and feature anti-smoking slogans and graphic photos. …
  • “The State Fair opens and the familiar fun returns,” The News & Observer: A year already? And it seems like only days ago that the kids, wanting to flip those pennies at targets on the midway – or was it the ring toss? – took home as prizes three goldfish. Mommy and Daddy put the raised eyebrow on Pops, who had funded the prize-winning effort, because they knew they’d be getting a fish tank after they got home. And plants for the tank. And a filter. One of the fish is nearing the size of a carp, healthy still. The others … well, we don’t talk about that. The North Carolina State Fair is back, and the early weather reports, always a concern, look good. …
  • “Durham boy’s wish will come true at State Fair,” WRAL: Food and rides get a ton of attention at the North Carolina State Fair, but for many, animals are the star of the show. That’s true for Howell Brown, a Durham boy who will be granted his wish this weekend when he gets to show Miss Me, a brown and white heifer owned by Mason Blinson. Howell relocated to Durham recently to undergo medical treatment, and he’s been working with Blinson to prepare for his moment in the spotlight with Miss Me. “I grew up on a farm, and I just enjoy it,” he said of showing cows. “It’s hard, but it’s fun. It will pay off one day.” …

Flavor, NC: Weeping Radish Brewery

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 18:20

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode four of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Weeping Radish Brewery and Butchery.

“Sweet tea may be the beverage of choice in North Carolina,” said Lisa, “but it’s not the only thing brewing in the Tarheel state. Weeping Radish Brewery and Butchery is the oldest microbrewery in the state and is located in Jarvisburg.  The brewery makes five different types of beer and includes an organic garden and all natural butchery.  Owner Uli Bennewitz has a commitment to having products made in North Carolina, using North Carolina ingredients.

Below is a recipe provided by Weeping Radish Pub chef Michael Jacobson  for Butter Bean Succotash:


  • 1 teaspoon of bacon fat
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup of cooked butter beans
  • 4 ounces fresh water prawns
  • 4 ounces garlic andouille sausage
  • 6 ounces bean broth
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1 ounce of unsalted butter
  • salt & pepper to taste


In a saute pan melt the bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the prawns and sauté briefly. Add the diced onions and garlic andouille sausage and lightly caramelize. Add the butter beans and cook until it begins to reduce. Add the butter, stirring to melt and blend. Lastly, toss in your fresh tomato and season with salt and pepper.

New episodes of Flavor, NC air Thursday at 10:30 p.m. at UNC-TV, with encore airings to follow Sundays at 7 p.m.  More information about Flavor, NC is at, or you can follow the show on Facebook. 





Today’s Topic: N.C. State Fair preview

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:16

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

We’re just a couple of days away from the start of the 2014 N.C. State Fair, and as usual, agriculture will play a big role.

There’s so much to see at the fair that highlights agriculture: horticulture exhibits, bees, animals, the Field of Dreams and a whole lot more. The Agriculture Today exhibit is moving to a location near Gate 1 and will showcase a variety of modern ag technology. With the changing landscape of agriculture in North Carolina, the State Fair is committed to bridging the gap between consumers and the technological innovations required in the industry to bring food and fiber into the homes of our citizens.

The exhibit will use hands-on demonstrations and a straight-forward approach to presenting modern farming practices to provide a connection between consumers, technology and farms. It aims to educate and showcase both the advances in agriculture to date, and the technologies required to feed the world in the future. The exhibit this year will also feature a demonstration on how N.C. State University’s research with unmanned aerial vehicles will benefit individual farmers.

Another new twist this year is that the Junior Livestock Sale of Champions is moving to prime time. In the past, this auction has been held at 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of the fair. But starting this year, it will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Graham Building.

Also this year, all youth livestock exhibitors will have the opportunity to benefit from the sale. The addition of more sponsors is allowing the fair to put a portion of proceeds from the sale into a scholarship program and educational opportunities.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the N.C. State Fair.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

October: What’s happening on the farm?

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:18

Peanuts from breeding trials at the Peanut Belt Research Station are harvested, bagged and tagged.

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

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

October is a busy time at the Peanut Belt Research Station. One might even say that it’s nuts. That’s because most of the station’s 67 acres of peanuts are harvested in October. This station has made a name for itself in the peanut industry. Since 1959, 14 peanut varieties have been released from this station, including all peanut varieties released by N.C. State University in the last 20 years.

A peanut digger digs up the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and then inverts them so they can dry in the field.

Most peanuts at the station are grown for breeding trials. The work focuses on breeding peanuts for better yields, disease and insect resistance, appearance and taste. “Our breeding trial researchers often harvest by hand to maintain the purity of the seed since combines mix seed a bit from one plot to another,” said Tommy Corbett, station manager. “The researcher saves these seeds for future trials.” There are about 300 to 500 new lines of breeding trials every year and about 150 advance lines in research, too. It can take dozens of breeding trials and 10 to 14 years to release a new variety.

The station hires about 15 temporary employees in the fall to help with peanut harvest. Peanuts are prepared for harvest with a peanut digger, which digs up the first 3 or 4 inches of soil where the peanuts are found, shakes the dirt off of the peanuts and then inverts them so they can dry out in the field. After a few days of drying out, a peanut combine harvests the peanuts. “Harvesting takes a lot of time because we work in plots,” Corbett said. “We have two row plots that we pick, bag and tag and then we have to clean out our machine to do another plot. The station has more than 10,000 plots.

Seeds from the breeding trials are stored in 50-pound bags and saved in a freezer for the next season. Peanut seeds do not keep for a long time, the most is about three years. The station also stores seeds for other crops grown at the station in the freezer.

Peanuts are often harvested by hand to maintain the purity of the seed at the research station.

After harvest, the peanuts are picked up by BirdSong Peanuts to be graded and sold. Eighty percent of the peanuts grown in North Carolina are Virginia-type peanuts. These peanuts are the ones most often sold in the shell, as cocktail peanuts and at baseball games.  In 2012, Bertie, Martin and Halifax were North Carolina’s leading peanut producing counties with almost 110 million pounds of peanuts harvested. North Carolina ranks 4th in the nation in peanuts and has about 5,000 peanut farmers.

The Peanut Belt Research Station holds a Peanut Field Day the first Thursday after Labor Day each year. In addition to peanuts, the station does research on cotton, corn, sorghum and soybeans, with about 75 acres of cotton harvested during October.

News Roundup: Oct. 4 -10

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:55

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

  •  “Commerce Secretary Decker still hopeful Sanderson Farms will build in Cumberland,” Fayetteville Observer: State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said this morning she has not given up hope that Sanderson Farms will build a chicken processing plant in Cumberland County that would employ more than 1,000 people. “We are just very hopeful,” Decker said after an appearance in Dunn. “We need the jobs in Cumberland County so we’re hopeful there will be a positive resolution.” …
  • “Research station trying to cut costs for winter squash,” Salisbury Post: Workers at the Piedmont Research Station are looking to save farmers money and boost the number of locally grown squash available for fall festivals. The research station planted multiple varieties of winter squash directly after strawberry harvest, using used plastic covering for the plants and other materials. Piedmont Research Station Superintendent Joe Hampton said the study could greatly reduce costs to farmers, depending on how tests go. It’s the first year the research station has examined the idea. …
  • Up in smoke,” Robesonian: Robeson County tobacco farmers say the end of the federal tobacco buyout program won’t deter them from growing a crop that has supported their farms and families for generations — at least not for a few years. Established under the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004, the federal Tobacco Transition Payment Program ended the regulation of tobacco prices, exposing farmers to the ups and downs of the free market. The buyout program was intended to help farmers transition to an economy without price supports or quotas, and since 2004 is estimated to have paid out about $10 billion. In Robeson County, tobacco producers have consistently received about $18 million a year, although few tobacco operations have survived the deregulation of the market, negative attitudes toward cigarettes and competition from foreign markets. …
  • “NC Pumpkin Harvest Good This Year,” Time Warner Cable News: Now that fall is here and Halloween is around the corner, it’s time for pumpkin picking, and despite a harsh winter and dry July under our belt, pumpkin growers say the crops are looking good. North Carolina pumpkin growers plant a lot of different varieties from Mammoth Gold to Sugar Pie. According to the State Department of Agriculture, pumpkins can range from less than a pound to more than 1,100 pounds. …
  • “NASA drones in national airspace to spot NC wildfires,” Asheville Citizen-Times: NASA plans to fly small drones to spot fires in a wildlife refuge along the Virginia and North Carolina border next spring, marking the first time the agency has integrated drones into the National Airspace System for wildfire spotting on the East Coast, officials said Wednesday. NASA has previously used retrofitted Predator drones to map and gather data on large wildfires in the West. …
  • “Program announced for those considering a food-based startup,” Hendersonville Times-News: To help aspiring foodie entrepreneurs create a successful startup from scratch, a two-day event will be co-hosted by Blue Ridge Food Ventures and the Asheville Center for Professional studies Nov. 6 and 7. “Grandma’s great tasting recipe is no longer the sole determining factor in whether a business succeeds,” said Chris Reedy, executive director of Blue Ridge Food Ventures. The program, dubbed “The Biz behind the Food Biz: from Winning Recipe to a Winning Business,” will feature food-based business owners, as well as accountants, attorneys, grocery store executives, marketers and financing representatives. According to a release from Advantage West, a nonprofit economic development partnership that serves the westernmost counties of North Carolina, “The Biz behind the Food Biz” comes at a time when sales of specialty foods are reaching an all-time high. …
  • “Tar Heel tobacco, peach growers favor check-offs as 2014 assessments kick in,” Southeast Farm Press: The long-awaited assessment on North Carolina flue-cured finally became a reality when a grower referendum was declared favorable after a three-month balloting period. And the vote was emphatic: the assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum, considerably more than the two-thirds majority needed for the assessment to pass. “The margin of support for this effort indicates the level of priority our farmers place on having a strong and organized voice to advocate on important issues,” said Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina President Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C. “It means the association will have the resources it needs to protect and advocate for the business of growing tobacco, and the need for that has never been greater.” Since its creation in 1982, the association has been funded by membership dues and industry contributions. …
  • “WNC ripe with agritourism,” Hendersonville Times-News: The cooling temperatures and brilliant foliage herald the coming of fall and, with it, numerous opportunities to experience the wealth of agritourism available in the region. For families, local apple orchards offer much more than just the standard pick-your-own fare. The farms offer attractions such as hay rides, train rides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and barnyard animals, as well as delicious homemade seasonal treats such as fried apple pies, apple cider doughnuts and apple cider, and even barbecue on the weekends. For some of these farms, such as Justus Orchards, the agritourism season spanning from August to November provides their only revenue stream. …
  • “Rockin B named state’s Outstanding Conservation Family Farm,” Randolph Guide: Faced with seeming insurmountable obstacles in 2011, the Mickey and Shelly Bowman family met the challenge so successfully that last week they were named the 2014 N.C. Outstanding Conservation Farm Family. State and local officials attended ceremonies at the Rockin B Farm on Whites Chapel Road, where the Bowmans and their three sons raise cattle, chickens, hogs, goats and sheep. They’ve used a variety of conservation methods to protect the soil and water while controlling wastes responsibly. But three years ago, the owner of the chicken processing plant that the Bowmans raised birds for announced that he was closing the plant. Faced with payments for 10 chicken houses, things looked bleak for Rockin B Farm. But the family made changes, met the challenge and have thrived. …



Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Jon Fortes

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 09:06

Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This month, we are featuring Chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill in Charlotte. Fortes is the 2014 Fire in the City Champion. He describes his cooking style as upscale Southern comfort.

The Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces off two local chefs in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. The chef’s menu is created around a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed at noon on the day of the competition. This secret ingredient must be used in each of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. The competition is held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Fortes went up against Chef Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s in Charlotte for the final battle of Fire in the City on Sept. 29. The secret ingredients were Scott Farms sweet potatoes and Pepsi. Fortes will compete in the Final Fire competition in Raleigh in November. Tickets are available starting Oct. 29.

Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Bacon Taste Plate by Chef Jon Fortes

Fortes provided the following recipe from the Fire in the City competition. He used the creamed kale component in the appetizer round in the semi finals, a popular and high-scoring dish. The appetizer, Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Bacon Taste Plate, featured a trio of flavors: Bacon Confit with Creamed Kale; Bacon and Cheddar Gougeres with Crispy America’s Best Nut Co. NC Peanut Slaw; and Collard Wrapped Romano Pork & Bacon Sausage with Sweet Potato Puree.

In this recipe Jon has taken the creamed kale component and used it as a pasta sauce. Many varieties of kale grow across the state of North Carolina and are in in season now.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Parmesan Cream


  • 2 pounds pasta, cooked al dente
  • ¼ pound smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 shallots, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups kale, washed and chiffonade
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper


In a good size sauce pot, add bacon and cook until crispy, remove all bacon fat except for one tablespoon; then add in garlic and shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and boil until the volume is reduced by half.
Once this is reduced add cream and kale and cook until kale wilts. Add reserved cooked pasta and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes to warm through. Season to taste with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Naturally spooky: Spanish moss

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:15

Though spooky, Spanish moss is a harmless inhabitant of the tree it adorns. Image: K. Oten, NCFS.

Spanish moss is an icon of beauty in the Southeast. However, this drooping, hair-like plant might make some people’s hair stand on end! It summons a somewhat creepy vibe, one that can be especially appreciated with Halloween lurking around the corner. And let’s be honest– when one envisions a haunted Southern plantation, it’s not quite complete without Spanish moss draping gracefully from the branches of enormous live oaks.

But what is this naturally spooky moss? That’s a trick question actually, because it’s not a moss at all! Spanish moss is an epiphyte, meaning that it grows on other plants but does not rely on its host plant for nutrients or water. Everything that is needed for its survival is obtained from sunlight, rain and air. Spanish moss grows best in hot, humid places and is in the bromeliad family, the same that includes pineapple.

A common misconception is that Spanish moss injures the tree from which it hangs. In actuality, the tree is not harmed at all. Spanish moss captures moisture and nutrients from the air with tiny scales that cover it entirely. Because the whole plant is capable of absorption, roots are not needed. To anchor itself to the tree, its stems wrap around branches of the host tree. Rarely, the weight of Spanish moss may contribute to the breakage of an already weakened branch, but in that case, the branch should have been trimmed long ago.

To add to the misnomer, in addition to not really being a moss, Spanish moss is not from Spain either. It is considered a native plant here in the Southeast. So why “Spanish” moss then? There are several stories that describe the origin of the name. One fable describes a Spanish Conquistador pursuing a Native American woman through a forest. Atop a horse, his beard was caught in the branches of an oak tree, torn off, and turned gray with age before spreading throughout the forest. A more humorous suggested derivation of the name is that French explorers called it “Spanish Beard” to insult the Spaniards. In retaliation, the Spanish named it “French Hair.” Obviously, the latter of the two insults did not stick.

So whether you love the classic Southern look of Spanish moss or can’t handle the spooky feeling it gives you, remember that it’s completely harmless and poses no threat to the tree it adorns. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the chiggers that often make their homes in a clump of it. Now that’ll make your skin crawl!

Today’s Topic: October is a great time to look for North Carolina seafood

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 08:26

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

When we think of October, we think of pumpkins, the State Fair and Halloween. But we can also think about seafood.

You see, October is National Seafood Month, and we want people to support our fishermen and aquaculture operators by purchasing seafood that’s caught or raised in North Carolina.

The state’s seafood and aquaculture industries have a significant impact on local economies. According to data on wild catch from the state Division of Marine Fisheries and aquaculture figures from N.C. State University, the combined value of the industry is nearly $130 million.

The NCDA&CS supports the industry through its seafood marketing programs and aquaculture development services. In fact, the department’s seafood marketing staff was very involved in the 2014 North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City, where vendors proudly displayed bright yellow flags indicating they were using North Carolina seafood.

Seafood is a statewide business, with commercial fishing concentrated on the coast and aquaculture operations in the mountains, Piedmont and East. North Carolina farm-raised seafood includes trout, tilapia, freshwater prawns, hybrid striped bass, catfish and shellfish. It may surprise people to learn that North Carolina ranks second nationally in the number of trout sold. In 2012, that number reached 3.3 million pounds.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss N.C. seafood. And to find seafood from North Carolina, use this directory.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Jones and Onslow counties get USDA disaster designation

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 15:27

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Jones and Onslow counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by excessive rain and flooding that began July 3 and continues.

Farmers and ranchers in Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Lenoir and Pender counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Oct. 1, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

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

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

Additional information is also available online at

-Information from USDA

News Roundup: Sept. 27-Oct. 3

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 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. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Pilot plant adding pork processing,” McDowell News: Thanks to a $75,000 grant, the Foothills Pilot Plant will be able to expand its operations into small-scale pork processing. The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (NCTTFC) recently awarded just over $2.3 million for 22 new grants for agricultural and economic initiatives across the state. The grants place a high priority on projects that address ways to train people for new careers, stimulate the agricultural economy in local communities, help farmers with innovative ideas and strengthen sales of local foods, according to a news release. One of these grants awarded by the NCTTC is $75,000 for the Foothills Pilot Plant. This money will help the plant start processing pork and serve the needs of small-scale pork producers. Located at 135 Ag Services Drive off of N.C. 226 South, the Foothills Pilot Plant opened in January 2012. It is the first community-administered, non-profit meat processing plant in the entire nation that is also inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plant processes chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits and geese for small growers throughout the entire Southeast. …
  • “China has potential as regular customer for U.S. peanut exports,” Southeast Farm Press: With an anticipated U.S. market carry-out of about 1.1 million tons of peanuts this year, more customers will be needed, especially if growers decide to plant another 1.3 million acres or more next spring. “Our peanuts have to go somewhere,” says Jeff Johnson, president of Birdsong Peanut Company. And like others, Johnson thinks China might have potential as a regular customer. “It looks like we’ll have a planted crop of about 1.3 million planted acres, and at 2 tons per acre that’s a crop of from 2.4 to 2.6 million tons,” said Johnson at this year’s Southern Peanut Growers Conference, held in Panama City, Fla. “We carried in about 1 million tons, and we’ll carry out about 1.1 million tons. These are consensus numbers, from various brokers and USDA. It’s a very big carry-out.” At the same time, he says, peanut exports are booming. “We were averaging about 315,000 to 320,000 farmer stock tons under the old peanut program, but we’ve doubled that. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is the yield per acre.” Going back to 2004, U.S. growers were averaging under 3,000 pounds per acre in yield, he says, with average yields that were similar to those in China and far behind those being made in Argentina. “That jump in peanut yields is unprecedented – it has never happened in any other crop. In 10 years, we’ve gone from being the most expensive producer to the cheapest, and basically it’s because of yields,” says Johnson. …
  • “NC Farmers Work to Fight Food Shortage,” Time Warner Cable News:  Some North Carolina farmers scrambled up eggs at the Got To Be NC Jamboree Sunday. “Eggs are one of the highest quality protein you can eat, a lot of people like them … kids and adults as well and they’re easy to cook,” said Jan Kelly, N.C. Egg Farmers Association executive director. The street festival was held in honor of Hunger Action Month, and a way to promote North Carolina farmers like John Brinn, with Rose Acres Farms. Brinn and other farmers are working to end the food shortage that impacts more than 650,000 people in central and eastern North Carolina. “We just enjoy providing to the community … that’s what we do when we have the opportunity,” said Brinn. The N.C. Egg Farmers Association donated a quarter-million eggs to the Central and Eastern North Carolina Food Bank. “There are people that really don’t have enough food … and whether it’s here in Wilmington, or eastern North Carolina or United States, they’re all over,” said Kelly. North Carolina ranks 12th in egg production in the United States, and farmers produce more 7.5 million eggs per day. Brinn hopes the festival will help raise awareness. “I hope it raises awareness, because without food, it’s really our country’s best national defense…so we need our farmers and we also need to know where the food comes from, and to know that people are working hard to feed a lot of people,” said Brinn. …
  • “October means apples in Asheville,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Apples are a key part of North Carolina’s agricultural economy. The state usually ranks seventh nationally in apple production, with more than 300 commercial apple operations and 10,000 acres of apple-bearing orchards. While 40 percent of the state’s crop is sold as fresh apples, the rest is made into apple products, like sauce and juice. Increasingly, juice from apples is being fermented to make hard apple cider, but extracting the juice leaves behind a lot of pulp, known as pomace. And at least one local jam-maker is learning how to turn those leftovers into a jar of goodness. Walter Harrill of Imladris Farm makes apple butter using local apples as well as pomace from Noble Cider and Hickory Nut Gap Farm. “The apples produce two things for the apple butter,” said Harrill. “One is flavor, and the other is texture.” …
  • “NC poultry growers facing registration period,” WRAL:  North Carolina poultry growers who want to join the National Poultry Improvement Plan and get a registration number are facing a fee. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says growers will have to pay a $50 registration fee plus 10 cents per bird tested beginning Wednesday. Growers with an existing registration number will need to pay a $10 annual recertification fee and pay 10 cents per bird tested to maintain their status. The fees were set by the General Assembly this summer to help cover costs incurred by the department to administer the program. The program,was established in the 1930s to improve poultry and poultry products on a national level and to eliminate Salmonella pullorum, which caused up to 80 percent mortality in young flocks.
  • “US (NC): Sweet potato growers hope for respite from the rain,” Fresh Plaza: Coming off a short crop last season and dealing with strong demand domestically and abroad, North Carolina’s sweet potato growers are hoping this year’s crop can be swiftly harvested. But constant rains along with cold weather could delay harvesting. Such adverse conditions could prevent the state’s growers from harvesting a full crop. Earlier this month, reports suggested an overage of planted sweet potato acreage in North Carolina. Ceccarelli cautioned that for the first time in over 15 years, as the crop 2013 terminated earlier than the new 2014 crop, as a result no overlap between both seasons occurred. “Contrary to previous years when we would still have old crop cured to offer clients, most would prefer paying extra for a cured sweet potato offering longer shelf life versus a new crop uncured sweet potato hence allowing us to store and cure the new crop for our Thanksgiving and export business but this year we had no choice but to sell and ship only new crop uncured sweet potatoes as that was the only sweet potato we had to offer. Therefore any excess acreage planted will be by far already consumed!” said Ceccarelli. …
  • “Local chefs try to support North Carolina fishermen,” The Daily Tar Heel: It’s about a three-hour drive to the nearest coastline from Chapel Hill — 162 miles to Wilmington , 178 miles to Atlantic Beach and longer to get to other seafood hotspots on the Outer Banks. Yet many Chapel Hill restaurants claim to serve fresh, local seafood — shellfish, shrimp and even mahi mahi. Squid’s Restaurant and and Oyster Bar’s executive chef Andy Wilson, whose restaurant doesn’t promise that its seafood is local, said it is difficult to only serve seafood from North Carolina. “We have things like snow crab and calamari and lobsters (and) oysters — a lot of things on the menu that we can’t get locally,” Wilson said. “We have a pretty big menu here at Squid’s. It’s a bigger restaurant and all of the things that are local that we can get aren’t available year round.” Wilson said he uses local shrimp when he can, but since it’s not available year – round, he sometimes uses “Latin farm-raised shrimp.” “We try to offer a little bit of everything, so if this was a small restaurant that just specialized in local seafood, we would do that. But some of our stuff does come from other parts of the world,” Wilson said. “We try to keep everything domestic.” …
  • “Prime Picking Time: A Look at NC Fall Harvest,” WFMY: Farmers in North Carolina project a plentiful fall harvest, as several fall fruits had a good growing season due to the relatively mild summer. The Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market in Colfax already is adorned with fall favorites from several farmers from across the state. Four farmers joined WFMY News 2′s Good Morning Show Tuesday and talked about crop projections for this year. J&J Greenhouse, based in Alamance County, said it has produced more than 10,000 chrysanthemums (mums) this season. Employee Bonnie Yokely explained the mum is a perfect fall flower,due to its hardiness and preference for cool temperatures. Mums require only six hours of sunlight per day and once-a-day watering. They are historic flowers, dating back to the 17th century. The North Carolina fall harvest is ready for picking and eating. Mums are among the flowers in season and on display at the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market in Colfax. WFMY News 2 Naturally, pumpkins also are in prime season this time of year. Though typically a “minor” crop for most North Carolina farmers, they are a primary crop for Roger’s Trees, based out of Stokes and Allegheny Counties. Owner Roger Hester explained growing conditions for pumpkins were slightly dryer than usual this year, causing them to ripen faster than normal. But, the pumpkins are overall well shaped with the desired long stems. He said this season, he was able to also grow the largest gourd he ever has grown. …
  • “Tidbits: N.C. food shows on UNC-TV,” Winston-Salem Journal: Two North Carolina food programs will return to UNC-TV this week for new seasons. Season two of “Flavor, NC” will premiere at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. This series profiles farms and other food producers throughout the state. The first episode focuses on shrimping around Brunswick County. Season two of “A Chef’s Life” will premiere at 7 p.m. Sunday. This show follows Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer restaurant in Kinston as she sources local food traditions and cooks in her restaurant. Season two will chronicle Howard’s efforts to open a second restaurant. …


New season of ‘Flavor NC’ starts tonight on UNC-TV

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 14:43

Fall brings with it the return of a new season and 10 new episodes of “Flavor, NC,” highlighting the best in North Carolina food and agriculture.  Season 4 kicks off tonight at 10:30 on UNC-TV, with encore airings to follow Sundays at 7 p.m.  This season, host Lisa Prince and the “Flavor, NC” team’s travels take them from a second-generation shrimper in Brunswick County to a former tobacco farmer turned blackberry grower in Franklin County.

All episodes air Thursdays at 10:30 p.m., Sundays at 7:00 p.m. on UNC-TV. Following is the episode guides:
Oct. 2  and 5 –  Brunswick County Shrimp and Inlet View Bar and Grill, Shallotte Point
Oct. 9 and 12 –  N.C. State Fair and Gail Fuller of Raleigh
Oct. 16 and 19 -  Carter Farms wheat in Eagle Springs and LaFarm Bakery in Cary
Oct. 23 and 26 - Currituck County Asparagus and Island Thyme Cooking Company in Kitty Hawk
Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 - Keep your Fork Farm truffles of Stokes County and Josephine’s Bistro in Greensboro
Nov. 6 and 9 - J&B Herb Farm of Roxboro and Tony’s Oyster Bar in Cary
Nov. 13 and 16 - Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon of Lenoir and Vidalia in  Boone
Nov. 20 and 23 -  Vollmer Farms blackberries of Bunn and Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill
Nov. 27 and 30 - TC Smith Farms of Seven Springs and Sodexo at Camp Lejeune
Dec. 4 and 7 -  Neese’s Country Sausage of Greensboro

“Flavor, NC” is produced by the multiple-EMMY nominated team at BlueWater Media.

Underwriting support for “Flavor, NC” is provided by Got to Be NC Agriculture, the official state identity program for products grown and processed by farmers and value added food companies in North Carolina; the Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism; Got to Be NC Seafood and the NC East Alliance, with assistance from Food and Fuel for the Forces.

You can find out more about “Flavor, NC” at and follow the show on Facebook.


Today’s Topic: Cost-share assistance available to organic producers

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 08:18

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

The NCDA&CS is offering organic growers the opportunity to apply for partial reimbursement of the cost of becoming certified or recertified. Organic growers who are certified or recertified between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, can apply for assistance through the program. The program will pay 75 percent of the cost of certification, up to a total of $750.

Farms can be reimbursed in four separate categories: crops, livestock, wild crop and handler/processor.

The program is for the 2013-2014 season, and the funding comes from a $212,000 grant from the USDA. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and applications must be postmarked by Dec. 1.

To apply, growers must provide a completed application along with detailed invoices/statements from the certifying agency listing all National Organic Program certified costs, an IRS W-9 form and a copy of your certificate or letter from your certifier if this is a new certification. All charges must be for USDA organic certification. For more information or to download an application, click here. If you have questions, please contact Heather Barnes in the NCDA&CS Marketing Division at 919-707-3127.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this cost-share program.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 20-26

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 11:50

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

  • “Bumper nut crop gathered,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Michael Crouse, assistant county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service, is out to give squirrels a run for their money when it comes to gathering acorns and other mast. Crouse said that when he isn’t busy with other responsibilities in the next four to five weeks, he’ll be out collecting wild nuts and seeds in Wilkes County for the state nursery in Goldsboro. It’s an annual chore for forest service personnel statewide, but James West, who heads the state nursery in Goldsboro, said nut and seed inventories are at an all-time low because so few were gathered last year due to adverse weather. “All indications are that many if not all species have adequate seed on the trees for this time of year. Seed production tends to follow cycles like that and this fall looks to be a banner crop,” said West in a recent email to forest service personnel. …
  • “NC Tobacco Trust Fund awards $2.3M to agriculture projects,” The News & Observer: The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund commission has awarded more than $2.3 million in grants to 22 agriculture and economic projects across the state. The grants included projects that boost local farming initiatives and that award scholarships to students in tobacco-dependent communities. The commission prioritized initiatives that target small farmers, as well as innovative and financially stimulating projects. The state General Assembly created the commission in 2000 to support farmers and businesses affected by the decline of the tobacco industry. Funds come from a set appropriation in the legislature’s budget every two years. Outside reviewers, a subcommittee and the NCTTF board work together to finalize grantees. …
  • “Could Sanderson now look south to locate plant?” Robesonian: While Cumberland County officials continue to debate whether they want a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant in their community, other communities — including Robeson — are showing interest in the proposed $113 million chicken processing plant that could create as many as 1,000 jobs. “Robeson County considers all opportunities for economic development,” Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and industrial recruiter, said this morning. “If Sanderson Farms determines that Robeson County can meet their site need and operations criteria, we are open for discussion of the opportunity.” …
  • The sweet potato — a delicious superfood, “ Salisbury Post: The newest crop out there in September is sweet potatoes, a North Carolina favorite. North Carolina is No. 1 in the nation for total acres of sweet potatoes, so it’s no wonder the sweet potato was chosen the official North Carolina vegetable in 1995. Among the many outstanding facts about this superfood is sweet potatoes may have been around since the dinosaurs were here. Can’t you just see T. rex chomping on a few bushels as a side dish with his velociraptor? The North Carolina Department of Agriculture says the Coastal Plains are the hot spot for growing the sweet potato, with Nash County being a top producer. …
  • “Farm tour a reminder of sources of our food,” Asheville Citizen-Times: When Carolyn Bradley asked the middle schoolers she taught for nearly three decades where their milk came from, she often didn’t like the responses. “Mayfield,” some would respond, referring to the dairy products company. Others would simply say, “The supermarket.” One of the reasons Bradley and her husband, Mike, participated in the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s annual farm tour Saturday and Sunday was to improve the odds the next generation of students can provide better answers. Or, as she put it, “so that local people can come and see how their food is grown.” The Bradleys’ farm just north of the Madison-Buncombe County line was one of 37 farms in seven area counties on ASAP’s tour this year. …
  • “Cabarrus meat-processing plant caters to farmers throughout 10-county area,” Charlotte Observer: Max Cruse helped butcher his first cow when he was 12, and he’s been involved in the trade ever since. Cruse is an instrumental figure behind Cabarrus County’s first large-scale, state-regulated meat-processing plant, which dozens of cattlemen across 10 counties use. Now 77, the owner of Cruse Meats mostly just answers the phone and takes orders while his thriving meat plant continues to attract farmers from a large part of the state. Similar operations are 75 or more miles away, in Wilkesboro and Greensboro. Cruse said the project has exceeded his expectations. …
  • “Tobacco buyout comes to end,” Robesonian: The federal tobacco buyout program is coming to an end, pulling millions of dollars from an already fading industry once known as Robeson County’s “cash crop.” According to Giles Floyd, director of the local Farm Service Agency, the Tobacco Transition Payment Program has consistently provided Robeson County tobacco producers with about $18.7 million each year since it was established under the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004. “I’m disappointed it’s ending,” Floyd said, a tobacco farmer himself. “That’s quite a bit money that’s not coming into the county.” With the passing of the Tobacco Reform Act, U.S. tobacco production was deregulated, along with a system that guaranteed minimum prices for tobacco. …
  • “Farmer thinks ingredient in feed sickening, killing cows,” WSOC: Cows that produce milk you could be buying at the grocery store are sick and dying on one North Carolina dairy farm. The farmer thinks it’s because of an ingredient in the cow’s feed and the state is now investigating. In Harmony, North Carolina the sight of dead and dying cows is unsettling for farmer Kenneth Ladd. “This has totally destroyed us out here. Our loss is way into the millions of dollars,” Ladd said. Ladd says four years ago, his cows started dying. He says he should have at least 500 cows but right now he has 175. “It’s not a simple issue, there’s not a silver bullet,” Joe Reardon, the assistant commissioner of consumer protection at the State Department of Agriculture said. Reardon says the state has been searching for a cause for years. In 2012, experts who visited Ladd Dairy saw “cows had neurologic signs,” while others had “severe foot problems” and “bleeding from the nose.” …
  • “Some Tobacco in Trouble,” Southern Farm Network: Wet and cool weather here at the end of the growing season is causing tobacco farmers, sitting on one of the best crops in years, a problem. Don Nicholson, Region 7 Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Agriculture says producers in the central Piedmont are really struggling: “Its gone from a marathon to being a sprint here at the end. Its time to get it in the barn, the tobacco is pushing for it.” And while producers planned their crop to utilize barn space, Nicholson says the weather has caused that plan to go by the wayside: “The rain we’ve had has taken a crop that was already ready to one that is over ripe in places. We have a lot of growers who are over on the barn space. They had planted different varieties to come off at different times but this year with the conditions it hasn’t worked.” And diseases are starting to show up, as well: “A lot of diseases are showing up, brown spot is out. And its deteriorating the leaves. The target spot has been bad in the past but its not a big issue in my region.” …

Three NC counties eligible for USDA loans because of Tennessee disaster declaration

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 08:47

Farmers and ranchers in Haywood, Madison and Swain counties qualify for federal natural disaster assistance because the counties are contiguous to areas of Tennessee that the USDA has designated as primary natural disaster areas.

The agency issued three separate designations for Tennessee because of losses caused by multiple disasters that occurred this year, the USDA announced.

USDA has designated Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties in Tennessee as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by the combined effects of frost and drought that occurred from Jan. 1 through Aug. 12.

All qualified farm operators in the designated areas are 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 (Sept. 24) 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.

-Information from USDA

In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: September Recipe Roundup

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:11

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their Got to Be Good Cookin’ segment using ingredients grown and available right here in North Carolina. This month they feature a few recipes that use the last of the summer harvest and a peanut butter and jelly muffin recipe that’s perfect for back to school time.

This first recipe is for stuffed zucchini, which Lisa says is “simple, easy and not hard at all.”


  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 cup stuffing mix
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Slice zucchini in half and scoop out the inside. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine the stuffing, melted butter and ½ cup cheese. Fill the zucchini and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Add remaining cheese to the top of the stuffing mix and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

PB and J muffins are made with fresh N.C. eggs and are a great back to school treat.  Lisa suggest “frosting” them with 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter mixed with 1/4 cup  grape jam.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄2 cup grape jam
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar (topping)


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray. Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add milk, eggs, sugar, peanut butter and oil to the bowl; combine ingredients on the low speed of an electric mixer, just until moistened. Do not over beat.
Fill prepared muffin cups evenly with half the batter. Place 2 level teaspoons of grape jam in the center of each muffin. Evenly divide remaining batter between muffin cups. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool in pan 5 minutes.

Next up is a recipe for zucchini and squash casserole that is a great comfort food for the cooler nights. Lisa notes that it’s “perfect for travel or a large group since it fits in a 9×13 casserole dish.


  • 2 squash
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 1⁄2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup margarine (plus 1 ½ tablespoons )
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups Pepperidge Farm Dressing Mix
  • 4 ounces garden vegetable Philadelphia cream cheese (use the 1/3 less fat)


Boil the squash, zucchini and onion until tender; drain and season with salt and pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons of margarine. Stir in the soup and cream cheese. In another bowl mix the dressing mix and ½ cup melted margarine. Pour ½ the stuffing mixture into the squash/zucchini mixture and stir. Put in a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9X13-baking dish. Top with remaining stuffing mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Brian and Lisa wrap up the month with a kale and mushroom quiche. Lisa notes that quiche is “great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is a very versatile dish that allows you to combine your favorite fall vegetables to create something that will delight your taste buds.”


  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale (stems removed and thinly sliced)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2⁄3 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 1 prepared pie crust


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium low heat. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining oil to the pan and increase heat to medium high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water and begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the kale back to the pan, stir in the salt, pepper, mustard and thyme. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and water. Sprinkle the cheese into the pie crust. Top with the mushroom-kale mixture and pour the egg mixture on top. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.






Dairy producers invited to meeting about federal Margin Protection Program

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:32

North Carolina dairy producers are invited to a meeting about the federal Margin Protection Program at 10 a.m. Oct. 1 at the Iredell County Agricultural Resource Center in Statesville. Registration deadline is Sept. 26.

The USDA Farm Service Agency is organizing the meeting, and FSA personnel will explain the mechanics of the program. Dr. Geoff Benson, a retired NCSU extension economist, will discuss how dairy producers should approach decisions about participation and the potential financial benefits. There also will be time for questions and discussion.

People planning to attend are asked to contact the Iredell County FSA office at 704-872-5061, ext. 2. The Iredell County Agricultural Resource Center is located at 444 Bristol Drive, Statesville.

The 2014 farm bill established the Dairy Margin Protection Program as a replacement for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program. The MPP is effective through Dec. 31, 2018. For a $100 administrative fee, dairy producers can have access to no-cost catastrophic coverage. The program also offers various levels of buy-up coverage.

Emerald ash borer trapping: No new counties detected

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 09:44

An emerald ash borer trap hangs in an ash tree in the Duke Forest. Image: K. Oten, NCFS.

As we head into the fall season full of football, autumn colors and Thanksgiving, we already have one thing to be thankful for:  summer trapping for the emerald ash borer did not detect the invasive, tree-killing beetle in any new counties in the state.

But don’t get too excited just yet. Although 2014 trapping did not detect any inter-county movement, the emerald ash borer was found at more sites within already-infested counties. And the beetle will likely continue to spread.

The emerald ash borer is responsible for killing countless ash trees in the United States. Native to Asia, the beetle was first found in the U.S. near Detroit in 2002. Since then, it has spread to 24 states.

In 2013, the emerald ash borer was first found in North Carolina in Granville, Person, Warren and Vance counties. All four of these counties remain under quarantine, meaning ash material and hardwood firewood cannot be transported from a quarantined area to a non-quarantined area (some exceptions are made; for example, wood that has been heat treated or had the bark removed may be moved with a compliance agreement from the Plant Industry Division). While the emerald ash borer can fly from tree to tree over short distances, it can easily spread over long distances through the transportation of infested material (hence the recommendation not to move firewood). The quarantine was established to best protect the remaining ash resources in the state from  long-range, human-facilitated movement.

Looking for the emerald ash borer is a job that never ends. The NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service actively conduct visual surveys across the state. In addition, detection may depend on casual observations and the ability of citizens to identify and report an infestation. Survey techniques are continually evolving (such as using decoys to lure in and electrocute the male emerald ash borer!).

To report emerald ash borer in North Carolina, call 1-900-206-9333 or email

An adult emerald ash borer (Granville County). Image: NCFS.

Today’s Topic: Sixteen NC counties among top 100 places for farming in US

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 07:57

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

Farm Futures Magazine recently ranked the best places to farm in the nation, and North Carolina had a strong showing with 16 counties among the top 100. Bladen County, ranked 10th, was the highest-ranked North Carolina county.

Farm Futures calculated financial ratios and performance for more than 3,000 counties across the U.S. The magazine analyzed Census of Agriculture data from 2002, 2007 and 2012 to compile its rankings. The magazine’s staff calculated countywide financial performance by looking at many factors, including profit margin, asset turnover and average net farm income.

Editors noted that the 2012 data included information from a time when record high corn and soybean prices and long-term drought were hurting livestock producers across the country. And nursery and greenhouse operations were still hurting from the recession’s effects on the housing industry. Commissioner Troxler says that might explain why Duplin and Sampson counties, which led the survey a few years ago, weren’t ranked as high this time.

In addition to Bladen, other North Carolina counties ranked in the top 100 were Hertford (11), Anson (19), Wayne (24), Pender (25), Montgomery (32), Duplin (37), Sampson (40), Wilkes (46), Greene (51), Edgecombe (53), Union (54), Onslow (57), Richmond (81), Beaufort (82) and Lenoir (97).

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this survey, what North Carolina’s strong showing says about agriculture in the state, and to find out which U.S. county ranked first.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Sept. 13-19

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:31

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

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