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News Roundup: July 25-31

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 12:49

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

  • State is preparing for possible avian influenza outbreak, Tryon Daily Bulletin: State Veterinarian Doug Meckes announced additional precautions that are being put in place to help North Carolina prepare for a possible introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register for an NCFarmIDnumber, Meckes said. This will facilitate the department in alerting poultry owners about an outbreak, especially owners in close proximity to a positive farm. Poultry owners can also sign up for a national premises ID number, but it is not required. Anyone already part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan is exempt from this requirement. An online sign-up form will be available after Aug. 1.  …
  • Egg shortage driving up prices in N.C., Wilmington StarNews: If a chicken is too sick to flap its wings in Iowa, egg buyers feel it in North Carolina. An avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest has been forcing farmers to kill their flocks, causing an egg shortage that has pushed prices up across the nation. From May to June, the national price of chicken eggs jumped 84 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At Empire Deli & Bagel in Ogden, that increase pushed owner Steve Burey to temporarily charge peckish customers an extra 25 cents per egg. “The egg prices are through the roof,” Burey said. “You’re talking about a case of eggs that two months ago was $30, is $90 now.” …
  • County works on plan to support economic viability of farming, Shelby Star: Cleveland County farmers contribute more than $94 million to the county’s economy. Smithson Mills, an economic development consultant who focuses on agriculture, said that amount is significantly higher than other Western North Carolina counties. The county has contracted with Mills to help develop a Farmland Preservation Plan. Not only will the plan protect farmland for future use, it will also recommend programs and strategies to support the economic viability of farming. “I’m really impressed with the fact that so many farmers (in Cleveland County) are making a living from agricultural production,” said Mills. “Cleveland County has been far more successful in keeping agriculture as a strong part of the overall economy.” The Farmland Preservation Plan will provide support for the agricultural community and help cultivate the next generation of farmers, said Greg Traywick, Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Director. …
  •  Hops harvest grows in NC as breweries boom, WRAL: This week marks the grand opening of another local Triangle brewery – BlackJack Brewing in Raleigh. The secret to brewing a good beer is knowing what you’re doing and having quality ingredients, according to Brooks Hamaker of BlackJack Brewing. “Hops are very, very important, and depending on the kind of beer you’re making, they can be more important,” Hamaker said. “Hops are one of the major ingredients for beers; they’re part of bittering the beer.” Dan Gridley of Farm Boy Farms is now in his sixth year growing hops. “We can’t grow enough,” Gridley said. “No one can grow enough.” Gridley said much of the growing process is still experimental. North Carolina hop growers are still working to figure out what grows well in the area. …
  • The next big thing for beer could be bugs, NC State scientists say, News & Observer: Bugs and beer: most of us probably don’t see a connection beyond shooing flies away from our pint glasses. But for a group of N.C. State University scientists, bugs may hold the secret to making new, surprising and delicious beers. That’s because yeasts – the single-celled fungi responsible for converting sugar to alcohol in fermented foods like beer and wine – are likely to be found on arthropods like bees, wasps, hornets and beetles, said Anne Madden, a part-time post-doctoral researcher at N.C. State. If these yeasts could be isolated from bugs and successfully cultivated in the lab, she and NCSU professors Rob Dunn and John Sheppard mused, maybe they could be used to brew new kinds of beer. Most commercial beer, including craft brews, is made using different strains of two species of yeast, Madden said. Because yeast can contribute significantly to the flavor of beer – as much as 50 percent by some estimates – a new species could mean new flavors for the increasingly crowded beer marketplace. …
  • North Carolinians’ views split on requirement to register chickens to combat bird flu, Jones + Blount: A decision by the N.C. Agriculture Department to require registration of all North Carolinians who keep chickens, regardless of flock size, is intended to prepare the state to combat avian influenza but is ruffling feathers in some parts of the backyard chicken community. Agricultural officials, who announced the decision July 22, admit that there is a “delicate balance” between unwanted government intrusion and preparation for bird flu, which is not present in North Carolina yet. The department says avian flu has affected 21 states, led to the loss of almost 50 million birds, and cost U.S. taxpayers half a billion dollars so far. “It’s worth noting that the information collected will be used only for animal health purposes and is confidential by law,” department spokesman Brian Long wrote in an email. Backyard chicken enthusiasts, known in some areas as the “urban chicken” movement, are split on the decision.  …
  • Scientists Turning Tide In Battle Against Invasive Hemlock Pest, WUNC: The hunt for the hemlock woolly adelgid begins in an unexpected place, tucked between a golf-course community and the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary: Hardly the setting for a tree and a pest that prefers cool mountain air. But the trees are here, clinging to a small cup-shaped notch in a north-facing cliff in the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. “So this is one of those little pockets like this, right in here,” Mark Johns, the Preserve’s operations supervisor, explains, standing on a wooden deck attached to the bluff. “You go over to west overlook, which we could almost throw a rock to, you just can’t see it through all the trees, same thing. Pocket. And there’s a bunch of them there and a bunch of them here and not much in between.” About five years ago, the woolly adelgid showed up on one of these hemlocks.  …
  • Local Campus Farms Help Feed Students, Community, Greensboro News & Record: After a day in the fields, students at the Guilford College Farm are covered in grime, their clothes sweat-soaked. But the fruits of their labor are beautiful. Tomatoes the size of softballs. Carrots with yellow and purple marbling. And crates of psychedelically colored leaves. “Rainbow chard,” David Petree exclaims, peeking into a crate. “That’s a favorite for a lot of grocery stores, because it’s so pretty on the shelf.” Petree is director of Environmental Sustainability at Guilford College, one of several local schools literally nurturing their students and the community through campus farms and gardens. Elsewhere in Greensboro, N.C. A&T has an extensive community agriculture program. Produce from the GTCC garden is donated to the school’s food pantry and set out in the cafeteria. The culinary arts program there also has an herb garden and is experimenting with microgreens. And UNC-Greensboro has a garden with plots used by students, faculty and clubs. …
  • Bill prohibiting local livestock rules sent to McCrory, Asheville Citizen-Times: The House gave final approval Thursday to a bill preventing local governments from regulating the care of farm animals, leaving Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature the last step needed for the bill to become law. The bill sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, is a response to rules on the treatment of animals that the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners adopted in January. Commissioners made the rules less restrictive in March after horse owners and others argued that language in the original Buncombe ordinance requiring a three-sided shelter and socialization for horses was unnecessary. …
  • Watermelon contest planting seeds for N.C. farmers, Jones + Blount: On Thursday morning at the North Carolina State Farmers Market, eight of the best farmers in the state came together to find out who had the largest watermelon. Four experienced growers took home the top prizes, but growers of all ages made the contest great. Kenneth A. Davis of Forsyth County had the heaviest melon at 180 pounds. After coming in second in the contest last year, Davis planted seeds from last year’s 187.5-pound mammoth to bring another impressive melon. While this year’s crop was smaller, so was the rest of the competition’s. “I guess we got a little bit luckier this year,” Davis said with a laugh. “This was an impressive crop again, so I’m just happy we were able to come away the winner.” …


In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Summer harvest favorites

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 16:13

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. This month Brian and Lisa are cooking up a few tasty dishes featuring the bounty of fresh produce available in gardens and at farmers markets in the summer months.

The first recipe was provide by Debbie Mathews of Durham. Lisa notes that it’s “a great twist on an old classic with the surprise of broccoli and cheese.”

High Country Potato Salad


  • 2 pounds waxy potatoes (like Yukon Gold)
  • 1 1⁄2 large broccoli heads
  • 3⁄4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1⁄3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 1⁄4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Boil potatoes in heavily salted water until a knife slips in easily. Drain and cool. Cut broccoli into short-stemmed florets and steam until tender. Submerge the broccoli in ice water to cool and set color. Drain, season with salt. Make dressing; whisk together mayo, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Check for seasoning. Stir in cheese and green onions. Cover and refrigerate until ready to make salad. In a large bowl, peel and cut potatoes into bite-size pieces. Add broccoli–give each floret a little smoosh between your fingers to just break the stem, but not so much that you smash it. Add dressing a bit at a time, stirring until it’s all coated (you probably won’t need all the dressing). Let sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before serving for flavors to meld. Garnish with sprinkling of sliced green onions and serve.

The next recipe makes a great side dish to any meal. Brian and Lisa both agree you will be looking for pasta dishes or chicken to put this delicious vinaigrette on. Also, you can use other herbs, such as cilantro or chives, instead of basil.

Fresh Vegetable Salad


  • 2 cups small heirloom tomatoes (diced or halved)
  • 1 small zucchini (thinly sliced into half moons)
  • 1 small red pepper (cut into thin strips)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup firm ripe fresh peaches (diced with skin on)
  • 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1⁄3 cup torn fresh basil for garnish


  • 1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh basil, chopped


Combine vegetables together and toss with Parmesan vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil. To make the vinaigrette: Process Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add basil and pulse 5 or 6 times or just until blended.

The State Farmers Market in Raleigh has a peach dessert contest every year and Margaret Hicks of Clayton took home second place in the 2013 competition with this easy and delicious dessert. It combines two summertime favorites – peaches and blueberries.

Peach Blueberry Delite


  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 pack (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (whipped)
  • 8 cups cubed Angel food cake (divided)
  • 4 cups cut-up peaches (about 5 peaches)
  • 1 pint blueberries


In large bowl, beat milk, sour cream and pudding mix on low speed until thick. Fold in most of berries (save some for top of the dessert). Then fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream. Put ½ of cake cubes into 9×11 baking dish. Put half of peaches on top of the cake. Next, add the pudding mixture, then a layer of cake and finish with peaches and blueberries on top. The layers should be: cake, peaches, pudding, cake, peaches and blueberries. Chill and enjoy!

The next recipe adds a healthy twist to what is usually a family favorite.  Lisa notes that “the great thing about making a vegetable pizza at home is you get to pick all the ingredients and can get creative. Try Kalamata olives for a change or add some zucchini and squash. You could also saute some of the vegetables before adding them to the pizza.”

Vegetable Pizza


  • 1 pizza crust of your choosing or 1 pound refrigerated fresh pizza dough
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1⁄3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1⁄3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup red pepper (sliced or diced)
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow pepper (sliced or diced)
  • 1 cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1⁄4 cup red onions (sliced)
  • 1⁄4 cup black olives (sliced)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (sliced)
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil leaves (shredded)


Position an oven rack in the lowest setting; place a pizza stone on rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. (If using fresh pizza dough: remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Punch dough down. Sprinkle a lightly floured baking sheet with cornmeal; roll dough out to 15-inch circle on prepared baking sheet.) Brush dough with olive oil. Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over sauce; top with vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and red pepper over vegetable mixture. Dollop with ricotta. Slide pizza onto preheated pizza stone. Bake at 425 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until crust is golden. Sprinkle with basil. Season with salt and pepper.

A viewer passed along the next recipe from Taste of Home magazine. She said they were the best muffins you will ever eat so we had to give them a try. Lisa and Brian agree – delicious! Perfect unique side muffin for lunch or brunch.

Squash Muffins


  • 1 pound yellow summer squash (cut into 1-inch slices)
  • 1⁄2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt


Place 1 inch of water in a saucepan; add squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash; stir in the butter and egg. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the squash mixture just until moistened. Fill greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Makes approximately 1 dozen.


Market Report: What’s at the farmers market this weekend?

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 15:20

The Largest Watermelon Contest was held Thursday at the State Farmers Market, with the winning watermelon weighing in at 180. Fortunately, there are plenty of light-weight watermelons to find at the state-operated farmers markets in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax or Raleigh this weekend. And, they should be easier to get into your car. You’ll also find peaches, corn, tomatoes and other fresh produce, meats, cheeses and specialty products. See what else is available at your regional farmers market:

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – The WNC Farmers Market has peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, peppers, squash and eggplants available. The early variety of apples are arriving from local farms, along with cabbage and a few blackberries. The retail buildings are full of fresh produce, jams, jellies, honey, handmade crafts, local cheese, wines, homemade fudge, fresh eggs and more. The Garden Center has a good selection of beautiful flowering plants and hanging baskets. Homemade ice cream is also being served at the deli, and don’t forget to stop by our award-winning Moose Café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte – The Charlotte market has an abundance of fresh berries and fresh fruit such as cantaloupe, peaches, plums and watermelon. There is also a good supply of locally grown vegetables like beans, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, garlic, peppers, leafy greens, okra, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, white potatoes and zucchini. Visitors also can find fresh herbs, honey, fish, various meats, eggs, nursery plants, baked goods and handmade crafts.

Special Event: The Got to Be NC Big Cart will be at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Friday, July 31, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – Watermelon Day is Friday, and there will be plenty of melons for sample and purchase. Also look for N.C. apples, plenty of sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers. If you’re looking for fresh N.C. seafood, you can also get it at the market this weekend.

Special Event: Watermelon Day is Friday, July 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Join the N.C. Watermelon Queen and other visitors as the market celebrates the season with free watermelon slices, recipes and more. Also, stop by the market on Saturday for the General Greene Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Fabulous 40th Annual Car Show.

State Farmers Market, Raleigh – Melons, peaches, corn and tomatoes are in big supply this week, but the market is also seeing early varieties of apples. Visitors can also find beans, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, onions, a variety of peppers, honey, milk, eggs, meats and cheeses and local wines. The Market Shoppes is full of specialty products like baked goods, jams and jellies and salsas.

The war wages on to keep gypsy moth out of N.C.

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 10:43

The seemingly never-ending gypsy moth battle continues to wage in North Carolina. Since the 1970s, this invasive, leaf-eating caterpillar has tried repeatedly to establish itself in the state. With the exception of the northeastern corner where a gypsy moth quarantine was enacted the mid-1990s, their attempts have failed. The European gypsy moth is the most damaging pest of hardwood trees in the Eastern U.S. The defender of North Carolina’s hardwood trees is the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division along with other agencies, who together make up the Gypsy Moth Program.

Current Gypsy Moth established range and quarantined areas. Map: NCFS.

Staffers with the Gypsy Moth Program hang about 15,000 gypsy moth traps across the state each summer. The traps are baited with the sex pheromone of the gypsy moth, luring the male moths in who then get stuck on the sticky substrate of the trap. Trappers count the number of moths in the trap and, based on how many are found, make a decision to do further scouting in the area. State officials take a number of things into consideration before treating an area: trap counts; findings from additional scouting; the moth’s history in the area; and distance from other generally-infested areas.

Gypsy moth treatments are administered via aircraft. Photo: NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division.

One way to control gypsy moths is through mating disruption, a treatment method in which small flakes impregnated with the female sex pheromone are disbursed via aircraft over the infested areas. The pheromone inundates the area, confusing the males and making it near impossible for them to find female moths to mate. No mating leads to no caterpillars to munch up the leaves! The flakes themselves are harmless because the pheromones are specific to gypsy moths.

In early June, mating disruption treatments were used to destroy populations detected in 2014. Three areas were treated, two in Person County and one in Stokes County.

In 2016, these areas will be trapped again to evaluate the efficacy of these treatments. Until then though, the battle will continue. Trapping from this summer is already underway and will determine treatments for next year.

Today’s Topic: A dozen NC counties now quarantined because of emerald ash borer

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 08:09

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

Twelve North Carolina counties are now under a quarantine aimed at preventing the spread of emerald ash borer.

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

Since June, seven counties have been added to the quarantine, which restricts the movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock and other ash materials. The latest counties under quarantine are Durham, Franklin, Graham, Johnston, Orange, Wake and Wilson. The borer was detected in Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties in 2013, and it was found in Wayne County earlier this year.

Emerald ash borer is a devastating pest to ash trees, eventually killing the trees where the insects are found. The department is continuing to monitor other counties for this highly destructive pest through trapping and visual assessment of trees. Department personnel will be pulling traps in early August, and Commissioner Troxler says it’s possible they will find sites in even more counties.

Under the state quarantine, all hardwood firewood and plants and plant parts of the ash tree cannot be moved outside the county. Only firewood that has been treated by an approved U.S. Department of Agriculture method, such as treatment in an approved kiln, can be moved outside the quarantine area.

Symptoms of emerald ash borer include a general decline in appearance. Clumps of shoots emerging from the trunk of the tree and increased woodpecker activity are other symptoms. The pest can affect any of the four types of ash trees grown in the state (green, pumpkin, white and Carolina).

Land owners are encouraged to report any symptoms in ash trees to the department’s Plant Industry Division at 1-800-206-9333.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the expanded quarantine for emerald ash borer.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Related post: Emerald ash borer spreads like wildfire (July 15, 2015)

News Roundup: July 18-24

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 11:36

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.

  • “Tri-Hishtil facility takes shape in Mills River,” Hendersonville Times-News: Tri-Hishtil, a plant-grafting operation in Mills River currently under construction at 25 School House Road, is on schedule to start production in early 2016, according to General Manager Bert Lemkes. The venture is a collaboration between Israeli, Italian and American companies, and will consist of 2.5 acres of greenhouses and an adjacent production facility where the plant grafting and other operations will take place. Tri-Hishtil announced its intention to construct the facility in August 2014, on a 42-acre lot purchased from Van Wingerden International for $2 million. Lemkes said the company is still in the construction phase of the greenhouse and production center, and “like with any building project, you sometimes run into little delays,” but that overall the project is going smoothly. …
  • “Locals defend farming,” Sampson Independent: As thousands gathered recently at the Events Center in Duplin County, most had the same goal in mind — defending the attacks that are being made against local family-farmers across the state. According to the N.C. Farm Families website, family farmers have been under attack by anti-agriculture activist groups. Local farmers, as well as supporters of the family farms, attended the event with hopes of learning more about those who are making the attacks on the local farms. Ronnie Jackson, president of the Sampson County Friends of Agriculture and a supporter of family-owned farms, said the rally focused the attention on the attacks that are being made, in which many of them are forcing families into bankruptcy because of the lawsuits being filed against some farms.
  • “Couple convert farm into teaching opportunity,” Winston-Salem Journal: Nestled in the foothills of northeast Surry County, Minglewood Farms has grown into a thriving business for owners Bill and Margie Imus. For the last 23 years, they have been growing food and flowers for Winston-Salem restaurants. But they’ve shifted their focus lately and have turned their working farm into an outdoor learning center. Now known as Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve, the Imus’ are opening their doors and farmland to students, teachers, garden groups and more. “Everything we grow is for demonstrational and educational purposes, but we still sell our produce to restaurants and at farmers markets. That income goes back into the nonprofit for operational costs. We also supply fresh produce to Pilot Mountain Outreach & Samaritan Kitchen to help address the hunger issues in our area,” Margie Imus said. Bill Imus started as a chef many years ago. He was co-owner and chef at The Cumberland Café in Winston-Salem. As he saw the need for fresh, local produce he left the restaurant business for farming. He focused on turning his land into a niche market for the produce that he knew was in demand. …
  • “Farmers Markets continue to grow,” Wilmington Star-News: New vendors and high community attendance have boosted the growth of The Bolivia Brief Farmers Market for the 2015 season. Since the opening of the market in April, the addition of four new vendors has brought about more variety in produce, plants, eggs and baked goods. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. every Thursday, market vendors set up tents and tables to display their local produce, honey, eggs, baked goods, herbs, cut flowers and more at the Government Complex in Bolivia. “This market is different from a lot of other markets because vendors have to sell food in order to sell other products,” said Mark Blevins, one of the market managers. …
  • “Daily Ag Summary: NCDA Marketing Department Receives Award,” Southern Farm Network:
    The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services was awarded the 2015 Marketing Excellence Award by the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials during the association’s annual meeting, held July 12-15 in Salem, Mass. The award is presented to the top state or provincial agricultural marketing program in the United States and Canada. North Carolina was chosen from a pool of three finalists to receive the award for its rebranding of Got to Be NC, the state’s official identity program for agricultural products. Got to Be NC represents more than 3,000 farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food businesses across North Carolina. …
  • “North Carolina once led in cigarette manufacturing,” The News & Observer: A drive past downtown Durham no longer carries the sweet scent of tobacco, but for many years, it was the city’s hallmark. In 1949, N&O writer Jane Hall gave readers a thorough explanation of modern cigarette manufacturing. That cigarette you’re about to light – if you smoke – is just one of an estimated 392,000,000,000 made in the United States this year. Moreover, when you light it, you can do so with patriotic pride, for a large portion of the bright leaf therein was grown in North Carolina soil, it is wrapped in cigarette paper made in North Carolina by the Ecusta Paper Corporation, and the chances are it was manufactured within the borders of this State. Roughly speaking, 60 per cent of the cigarettes made in the United States are manufactured in North Carolina, which means that over two hundred billions of this year’s estimated total of little white tobacco-filled tubes were made in Tar Heelia. This torrent of cigarettes, which poured from the State’s borders across America and around the world, had its headwaters in four plants in the State – R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Camels and Cavaliers at Winston-Salem; American Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Lucky Strikes at Reidsville and Durham; and Liggett and Myers, manufacturers of Chesterfields at Durham. Phillip Morris, the fourth ranking manufacturer behind America’s “Big Three,” doesn’t have a plant in North Carolina.
  • “Nello’s is making sauce with biodynamic grower,” The News & Observer: Rob Bowers handed Neal McTighe a green grocery bag full of newly ripened tomatoes. McTighe put his face inside the bag and inhaled. “Yes,” he said with a sigh. That evening earlier this month, McTighe used those tomatoes to make sauce, a test batch for a new marinara that will join the three other varieties of his Nello’s tomato sauce brand. His latest sauce, scheduled to hit shelves exclusively at Whole Foods in August, is made from Bellstar tomatoes, garlic and basil, ingredients all grown by Bowers and his wife, Cheri Whitted Bowers, at their Whitted Bowers Farm in Orange County, the only biodynamic-certified grower in the Southeast. Since McTighe started making marinara sauces for his North Raleigh tomato sauce company Nello’s Sauce in 2010, he envisioned partnering with a farm. He fulfilled that goal when he began collaborating with Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove in mid-2014. …
  • “The most gruesome way to kill millions of chickens at once,” The Washington Post: Earlier this month, John Clifford, the Chief Veterinary Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said something many people might not like. At a hearing organized to discuss the impact of the avian flu, which has affected nearly 50 million birds in the United States, he suggested that farmers could have killed infected chickens and turkeys more efficiently by shutting off ventilation systems at poultry barns. “It’s the fastest way and probably the most humane way to take care of this,” Clifford said during the hearing, which was held on July 7. Many disagree—chief among them, the Humane Society (HSUS), which likened the method to “baking the birds to death en masse” in a letter sent to the USDA on Thursday. The animal rights group holds that there are other ways to depopulate flocks that cause less pain. Paul Shapiro, HSUS’s vice president, said that several other organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, World Health Organization, and the USDA itself, don’t recommend killing chickens this way. “It’s very troubling that the possibility is even being discussed,” he said. “It can take as long as three hours for the birds to die.” …
  • “Cotton Board’s first ever Women in Agriculture Tour,” Southeast Farm Press: Sixty-four women from 16 of the nation’s 17 cotton-producing states converged on Cary, N.C. June 15 for a tour of Cotton Incorporated world headquarters for the Cotton Board’s first ever Women in Agriculture Tour. “The women on this tour comprised current and future leaders in the cotton industry,” said Cotton Board President and CEO Bill Gillon. “Their perspectives and insight are invaluable to the continued success of the Cotton Research and Promotion Program. From producer, to ginner, to industry representatives, the participants demonstrate the significant role women play in agriculture.” Gillon said the tour was “a huge success by any measure, and we intend to host similar tours in the future. The cotton industry needs the type of leadership demonstrated by these women as we work to drive demand for cotton.” Stacey Gorman, director of communications for the Cotton Board, said the women came away from the tour with a deeper understanding of the need for research and promotion to keep U.S. cotton competitive. “Women play such a huge role in our industry and it was important for us to bring them together. We were so proud to have such a dynamic group of women on this tour,” she said. …

Tar Heel Kitchen: Summer Squash

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 16:07

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 wanted to share these recipes 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 July 15, 1985 issue which includes a few ways to enjoy bountiful summer squash.

“Beginning in June and all through the summer, locally grown squash is found in great supply,” wrote former home economist Barbara Minter. “Besides being low in calories (30 calories in a cup) and supplying lots of vitamins A and C to your diet, summer squash can lend itself to appetizers, soups, casseroles, breads, pickles, relishes, jams, cakes, cookies, salads and pies.”

Minter also offers a few tips selecting squash at the grocery store, produce stand or market. “When buying summer squash look for vegetables free from cuts, bruises, with a smooth skin and with a good color characteristic of the variety. Like the majority of summer vegetables, which have a high water content, squash keeps best when stored in a cool, dry place.”

Below are a few recipes to try:

Squash Casserole

  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked squash
  • 1 small jar (4 ounce) pimiento
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 package Pepperidge Farms corn bread stuffing
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 2 medium carrots, grated

Drain squash; add vegetables, sour cream and soup. Mix well. In serving dish, mix stuffing and butter. Line bottom with stuffing, reserving enough to sprinkle on top. Add squash mixture and top with remaining stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees from 30 minutes. Freezes well.

Baked Zucchini and Tomatoes

  • 2 medium zucchini, cleaned
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • butter or margarine
  • 1 cup buttery cracker crumbs

Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place zucchini in a 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer half each of tomato and onion over zucchini; sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper. Dot each layer with butter. Repeat procedure, using remaining vegetables. Sprinkle cracker crumbs over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Yield: 8 servings.

Squash Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cups grated yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Beat egg in medium mixing bowl; add milk and squash. Combine dry ingredients; stir into squash mixture. Stir in oil. Grease muffin tins and heat at 350 degrees until hot. Spoon batter into tins, filling cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes or until done and brown. Yield: about 1 dozen.


Market Report: What’s at the farmers market this weekend?

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 15:01

Did you know more than 70 varieties of peaches grow in North Carolina? Find fresh peaches and more at your regional farmers market this weekend.

Whether you visit our market in Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax or Raleigh, you’ll find a large selection of corn, peaches, tomatoes and watermelons available from N.C. farmers. The Charlotte market will be extra busy this weekend as it celebrates Peach Days, with fresh peaches and peach products available all weekend. See what else is available at your regional farmers market:

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – The WNC Farmers Market has a great variety of fresh peaches coming in daily. A lot of local farm-fresh commodities such as tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, peppers, squash and eggplants are now available. The early variety of apples are arriving from local farms, along with cabbage and a few blackberries. Due to the heat, green beans have been very scarce at the market. The retail buildings are full of fresh produce, jams, jellies, honey, handmade crafts, local cheese, wines, homemade fudge, fresh eggs and more. The Garden Center has a good selection of beautiful flowering plants and hanging baskets. Homemade ice cream is also being served at the deli, and don’t forget to stop by the award-winning Moose Cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte – The Charlotte market is really ramping up with an abundance of local produce including fresh blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, watermelon, beans, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, garlic, peppers, leafy greens, okra, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, white potatoes and zucchini. You’ll also find local honey, fish, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, buffalo, nursery plants, baked goods, salsa, sauces and homemade crafts.

Special Event:
Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, are Peach Days at the market. On Friday, the N.C. Peach Growers Society and N.C. Dairy Producers will be at the market from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with free samples of peach ice cream. All day Friday and Saturday vendors will be highlighting fresh local peaches, peach baked goods, salsas, deserts, and other items. “Peachy Keen” is not only the correct phrase to describe this two day event, it’s also the name of the ice cream.

Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – The Triad market is full of beans, beets, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peaches, peas, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. You’ll also find lots of fresh meats, cheeses, seafood, honey and other specialty products.

Upcoming Event:
The market will host Watermelon Day, next Friday, July 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Join the N.C. Watermelon Queen and other visitors as the market celebrates the season with free watermelon slices, recipes and more.

State Farmers Market, Raleigh – Melons, peaches, corn and tomatoes are in big supplies this week, but the market is also seeing early varieties of apples. Visitors can also find beans, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, onions, a variety of peppers, honey, milk, eggs, meats and cheeses and local wines. The Market Shoppes is full of specialty products like baked goods, jams and jellies and salsas.

Upcoming Event:
Join a crowd of spectators next Thursday, July 30, as the State Farmers Market tries to find the largest watermelon in North Carolina. The annual weigh-in starts at noon, but you can enjoy free slices of watermelon starting at 11 a.m. The N.C. Watermelon Queen also will be on hand sharing delicious watermelon recipes and posing for photos with visitors. Interested in entering your watermelon in the contest? Click here for contest rules and entry information.

Today’s Topic: NC working to centralize, increase its beef cattle research herd

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 08:04

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

North Carolina’s beef cattle researchers are centralizing and increasing the size of the state’s herd to accommodate research efforts.

Agricultural research will continue to be important in meeting the world’s demand for food, Troxler says. The NCDA&CS and its partners at N.C. State University want to help producers be competitive and produce high-quality beef. Commissioner Troxler says North Carolina can do that in a couple of ways: by attracting the best and brightest researchers to the state, and by continuing to invest in research projects focused on improving production.

There are eight state-operated research stations and one field lab conducting beef cattle research in North Carolina. The projects are focused on feed conversion and feed alternatives, fescue toxicity, fertility, nutrition and several other topics.

The goal is to produce a herd of registered Angus that is 600 to 700 head in size. The herd is based at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville, but cattle will be moved to other research stations as needed.

That herd has known and established genetics. One of the things beef researchers find important is common genetics. But even with a centralized herd of Angus, there will still be opportunities for cross-breeding studies.

Moving to a centralized herd will help researchers be more competitive when they apply for research grants. This effort also helps make the state and its research programs more attractive to faculty.

The transition to the centralized herd is expected to take five or six years, and the process is about half complete now.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this effort and why beef cattle are important to North Carolina farmers.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

Food Manufacturing Task Force begins biting off bits of its to-do list

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 16:48

Members of the N.C. Food Manufacturing Task Force took the first bites off the group’s to-do list at its July 16 meeting, as each of four subcommittees started working on their respective areas of focus: business recruitment, food industry needs assessment, communications/advocacy/partnerships, and infrastructure needs for the food manufacturing supply chain.

Seated at round tables in the Martin Building at the State Fairgrounds, members of the subcommittees addressed a variety of questions and began mapping out a way to meet their objectives. Members enthusiastically discussed how the state can bolster its lineup of food manufacturers and create jobs.

The task force is composed of 35 members with expertise in agriculture, meat and dairy production, crop production, agribusiness, food processing, food packaging, transportation, education, government and economic development. The group’s core leaders are Richard Linton, dean of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Commerce Secretary John Skvarla.

An economic feasibility study done by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the NCDA&CS estimates that advancement of a Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative could add nearly 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion to North Carolina’s economic output within five years. Agriculture and agribusiness currently have an economic impact of $78 billion. Commissioner Troxler believes that building the food manufacturing sector will help the state achieve the goal of growing that economic impact to $100 billion by the year 2020.

Skvarla said North Carolina has plenty of assets that make it an attractive place for food businesses. “There are many, many states that do not have what we have,” he said.

Goodness Grows in North Carolina at 30: Longtime member says program ‘gives you an edge’

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 08:14

When Anne Grimes, her late husband Bryan Grimes Jr. and son, Bryan Grimes III, started Harvest Time Foods Inc. in 1981, it was in a converted carport at their home. Their first product was frozen dough strips called Anne’s Pastry, used to make the traditional Sunday dinner meal of chicken and pastry, also known as chicken and dumplings.

“There were originally just three of us and all the products were made by hand,” said Grimes. “Now there are 32 employees and the products are made using machines.” Harvest Times Foods no longer operates out of the carport either. In 1990 the company opened a larger facility on 40 acres in Ayden.

In 1985, Harvest Time and about a dozen other North Carolina companies joined a new marketing program called Goodness Grows in North Carolina, offered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. This program was designed to be a long-term marketing program that identifies products made with raw materials grown in this state. The products were identified with the Goodness Grows in North Carolina logo, which includes the outline of the state with a tractor plowing fields from the coast to the mountains. Other early members of the program include Neese Sausage, Atkinson Milling, House-Autry, Steven’s Sausage and TW Garner.

“We were told about the program from a crab company in Wanchese,” said Grimes. “He told us that it was a program we needed to get involved with as well to promote our products.” In the early years of the program most of the shows to introduce grocery store buyers to N.C. products were out of state.

“We traveled to Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee and other states about four or five times a year,” said Grimes. “The shows helped us get contacts and showcase our products. Most buyers really don’t know all you can do with our product, so being able to sample at shows really helps.”

At the time, food producers also couldn’t connect directly with consumers through a website or Facebook. “You really had to attend shows to get face-to-face with buyers,” said Grimes. “The Department of Agriculture was a big help with that.

“Now we do yearly Flavor of Carolina Shows in Charlotte and Raleigh and the buyers come to them,” she said. “Belonging to this program gives you an edge.”

Currently, Harvest Times Food products are available in 28 states, online and through military contracts. Grimes, 73, also uses Facebook, her website and the “Cooking with Anne” YouTube videos to connect with potential consumers. In addition, special events such as the Food Expo at the Got to Be NC Festival or N.C. State Fair allow company employees to interact directly with consumers.

Thirty years of Goodness Grows in NC

This month marks the 30th anniversary for the Goodness Grows in North Carolina program, which now supports about 3,000 members. The program has earned a reputation for being not only one of the first programs of its type, but the best, too. “I am proud of our state and what the Department of Agriculture has done over the years to grow agriculture and food production in our state,” said Grimes.

Other state departments of agriculture run similar programs, such as Go Texan, started in 1999; Fresh from Florida, started in 1990; and Indiana Grown, started in 2015.

Goodness Grows in North Carolina still supports its members with marketing assistance and trade show opportunities that connect them with buyers. Ten years ago, the Got to Be NC campaign started as an extension of the ongoing Goodness Grows program to raise consumer awareness of agricultural products grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina.

“We started the Got to Be NC program before buying local was cool,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Now, we are fortunate that everyone seems to want to have a stronger connection to their food, and our farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food businesses are benefiting.”

The Got to Be N.C. logo incorporates the GGINC logo and is proudly displayed at restaurants, grocery stores, roadside stands and even farms across the state. “Restaurants in particular have embraced Got to Be NC,” said Troxler. “We support them with menu contests such as Dig into Local and the annual Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series.”

For Grimes, it’s still the Flavors of Carolina shows that offer the biggest help for her business, especially as the company expands to include gluten-free products. “Food transitions and tastes change,” said Grimes. “We have to change with the next generation. Even if they eat chicken pastry now when they visit mom or grandma, what are they going to do when mom or grandma are gone – are they still going to make it?”

Grimes sees the pastry side of her business becoming more of a niche market and the expanding gluten-free line having international potential. At shows and at a bakery at the Ayden facility, she offers samples of the gluten-free line. “We are working on packaging now and should soon start selling online and in a few organic stores. We are working towards building capacity for grocery stores,” said Grimes. “But buyers will already know they are good.”

News Roundup: July 11-17

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 14:50

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.

  • “N.C. Farm Families: Stand up and speak out,” Jones and Blount: There are few delicacies quite as tasty and revered in eastern North Carolina as a warm pork tenderloin sandwiched between two slices of buttered bread. Whether you glaze it in a honey BBQ sauce or smother it with yellow mustard, that savory treat is always a favorite. On Wednesday evening, N.C. Farm Families Rallied ‘Round the Farm in support of North Carolina’s leading industry. The $78 billion dollar contributor to our state’s economy has recently been attacked by special interest groups aiming to stifle the industry one farm at a time. Commissioner Steve Troxler reminded the group of over three thousand, “It is beyond common sense for anyone who depends upon food to attack the producer. Those attackers mistakenly believe access to food is a right, instead of understanding it’s this nation’s greatest blessing. The sole reason this nation has remained free is the ability to produce its own food and feed its own people.” …
  • “Farmers market offering special for SNAP recipients,” Hendersonville Times-News: An oasis of fresh, healthy food has opened up for local families on SNAP, who can get a great deal on locally-grown produce to stretch budgets. The Mills River Farmers Market hopes to bring in more SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients using EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards with a two-for-one offer this season. “We’re firm believers in people having access to healthy food,” said Joe Brittain, executive director of the market’s board of directors. …
  • “Coggins Farm: Land loved, land lost, and land developed,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Less than an hour after Coggins Farm changed hands, the machines arrived. They clamored up its rolling meadows following a well-worn dirt path, first the mowers, then the bulldozers and, lastly, the track-hoes. It took developer David Case four years to get to this moment on June 22 — the day his company closed on the Buncombe County property. With that $4.1 million purchase, the 169 acres known as Coggins Farm ceased to exist. For the property — and for the conflict over its future — a new chapter began. For the broader issue of preserving open space and farmland, it was a familiar story that still offers lessons for the future. …
  • “Hot sauce headquarters moving to downtown Winston-Salem,” Winston-Salem Journal:  TW Garner Food Co. is returning to downtown Winston-Salem after about seven decades, hoping to strike a balance between staying true to its private corporate roots while staking out a bolder community presence. The company, a corporate mainstay for 86 years, has signed a 12-year lease with Nash Building LLC for the 14,500-square-foot second floor of the Nash-Bolich building off Fourth Street. It expects to shift headquarters operations and 26 employees to the site in early 2016. The company will keep production at its 4045 Indiana Ave. facility, where it has 65 employees. …
  • “Food Waste Reduction in the Field,” Southern Farm Network: Ham Produce Company is generally considered in North Carolina agriculture circles to be an innovator in waste reduction, Stacy Ham Thomas, VP of Ham Produce gives a brief history of the operation: “Ham Farms is a grower-packer-shipper, and we are a feed producer also. We start our process in the green house with plants we purchase from NC State. We started packing sweet potatoes in 1992 and learned quickly there is a lot of waste in that process.” Thomas explains what prompted Ham Produce to look for innovative ways in waste management and elimination: “If you look at your food costs in the grocery store, things are selling for about the same price as they did ten years ago. But obviously the cost of growing is going up every year. So we were looking for ways stabilize our market and diversify and have a sustainable business model.” …
  • “N.C. State researchers look at mechanical blueberry harvester,” Southeast Farm Press: It’s late in the growing season at the North Carolina State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Castle Hayne Research Station as blueberry breeder Maggie Schaber walks the rows, plucking the occasional berry and popping it into her mouth. ‘Hot’ doesn’t begin to describe this sweltering June morning. But the berries don’t seem to mind. Indeed, they’re plump and warm and delicious, delivering a little bit of the sun with each bite. Parked at the end of one plot is a large mechanical harvester, and in the distance perches a new pack shed (painted N.C. State red and white, of course). …
  • “Hmong farming program seeks to introduce Asian crops to farmers markets,” Hickory Daily Record: Last Tuesday, with early morning sun already blazing hot, Zha Xue Yang and his wife moved around their plot, tending to their green onions, winter melons, ginger and rice. “Before they met me, they only did just rice,” Der Xiong said, who works at Catawba County’s Cooperative Extension Center and operates the three-acre site where the Yangs farm. “Now they do mixed vegetables.” As the immigrant agriculture coordinator at the Center, Xiong’s job is to work with local Hmong farmers to help them farm more sustainably and profitably. …
  • “Expected NC Drone Boom Presents Economic Opportunities, Regulatory Challenges,” WUNC: The state that boasts of being “First in Flight” is preparing for another major aviation development – an expected surge in unmanned flight. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has hired its first official to oversee the regulation of drones. The department also is developing a test that by the end of the year will be mandatory for people who want to operate commercial and government drones. Meanwhile, a center based at North Carolina State University is working with researchers, government agencies, and private companies that want to use drones in their work. …
  • “Agriculture: Big News from Cary’s Upchurch Farm,” Cary News:  To me, it’s the middle of summer, but fall is already here for my friends at the Upchurch Farm. As of last week, they started preparing their Cary fields to harvest pumpkins for Halloween, and I paid them a visit to find out what’s in store for later this year. Perhaps you recognize the name “Upchurch.” I’ve gotten to know this wonderful family, who have been in Cary’s farming community for years now, through the neat articles I’ve written about them. They’re my go-to source for Cary’s history, farming, antiques and more. Last week, William Upchurch invited me to his Cary farm so that I could learn about their plans for the year. I knew that William would show me something interesting, but I never imagined that his news would be this big. Big and orange, that is. This year, the Upchurch Farm has formed a new partnership with their friend Dr. Milton Ganyard. Dr. Ganyard is an entomologist, or a scientist who studies insects. Years ago, he retired from his job in environmental research to pursue a career in farming with a focus in agritourism. …
  • “NC legislature celebrates Watermelon Day with seed-spitting contest,” The News & Observer: Wednesday was Watermelon Day at the N.C. General Assembly, and while no politicians were willing to join a seed-spitting contest, plenty stopped by to sample the fruit. Among the dignitaries grabbing a slice: Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Tim Moore. McCrory polished off his slice quickly, leaving no specks of pink on the rind. “Holy smokes, you killed that thing,” Moore told the governor, joking that “all we do at the Legislative Building is stand around and eat watermelons.” McCrory added: “That’s why we wear ties.” …
  • “Fighting for agriculture education,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Benjie Forrest dedicated nearly 40 years preparing workers for the state’s No. 1 industry. While he recently retired from that career, his work is hardly done. Forrest spent Wednesday afternoon in Raleigh lobbying the co-chairman of the Senate appropriations committee to discuss educational issues. Today, he will step into his role as a Pitt County school board member to discuss issues with a group of parents. Forrest, 59, retired from his position as eastern regional coordinator of agricultural education and FFA for North Carolina State University in June. On Saturday, agricultural teachers, FFA alumni and friends will gather in Mount Olive for a celebration commemorating Forrest’s contributions to agricultural education in the state. “He’s tireless in wanting to improve education for young people,” said Lewis Forrest, president of the Pitt County FFA Alumni Association and one of the event’s organizers. He is no relation to Benjie Forrest. “He fights the good fight in keeping agriculture education going in our county, on the school board,” Forrest said. …

Field Trip: Inspecting scales and price scanners at the grocery store

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 11:49

There aren’t too many days that Benjamin Foster is not at a grocery store. As an inspector for the NCDA&CS Standards Division, he is responsible for making sure consumers get what they pay for by checking scales and price scanners throughout the store.

Check out the video below to learn more about what Foster, and about two dozen other inspectors across the state, do when they visit the grocery store.

Market Report: What’s at the farmers market this weekend?

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 13:39

For the next few weeks, our regional farmers markets will be full of activity with a lineup of special events celebrating North Carolina’s bounty of agricultural products. It doesn’t matter if you visit Asheville, Charlotte, Colfax or Raleigh, there will be plenty of things to do, plenty of products to taste and plenty of fresh produce to take home. Check out the list below to see what’s available at your regional market this weekend:

WNC Farmers Market, Asheville – The WNC Farmers Market has a good selection of watermelons, cantaloupes, different varieties of squash, all colors and varieties of peppers, pickling cucumbers and early apples.  There is a limited supply of corn and green beans, with more local farmers expected to begin harvesting soon. There is a plentiful supply of peaches, including the Red Globe variety, which is always in high demand.  Tomatoes are beginning to increase in volume and more heirloom varieties are coming in too.

Special Event: Watermelon Day is Friday, July 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Enjoy free watermelon slices, a kid’s watermelon-eating contest, and drawings for free melons. The reigning N.C. Watermelon Queen will be at the market to greet everyone at the event.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte
– The Charlotte market is full of blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, peaches, plums, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, garlic, beans, peppers, leafy greens, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, zucchini and white potatoes. Also be on the lookout for honey, various meat and fish selections, assorted baked goods, and handcrafted items.

Special Event: On Saturday, July 18, Peace Corps volunteers will be passing out recipes from around the world in the Variety Shoppes Building. Also, members of the Charlotte Iris Society will be hosting demonstrations on how to plant an iris in the Greenery Shed at 9, 10, and 11 a.m.


Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax – Peach is the main attraction at the Triad market this weekend. There’s also plenty of vine-ripe tomatoes, triple sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelons, blueberries, blackberries, local honey, organic produce, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.

Special Event: Friday, July 17, is Peach Day. Enter the Peach Recipe Contest, or come celebrate with free peach samples and peach ice cream, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The N.C. Peach Queen also will be on site during the festivities greeting guests and sharing peach recipes to try at home.


State Farmers Market, Raleigh – The State Farmers Market has an abundant supply of farm fresh, summer produce such as sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, peaches, squash, field peas, cucumbers, blueberries, blackberries, peppers, eggplants, butterbeans, and much more. We have a great selection of plants and flowers available to help spruce up the summer landscape, including perennials, hanging baskets, herbs, succulents, shrubbery, and many other potted plants. A large selection of N.C. farm-raised meats are available including beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and bison. Fresh N.C. seafood, cheeses, and N.C. wines are also available.

Flavor, NC: Johnson’s Peaches

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:24

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 the eighth episode of season two, in which host Lisa Prince highlights Johnson’s Peaches in Candor and Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. 

“Fresh, fried, grilled or sipped,” said Lisa, “the peach is a summer staple in the Tar Heel State. With peach season peaking this month, if you haven’t picked up peaches now it the time.”

The peach is a member of the rose family and its roots can be traced to China. There are more varieties of peaches than any other fruit, except apples. In this episode Lisa visits Johnson’s Peaches in Candor. The Johnson family has been growing peaches since 1934. The farm has 10,000 peach trees on about 50 acres.  The Johnson’s plant 50 different varieties of peaches, which helps extend the growing season from June 1 to the end of August.

The farm also features a store that sells peach preserves, ice cream, dumplings, salsa and more.  After visiting the farm, Lisa stops by Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill to try of few recipes made with peaches.  Below is Carolina Crossroads Executive Chef James Clark’s recipe for fried peach pie.

Fried Peach Pie

For Pastry

  • 3 sticks butter, cut into small pieces
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons salt

In a stand mixer set on medium speed, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until mixture is smooth and there are no visible chunks of butter or cream cheese, about 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half, shape into disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut 16 to 20 four-inch circles, gathering scraps and re-rolling as needed. Place circles on a baking pan and wrap with plastic wrap; chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

For Filling

  • 5 medium-ripe peaches
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ounce whole butter
  • 2 ounces Peach Schnapps
  • 1 egg


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon, or to taste
  • oil for frying

Peel all the peaches, cut in half, remove pit and dice. In a hot saute pan add the butter and honey and then add in the peaches. Saute until peaches began to soften. Add Schnapps and cook out the alcohol. Remove from heat and allow to fully cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and a little water to make an egg wash. Place 1 heaping tablespoon peach mixture in center of a dough circle. Brush edges of dough with egg wash, fold dough over filling, and crimp edges with a fork. Repeat with remaining dough circles. Keep pies chilled until ready to fry. In a shallow bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.

In a large, heavy-duty pot add oil enough to allow the pies to swim and heat to 350 degrees. Add 3 pies to hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, then coat with cinnamon-sugar. Repeat until all peach pies are fried. Drain fried pies on paper towels, then roll in cinnamon sugar and serve.


Emerald ash borer spreads like wildfire

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 12:19

In 2013, N.C. ash trees met their match, the emerald ash borer, for the very first time. At least, that’s when we first knew about it. In reality, the invasive wood-borer had likely already been here, killing ash trees for several years before it was detected.

Areas infested with the emerald ash borer, as of 02 July 2015. Map created by K. Oten, NCFS.

Since the first finding in the state, known emerald ash borer infestations have been increasing. In the weeks following the initial find in Granville County in 2013, it was also detected in Person, Warren and Vance Counties.

Until this year, all was quiet after the initial detections. All four counties where emerald ash borer was found in 2013 were quarantined for ash material and firewood. A few additional infested areas were found within the already-infested counties, but that was both expected and had little impact on management or regulations.

However, this year, the emerald ash borer showed its true colors in its ability to spread and behave discretely by killing ash trees silently. In March 2015, it was found in Wayne County for the first time. Thinking it was an isolated infestation started by the accidental transportation of the pest in firewood, swift actions destroyed the infested ash stands. But that was just the beginning. Not only was the beetle found in additional areas in Wayne County where evidence indicates long-term infestations, but it has also been found in Wake and Franklin counties. The Franklin County site was found using wasps as biosurveillance tools. Unfortunately, it’s likely not the end of the story. Surveyors with the N.C. Forest Service and Plant Industry Division anticipate finding it in even more areas this year as well.

D-shaped exit holes, as seen here, are the most obvious sign that an ash tree is infested with emerald ash borer. Image: K. Oten, NCFS.

Emerald ash borer is a cryptic pest. It takes 3-5 years to kill a seemingly healthy ash tree, but symptoms are typically not noticed until at least 2-3 years after the initial attack. When it was first found in the U.S. near Detroit in 2002, dendrochronological studies indicated that it had likely already been stateside for at least 10 years. For that reason, infestations are typically not noticed until several years later.

Surveys for the emerald ash borer are ongoing. Updates to the range expansion will be announced via NCDA&CS press releases and occasional updates on this blog. If you believe you have come across an infested ash tree, report it to the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333 or by email at A major part of the survey relies on reports from the field.

Realigned beef cattle research program designed to strengthen industry; Beef Cattle Field Day is July 18 at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 15:08

Ongoing beef cattle research conducted through the 18 state-operated research stations is designed to improve production in the state. A new realignment effort will help researchers be more competitive in seeking grants and help universities attract top research talent to the state.

North Carolina’s beef cattle research herd is growing as part of a plan to create a centralized herd to accommodate research efforts across the state. Eight state-operated research stations and one field lab conduct beef cattle research, with projects focused on feed conversion and feed alternatives, fescue toxicity, fertility, nutrition and more.

“We know agricultural research has been, and will continue to be, important as we seek to meet the food demands of a growing world population,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We want to help our producers be competitive and produce high quality beef. We can do that by attracting the best and brightest researchers to this state, and by continuing to invest in research projects focused on improving production.”

The goal is to produce a 600- to 700-head herd from registered Angus at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville, said Dr. Sandy Stewart, director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Research Stations Division. In reviewing all the existing cattle in the research program, that herd had known and established genetics, which is beneficial for researchers, Stewart said. “One of the keys for beef research is you need common genetics,” he said. But the plan is not to just focus on one beef breed, he said, adding that there will also be cross breeding studies.

To increase the herd size, the staff is using embryo transfer technology to speed the process along and reduce the cost. By flushing and implanting embryos from super-ovulating beef cattle into cross-bred beef cattle, the herd can grow much quicker than through traditional cycles, Stewart said. The beef cattle can produce up to 15 embryos, though typically six to seven viable embryos are harvested and transplanted. Essentially the cross-bred cattle serve as surrogate mothers, increasing the number of potential offspring.

The transition to the centralized herd is expected to take five or six years, and Stewart said the program is about halfway through that process.

“This effort is taking place at a time when we are seeing other states pull back on their investment in beef research,” Stewart said “Having a centralized herd helps researchers be more competitive when applying for research grants, and helps make the state and its research programs more attractive to faculty.”

Pictured is an Angus cow and calf that is part of the herd at the Upper Piedmont Research Station. This herd will serve as the base herd for a new realignment program because of its established genetics.

Joe Hampton, who is the superintendent of the Piedmont Research Station and serves on the committee involved in moving this project forward, has worked with the research stations for 34 years. Hampton said it is the most inclusive project he has ever been involved with, and that inclusiveness is what makes him excited about this new direction. Representatives from beef cattle and farm advocacy groups, industry products, services and equipment suppliers, and university and government officials are all involved in the transition.

“Through this effort, we have found many new partners,” Hampton said. “This partnership gives them ownership and makes them more involved. The more open we have made this, the more ideas we have received.”

While growing the herd to a suitable size is still about two years away, Hampton said the bigger work begins at that point.

“This will be an ongoing, dynamic effort. If it is done properly, it will lead us into the next transition,” Hampton said. “If you look at the demands of feeding 9 billion people, it’s a long process; not a situation where you accomplish one goal and then we are through.”

To highlight some of the research work happening on the farms, Beef Cattle Field Day will be held July 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville.

The morning program will feature a forage management station focused on extending the grazing season, an animal reproductive station focusing on bull nutrition and management and how to do a pregnancy check, and an animal feeding station highlighting how to feed wet brewers grains. N.C. State University scientists will talk about the ongoing research at each station.

The afternoon program features a panel discussion covering the difference between natural, grain-fed and pasture-raised beef.

A roast beef lunch will be served from cattle raised on the research stations. The event is free and sponsored by N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the N.C. Cattlemen’s Association and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

For more information on the field day, contact Dr. Philipe Moriel, 828-456-3943, ext. 229, or by email at

Today’s Topic: NC farmers planting more soybeans and sweet potatoes, less corn, tobacco and peanuts

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 08:38

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

We’re starting to get a better picture of this year’s planted acreage for some of the major crops across the state. The USDA recently released its updated acreage forecast, and it showed that, in some cases, farmers are planting fewer acres of a crop than they intended earlier in the year.

The most notable number has to do with corn. In March, the planting intentions report showed that North Carolina farmers intended to plant 870,000 acres of corn this year, which would have been a 4 percent increase over last year. But the latest report shows a forecast of 830,000 acres, which is 1 percent less than a year ago.

This probably isn’t that surprising when you consider that corn prices aren’t nearly as good as a few years ago. And when you also consider input costs and the wet spring in North Carolina, you get a good sense of why corn isn’t quite as popular with farmers this year.

Tobacco acreage also is forecast to be lower than a year ago. It is now projected to be 17 percent below last year, a bigger drop than was projected in the spring. The total acreage for all tobacco is now forecast to be 161,000 acres.

Peanut acreage is forecast to drop by 13 percent from last year, to 82,000 acres. That’s also a change from the planting intentions back in March, which had predicted that acres would remain consistent with last year’s plantings.

On the plus side, the USDA forecast says North Carolina farmers will plant 1.85 million acres of soybeans this year. That’s 6 percent above last year’s acreage and the most acres since 1984. The March forecast had indicated that soybean acreage would be 1.75 million acres, the same as last year.

The state’s farmers also are expecting a record 75,000-acre sweet potato crop this year, which the Commissioner says reflects the versatility of the crop and the international demand for it.

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

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

News Roundup: July 3-10

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 11:58

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

  • “Farm use of drones to take off as feds loosen restrictions,” Winston-Salem Journal: Mike Geske wants a drone. Watching a flying demonstration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Missouri farmer envisions using an unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor the irrigation pipes on his farm — a job he now pays three men to do. “The savings on labor and fuel would just be phenomenal,” Geske says, watching as a small white drone hovers over a nearby corn field and transmits detailed pictures of the growing stalks to an iPad. …
  • “Century Farms celebrate North Carolina’s agricultural heritage,” Carolina Country: Pride in their farms and in the state’s farm history has led nearly 2,000 families to earn the designation of North Carolina Century Farm for farms owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years. “Agriculture is North Carolina’s leading industry, with an economic impact of $78 billion,” says Brian Long of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. “And family farms are the backbone of North Carolina agriculture. Of the more than 50,000 farms in the state, about 90 percent are family-owned. We owe a lot to the family farm.” Brian Long tells us that the Century Farm designation began in 1970 at the North Carolina State Fair. To highlight the fair’s theme, “Salute to Agriculture,” fair officials sought families who have owned or operated a farm in North Carolina for 100 years or more. Every few years at the state fair, the NCDA&CS holds a reunion for all Century Farm families. The next reunion is planned for 2016. …
  • “Networking, social media matter for small farms,” Triad Business Journal: After 20 years in the goat cheese business, Steve Tate has witnessed plenty of change as his Climax, N.C.-based dairy has grown in step with the local food movement. These days, Tate produces 100,000 pounds of cheese a year, 10 times the amount he produced when Goat Lady Dairy first opened. A piston stuffer fills circular cups with curd, mechanizing a process that used to be done by hand. Customers who once sampled the cheese at farmers markets can now ogle creamy rounds of Sandy Creek cheese on Goat Lady’s Instagram account. I talked to Tate for Friday’s cover story on the farm-to-table movement. His perspective comes from 20 years in the business. To get local food into restaurants, Tate recommends networking. And more networking. …
  • “NC pork industry: Don’t kill state’s renewable energy mandate,” News & Observer: North Carolina’s pork producers are urging state lawmakers not to tinker with a 2007 renewable energy law that requires electric utilities to tap hog manure as a fuel source to generate electricity. Pork industry officials say they are getting close to turning swine waste into an economically viable fuel and repeated attempts to undo the law will scare off investors from financing these projects. “We don’t want to see anything about the law get changed,” said Angie Maier, director of policy development at the N.C. Pork Council. “It makes the law look unstable.” …
  • “NCSU researchers monitor honeybee health,” WRAL: How important are bees to the food supply? Deniz Chen, a researcher at North Carolina State University, says they are crucial. “There’s a whole host of insects which pollinate,” Chen said. “Bees, specifically, have evolved.” When it comes to efficient pollination, nothing beats the honeybee. A single hive can hold up to 100,000 bees. “It’s a massive pollination machine,” Chen said. …
  • “Craft distilleries go beyond moonshine in NC,” Charlotte Observer: In May, Chris Mendler, Matt Grossman and John Benefiel delivered the first batch of their Raleigh Rum Co. rum to the state warehouse for sale. That was 600 bottles of the white rum with a pirate skull label. Mendler thought they’d probably need to make more in a month or so. It sold out in 2 1/2 weeks. The second batch lasted five days. “We’re already having trouble meeting the demand,” Mendler said. “We’ve ordered another still so we can double our production.” After the boom in craft breweries, it looks like North Carolinans are more than ready for craft distilling. The legal kind, that is. …
  • “Innovations in Food Waste Reduction,” Southern Farm Network: A report from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health finds most Americans think food waste is a problem, and 75% think they waste less food than the national average, but the real numbers suggest otherwise. In our summer series on food waste, we’ll look at the problem from the soil to the plate. Nick Augostini, Assistant Marketing Director of Horticulture, Field Crops and Seafood with North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Division, says reducing waste at the farm level is becoming more of a focus: “It’s really starting to take hold the last 5-8 years.” Johns Hopkins’ Roni Neff says the report estimates waste runs in the $160-billion dollar-a-year range overall…
  • “Late Freeze Affects Amount of Available Peaches,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) Get your local peaches while you can, they’re running out fast! A late freeze this year meant a smaller harvest for farmers in Moore County. Ken Chappell owns his own farm and runs a peach stand. He says he’s harvested only a third of his normal million-plus peach crop. The freeze came at particularly crucial time in the growing process, right when the buds are starting to bloom. Chappell tried to save what he could. “I have two wind machines, that stir up the air and try and keep the cold air from sinking and there’s more peaches under the wind machines, so they helped a lot,” said Chappell. Just down the road, another farmer told us they only hauled in about 60% of their normal harvest.
  • “Polk County athletes start a trout business,” Hendersonville Times-News: Sitting on the bank of the Green River with fishing rods in hand, Tyler Harris and Austin Wilson decided they were going to use the hobby they love to earn a little extra cash. The two Polk County High students began to map out what they hoped would be a successful trout business. The two freshmen — now rising sophomores — began to research the science of raising trout to sell. …
  • “Research station looks to purchase corn from local farmers,” Salisbury Post: The Piedmont Research Station may partially fill a revenue hole in some local farmers’ budgets, created by a drought that’s lowered projections for corn yields across Rowan County. During a drought-focused meeting on Wednesday, the research station announced it would purchase up to 800 tons of corn from local farmers as a result of sharply lower rainfall totals in 2015. The announcement came at the end of a meeting where state officials offered advice to a crowd of farmers about saving drought-stressed corn. …
  • “WNC’s wine and cheese industries come of age,” Mountain Xpress: Tucked away in the valleys or sprawled across the hillsides, mom-and-pop entrepreneurs raise cattle or goats, grow grapes, make wine and craft artisan cheese following traditions that are centuries-old but have largely taken root in Western North Carolina in just the past decade. They’re a new crop of entrepreneurs pursuing second careers, seeking meaningful post-retirement work or simply fine-tuning what they love to do most. And the crop is growing: The number of WNC Wine Trail participants has doubled since the tours started five years ago. And the WNC Cheese Trail, launched in 2012 by a handful of area cheesemakers, now features 12 member creameries, most of which offer tours and activities for visitors. Xpress talked to local wine and cheese leaders to learn more. …
  • “Does the farmers market need more technology?” Compared to a modern-day grocery store, walking through a local farmers market can feel like an experience from a different era. Produce arranged in makeshift booths, hand-drawn signs, cash. Unlike so many things today, the farmers market appears to operate without the aid of technology. Why is that? Is technology simply not necessary? Or, are there ways in which technology could improve the experience at a farmers market? Motivated by these questions and our own curiosity, a few of us at Viget set out to investigate the farmers market experience from both a customer and a vendor perspective. Initially, we discussed many of our own personal frustrations. We wanted to shop at farmers markets more often but it felt inconvenient. In fact, buying produce in general felt shrouded in mystery. Were we getting a fair price? Where did that tomato come from and how was it grown? Would it even taste good? …
  • “Farmer Dave Delivers Fresh Food To Duke Sanford Every Tuesday,” Duke Today: Tall shade trees line the rocky dirt road that leads to the entrance of Dig It Farm in Bahama, NC. On a recent late morning, even from a distance, the sound of a tractor was deafening. A farmer wearing a wide straw hat was mowing the tall weeds interrupting the growth of his garden. He looked back and gave a warm grin and from that moment it was apparent: “Farmer Dave” is no ordinary farmer. “Farmer Dave” is David Barrett. He delivers fresh fruit and vegetables each week for much of the year to Sanford School faculty and staff who have signed up for his community supported agriculture venture (CSA). Barrett is a young man, and though he was a city kid, making this new farm profitable has become his passion. “Growing up I never thought I would be a farmer. I always wanted to play baseball but as you can see that didn’t quite work out,” he said, laughing. …

Two from NC Forest Service honored at Fallen Firefighters Memorial

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 08:46

Halbert Campbell

Two men who died while serving with the N.C. Forest Service were honored in May during the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 10th annual memorial service. They are Halbert Campbell of Kinston, a former pilot and operations worker, and Jimmy Halliburton of Morganton, an educational ranger.

“It was great to see the honor and respect paid to those that had fallen and to the families that lost loved ones in the performance of their duty,” said David Lane, state forester.

Jimmy Halliburton

Campbell was the first pilot hired by the N.C. Forest Service and worked in the Piedmont region. Later in his career, he transferred to the coastal region and worked in the operations room. On Nov. 17, 1973, he completed his work day providing fire support in the Forest Service’s Whiteville District, went home and suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I had the privilege of meeting his sons, daughter and grandsons at the memorial service,” said Lane. “Mr. Campbell’s family was greatly impressed with the overall event and the feeling of belonging to another family. The expression of gratitude was overwhelming.”

Halliburton began his career with the N.C. Forest Service’s youthful offenders program, and later worked at Tuttle Educational State Forest in Lenoir. On Aug. 13, 2014, he and other Tuttle employees were clearing trees at the forest following a wind event. Halliburton was removing a tree from the roadside when the tree, which was under pressure, snapped back and fatally injured him. Because road clearing was needed for public safety and access for emergency response, the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s board of directors approved Halliburton to be recognized as one of the fallen.

Campbell’s and Halliburton’s names have been added to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Raleigh’s Nash Square. They are among more than 20 N.C. Forest Service employees who have died in the line of duty.