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News Roundup: Nov. 14-20

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 08:13

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.

  • “NC Farmers Begin Selling Live Christmas Trees,” TWC News: (Video) With the holidays around the corner, Christmas tree farms are preparing for major sales. The North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture says the state is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the country and tree sales generate $75 to $100 million to the state each year. “We’ve got about 1,400 or more Christmas tree farms throughout the state. They are farming about 40,000 acres of Christmas Trees. We typically harvest between four million and five million trees a year,” says Brian Long, a spokesman for the NC Dept. of Agriculture. …
  • “Charlotte leaders look to move Tyvola farmers market,” Charlotte Observer: The city of Charlotte is studying whether the state-operated farmers market off Billy Graham Parkway should be moved to attract more consumers. The city said other state markets in Raleigh and near Greensboro have more shoppers, and that it wants to ensure Charlotte is helping local farmers and that all residents have access to fresh food. “Maybe we need a different location, maybe we need a different system,” said Tom Warshauer, the city’s community engagement manager. Warshauer said one possibility would be to offer the state city- or county-owned land, though he didn’t know where that might be. He also said it’s too early to know how much money, if any, the city might contribute. “We are at the very beginning of exploring how it might work,” he said. “How big does it need to be? What would its impact be on existing market structures?” Warshauer said a driving factor is attendance. The state said the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market attracts about 800,000 people a year. By comparison, the state’s Raleigh market had 3.85 million shoppers and the market in Colfax serving Greensboro had 1.25 million. …
  • “Farmers Encourage Shopping Local for Thanksgiving,”  TWC News: (Video) With Thanksgiving just days away, some shoppers are looking for local foods to put on the table. They were out in full force Sunday at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. “Cold weather has not deterred too many customers. They are still coming out,” said Janie Cox with Cox Farms Produce out of Goldsboro. She said there are benefits to shopping at the market for Thanksgiving must-haves. “The best thing is probably not paying sales tax, that adds up when you get a big order. Plus, you know it’s fresh, it’s not shipped from out of country, it has to be grown in North Carolina, so it’s very local,” she said. The North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture reports from 2014, the state ranked first in production of sweet potatoes in the country. At the State Farmers Market, vendors said sweet potatoes are in high demand this time of year. “Mainly sweet potatoes and collards, and pie pumpkins, stuff like that,” said Amanda Dunn, with Linda Johnson Family Produce out of Johnston Co. …
  • “Amid concern that dying bees could hurt farming, pesticide-makers point to other risks,” In a Nordic-inspired building tucked in a corner of the Bayer CropScience North American headquarters, high school students wander through 6,000 square feet dedicated entirely to the specialness of bees. Children taste different types of honey and examine the differences between honeybee and carpenter bee specimens. The pesticide maker highlights its work to foster the insects around the world, welcoming school-age children at the site built apart from plant research labs and executive offices. Amid the displays are bottles of Bayer pesticides, something that struck Cara Garrison, a student at Raleigh’s St. Thomas More Academy, as odd. “I thought it was a little weird to see some of that among all the bee-related things,” Garrison said. “I was like, is that supposed to be there?” That display in that building captures Bayer’s multi-billion-dollar balancing act. Some of those pesticides contain tobacco-derived chemicals called neonicotinoids that many researchers say play a role in declining bee populations. …
  • “Soybean crop “worst in 25 years” in SE NC because of wet weather,” WECT: There’s no doubt that it has been raining… a lot! The Wilmington almanac proves it with rainfall totals about 15 inches above average. Saturated soils and standing water is not only an issue when more rain falls, but the showers and storms are negatively impacting farmers. “I can tell you that this has been the worst soybean crop in 25 years,” said Charles Rooks with Rooks Farm Service. “The rain has really hurt us.” “All of the maturity groups of soybeans are going to have some damage in them at different places,” said North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Regional Agronomist Tim Hall. Soybean farmers in southeastern North Carolina are experiencing damaged crops as well as flooded fields. The muddy and wet grounds make the crops inaccessible to the farmers. …
  • “Roseboro farmer is ‘Head Nut’ at his 25-acre pecan orchard,” Fayetteville Observer: As he walks the fields of his 25-acre pecan orchard, Elbie Powers pauses to push a button on a walkie-talkie-sized device.
    Off in the distance, a loud BOOM! sounds and a flock of crows scatters. The noise comes from one of the gas cannons Powers has positioned strategically around the farm. The noise, triggered remotely, has the effect of scaring off the crows that try to feed on Powers’ cash crop. “That’s all it does, nothing but noise control,” Powers said. “But it keeps the crows off.” …
  • “Turkeys prove plentiful after avian flu outbreak,” News & Observer: If the doom-saying turkey pundits had been right, we’d all be eating ham this Thanksgiving. Last summer, after a devastating outbreak of avian flu in the big turkey-producing states of Iowa and Minnesota, the media was full of predictions that prices for the surviving turkeys would soar. Holiday turkeys “will be hard to come by,” one expert told Reuters in June. In case you haven’t done your shopping or reserved a turkey yet, rest assured: There will be a turkey for you. Not only is there no shortage, but turkeys are selling for some of the lowest prices in years. For that happy outcome, we can give thanks to the resilience of American agriculture and enterprising farmers like Brad Moline. Moline, 36, is a third-generation turkey farmer in Manson, Iowa, about 80 miles northwest of Des Moines. On May 19, one of his workers reported a “problem” in one of the barns. When Moline arrived, he found 90 dead turkeys among a flock of thousands. …
  • “Sweet Potatoes a Plenty This Year,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) It’s been a rough harvest season this year, with many crops damaged beyond salvage by heavy rains since late September. While the area’s sweet potato crop saw its fair share, Sue Langdon with the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission says there’s plenty for everyone: “North Carolina produces more sweet potatoes of anybody else in the nation. We grow over 50% now, of the national supply. So, if one field is damaged that doesn’t mean that the entire state has been damaged. So, you may have some spot shortage, but we’re very well networked here in the state of North Carolina, and there’s going to be plenty of North Carolina sweet potatoes, not only for Thanksgiving, but it’s going to bring you the next Thanksgiving as well.” …
  • “Rockingham brewing program gets boost from N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund,” Triad Business Journal: A fund designed to help North Carolinians transition away from the fading tobacco industry is helping pave the way for an industry on the rise — craft brewing. The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has awarded $50,000 to Rockingham Community College for its Center for Brewing Sciences in downtown Eden that opened in 2013. The money will go toward the purchase of a three-barrel brewing system to be used by students in the college’s Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation Program. “This is a growing industry and being able to provide equipment to increase employability fits well with the NCTTFC’s mission,” said William Upchurch, executive director of the commission. …
  • “NC beer lovers have many reasons to give thanks,” News & Observer: This Thursday, many of us will gather around tables crowded with turkey, dressing, casseroles and cakes, and we will mutter thanks for the bountiful feast before us. But what about the beer on the table? More people than ever now opt for beer where once wine ruled. It’s easy to do here in North Carolina, a state that now boasts around 150 breweries (including East Coast facilities for Oskar Blues Brewery, New Belgium Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewing). From the mountains to the coast, there’s a lot of beer here. You can find it not only at the breweries, but in the many beer-focused bars, restaurants and bottle shops around the state. We sip it. We analyze it. We photograph it. We tweet it. We review it. We rank it. But do we actually appreciate it? Are we thankful for this cornucopia of beer we have today? The beer industry in the state and nation has come a long way in a very short time, and I worry there’s a cost for such growth. I believe it’s rendered many drinkers cynical and jaded. Or maybe I just spend too much time on the Internet, haven of the cynical and jaded. …
  • “Goat Lady Dairy for sale,” Greensboro News & Record: Goat Lady Dairy, a small artisan goat cheese dairy in rural Randolph County south of Climax, is for sale. But it’s not about to close. “This is all part of the plan so that Goat Lady Dairy can go on being a part of the local food movement and a part of the local economy,” says Steve Tate, who owns and operates the farm with his wife, Lee. The Tates plan to retire and they are now looking for a new owner to take the dairy to the next level. “We’ve been planning this for a long time because we’ve seen many farms and farming families who didn’t have a good exit strategy … and they lose the farm, and the agricultural product stops.” …


N.C. pecans can be used for more than pies this holiday season

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 06:41

Rheta Merrell, of Rutherfordton, earned a blue ribbon for her Pecan Biscotti and Dippers at the 2015 N.C. Mountain State Fair.

We’re just weeks away from the start of the holiday baking season, and it seems like most holiday gatherings aren’t complete without enjoying some pecan pie.

Pecans are very versatile cooking ingredients. Beyond pies, pecans are great for encrusting meats; as a topping for fresh salads; or covered in chocolate. They also can be enjoyed as a standalone snack, full of healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin A, thiamin and riboflavin.

This fall, pecan cooking contests were held at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh and N.C. Mountain State Fair in Fletcher. Sponsored by the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, the contests were open to pecan recipes that used the ingredients in a tasty and original way.

Amanda Boury of Raleigh took home first-place honors at the N.C. State Fair for her Savory N.C. Pecan Palmiers recipe. At the N.C. Mountain State Fair, Rheta Merrell of Rutherfordton earned a blue ribbon for her Pecan Biscotti and Dippers. You may want to try one of these delicious winning recipes this holiday season:


  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 2 cups of chopped, toasted N.C. pecans
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

For each sheet of puff pastry, unroll and use rolling pin to roll out to about a 13×13 size square. Spread half of the pesto on each sheet, then top each sheet with half of the remaining ingredients. When done take one end and fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Slice the dough into about 3/4-inch pieces. Place each piece cut side up onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes, then flip and bake for another 5 minutes.



  • 2 sticks salted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons butter and nut flavoring
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup chopped N.C. pecans
  • Confectioner’s sugar, if desired

In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add egg yolk and flavoring and mix well. Combine flour and salt, and sift into mixture. Stir in pecans until thoroughly combined. Shape the dough into a long log, and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.

When ready, heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough at a slight diagonal into 1/4-inch slices. Place on baking sheets, spaced well apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, using a spatula transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

Serve with cappuccino or hot chocolate.

Wherever you live in the state, there is more than likely a pecan orchard near you. There are about 1,500 acres of pecan orchards located across 45 counties in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is one of the national leaders in pecan production. Our state produces about 4 million pound of in-shell pecans each year.

You can celebrate the state’s pecan industry at Pecan Day during the State Farmers Market on December 11. Guests can enjoy free samples of a pecan dessert prepared by the State Farmers Market Restaurant and purchase locally grown pecans for holiday cooking.

To find other pecan recipes and locate pecan growers near you, go to

Today’s Topic: Farm-City Week

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 07:56

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

It’s National Farm-City Week, which began Nov. 20 and continues through Thanksgiving Day. Across North Carolina and America, communities host a variety of events to celebrate the connection between rural and urban.

“Farm-City Week helps promote a greater understanding of agriculture and its connection to the food we enjoy year-round,” Commissioner Troxler says.

Americans pay less for their food than residents of other developed nations. According to the USDA, Americans shelled out 6.6 percent of their household income on food in 2012. The next lowest country was Singapore at just over 7 percent. And the highest was Pakistan, where consumers spent almost 48 percent of their income on food. Canadians spent nearly 10 percent of their earnings on food, and the Japanese spent about 14 percent.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is the perfect time to celebrate the farm-city connection and the gratitude we feel for those who produce our food. We all should appreciate the connection between agriculture, the food we eat and the economic benefits this industry provides to North Carolina.

To hear Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda say more about Farm-City Week, click on the audio player below. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

We’ve got a lot to be thankful for this holiday season

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 16:13

We are truly blessed to live in North Carolina, and holiday meal planning is a good reminder why. We are blessed to have access to so much locally grown goodness throughout the year. We can truly serve an entirely North Carolina feast to our families with a quick trip to the farmers market or grocery store. From the main entrees, side dishes, desserts and even the beverages, we can source everything right here within our borders. And we are grateful for that!

A few quick facts:

1. North Carolina ranks first in the nation in sweet potato production, providing 53.5% of the nation’s crop.

2. The Tar Heel state has the largest pork production facility located in, well, Tar Heel. North Carolina farmers rank second in the nation in hog production (behind Iowa).

3. North Carolina ranks third in turkey production, behind Minnesota and Arkansas.

Take a look at this infographic (click on it to make it larger or download a PDF) and give thanks for living in such a blessed state!

News Roundup: Nov. 14-20

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 15:07

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.

“Agricultural-focused startups are blossoming in the Triangle,” News & Observer: North Carolina, and the Triangle in particular, has quietly blossomed into a hotbed of startups that are applying cutting-edge technology to agriculture. The state is home to at least 50 entrepreneurial agricultural technology companies, with 28 of those companies based in the Triangle, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Council for Entrepreneurial Development. “I think when people think about ag biotech and ag biotech startups, they think about really three geographies: here in North Carolina, St. Louis, Mo., and UC-Davis near Sacramento, Calif.,” said Scott Johnson, vice president of agricultural biotechnology at the state-funded N.C. Biotechnology Center. Comparing the size of these startup clusters, Johnson added, is problematic “because everybody talks about ag biotech with a little bit different definition.” …

“Our View: Poultry industry is making a big comeback here,” Fayetteville Observer: Just two years ago, we saw worrisome trends in the poultry industry here. The House of Raeford had shut down its turkey-slaughtering plant, ending nearly 1,000 jobs. Last year, the company closed its turkey-cooking plant in Hoke County, which employed another 400. At the same time, Sanderson Farms was getting a loud no-thanks from Cumberland County, where the company had planned a plant that would offer about 1,100 jobs – some in management, and many that would give low-skilled workers a chance at a job.
It turns out those were brief setbacks. Butterball came to Raeford and bought the turkey plant. The company invested millions and after six months is producing 27 million pounds of poultry a year. That’s only the beginning. Butterball announced last week that it’s adding 250 jobs next year, and that’s not the end of it. Company officials expect to produce 82 million pounds next year, 130 million in 2017 and top 200 million by 2018.

“Run on Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies wipes Wal-Mart out,” News & Observer: Two million pounds of sweet potatoes. That’s what it’s going to take to get Patti LaBelle’s suddenly famous sweet potato pie back onto shelves at Wal-Mart. Which means the pie that became a viral sensation during the weekend – selling roughly one every second – after a customer sang its praise in a YouTube video may not be back in time to grace your Thanksgiving table. Not that Wal-Mart isn’t trying. “There’s a lot of moving parts. The suppliers have been working all weekend,” Kerry Robinson, vice president for bakery and deli at Wal-Mart, said Monday. “We need something like 2 million pounds of sweet potatoes, and that’s not something easy to get,” she said. The sweet potato surge started Thursday, the day after James Wright posted a video of himself eating a slice of the pie, which Wal-Mart launched in September. In the video – now viewed millions of times – Wright bursts into LaBelle song and dance as he eats. Within 24 hours, social media was buzzing about Wright and the pie, and Wal-Mart stock was running low. ….

“100 years of farming heritage,” Sampson Independent: North Carolina has a rich agricultural heritage and today, our state’s agricultural industry that includes food, fiber and forestry contributes $78 billion to the state’s economy, accounts for more than 17 percent of the state’s income, and employs 16 percent of the work force. North Carolina is one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation. The state’s 52,200 farmers grow over 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.4 million of the state’s 31 million acres to furnish consumers a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber. The Tar Heel State produces more tobacco and sweet potatoes than any other state and ranks second in Christmas tree cash receipts and the production of hogs and turkeys. The state ranks seventh nationally in farm profits with a net farm income of over $3.3 billion. Net income per farm in the state is over $63,000. Sampson County and its neighboring counties comprise a key component of this North Carolina agricultural economic engine. …

“Redbud Farm: one of many struggling N.C. farms,” Elon Local News: Nearly every day for the past several decades, 70-year-old Redbud Farm owner Clay Smith has woken up at sunrise eager to plant, tend and market his crops. Recently, however, he is realizing he faces more struggles today than ever before. From his cancer, to inclement weather, to a low income, he is fighting to keep his certified organic farm in operation. “I’m 70, so how much longer do I have?” Smith wonders. “Hopefully I’ll have another 10 years I can do this. We’ll see but nobody could do it forever.” Smith is among a declining population of small farmers. “The average age of a farmer in North Carolina is up in the high 50s,” he said. “When you have a high average age, you’ve got to have some young people coming into it.” …

“Expect A Hard Winter for Honey Bees,” PR News Wire: There’s nothing I enjoy more than getting out in the field and investigating honey bee colonies. All right, maybe there are a few things I enjoy more, but I consider it a “win” any time I get out of the office to work with bees! During these late summer and early fall inspections, which involve evaluating up to a hundred and fifty samples taken from different hives across the country, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting the rate of winter survival of colonies beekeepers can expect. What I’ve seen so far this year really concerns me. Since 2013, U.S. beekeepers have been doing better at reducing winter honey bee colony losses. Part of this success comes from better management of a principal cause of these losses – the Varroa mite. However, during my 2015 hive evaluations, I was disturbed to find the vast majority of hives contained mite infestations well above the threshold level of concern. In the almost 30 years since Varroa was introduced to North America, I’ve learned that a hive containing three Varroa mites per 100 bees suggest that the colony is in trouble. …

“Apple variety block moves to new location,” Hendersonville Times-News: For three decades, a lot of slightly more than 1 acre was home to a dizzying variety of fruit trees. That changed last week, when Henderson County Cooperative Extension Service staff and volunteers dug up hundreds of the trees, marking the end of an era for the experimental growing area. “It’s kind of bittersweet to see the trees removed, but one thing that I’ve learned over the years that you can count on (is) change,” said Marvin Owings, county Extension director. The Henderson County Cooperative Extension Variety Block is being moved because the Richmind Company, an apple orchard owned by Richard and Mindy Staton where the block has been located since 1985, is expanding and needs the space for a new storage area for bins and a controlled-atmosphere storage area. “We’re happy for the Statons that their business is growing such that they require more room,” Owings said. “Because that means that there’s more demand for the processed fruit, and that seems to be growing.” Owings said the variety block was one of the first requests he received when he started at the Extension Service. …

“Chestnuts: A traditional Cherokee food source puts down new roots in WNC,” Mountain Xpress: Paul Dillman of Qualla Boundary makes traditional Cherokee chestnut bread. But he says he’s never tasted an American chestnut. I met Dillman at Jay Huskey‘s Cherokee Food Booth at the annual Cherokee Indian Fair, where he was preparing Indian dinners: green beans, fried cabbage, fried potatoes, fatback and grease, fried pork chops and the customer’s choice of bean bread or chestnut bread. Dillman’s mother, Sue Owle, ran Boundary Tree restaurant in Cherokee from 1967-77, and growing up he learned Cherokee cooking from the older Indian women who worked there. Chestnut bread is a variation of bean bread, a traditional staple food among the Cherokee. It’s prepared much the same way, just substituting chestnuts for pinto beans. Dillman calls the bread a “grease delivery system.” He prefers it with butter, but “around here,” he says, “bacon grease is king.” To make the bread, Dillman boils chestnuts, which are usually stored frozen to prevent weevils, then caramelizes them and mixes them with stoneground cornmeal and a little baking soda (traditionally wood ashes) and flour to form a a paste. He wraps the paste in cornhusks and seals them, then boils them for an hour. He then unwraps the husks and cuts the bread into slices, slathering each with fatback grease and sometimes sautéing some of the grease off to give the bread a little crispiness before sending it on its way. The American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) that formerly served as the base for this dish were largely wiped out by the chestnut blight, Cryphonectria parasitica, a pathogenic fungus brought to this country by imported Asian chestnuts in the late 19th century. …

“Avian Influenza Tightening Turkey Supply,”  Southern Farm Network: (Audio) As we approach the holiday season, while not a shortage, availability of turkeys for Thanksgiving is snug due to highly pathogenic avian influenza Scott Prestage, VP of Prestage Farms Poultry Division: “Everyone knows about the impact that bird flu has had on the poultry industry, out in the Midwest, particularly the turkey industry. The last numbers I saw was something like more than 3.5% of the annual production in this country taken out of the pipeline from bird flu, that’s had a positive impact on market prices, for sure.” And Prestage says they’ve had to turn down some requests for product: “I’m aware of folks that have contacted our company looking for product. And you build relationships with customers, and in times like these its important you take care of those customers, so, unfortunately you have to say ‘no’ to folks that call looking for product.” As far as carry-over into the New Year, Prestage had this: “We will not have very much carry-over. I can tell you that product is moving out of coolers and freezers very quickly. I don’t think we’ll have very much at all, no.” …

“Couple involved in shady business of growing mushrooms with straw,” Winston-Salem Journal:  Nestled in a little cove at the base of Pilot Mountain, a couple has found a unique way to live off the land. Ernie and Cathy Wheeler of Borrowed Land Farm in Pinnacle have been farming a portion of 57 acres of their land for the last two years, raising sheep, pigs, rabbits and chickens. Their harvested meat and eggs are sold at the King Farmers Market, along with their newest offering of homegrown shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The Wheelers worked as marine biologists for years, moving all around the U.S. They moved to Pinnacle two years ago, where they joined family with whom they share similar ideals about farming and homesteading. …

“NC Farm School helps Davie couple,” Davie Enterprise Record: NC Farm School lives up to its slogan of “growing farmers from the ground up” as the school has wrapped up the last classes of 2015. Almost half of those who graduate will go on to start new or diversified ventures from the information they have learned. Farmers and future farmers attended evening classes once a month for seven months to gain knowledge from experienced farmers, local agents and university specialists. Among the graduates are Holly and Justin Miller from Davie County. “We started farming about three years ago and we were looking for a crop that took less acreage and made more money,” says Justin. Given the suggestion to attend from local Extension agent Pam Jones of Davie County Extension, Justin gained what he needed to take the next step. “The budgets and the business side is something I would have never been able to gain on my own without [NC Farm] School.” Holly said: “I feel like we have gained a community, people that you can kind of lean on to find answers you need.” …

The Got to Be NC Big Cart is spreading holiday cheer

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 04:13

Be on the lookout for the Got to Be NC Big Cart at the Raleigh Christmas Parade tomorrow. The Parade will be telecast live on WRAL-TV if you can’t make it in person. It’s forecast to be a little chilly, so we suggest packing a Thermos full of hot, N.C. apple cider and stopping by the N.C. Pork Council Whole Hog Championship for barbecue sandwiches. All proceeds will benefit the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

And if you can’t make it to Raleigh, you’ve got other chances to check out the state’s coolest shopping cart:

What do you pack in your parade-watching picnic basket?

Tar Heel Kitchen: Almond-Sweet Potato Puffs

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 13:28

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 Oct. 1, 1985 issue and a “new” way to fix those Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

“Sweet potatoes are among the most easily prepared of all vegetables,” said Barbara “Babs” Minter Wilkinson, former NCDA&CS home economist. “They may be baked, boiled, browned, fried and candied. They can be used to make biscuits, bread, muffins, pies, custards, cookies or cakes.”

“It is good to remember when cooking to leave the “sweet” in it’s jacket (skin) in order to best preserve the nutrients and flavor of the potato. The jackets will slip off easily with a little pressure from a knife once cooked,” she added.

Sweet potatoes are native to North America and North Carolina grows more than any other state. We also export about 30 percent of our crop to Europe – they love the sweetness of North Carolina sweet potatoes, too.

Below is a recipe for Almond-Sweet Potato Puffs. We tried these in the NCDA&CS test kitchen and liked the flavor of the orange marmalade mixed with the sweet potatoes. We served them as a side dish so we made slightly larger puffs. To serve as a appetizer, make slightly smaller puffs. Also, if you want to make them with even more North Carolina goodness, use N.C.-grown pecans instead of almonds.

Almond-Sweet Potato Puffs

  • 3 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 5 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 large egg or 2 small eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped almonds

Combine mashed potatoes with melted butter, marmalade, egg and salt in mixing bowl. Beat until smooth; chill. Spread almonds on sheet of waxed paper; drop potato mixture by heaping tablespoons onto almonds, roll to coat on all sides. Shape into 2-inch balls and place in greased shallow baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until hot. Place a dollop of butter and a sprig of parsley, if you wish, on each puff before serving.

It’s a wrap: DIY cankerworm management

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 10:04

Next week, many North Carolinians will be enjoying a turkey feast to celebrate Thanksgiving. Once the tryptophan-induced naps are over, however, it’s time to worry about another feast: the feast that cankerworms enjoy every spring as they feed on deciduous tree leaves.

Cankerworms are a nuisance every year in early spring. Not only do they drop down on a silken thread and onto cars or innocent passersby, but they also eat leaves. Not only does this cause cosmetic damage, more importantly, it causes stress to trees which increases their susceptibility to secondary pests. Typically, these caterpillars are minor pests, but in several urban areas across the state, they have become a severe problem that warrants annual preventative measures.

Sticky band around the trunk of a tree, covered with trapped moths. Image: William A. Carothers, USDA Forest Service,

Luckily, there is an easy, and inexpensive DIY preventative that can be used, for which we can thank the biology of the insect. The female cankerworm moth does not fly and must ascend the trunk of the tree before she lays eggs in the canopy. So placing a sticky band around the tree will trap the female as she crawls up the trunk of the tree, making her unable to lay eggs and therefore, there will be fewer caterpillars the following spring.

There are two species of cankerworms that cause issues: the fall cankerworm and the spring cankerworm, referring to the time of year that female moths ascend the trunk of the tree. However but both caterpillars emerge each spring near bud break for the tree, feeding on the new foliage. In order to capture both species of moths, the sticky bands must be put up in late fall after the leaves have fallen and left there until bud break the following spring.

So, how can you put these sticky bands up? Wrap or staple duct tape or paper tree wrap around the trunk of your tree and evenly cover the band with Tree Tanglefoot Insect Barrier. Tree Tanglefoot is a non-toxic, sticky substance that captures the flightless moths as they crawl up the trunk. If there are crevices in the bark which leave a gap between the trunk and the wrap, put cotton or insulation between the tape and the tree trunk so that moths can’t crawl underneath. Also, if you have an unusually high population of moths, they may quickly cover the sticky band, so checking it and reapplying Tanglefoot every few weeks may be needed.

Tanglefoot is typically available online and at local hardware stores, but due to a temporary halt in production, you may need to do a little extra hunting for it this year. Production should pick back up early next year, so if you’re unable to find it now, keep an eye out. Late band installment could still reduce the number of spring cankerworms that emerge.

Many neighborhoods band together. There’s a reason for that! If you are the only one who bands your trees, and the canopy of your tree touches the canopy of nearby unbanded trees, the moths can easily crawl right over and infest both trees. If both trees are banded, then both are protected. This is one situation where “keeping up with the Joneses” is a good thing!

Today’s Topic: November crop report shows effects of excessive rain

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 07:57

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

The impact of the excessive rainfall from earlier this fall shows up in USDA’s November crop report for North Carolina.

The report shows impacts on two crops in particular: cotton and peanuts.

The October yield forecast for cotton was 891 pounds per acre. By November, the forecast had dropped to 783 pounds per acre. That’s a decrease of 255 pounds from last year’s record yield. It’s also 42 pounds below the 10-year average for cotton yields in North Carolina.

Peanut yields also declined in the latest forecast. The October estimate was 4,000 pounds per acre. The November estimate is 3,800 pounds per acre, which is 520 pounds below last year’s record. Still, the forecast is almost 300 pounds above the 10-year average.

Commissioner Troxler says it’s important to keep in mind that crop reports represent a statewide average. And in some areas of the state the situation is going to be much worse than what the report says.

Another crop of concern is soybeans. The November report actually showed a slight improvement in projected yields for soybeans, but additional rain in early November has continued to hamper the harvest. If mature soybeans continue to sit in the field, they are more likely to suffer damage.

And that’s an important point. It’s one thing to talk about changes in yield or production estimates. But the loss of quality is also a big issue for farmers. Lower quality means lower prices. So if you’ve got less of a crop to sell, and that crop has a lower quality, then that’s a double hit to your bottom line.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the November crop report.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Nov. 7-13

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 11:32

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.

  • “Aquaponics gaining interest in our state,” Salisbury Post: Last week, I said that I would write about a recent trip to an aquaponics farm in Raleigh. Lately, aquaponics has become a hot topic, although some have confused it with hydroponics, which is also still popular. Hydroponics is using water as the only medium to grow plants (does not use soil). Aquaponics grows fish and then uses the “fertilized” water to help grow plants. Of course, that is the most simplistic explanation — as you will read, there are a lot more processes to go through before the water gets to the plants. It starts with fish. …
  • “Commercial apple growers win big at State Fair,” Hendersonville Times-News: Henderson County growers took top honors during the annual N.C. State Fair Oct. 15-26, sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. This year’s attendance was over one million, making it one of the highest attended ever. N.C. Cooperative Extension-Henderson County staff members, along with volunteers, evaluated and selected fruit from over 125 bushels of fruit. Everyone helping to put in the display is proud to be a part of the team. The exhibit displayed some of Henderson County’s best fruit for everyone to see and enjoy. Believe it or not, some folks who visited the exhibit didn’t know that apples even grow in North Carolina. Now they know. The following are some varieties that were evaluated: Arkansas Black, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Jonathan, Red Delicious and Rome Beauty. Fruit was selected for uniformity, quality, form, color, true to type and free from all insect and disease blemishes plus free from cuts and bruises. Premiums were awarded for the best collection of fruits based on quality. …
  • “N.C finalists announced for Good Food Awards,” Winston-Salem Journal: Ten North Carolina food producers were recently named finalists for Good Food Awards, including Brasstown Chocolate, based in Winston-Salem. Good Food Awards honor producers whose foods are not only tasty but whose businesses represent “environmentally sound agriculture practices, good animal husbandry, transparency and responsible relationships throughout the supply chain.” …
  • “Veterans Healing Farm expands its reach,” Hendersonville Times-News: The sense of a loss of mission can be huge for veterans transitioning into civilian life — often, a civilian job can’t replicate the feeling of purpose and community many who have served in the armed forces are used to. The vision John Mahshie has for the Veterans Healing Farm includes that support – presented in a rounded, holistic approach that feeds multiple layers of needs for both veterans and their families. A planned community center slated to open in the spring will allow the Healing Farm to further its mission by offering Holistic Training Boot Camps. “I think the coolest thing about it is that there’s nothing like it in the country,” said Mahshie, who started operating the farm on Shaw’s Creek in Hendersonville last year. “The goal is to create an intentional, intensive educational approach that will provide veterans with the tools they need.” …
  • “Bringing More Farmers Markets to Service Members,” USDA: As we take time this week to honor America’s veterans, we are also thinking about how we can improve the health and welfare of military communities across the country. That’s why we are so proud to release the first-ever Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations. By assisting military installations in establishing farmers markets, the guide will help increase access to fresh, local food for soldiers on military installations. On-base farmers markets also connect members of the military with their surrounding communities and offer family-friendly gathering places where children can learn where their food comes from. In a truly collaborative effort, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), created this detailed manual with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), and in partnership with Wholesome Wave. It explains how commanders can establish and successfully operate farmers markets on military installations. The guide is filled with effective strategies to bring the benefits of farmers markets to service members and their families stationed at installations across the country. It also highlights success stories, showcasing existing farmers markets on military installations in Fort Bragg, NC; Fort Meade, MD; Fort Belvoir, VA; Camp Lejuene, NC; and Quantico, VA. …
  • “Butterball announces plans to add 250 more Raeford jobs in 2016,” Fayetteville Observer: The vice president of operations for Butterball said Wednesday that plans call for the Raeford turkey processing plant to add another 250 jobs in 2016. Mike Bliss, who was among the company’s executives in attendance for the grand opening of its seventh and newest processing facility, told a crowd of about 90 visitors that the growth “has been phenomenal” at the Raeford plant. “And the success here at this plant is something that doesn’t happen very often in this business,” he said. In February, when Garner-based Butterball and Gov. Pat McCrory jointly announced the company was buying the former House of Raeford turkey cook plant, the transaction was expected to create 367 jobs in Hoke County over the next three years. …
  • Severe flooding finalizes bad year for tobacco farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: The rain that flooded much of the tobacco-growing area of South Carolina would have had a catastrophic impact on leaf yield if it had fallen a month earlier. But William Hardee, area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion Counties — both in northeastern South Carolina and both smack in the path of the October 1-3 rains — said that by the time the storm began, there was not much tobacco left in the field. And what was left was ridden by disease and likely wouldn’t have yielded very much even if conditions had been ideal. “We’d had perfect disease weather the last week or 10 days of September,” Hardee said. “There was bad bacterial wilt along with sunscald that we’d had earlier.” …

Tar Heel Kitchen: Tar Heel Greens

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 13:27

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 May 1, 1985 issue and a classic fix to turnip greens.

Many Thanksgiving tables feature a giant bowl of greens. If you are like many of us Generation Xers, this dish was fixed by your grandmother, meaning you may have never prepared fresh turnip greens yourself. Barbara “Babs” Minter Wilkinson, former NCDA&CS home economist, offered the follow advice when picking out greens.

“When shopping for greens, regardless of which variety, look for leaves that are fresh, of good green color, crisp, moist, clean and cold,” she said. “When you arrive home from hand picking your greens at the market, discard any bruised, wilted, or yellowed leaves and cut off tough or dried stem ends. Remember to wash the greens thoroughly to remove sand and dirt particles. This is done by lifting yours greens out of the water and repeat washing until no grit settles to the bottom of the pan.”

Salt pork should be available at your local grocery store (ask for it at the meat section). These greens turned out delicious and taste just like grandma’s. My grandmother would chop hers up into tiny pieces, but I liked the longer leaf length. All our test kitchen was missing was a little pepper vinegar or chow chow.

Tar Heel Greens

  • 1 bunch (3 ½ pounds) turnip greens, cleaned
  • ½ pound salt pork, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

Place turnip greens, salt pork, salt and water to cover in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 1 ½ hours. Add potatoes; cover and simmer an additional 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Specialty Foods highlighted at Southern Christmas Show

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 12:04

The N.C. Specialty Foods Association kicked off its fifth year exhibiting at the Southern Christmas Show this week. The association’s shop, “@ The Market” features more than two dozen N.C. companies.

“We’re selling the best products North Carolina has to offer,” said Myrtle Earley, an NCDA&CS marketing specialist who works with the Specialty Foods Association and organizes the event each year. “This is a great opportunity for local companies to gain exposure and an even better opportunity for consumers to sample and buy locally made products for the holidays.”

Vendors will have a variety of sauces, cookies, salsas, chocolates, crackers, peanuts, pickles, butters, dressings and more. The products make great gifts for teachers, neighbors, friends and family.

The Southern Christmas Show runs through November 22 at the Park Expo and Conference Center in Charlotte. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. all other days.

If you can’t make the show, be sure to download the Dish This! Catalog from the N.C. Specialty Foods Association. The catalog features many of the products available at the show, as well as other products from even more local companies.

Today’s Topic: Tobacco research referendum scheduled for Nov. 19

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 07:04

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

North Carolina tobacco growers will vote Nov. 19 on whether to continue their self-assessment to support tobacco research and education. State law requires that a referendum be held every six years.

The assessment under the tobacco checkoff program is 10 cents per 100 pounds of flue-cured and burley tobacco sold. Since 1991, the program has provided about $300,000 annually to support tobacco-related research and extension projects at N.C. State University.

Funds from the self-assessment are allocated to N.C. State by the Tobacco Research Commission. Over the years, this program has supported a wide variety of research and education to help tobacco farmers with issues such as sucker control, improving leaf quality and boosting resistance to diseases and insects.

Tobacco growers may cast their ballot at their local Cooperative Extension office on Nov. 19.

If approved by a two-thirds majority, the assessment would be in effect from January 2016 through December 2021.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the tobacco research referendum.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: Oct. 31-Nov. 6

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 11:30

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.

  • “ENC Farmers Cope With Significant Crop Loss,” Public Radio East: (Audio) Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina, contributing $78 billion dollars to the State’s economy. Much of the food produced in our state comes from our region, which was recently pounded with heavy rainfall, accumulating to more than 20 inches in some areas. It’s an agricultural crisis here… Director of the State Farm Service Agency Bob Etheridge estimates millions of dollars worth of damages in eastern North Carolina. “Every county east of I-95 but one sent in indication of damage with this storm. So that tells you what the impact is going to be in terms of loss once we get the numbers in. And it ranged anywhere from 10 to 50 percent in some counties depending on the commodity, whether it was cotton or peanuts or soybeans, etc.” October is when most farmers harvest their crops. But the soggy fields have made it difficult for farmers like Kenneth Fann. “Potatoes I guess particularly were the hardest hit. We had 12 days of rain which gave us at least two weeks that we practically couldn’t do anything in the fields as far as harvest goes.” …
  • “Henderson County serves as host to sod companies,” Greensboro News & Record:  It’s virtually everywhere. In front of homes, businesses, parks and on ballfields. It’s an important agricultural commodity in Henderson County, though it mostly flies under the radar, with just two growers calling the county home. But those two producers grow more than 1,200 acres of sod annually in the county, producing tens of millions of square feet of grass that will be planted along streets and driveways, in subdivisions and on golf courses across the Southeast. Super Sod, a division of Patten Seed Company, operates in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. In Henderson County, Super Sod produces hundreds of acres of sod. Together with Hendersonville-based Turf Mountain, nearly 1,000 acres of sod is being cut per year in the county. …
  • “Dining ready for Thanksgiving turkey shortage,” NCSU Technician: Thanksgiving is approaching and Executive Catering Chef at NC State Mack Bell expressed some concerns about an eventual shortage in turkeys because of avian flu breakout in the Midwest. However, the dining halls secured their birds early and should have no problem providing turkey dishes at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner Nov. 12. University Dining has anticipated a possible unavailability of products through management of its supply chain. “We are in anticipation in case of potential shortages,” said Randy Lait, senior director of Hospitality Services. In order to have Thanksgiving turkeys, University Dining has been working closely with its distributors. “We have been working with our food distributor and our group purchasing organization to minimize the impact to our campus through supply chain management agreements and stockpiling certain products when supplies were more plentiful,” Lait said. NC State University deals with a local distributor, US Foodservice, which buys its turkeys fresh from Butterball, the largest vertically integrated American turkey producers based in Mount Olive, North Carolina. …
  • “County receives state agriculture grant,” Burlington Times-News: Alamance County and the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River in Orange County are among 18 recipients of grants from the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Another grant will facilitate an economic impact study for the development of value-added soybeans in Alamance County. The fund recently awarded more than $1.7 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “The trust fund was able to fund 18 projects this year,” Troxler said. “The conservation easements, agricultural projects and plans will help to solidify agriculture and agribusiness as North Carolina’s top industry.” …
  • “Online game develops ag literacy,” National Geographic and Bayer CropScience recently released “Top Crop: Farming for the Future,” an interactive online game that aims to increase national agricultural literacy through educating students on the basics of what it takes to produce crops. Through a series of virtual growing seasons, game players will experience various in-season challenges farmers face, such as pests, disease and weather. They will also learn about multiple modern technologies available to farmers to help them overcome those challenges. “At National Geographic, we’re committed to educating tomorrow’s explorers, scientists, engineers and farmers about the world and how it works, and this ‘Top Crop’ game is a great example of how we can teach kids about the challenges and solutions farmers face in the real world through a fun and interactive game,” National Geographic Chief Education Officer Melina Bellows said. …
  • “Sunburst offshoot brings aquaponics to West Asheville,” Asheville Citizen-Times: A 13,800-square-foot greenhouse in a neighborhood off Leicester Highway seems an unlikely place to find a school of tilapia. But the fish will soon serve as a living linchpin of commercial revitalization at Smith Mill Works, a 27-acre West Asheville property in a process of financial and environmental recovery since its original industry, farming, faded 15 years ago. Sunburst Chef and Farmer, the aquaponics offshoot project by Sally Eason of Canton’s Sunburst Trout Farms, chef Charles Hudson and others, has leased a greenhouse on the property with plans to build an aquaponics farm there. Aquaponics, a symbiotic system of raising fish and plants, can produce a city’s worth of food in a surprisingly tiny space with just a fraction of the water of conventional farming. Most plants will grow on floating islands set in basins of triple-filtered fish-waste water, also known as brown water. Local restaurants should benefit from a bounty of microgreens and vegetables include lacinato kale, romaine lettuce and tomatoes. Eventually, Sunburst Chef and Farmer should have tilapia and possibly striped bass for sale as well. But for now, the first microgreens should be ready for sale in a matter of days. The tiny sprouts are a harbinger of big things to come. …
  • “In face of embargo, NC working for more Cuba trade,” WRAL: (Video) A month after a North Carolina trade delegation visited Cuba, members of the group are working to find ways to move forward in rebuilding the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Agricultural officials and members of the North Carolina Farm Bureau toured farms and markets to get a better idea of the crops Cuban farmers produce and the challenges they face. North Carolina already exports poultry and apples to Cuba, but as the U.S. and Cuba continue restoring diplomatic relations, farmers want to see more trade between the countries. “Trade goes two ways,” said Peter Daniel, assistant to the president of the N.C. Farm Bureau. “We think about selling stuff to Cuba, but Cuba is going to be trying and wanting to sell things and export things to the United States.” …
  • “Disease Spreads Among Bees As Green Space Becomes Scarce,” WUNC: N.C. State University researchers have found that bees are more susceptible to diseases in areas where there’s more pavement and less green space. Entomologist Dave Tarpy co-authored a report in the journal PLOS ONE. It compared the levels of pathogens in both wild bees and those tended to by bee keepers. “In both the feral and the managed bee colonies, there tended to be higher levels of diseases with increased urbanization. So they both had higher levels of disease in the inner cities.” Tarpy says bees are important pollinators for food, so it’s important to understand what’s threatening them. But there are interventions that can be taken. …

USDA designates 11 more NC counties as primary natural disaster areas

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 14:54

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 11 more North Carolina counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by excessive rain and flooding that occurred from Sept. 22, 2015, through Oct. 4, 2015. Those counties are:

  • Bertie
  • Bladen
  • Caswell
  • Cumberland
  • Gates
  • Hertford
  • Hoke
  • Northampton
  • Pamlico
  • Union
  • Warren

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in North Carolina also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are:

  • Alamance
  • Anson
  • Beaufort
  • Cabarrus
  • Camden
  • Carteret
  • Chowan
  • Columbus
  • Craven
  • Franklin
  • Halifax
  • Harnett
  • Hyde
  • Martin
  • Mecklenburg
  • Moore
  • Nash
  • Orange
  • Pasquotank
  • Pender
  • Perquimans
  • Person
  • Richmond
  • Robeson
  • Rockingham
  • Sampson
  • Scotland
  • Vance

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Nov. 4, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

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

Last month, USDA designated 19 counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas.

– Information from USDA

Flavor, NC: Carter Farms Wheat

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 11:35

Each month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight an episode from season 4 and a trip to Carter Farms in Eagle Springs and La Farm Bakery in Cary.

Wheat – it’s produced in almost every single state in the United States. In fact, more wheat is grown worldwide than almost any other crop. That’s because wheat is the essential ingredient for an international food staple – bread.

Carter Farms is a family-run operation located in the sandhills of North Carolina. The farm grows two types of winter wheat, has a pick-your-own strawberry in the spring and operates an on-farm roadside market.

Hostess Lisa Prince visited with Billy Carter to learn the difference in the two types of wheat. The soft red is perfect for Southern staples likes cakes, pies and biscuits. The hard red is used by millers in bread making. Winter wheat is planted in early fall, grows all winter and is usually harvested in early summer.

La Farm Bakery in Cary is one of the bakeries that use hard red winter wheat from Carter Farms.

Lisa visits with Master Baker Lionel Vatinet to learn a little about the bread making process. After giving Lisa a lesson in the seven steps of proper bread making, he shows her how to roll out four basic bread forms: rolls, boule, batard and baguette. Below is his recipe for La Farm Bread.


  • 4 ½ cups unbleached, unbromated white bread flour
  • ¾ cup unbromated whole-wheat bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons starter

Place flours, salt, starter and water in mixing bowl. Begin mixing at low speed for five minutes. After five minutes, increase speed for two more minutes. The temperature of the dough should be between 72 and 80 degrees. The dough should be soft to the touch and moist feeling, but should not stick to fingers. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly dusted with flour. Cover with plastic and let rise for one hour. Fold the dough by lifting each of the corners of dough and folding them into the center. Cover the dough with plastic and return to a warm, draft-free place for another hour. Repeat this folding process a second time, and let it rest for another hour.

Since you are making one loaf, no dividing is needed. Shape the dough into a boule. Lightly dust a banneton (or bread-makers bowl used for proofing) with flour. Place the dough in the banneton, seam side up. Throw a light film of flour over the top to keep the plastic from sticking and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Let the dough proof for two and a half to three hours in a warm, draft-free place. Place a piece of parchment paper on a bread peel. Turn the dough onto the peel, bottom side up. Using a single-edged razor blade, score the loaf, just barely breaking through the skin and cutting about 1/8 inch into the dough. Bake at 450 degrees for about forty minutes until the bread is a deep golden brown with a crisp crust and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Fungus Among Us: High rainfall worsen tree diseases

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 10:23

Rain, rain, go away!  Usually a children’s song, it’s also been a plea from many North Carolinians this fall. While this season’s excessive rain is eliminating drought statewide, it may also be the source of problems for trees, particularly diseases.

It’s no secret that fungi are moisture-loving organisms. The extended wetness from rain creates an environment that is home sweet home to many disease pathogens. Two common diseases homeowners may encounter that are especially moisture-loving affect opposite ends of the tree: anthracnose disease of leaves and root rot.

Lesions on leaves caused by anthracnose generally begin along the major veins. Image: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,

Anthracnose is a common fungal disease that causes lesions on tree leaves, twigs, and fruit. It is often noticed on landscape or ornamental trees because of its aesthetically displeasing look. During a wet season, the disease may be more pronounced and has greater ability to spread. Many different fungi cause anthracnose, but each one typically only attacks one type of host. Therefore, the disease is named for the tree on which it is found. Some of the most common ones in North Carolina are sycamore anthracnose, oak anthracnose and maple anthracnose. Generally, anthracnose diseases are a cosmetic concern and do not cause long-term damage to the tree.

Prevention is key! As in football, the best defense is a good offense. Perhaps the best recommendation to combat anthracnose is sanitation: rake and destroy tree leaves in the fall to reduce occurrence the following year. Not a fan of raking? Like any fungus, give it time … it will grow on you! Throughout the year, remove and bag/dispose or remove and destroy diseased leaves and/or fruit from the tree itself and the surrounding ground. Pruning can improve canopy air circulation, reducing moisture and making a less hospitable environment for disease pathogens. However, be sure to prune when leaves are dry, as wet leaves more easily facilitate the spread of disease pathogens. Disease can spread through contaminated equipment as well, so remember to sanitize shears and pruners with a 50 percent alcohol solution or 25 percent bleach solution before moving on to another tree (rinse with water or allow to air dry before using tools again). Similarly, wash your hands with soap and running water.

Conks are often the external signs that disease is occurring. Ganoderma sp. root rot conk at the base of an an American beech tree. Image: Edward L. Barnard, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

Root rot is another common disease that is increasing in frequency after this fall’s rain. It is more common on older trees or trees with injury on the roots or at the base of the trunk. An infected tree may exhibit dieback in the canopy, discolored foliage, and/or leaf drop. Diseased trees generally decline over many years and eventually die, but some may live years without exhibiting symptoms. The presence of conks, or fruiting bodies of the fungus, is a sign that a tree has root rot.

To prevent root rot, avoid injuring roots and tree trunks, as trees with such injuries more commonly have the disease. If a tree has succumbed to root rot, before replanting in the vicinity, consider removing the old root system and stump to reduce future infection. Finally, if possible, encourage and improve soil drainage in the area.

Above all, remember your umbrella!

Today’s Topic: Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund awards grants

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 07:51

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

The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded more than $1.7 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and develop agricultural enterprises.

The trust fund awarded 18 grants to counties, nonprofit organizations and universities for conservation easements on farms, county farmland protection plans and agricultural enterprise projects, such as a study of uses for canola.

The trust fund already is accepting applications for the next grant cycle. County governments and nonprofit groups have until Dec. 18 to apply for funding assistance.

This cycle, the trust fund has a legislative appropriation of $1.6 million, plus $1 million to protect buffers around military bases. The NCDA&CS and the military are working together to protect forests and croplands that are important in the training of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

The application and guidelines are available online here. Potential applicants who have questions may call 919-707-3072.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about this grant program and the types of projects that are eligible.


Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Bioenergy Research Initiative manager honored by NCSU center

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 09:00

Sam Brake, left, is one of five recipients of the 2015 Mobile CARE awards. With him is Mike Holder of the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Sam Brake, agricultural programs specialist with the NCDA&CS Bioenergy Research Initiative, is one of five recipients of the 2015 Mobile CARE awards presented by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.

The N.C. Mobile Clean Air Renewable Energy awards recognize outstanding individuals and organizations for work aimed at reducing transportation-related emissions. Organized by the NCCETC and sponsored by the state Department of Transportation, Mobile CARE brings together three state agencies with overlapping interests in air quality and energy to recognize the achievements of people and organizations that are making a difference in North Carolina. Honorees can be individuals, organizations, or technology or fuel providers.

Individuals may be honored for expanding “the use and understanding of best driving practices, alternative fuels and advanced transportation technologies as these relate to air quality and energy diversity,” according to Mobile CARE.

Brake was honored for his history of work in the areas of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. “Through his presentations and travels across the state and through the Bioenergy Research Initiative in Oxford, Sam Brake seeks to promote and make people in the state aware of such bioenergy crops as switchgrass and its potential for renewable energy and fuel,” Mobile CARE’s announcement noted.

“Sam is an enthusiastic supporter of research on bioenergy feedstocks, and this award is well-deserved,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

The Bioenergy Research Initiative is a program of the NCDA&CS Research Stations Division and is located at the Oxford Research Station. It supports the research and development of forestry and agriculture-based feedstocks for bioenergy production, agribusiness development and cooperative research for biofuels production.

Brake joined the program in 2014 after working with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina and the N.C. Soybean Producers Association. Before devoting his attention to renewable fuels and bioenergy crop production, he spent 27 years developing and managing Open Grounds Farm in Carteret County.

In addition to Brake, other award winners were Skip Kirkwood with Durham County Emergency Medical Services, Alliance Autogas of Asheville, City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services and the Charlotte Fire Department.

News Roundup: Oct. 24-Oct. 30

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 11:30

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.

  • “How a toxin in beetles is killing N.C. horses,” The Technician: Last month, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture suspected blister beetle poisoning caused the death of five horses in North Carolina. The poison, cantharidin, originates from the blister beetle and can contaminate alfalfa hay fed to horses. Cantharidin, produced by the male blister beetle and transferred to the female during mating, is a chemical used for protection by the beetles. The toxin causes a painful blistering of human skin, and when consumed, the digestive tract. Clyde Sorenson, a professor in the Department of Entomology, said it is unclear how many beetles it takes to kill a horse because it depends on the concentration of cantharidin in the beetles. The striped beetle is thought to be the one that accumulates the most of the toxin. …
  • “NC company devises method using tobacco plants to produce omega-2 oil without harming sharks,” News & Observer: In the 1975 movie blockbuster “Jaws,” Roy Scheider’s character gets a glimpse of the sharkzilla darting its head out of the ocean and backs away in terror, approaching his shipmate with the unscripted line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” When it comes to producing the coveted omega-2 oil squalene, a boat is no longer needed. For years, this compound has been harvested from deep-sea shark livers because of its numerous health properties and commercial uses. Now, a company with offices in Cornelius is part of a sustainable and more environmentally friendly production method that not only can ease pressure on shark catches but can benefit North Carolina tobacco farmers. …
  • “2015 NC State Fair has second-highest attendance ever,” WRAL: The North Carolina State Fair closed its 11-day run Sunday as the second-most-attended ever, with 1,019,738 people passing through the gates, fair officials announced Monday. The record for total attendance is 1,091,887, set in 2010. Sunday’s attendance was 107,397, nearly 10,000 higher than the same day last year. Saturday’s attendance was 140,886, which is 14,000 more visitors than on the same day last year. For 11 days every October, the North Carolina State Fair is like a miniature city within the Triangle. On any given day during the festivities, the population exceeds that of small communities such as Chapel Hill. …
  • “N.C. set for explosion of craft distillers,” Winston-Salem Journal: Mayberry Spirits had their vanilla flavored whiskey, made with sorghum syrup, at MESDA’s 50th anniversary party “BBQ, Bourbon & Bluegrass.” Spirits are up in the local liquor business, a fact made abundantly clear Friday night at the 50th anniversary party for the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem. The event, titled “BBQ, Bourbon and Bluegrass,” drew about 300 people to celebrate the history of MESDA. A big part of the evening was the spirits program organized by Jordan Keiper, whose family owns the Tavern in Old Salem. Keiper and the Tavern have become big supporters of local food, beer, wine and spirits. Keiper has watched North Carolina distilleries begin to come into their own. In 2013, there were 13 distilleries in the state. Now, the N.C. Distilleries Association has 27 members, with three more distilleries set to open in the near future. Nationwide, there are about 425 craft distilleries, according to the American Distilling Institute, and about half of those are three years old or younger. …
  • “Can North Carolina farmers hit 100-bushel soybeans?” Southeast Farm Press: If Randy Dowdy can do it, soybean farmers in North Carolina certainly can. So says Brandon Harrelson, sales manager for Southern States Cooperative in North Carolina, speaking of Dowdy, the Brooks County, Ga., farmer who achieved a yield of 116.5 bushels per acre on irrigated soybeans last year. “We all know who Randy Dowdy is and we all want to know what he does to make 500 bushel corn and 100 bushel soybeans,” said Harrelson at the Southern States high yield soybean field day Sept. 15 at Mount Olive, N.C. At the field day, participants toured Southern States’ 50-acre, high-yield test plot on Ralph Britt Jr.’s farm. The irrigated plot utilizes an early production system with the goal of achieving 100 bushels per acre. “We’re trying to think about new ways to manage soybeans and what we can do to achieve big yields,” Harrelson said. “We wanted to use an early production system and make it successful in North Carolina. …
  • “Growing a brand: Young farmers navigate a hard business,” Asheville Citizen-Times: As dozens of children in rain boots tromped through a field trip at Hickory Nut Gap Farm, a minor crisis arose in the farm store. “Jamie, this is the last of our cider,” said a solemn-faced worker, proffering a half-empty jug of amber liquid. Jamie Ager, a Warren Wilson College grad and fourth-generation farmer on this rolling 500-acre swath of Fairview property, handled it in stride, directing his crew to grab some apples and press some more on the fly, like a chef in a busy restaurant kitchen. With the opening of his new on-site deli, Ager is now many things at once: restaurant owner, farmer, store manager and more. Hickory Nut Gap is a working farm first, but also an idyllic destination for agritourism with baby animals to ogle, pumpkins to pick and cider to guzzle. But even though it breeds a brand-new set of problems, economic diversification is the name of the game in modern farming. …
  • “Industrial hemp poised to become NC’s newest legal crop,” News & Observer: Farmers in North Carolina are likely to wake up Saturday morning with a new option for growing crops: Industrial hemp production is expected to become legal at the stroke of midnight. Lawmakers passed the legalization legislation in September, in the final days of the session. The proposal hadn’t previously been made public, and some conservative groups worry that questions about the plant’s connections to its cousin, marijuana, didn’t get answered. The bill has been on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for weeks, and unless he vetoes it, it will become law without his signature at midnight Friday. Lee Edwards of Sugar Hill Farms in Kinston is among the farmers eager to add industrial hemp to their fields. “Hemp really gives us a crop during the summertime that is a viable cash crop to us,” he said. “We’re in a perfect geographical location for the production of hemp with our climate.” …