News Roundup: Jan. 17-23

News Roundup logoEach 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.

“From long history, WNC Farmers Market seeks sustainable path forward,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Since opening in 1977, the WNC Farmers Market has witnessed the decline of tobacco as a North Carolina cash crop. In nearly 40 years, the largest market in Western North Carolina has transformed from a place for locals to get produce to put up over the winter to a huge destination for tourists looking for an edible Western North Carolina keepsake. It’s one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the area and a relic of the region’s agrarian past in the center of a swiftly growing city. …

“A season that just wouldn’t end for Carolina fruits and vegetables,” Southeast Farm Press: The 2014 season ended strongly for fruit and vegetable producers in the Carolinas, with production of the hardiest products continuing right up until extreme cold weather in mid November finally brought growth in the field to a halt. Managers at state farmers markets in North and South Carolina and an Eastern North Carolina county agent told Southeast Farm Press in early December that the fruit and vegetable marketing season got off to a slightly delayed start in the spring. …

“Zebulon growing support for Farm Fresh Market,” Eastern Wake News: A luncheon held Tuesday gave Maurine Brown a chance to meet with community leaders and share information on the upcoming Zebulon Farm Fresh Market. But Brown, the manager of Zebulon’s first farmers market, needed to say little to get her points across to a crowd at the Zebulon Community Center. The guest speakers that preceded her at the podium were convincing enough to convince audience members of the need and value of the market to the town. “It’s more than a place to buy delicious, healthy and affordable foods,” said Michele McKinley of Raleigh-based Advocates for Health in Action. “It’s a community gathering place and an economic engine for local farmers.” McKinley hit on the importance of accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which the Zebulon market plans to do from its opening, set for May. …

“Planting new seeds, perspectives in the modern apparel industry,” Elon Pendulum: In the corner of a dim T-shirt warehouse in Burlington, N.C., surrounded by buckets of colored dye and paint-splattered rotating machines, are rows of broccoli sprouts, barely an inch tall. They lean toward the sliding door in front of them, where, on the other side, a handful of chickens nervously peck at company shop fruits and vegetables that didn’t make it to the register in time. Back inside, Eric Henry, wearing a gray shirt reading “TS Designs,” works on a PowerPoint at his desk. The late afternoon sun brightens the room. The lights are off. The first slide on his computer reads, “98%.” “That’s the percentage of clothes we buy that are made overseas,” he says. Henry is the president of TS Designs, an apparel manufacturing and screen-printing company focused on sustainable, high quality and long-lasting T-shirts. Instead of reaching overseas for cheap labor like most apparel companies, TS Designs receives almost all its blank T-shirts from the Carolinas. The entire process – from farm to finished product – spans only 600 miles, just a fraction of the distance most other shirts travel. …

“49th Annual Southern Farm Show Just Around the Corner,” Southern Farm Network: We’re just about two weeks away from the 49th annual Southern Farm Show in Raleigh. David Zimmerman, president of Southern Shows, host of the Southern Farm Show says once again, the event is larger than last year: “We have filled all the exhibit halls and Monday we will start erecting three large tents for more.” The Southern Farm Show is great for catching up with old friends, but also the newest things available in the world of ag …

“Cumberland’s indecision gives Hoke opening to lure chicken plant,” WRAL:  Hoke County officials are pecking away at a plan to lure a chicken processing plant to Raeford, taking advantage of Cumberland County’s on-again, off-again pursuit of the plant. The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners has since September twice rejected an incentives deal for Sanderson Farms, which looked to build a $95 million plant in a county-owned industrial park off Interstate 95. But the board voted Tuesday to hold a public hearing on the $2.5 million incentive package. …

“Previous ‘mild’ strain of PEDV confers protection against ‘severe’ strain,” National Hog Farmer: Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) infected approximately 50% of the U.S. swine breeding herds from July 2013 to July 2014 as estimated by the Swine Health Monitoring Project (SHMP). In the absence of effective vaccines or standard control protocols, there is an urgent need for evidence of cross-protective immune countermeasures. …

“White Gold Award” Presented to North Carolina Cotton Producer Marshall Grant,” Southern Farm Network: For his ground-breaking work in the Boll Weevil Eradication Program (BWEP) and decades of industry leadership, North Carolina cotton producer Marshall Grant was presented the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association’s inaugural “White Gold Award” during the 2015 Joint Commodities Conference held last week in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Grant served 10 years as Vice President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau before resigning and serving twenty years as Chairman of the State Farm Service Agency Committee. He was Treasurer of The Cotton Board, a State Director on the National Cotton Council and on the boards, commissions and committees too numerous to name in a single news release. But Grant’s legacy will forever be his tireless determination as a central figure and driving force behind the effort to gain producer support for the BWEP across the Southeast – which was key to its eventual Belt-Wide passage, funding and implementation. …




A time for networking and learning

Commissioner Troxler gives the State of Agriculture address at the Ag Development Forum.

Commissioner Troxler will deliver his State of Agriculture address at the 10th annual Ag Development Forum.

This time of year is typically a little slower on the farm. It’s a time for repairing equipment and prepping for the upcoming planting season. It’s also the time of year when commodity groups and other ag organization have annual meetings and the department has workshops and meetings to help prepare for the upcoming year.

Ag Development Forum – The potential for North Carolina’s two largest industries – agriculture and the military – to work together will be highlighted at the 10th annual Ag Development Forum on Feb. 5 at the State Fairgrounds. The forum will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Holshouser Building. It is being held in conjunction with the Southern Farm Show. Admission is free and lunch will be provided, but registration is requested by Jan. 30. Contact Christina Waggett at 919-707-3008.

NCDA&CS to host farmer meetings with Harris Teeter – The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will host two meetings for N.C. farmers interested in selling fresh produce and greenery to Harris Teeter. To register, contact Tony Haywood, NCDA&CS retail marketing specialist, at 919-707-3140.  Dates and locations are below.

  • Concord, Feb. 12  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Cabarrus County Center, 715 Cabarrus Ave. W., Concord. The event is free, but registration is required by Feb. 2.
  • Raleigh, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Martin Building at the State Fairgrounds. The event is free, but registration is required by Feb. 9.

NCDA&CS offers risk-management classes for farmers - The department will offer a series of risk-management workshops across the state in January through March. The workshops will focus on managing price volatility and identifying macro indicators. For more information or to register for the workshops, contact Nick Lassiter, NCDA&CS marketing specialist, at 919-707-3129. Following are upcoming dates, locations and contact numbers:

  • Jan. 26 at the Pitt County Extension Center, 403 Government Circle, Greenville, 252-902-1709;
  • Jan. 28 at the Pasquotank County Extension Center, 1209 McPherson St., Elizabeth City, 252-338-3954;
  • Feb. 17 at the Northampton Cooperative Extension Center, 9495 N.C. 305 N., Jackson, 252-534-2831;
  • March 12 at the Union County Extension Center, 3230 Presson Rd., Monroe, 704-283-3801;
  • March 13 at the Carolina Farm Credit Administrative Office, 146 Victory Lane, Statesville, 800-521-9952.

Business Planning Workshop for Food Entrepreneurs – This one-day workshop for existing food businesses will focus on setting sales goals, making financial projections and improving marketing efforts. The workshop will be offered Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St., Matthews. There is no cost for the workshop, but pre-registration is required. For more information, contact Annette Dunlap at 919-707-3117.

A Successful Season 2015: Building a Stronger Farmers Market – This workshop for farmers market managers will be held Feb. 20, 2015 at the Guilford County Coooperative Extension Office in Greensboro. Cost is $20 per person. Registration deadline is Feb. 11. For more information, contact Annette Dunlap at 919-707-3117.

Food Business Conference: “To Market, To Market” – The conference will be offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in two locations: Feb. 24 at the Alamance Cooperative Extension office, 209-C N. Graham-Hopedale Road in Burlington, and March 12 at Mayland Community College, 200 Mayland Dr. in Spruce Pine. At each location, the program will include presentations on product promotion, market selection, and building customer loyalty. Cost is $40 and registration opens Jan. 30. Registration deadlines are Feb. 13 for Burlington and March 1 for Spruce Pine. For more information, contact Annette Dunlap at 919-707-3117.

Other learning opportunities:

Sandhills Farm School 2015 – The Sandhills Farm School is a seven-month educational program that trains beginning and transitioning farmers with a strong commitment to operate successful small-scale sustainable farms. The school offers business-planning seminars, which will give farmers the tools to create a viable business plan for a small-scale, economically sustainable farm enterprise. The school also includes field trips at working farms led by innovative experienced farmers. School runs Feb. 19-Aug. 20 at the Richmond County Cooperative Extension Center in Rockingham.

First Regional NC and VA Hops ConferenceThe conference is designed to bring together a large number of regional hop growers and brewers to help continue to grow the Southeastern hops industry. Conference is March 14 at Forsyth County Center in Winston-Salem. A special pre-conference event for new growers will be held March 13 from 2 to 6 p.m. to learn how to grow hops from experienced growers in the region.

Improving Forest Health, Building Family Wealth – This one-day workshop will cover tax and estate planning issues related to owning forestlands, current and future market trends, timber marketing and more. It will be held Feb. 11 at the Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston. Workshop is free, but registration by Feb. 4 is required.

NC Aquaculture Development ConferenceThe 2015 N.C. Aquaculture Development Conference will be held in New Bern, Feb. 25-28, with presentations, workshops and tours of regional aquaculture farms. Speakers will provide market insights, best management practices and industry updates for aquaculture operations across the Southeast. The conference also includes the AquaFood Festival, a dinner featuring N.C. farm-raised fish and shellfish, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The conference will take place at the Doubletree by Hilton in New Bern.


Commodity groups announce new officers and directors

Many commodity groups hold their annual meetings this time of year. In addition to providing industry updates, the groups also hold their business meetings. The N.C. Soybean Producers Association and the N.C. Pork Council recently elected their officers and directors.

For the N.C. Soybean Producers Association, Jeff Peed of Aurora was elected president for 2015, John Fleming of Scotland Neck was elected vice president, Jeff Tyson of Nashville will serve as secretary and Bernard Lennon of Evergreen will serve as treasurer.

The group also elected its directors, who serve three-year terms. Following are directors and the counties they serve:

  • Greg Manning of Nashville representing Edgecombe, Halifax and Nash counties;
  • Reggie Strickland of Mount Olive representing Duplin County;
  • Philip Sloop of Mount Ulla representing Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Davie, Davidson, Iredell, Lincoln, Randolph and Rowan counties;
  • Logan Watson of Monroe representing Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union counties;
  • Jason Starnes of Salisbury representing Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Davie, Davidson, Iredell, Lincoln, Randolph and Rowan counties;
  • Ryan Kennedy of Hope Mills representing Cumberland and Harnett counties;
  • Sydney Edwards Dunn of Edenton representing Johnston County;
  • David Heath of Dover representing Carteret, Craven, Jones, Onslow and Pamlico counties;
  • Michael McPherson of Mebane representing Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Forsyth, Granville, Orange, Person, Rockingham and Stokes counties;
  • Ryan Cahoon of Fairfield representing Bertie, Chowan, Dare, Tyrell and Washington counties;
  • Wesley Johnson of Dobson representing Surry County and 24 other western counties.

The N.C. Pork Council recently announced its new directors, serving three-year terms. They are:

  • District 1: Eddie Johnson of Elkin;
  • District 2: Robin Lackey of Hurdle Mills;
  • District 6: Jim Lynch of Goldsboro and Dennis Waller of Mount Olive;
  • District 7: Brian Kennedy of Duplin County, Louis Howard of Kenansville and Stephen Williamson Jr. of Kenansville;
  • Associate: Gene Nemechek of Wilson.

Additionally, Lorenda Overman was elected to serve a two-year term on the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee.



Compiled from information provided by the N.C. Soybean Producers Association and the N.C. Pork Council.


Flavor, NC: State Farmers Market

Flavor NC logoTwice a 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 second episode of season two, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights the State Farmers Market in Raleigh and the Growers Market in Fuquay-Varina.

“As long as there have been farmers, there have been farmers markets,” said Lisa. “Farmers markets are back in style and going strong. Today at Flavor, NC we celebrate not only the farmer, but the farmers market.”

Farmers markets come in all sizes from large to small. The State Farmers Market in Raleigh is one of the biggest in the state, taking up several buildings and it’s open every day. The Growers Market in Fuquay-Varina is much smaller and operates only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Both markets offer consumers some of the best options for fresh and local.

Chef Joseph Fasy joins Lisa at the market in Fuquay-Varina and offers tips for shopping at a market and cooks up a few delicious recipes on site. Fasy’s tips include buying produce exclusively from the market during summer months and before your trip, know what’s in season.

Below is his recipe for a crostini trio, made with fresh finds from the market.

Market Basket Crostini Trio

For the crostini:

  • 1 bread baguette
  • 3 cloves of garlic whole
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Slice bread at an angle and brush one side of each slice with olive oil. Broil the slices on each side until lightly toasted. Brush one side of each slice with a bruised garlic clove. Divide into thirds and add one of the toppings below.

Heirloom tomato topping:

  • 5 medium heirloom tomatoes (chopped)
  • olive oil to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • salt and pepper

Lightly mix all ingredients together and serve on toasted crostini slices

Jumbo Lump Crab Salad:

  • 12 ounces North Carolina fresh jumbo lump crab meat
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon purple basil leaves, shredded
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Pick through the crab to remove any shells. Toss crab in a large bowl with olive oil, Italian parsley and purple basil. Add salt and pepper to taste, the juice of half a lemon and toss lightly. Serve on toasted crostini slices.

Pepperonata with Chilies:

  • ¼ cup diced and seeded chilies
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • fresh basil to taste, chopped
  • ½ cup diced bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Saute onions, garlic and sweet bell peppers in olive oil. Add basil, salt and pepper. Lightly saute onion mixture, then add diced chiles and saute lightly until warm. Spoon onto crostini and top with shaved Asiago cheese.



Today’s Topic: Census of Horticulture surveys are due by Feb. 5


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

Census of Horticulture imageAs a follow-up to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, this winter the USDA is conducting a specialized census focused on the horticulture industry.

This survey will gather detailed information about horticultural production and sales across the United States. Producers of floriculture, nursery crops and other specialties should have received this survey in their mailbox.

This census is a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often (it was last conducted in 2009). It gives producers an opportunity to provide detailed information to help ensure the continued growth of horticultural farming. It will provide the only source of comparable and consistent data at the national and state levels for the industry.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service will gather information on horticultural activities conducted during 2014. This information will include production of horticultural crops, the value of products, the square footage used for growing crops, and production expenses.

The information will be used by policymakers, organizations and businesses for the next several years to help make decisions pertaining to the availability of goods and services, funding, policies and other key issues that affect the industry.

Producers can fill out the census online using the secure website, or return their form by mail. Federal law requires all producers who receive a form to respond and requires USDA to keep all individual information confidential. The deadline to respond is Feb. 5, and USDA plans to publish the results in December.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Census of Horticulture.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


News Roundup: Jan. 10-16

News Roundup logoEach 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.

  • “NC State Presses For $180M Plant Sciences Plan with Ag Industry,” Xconomy: Agriculture is a $78 billion annual business in North Carolina, making it far and away the state’s largest industry. Now North Carolina State University is working on a $180 million plan that backers hope will grow that industry into a $100 billion market. To make that math work, the university is pursuing what it calls the Plant Sciences Initiative, a plan to bring academia and industry together in a new research facility where scientists can tackle drought tolerance, crop yield, and other major agricultural issues. Steven Lommel, associate dean of research for the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), says the university is particularly suited to this plan because of the state’s agricultural diversity as well as NC State’s proximity to the global agbio R&D operations for Bayer CropScience, Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), and BASF Plant Science, in nearby Research Triangle Park. …
  • “Predator Beetles Released on Sandy Mush Game Land to Combat Hemlock Woolly Adelgid,” Stanly News & Press: Pitting insect against insect, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission released predator beetles last month on the Sandy Mush Game Land to combat the devastating effects of the hemlock woolly adelgid on hemlock trees. Staff released 50 of the small black beetles — a natural predator of the adelgid — as part of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services in March 2014 designed to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The hemlock woolly adelgid is a tiny, aphid-like insect that derives its name from the covering of wool-like wax filaments that it forms as it matures to protect itself and its eggs from natural enemies. …
  • “Lessons learned by Carolinians in two wet cropping seasons,” Delta Farm Press: Corn and soybean growers in the Eastern North Carolina coastal plain have suffered through two consecutive seasons of excessive rain in 2013 and 2014. Are there any lessons to be learned from these exceptional weather situations? Ron Heiniger, North Carolina Extension corn specialist, has a couple to share relative to corn. “The start and finish of the corn crop are the most important parts of the season in a wet year,” he says. “In a dry year, the mid-season may be a little more important.” But to do well in a wet season, it’s very important to get the crop off to a good start. “It is so difficult to overcome a poor stand,” he says. “Skips at planting will follow you all season.” …
  • “Defying national trend, Blue Ridge Biofuels expands,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Slogging is a concept with which Woody Eaton and his colleagues at Blue Ridge Biofuels are familiar. For 12 years, they’ve earned a living by transforming leftover cooking grease from more than 600 Asheville-area restaurants into biodiesel. The physical toil is only part of it. Navigating the market’s obstacles has been taxing, too. Plunging oil prices have made the company’s product pricier than petroleum. Congress chose not to renew the federal biodiesel blenders tax credit until the middle of last month. …
  • “Stakeholders pull together for bee health,” Delta Farm Press: Mid-South entomologists, beekeepers, farmers and the crop protection industry are pulling together to improve honeybee health. It was no surprise when agriculture listened, gathered information and developed plans of action to address recent concerns about honeybee colony collapse disorder and declining honeybee health. Agriculture has long been keenly aware of the relationship between bees and crops. In fact, I recall seeing bee boxes in a cotton seed production field in Arizona back in the early 1990s. The bees were critical for the production of hybrid cotton seed, which enjoyed a modicum of success at the time.  …
  • “What The Reynolds/Lorillard Merger Says About Tobacco In North Carolina (audio),” WUNC’s “The State of Things”: Reynolds American and the Lorillard Tobacco Company are expected to approve a $27.4 billion buyout during shareholders’ meetings later this month. The move is part of a new generation of smoking in which rolled cigarettes are giving way to e-cigarettes, raising the question of whether tobacco will actually be a part of Tobacco Road in the future. Host Frank Stasio talks with Richard Craver, reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, and Andrew Brod, economics professor at UNC-Greensboro, about the evolution of the tobacco industry in North Carolina. …
  • “Don’t pick that Venus flytrap,” Florida Alligator: The nature-walk mantra “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” has not only ecological implications but political and legal ones as well. The Venus flytrap is charismatic, recognizable to many at a young age and highly sought-after as a houseplant. Because they’re so popular — yet very rare — Venus flytraps are often taken from the wild, making them one of the most poached plants in North America. On Jan. 3, a wildlife officer arrested four men in possession of 970 Venus flytraps at Holly Shelter Game Land in eastern North Carolina. These men will be the first charged with poaching Venus flytraps under a new state law that went into effect Dec. 1, which makes it a felony to remove Venus flytraps or any part of one from the wild. This law elevated Venus flytrap poaching from a misdemeanor to a class H felony. The severity of the penalty was increased from a maximum fine of $50 to a sentence of up to 25 months in prison, on top of fines. Other class H felonies include a hit-and-run resulting in injury, escape from a state prison and possession of stolen goods. …
  • “NC Sen. Brent Jackson rode farm support to key budget committee,” News & Observer: Three-term Republican Sen. Brent Jackson quietly worked his way into one of the most influential positions in the legislature last year as one of the chief budget writers in the Senate. As the only farmer in the Senate – there are just a handful in the House – Jackson has benefited heavily from agribusiness financial contributions and has become their flag-bearer. More than 30 years ago, he turned a small farm into a successful watermelon enterprise, and now Jackson Farming grows, packs, ships, and brokers fruit and vegetables grown in this and several other states. Jackson was one of the most successful senators at getting his bills passed in the last session, according to a ranking by the NC Insider. Among those he successfully sponsored over the past two years were a pair of wide-ranging farm bills. But he hasn’t succeeded in passing a so-called “ag-gag” law, which would make undercover investigations by reporters and animal welfare advocates illegal. Environmentalists and media outlets were concerned about one of his bills last year because a provision in it would have kept secret records of reported environmental violations at agricultural operations. In response to their concerns, he changed the bill to make records public when a violation has been confirmed. The Autryville senator represents parts of Johnston, Duplin and Sampson counties. …

Flavor, NC: Walking Fish CSF

Flavor NCTwice a 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 first episode of season two, in which hostess Lisa Prince travels to the coastal town of Beaufort to take a lesson in flounder gigging from Walking Fish CSF, learn a few tips for picking a fresh flounder filets at Fishtowne Seafood and try her hand at a few flounder recipes with Chef James Clarkson of Clawson’s 1905 and Aqua restaurants.

“Hang out the ‘gone fishing’ sign, we’re headed to the coast on the hunt for flounder,” Lisa tells viewers in the intro. In this episode, she takes a lesson in flounder gigging from Lin Chestnut of Walking Fish CSF. Chestnut heads out every night from May until the chill of fall sets in on the search for flounder. He uses a multi-pronged spear to catch flounder laying in shallow water of Core Sound. Under illuminated lights from the boat, the flounder are easier to see.

After night fishing, Lisa visits Fishtowne Seafood and learns what to look for when picking a fresh flounder fillet. Tips include a pleasant smell, stored on ice, clear eyes and red gills.

Lisa finishes her trip to Beaufort with a stop in the kitchen to learn a few flounder recipes from Chef Clarkson of Clawson’s 1905 and Aqua restaurants. Below is Clarkson’s recipe for grilled flounder with tomato basil sauce.

FF-Grilled-Flounder-with-Fresh-Tomato-Sauce-650x436Grilled Flounder with Tomato Basil Sauce

  • 6 ounces flounder filet
  • olive oil
  • 1 ounce fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 ounce green onions, sliced
  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brush flounder with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with seafood breader if desired. Grill flounder for approximately three minutes per side, depending on thickness. While flounder grills, toss together olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and green onion and season with salt and pepper. Serve tomato basil mixture over grilled flounder filets.



2014 was a record year for NC cotton, peanuts, sweet potatoes

Photo of harvester in cotton field

The average cotton yield in North Carolina in 2014 was 1,049 pounds per acre, a new state record.

Despite a cool, wet spring that caused delays in field work, 2014 was a record-setting year for several North Carolina crops, according to the USDA’s annual crop summary.

The statewide average yields for cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes set new records, while soybean yields tied a record and production of tobacco was the most since 1998.

Not all crops saw gains last year. Corn production in the state fell 16 percent from 2013′s total.

Here are some of the numbers:

  • Cotton acres held steady at 460,000, but the yield of 1,049 pounds per acre was quite a bit more than the previous record of 1,014, which was set in 2012. Total production was 1 million bales, an increase of 31 percent from 2013.
  • The peanut yield averaged 4,300 pounds per acre, 200 pounds better than the record set in 2012. Total production was 400 million pounds on 93,000 acres.
  • Soybean production was up 42 percent to 69.2 million bushels. The yield of 40 bushels per acre tied the record set in 2012.
  • Sweet potato acreage increased 19,000 in 2014, to 72,000 acres. The yield of 220 hundredweight per acre was 10 percent better than the previous record, set in 2013. Production, at 15.8 million hundredweight, was 49 percent higher than 2013.
  • Tobacco production totaled 453.9 million pounds, a 25 percent increase over 2013. That’s the highest total in North Carolina since 1998, when it topped 551 million pounds.
  • Corn growers harvested 90,000 fewer acres of the crop last year than in 2013. Production totaled 103 million bushels on 840,000 acres.

Click here for the full North Carolina summary.



Unwelcome guests: Some insects make themselves at home

The multicolored Asian lady beetle is a common home invader each winter. It can be many different colors, patterns, and sizes and can be quite annoying.  Image: Bruce Watt, University of Maine,

The multicolored Asian lady beetle is a common home invader each winter. It can be many different colors, patterns, and sizes and can be quite annoying. Image: Bruce Watt, University of Maine,

Some house guests are notorious for overstaying their welcome or worse — coming over uninvited. In certain cases, those committing the social faux pas may be creepy-crawly insects!  Seeking out warm environments for overwintering, they cluster together and trespass into homes, causing anguish for N.C. homeowners every year.

Many of these insects emit an aggregation pheromone, which attracts others of their species, leading to sometimes massive congregations. At first, they may assemble on the outside of a house. As temperatures cool, they creep into the wall spaces, attics and other voids. In some cases, usually on a warm day or when they heater is turned on, they come out of their refuges and annoy their unsuspecting hosts and hostesses.

There are several of these insects that rudely make themselves at home. Topping the list are kudzu bugs and ladybugs.

Kudzu bugs have been spreading throughout the Southeast since their accidental introduction near Atlanta in 2009.  The good news is that this exotic insect eats kudzu, an invasive plant that threatens our forest ecosystems. The bad news is that the bug also eats soybeans.  Homeowners who have issues with kudzu bugs often live near a patch of kudzu and/or have a white or light colored home, which attracts the bugs.

Ladybugs are generally considered beneficial, as they feed on garden pests like aphids and scales. Unfortunately, the ladybug also has a dark side… the one that commonly invades homes is native to Asia and has almost displaced native ladybugs.

While these squatters may be quite the nuisance, they don’t cause long-term damage. To reduce the populations, homeowners should seal cracks and crevices, replace torn screens and resolve any other possible entry points. They can also be vacuumed up, although they may cause quite the stink in the vacuum cleaner (some recommendations include inserting a pantyhose in the filter so that they can be easily removed or purchasing a vacuum dedicated to the stinkers). Pesticides are usually not recommended. To prevent kudzu bugs, homeowners should search for nearby patches of kudzu and kill two birds with one stone: eliminating the kudzu will likely mean less kudzu bugs!


Today’s Topic: It’s a felony to steal Venus flytraps in North Carolina


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

Earlier this month, four men were charged for poaching 900 Venus flytraps from the Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County. They were arrested by state wildlife officers, and they are the first people to be charged under a new state law that makes it a felony to steal flytrap plants or seed.

Venus flytraps are protected under North Carolina law. They are rare plants that grow wild only in southeastern North Carolina and nearby areas of South Carolina.

The flytrap isn’t the only protected plant with a stiff penalty for poaching. In another recent case, a Boone man is believed to be the first person in the state convicted of a felony for poaching ginseng from private property. (Wild ginseng can be harvested legally in North Carolina with the proper permits. Information is available here.)

The NCDA&CS Plant Conservation Program seeks to protect rare and threatened plants such as the Venus flytrap and ginseng. Commissioner Troxler says he hopes these criminal penalties will help deter people from breaking the law and putting these plants at further risk.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the protection of rare and protected plants.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.