Today’s Topic: National Farm-City Week

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

It’s National Farm-City Week, which began Nov. 21 and continues through Thanksgiving Day.

Farm-City Week helps promote a greater understanding of agriculture and its connection to the foods we enjoy throughout the year. Communities across the state hold events to celebrate and strengthen the relationships between farmers and the public. It’s important for everyone to understand the connection between agriculture, the food we eat and the economic benefits this industry provides to North Carolina.

Thanksgiving is a great time to celebrate with locally grown food, and Commissioner Troxler tells Rhonda that the Got to Be NC program has made it easier to identify N.C.-grown food in grocery stores across the state.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Farm-City Week and what the Commissioner is thankful for.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


NC Forest Service officers recognized as 2014 Arson Investigative Team of the Year

Law enforcement officers with the N.C. Forest Service were named the 2014 Investigative Team of the Year by the North Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators at the N.C./S.C. Arson Conference in Myrtle Beach. The event was attended by more than 360 fire investigators, fire marshals and detectives from both states.

2014 NCIAAI Investigative Team of the Year

Left to right, Amery Wells, law enforcement supervisor, N.C. Forest Service; Capt. David Newton, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office; Michael Hardin Jr., senior assistant district attorney, District 16A; Sam Niemyer, D-3 law enforcement district ranger, N.C. Forest Service; Jamie Laviner, investigator, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. Not pictured: Kristy Newton, district attorney, District 16A, and Dawn Layton,chief assistant district attorney, District 20A.

The honor was bestowed upon NCFS Law Enforcement Supervisor Amery Wells, Law Enforcement Rockingham District Ranger Sam Niemyer and other members of the team for an investigation that took place between July 2011 and May 2012. During that period, 78 fires were intentionally set in Scotland, Richmond and Hoke counties. The team used a combination of strategies to narrow down the case to a single suspect who would later be charged and convicted on 50 felony counts of setting fires and malicious use of incendiary devices.

Robert Smith, NCFS chief of law enforcement, said the investigation was challenging and unique due to the geographic area that covered portions of three counties, eight fire districts and two prosecutorial districts, among other factors. He pointed out that investigating a series of fires, even if a few are in the same general area, is complicated.

“Effective communications between investigative team members and numerous resources from different counties and fire districts was critical to the success of this investigation,” Smith said.

Smith said developing the working relationships and overall trust between all of those parties was essential. He credited the team with doing an outstanding job to develop and nurture longstanding relationships that transcended jurisdictional lines and using their individual strengths and skills to work extremely well together.

“They used a combination of good old-fashioned investigative skills mixed with technology such as tracking devices and GIS mapping, to put together a thorough case,” he said.

The factor of time and distance repeatedly challenged investigators to develop new strategies for static and mobile surveillance that covered a large geographic area over a lengthy time span. It was, however, a challenge to get the legal authority to use the tracking device. In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in U.S. vs. Jones that required a search warrant for tracking devices. In May 2012, judges were still new to this case, as was the investigative team, making the warrant process more time-consuming than normal. The team collaborated on proper verbiage and content prior to discussing the case with the signing judge to be sure everything was in proper order and to the letter of the law.

The team also had the daunting task of collecting and analyzing a large volume of data, evidence, leads, witness interviews, photographs and other information, which quickly became a huge undertaking to sort and track. There was also the ongoing process of analyzing the data to formulate hypotheses, which was even more challenging and often frustrating for the team.

The suspect turned out to be a former law enforcement officer. As such, he was familiar with investigative tactics, interview techniques and surveillance techniques. It was later determined that he was also using a scanner to monitor radio traffic of emergency response personnel.

“Considering all of the challenges, the investigative team maintained a unified and determined effort to bring successful closure to one of the most complex wildland fire investigation cases in North Carolina history,” Smith said.

The team invested more than 1,000 man hours of time and resources and wrote in excess of 1,000 pages of discovery evidence. Their work led to 52 felony charges for intentionally setting fires and use of malicious incendiary devices, and a $1 million dollar bond set for the suspect, the largest in North Carolina for a wildland fire case. The suspect pleaded guilty in November 2013 to 50 of the 52 felony charges and was ordered to pay more than $15,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to 60 months of supervised probation to begin in May 2016 at the end of an unrelated federal prison sentence.

“I’m very proud to have played just a small role in this investigation. But even more so, to have witnessed the amount of dedication, professionalism and teamwork these guys demonstrated throughout this entire investigation,” Smith said. “They are all very deserving of this award for 2014.”


News Roundup: Nov. 15-21

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.

  •  “FDA Holds Listening Session on Food Safety Rules,” Time Warner Cable News: North Carolina produce farmers and animal-food manufacturers are learning about updated rules proposed under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA is holding meetings across the country to get industry input. The law goes into full effect in about three years and is said to be the most sweeping reform of US food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed into law in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act marks a major shift in food safety, changing the federal strategy from responding to contamination to preventing it. …
  • “Dixon: Farm finds a niche in baby ginger, turmeric,” Winston-Salem Journal: One of the best parts about writing this column is discovering new places, new people and new plants. Recently, I discovered Plum Granny Farm in Stokes County — and the unique crops that they cultivate. Owners Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel are best known for garlic. Growing more than 20 varieties has put them on the food map. …
  • “Local TV show features Lejeune mess hall,” DVIDS: Local TV station UNC-TV’s program Flavor, NC is dedicated to showcasing local food producers, their products and restaurants who prepare dishes with those ingredients. Mess Hall 82 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune will be featured in an upcoming episode of Flavor, NC. “The show features a variety of local ingredients from fresh fruits and vegetables to dried goods and meats,” said Paul Friday, director of government and external relations with Marine Corps Installations East. “Not only do we provide wholesome, nutritious food for service members, but we also recognize local food producers.” Flavor, NC starts at the origin of produce, and describes the process the food takes to arrive at its final destination. …
  •  “Tree-mendous Haul For NC Forest Service,” WFAE: An unusual North Carolina Forest Service program has staff compete to collect tree seeds. After a fertile year, the service is touting the results. James West manages a nursery and publishes a most-wanted list—both for the North Carolina Forest Service. The list names types of seeds state and county forest officials might find as they patrol the woods. They bring them back to grow into seedlings in the nursery, West says. “It’s really interesting to watch how much comes in,” says West. …
  • “Keep an eye on gas receipts to find inaccurate pumps,” WRAL: When filling up at the pump, most of us just set it and forget it. And for the most part, people trust the numbers on the pump. A woman who contacted 5 on Your Side was on empty when she filled up, which may have helped her catch a problem with her gas pump. “According to my owner’s manual, I have 13.2 gallons capacity in my car, but the pump went over 16 gallons,” Kathy Potter said. Potter needed gas when she stopped at the WilcoHess on Western Boulevard in October. “When I saw that hit 13 gallons, I got concerned, and then when it kept going I was really, you know, puzzled,” Potter said. “I thought wow, I was really on empty.” Her receipt shows the pump finally cut off at more than 16 gallons. “Over three gallons is a pretty pricey error margin,” Potter said. “That cost me over $10 and if we’re doing that every time we fill up, that’s a lot of money out of my pocket.” Potter said the clerk wasn’t worried about the difference. “She didn’t seem very concerned, she just kind of laughed and shrugged it off,” said Potter. So the Potters called state inspectors, who tested the pump and shut it down. “It’s nothing the store did on purpose, it’s just equipment and it does go bad,” said Jerry Butler with the state Department of Agriculture. Butler said the inspector pumped 20 gallons but was charged for 26.6 gallons. He ended up closing both sides of the pump. …
  • “Tobacco Trust Fund provides $500k for agricultural projects at NC State,” The Technician: The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund provided $500,000 to two agricultural projects based at NC State geared toward helping struggling farmers during what has been a difficult economy for agriculturalists. The organization announced that it will provide about $300,000 to fund NC AgVentures, a new program that will seek to help tobacco farmers update and revamp farms through the use of individual grants. The Tobacco Trust Fund will also give about $200,000 to Developing Future NC Farmers, a program that hopes to encourage college students to develop a career in the agriculture industry. “The money goes directly to the farmers so they can implement new projects on their farm,” said Jacqueline Murphy Miller, the extension assistant of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. There has been a significant decline of tobacco growth in the United States, according to Miller. However, North Carolina remains the number one producer of flue-cured tobacco, the primary ingredient in cigarettes in the country. “The bottom line is we want to keep farmers in business,” said Jeff Jennings, program officer of the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. …
  • “Conference unites women across meat industry supply chain to address common issues,” Indy Week: Bacon is easy. I want to say that loud and clear. Bacon is easy.” That’s Tray Satterfield, meat associate at Skagit Valley Cured Meats in Washington State and she’s speaking about curing pork to 36 women gathered for a three-day conversation about all things meat. Now in its second year, Women Working in the Meat Business is a conference hosted by NC Choices, a program of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. …
  • “Farm-City Week showcases local agriculture,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Culture and agriculture will meet here Saturday as Farm-City Week kicks off, bringing those in the city and those in the country closer together. This year’s theme is “Who’s Your Farmer?” and Susan Kelly of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension office believes it’s a way for those unfamiliar with farming to become a little more educated. “Farm-City is a national movement. City folks and country folks getting together,” said Kelly. “This is a fairly rural county, but a lot of people don’t know about agriculture.” The agriculture agencies in the local N.C. Cooperative Extension office are in charge of this year’s festivities, said Kelly, along with several Richmond County residents. …
  • “NC-inspired menu creates a Tar Heel Thanksgiving,” Charlotte Observer: At least we spared you the possum. There was a time, according to Southern food historian David Shields, when hotels in the Carolinas featured the critter instead of turkey at their Thanksgiving feasts. But when we decided to dig into some of North Carolina’s most beloved cookbooks for a Tar Heel-centric Thanksgiving menu, we decided that turkey, as one of the state’s leading products, really should stay on the table. Same for sweet potatoes. We’re No. 1 in the country in sweet potato production.And there are plenty of other holiday foods that we could find around the state. How about scuppernongs? And cranberries, of course. …
  •  “Raleigh drone company looks to farmers for business,” WRAL:  Most people associate drones with the military. They have played a major role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A Raleigh company is trying to change that impression. Precision Hawk believes drones can be money-makers. A North Carolina State University farm serves as a test site for Precision Hawk near Bahama. Motors start, propellers spin and, with a gentle toss into the wind, aircraft take flight.”The term drone has such a negative connotation, you see it on the news all the time,” said Tyler Collins, Precision Hawk’s director of business development. …
  • “AdvantageWest gets $1.2 million for ScaleUp WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times:  With 14,000 gallons produced this year, Noble Cider is not the same company it was two years ago when the market’s big thirst for their small batch of 2,000 gallons caused the barrels to run dry before the next apple season. “That’s when we had our first realization that we needed to make a lot more because we can’t just stop selling. We have to continue to have something to sell in order to still be a business,” said Trevor Baker, co-founder of Noble Cider. …




N.C. Forest Service’s Greg Cox receives 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence

Cox Accepting Gov Award

Cox Accepting Governor’s Award From NCDA&CS Assistant Commissioner Scott Bissette; Neil Alexander, director of the Office of State Human Resources

Greg Cox, mechanic supervisor with the N.C. Forest Service, was recently awarded a Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Efficiency and Innovation at a ceremony at the N.C. Museum of History. He was nominated for devising a program to save money on the Forest Service’s equipment repairs and maintenance. The Governor’s Awards for Excellence are the highest honor a state employee can receive. Greg was nominated at the state level after he was selected as Employee of the Year at the department level.

“Greg demonstrates a can-do attitude and a spirit of innovation that is admirable, and I’m thrilled to have his work acknowledged by the governor,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It’s great to have others recognize something I’ve known for many years – that our department has the best employees in state government.”

Cox is responsible for the maintenance and repair of more than 100 pieces of rolling stock across an eight-county district. This equipment ranges from pick-up trucks with slip-on firefighting units to heavy equipment such as bulldozers, forklifts and motor graders. These units must be kept in a state of readiness in order to fulfill the legislative mandate that the N.C. Forest Service protect residents of North Carolina from destructive wildfire. Greg also has direct supervision of three employees, a mechanic, forest fire equipment operator and smoke chaser.

“Greg demonstrates a dedicated work ethic, can-do attitude, and a spirit of innovation on the job,” said Don Watson, district forester out of the N.C. Forest Service’s Rockingham office. “Many of Greg’s ideas or innovations have saved the State of North Carolina tens of thousands of dollars. Greg is an expert in metal fabrication and can often times make the parts that most others are required to purchase.”

According to Watson, Cox has improvised and or invented many pieces of equipment for the district, including rebuilding about 20 heavy duty hitches that have broken. At a cost of more $600 per hitch, the savings add up quickly.  The hitches are used on bulldozers to pull large, heavy, fire plows and are about 2 inches around and 6 inches long.

Cox’s skill is not limited to repairing hitches. IIn fact, he developed and built two new fire plows that allow for more accurate control of the fire plow depth. This allows the plows to be used in lighter, sandier soils, while still having the capability to operate in the parts of the state where a heavier, deeper fire line is required to get through the thick root mats in the organic soils.

Since this type of fabrication work requires specialized tools, in addition to specialized skills, Cox acquired two pieces of large equipment from the a community college that no longer needed them. The fabrication equipment was valued at between $10,000 and $15,000.

Cox also fabricated shrouds for some of the older shop tools that satisfies the safety requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which saved the Forest Service thousands of dollars that would have been required to update their shop tools.

In addition to his fabrication skills, Cox has made other money-saving recommendations. This includes researching and recommending that the district invest in a transmission flusher to help maintain the districts’ initial attack vehicles. Current maintenance standards require the transmissions to be serviced every 30,000 miles, which usually takes place every other year at a cost of $165, which equates to a savings of over $3,000 a year.

Cox’s dedication extends outside of the garage as well. As one of only two mechanics in the district on call every day, he is often called on after hours for repairs needed on firefighting equipment in the field, where conditions are usually anything but ideal. On a recent Sunday morning, Cox was called at 2 a.m. to help get a tractor that was stuck while fighting a fire. He responded promptly to the fire scene and was instrumental in getting the tractor back to work.

“Greg is the go-to-guy for repair advice, not only in the district but across the state,” Watson said. “He is often called by other mechanics to give his thoughts on a situation with a piece of equipment from another district.”

During a busy fire season in 2011, Cox was dispatched outside of his district seven times and was out of town and away from his family for a total of 93 days that year. For many of these dispatches Cox was requested by name because others across the state also recognize the great work that Greg does.

“Greg is one of the most dedicated people to his job that I have been around,” Watson added. “One of Greg’s best characteristics is that he demonstrates that nature with a positive attitude. He genuinely enjoys his job and likes to have fun doing it.”


Flavor, NC: Mapleview Farm

Flavor NCTwice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight episode six from the first season, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Maple View Farm and Panciuto Restaurant in Hillsborough.

“Get ready for your milk mustache,” said Lisa at the beginning of the show. “This episode is on tasty Tar Heel milk and ice cream.” Maple View Farm is a family-run dairy and milk company that has been located in Orange County since the 1960s. In 1996, the farm started bottling their own milk for sale.

In this episode, Lisa visits the farm to follow the process from milking the Holstein herd, bottling the milk and packing the ice cream.

Lisa also visits with Aaron Vandemark, chef and owner of Panciuto Restaurant, to see how ricotta is made from Maple View milk.  More of Aaron’s recipes are also included in the episode. Below is the recipe for homemade ricotta.


  • 1 gallon milk
  • ¾ cup cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon of rennet or 1 rennet tablet
  • ¼ cup cold water

Place milk and cream in a saucepan and heat to 200 degrees, then transfer it to a cold pot. Add salt, and allow the mixture to drop to 125 degrees. (To speed this up, you can place the pot into an ice bath.) Dissolve rennet or rennet tablet in ¼ cup of water and pour into milk. Stir well, then allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes. After mixture has rested,  then cut an X in the top of the milk with a wooden spoon to check that it has coagulated, then stir well for 20 seconds. Reheat as needed to separate curds from whey.

Ladle the mixture into a strainer over a pot to separate curds from whey, then transfer separated curds into second strainer lined with cheesecloth. Continue with another ladle, drain well in first basket, transfer to second. Continue until you’ve finished. Allow ricotta to remain in a cheesecloth lined basket to drain overnight.


DIY cankerworm management: It’s that time of the year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to protect your yard trees from cankerworms, that is!  A small act now can save you (and your trees) in the spring. You may remember cankerworms as those annoying little inchworms that dangle from trees by silken strands and cause significant defoliation each spring, especially in urban areas.

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

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

When this occurs, unfortunately it’s too late to do anything at that point. That’s why each fall, before the damage occurs, homeowners who experience regular cankerworm activity are encouraged to band all of their yard trees to reduce damage in the spring.

The sticky bands work by preventing the wingless adult female moths from making it to the tops of the trees. As they emerge from their pupae in the fall, they crawl up the trunk of a tree to the upper branches where they mate with a male, then lay eggs. However, if you intercept them before they make it to their mating and egg-laying sites, then you will probably see considerably less damage. No female ascent means no eggs to hatch next spring!

It’s easy as pumpkin pie! Wrap or staple duct tape or paper tree wrap around the trunk of your tree and evenly cover the band with Tanglefoot Insect Barrier. Tanglefoot is a non-toxic, sticky substance that captures the flightless moths. It is available online and at local hardware stores. If there are crevices in the bark, put cotton or insulation between the tape and the tree trunk so that moths can’t just crawl underneath. Also, if you have an unusually high population of moths, they may quickly cover the sticky band, so checking it and reapplying Tanglefoot every few weeks may be needed.

A hungry cankerworm.  Image: Joseph Berger,

A hungry cankerworm. Image: Joseph Berger,

There is strength in numbers, so persuade your neighbors to do this, too. If you don’t, and the canopy of your tree touches the canopy of their unbanded trees, the moths can easily crawl right over and infest both trees. If both trees are banded, both are protected. This is one situation where “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a good thing!


Today’s Topic: Crop report shows record soybean yield 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.”

The November crop report from USDA shows a big year for North Carolina soybeans. The yield is forecast to be 40 bushels per acre, a new state record. The previous record of 39 bushels per acre occurred in 2012.

Soybean production is forecast at 68.8 million bushels, which is 42 percent more than last year’s total. Harvested acreage is estimated at more than 1.7 million acres.

The peanut crop is also strong this year. The yield is forecast at 4,100 pounds per acre, which ties the record set in 2012. Total production on 93,000 acres is estimated at 381 million pounds, a 21 percent increase over last year.

Cotton acreage held steady this year at 460,000. But with better cooperation from the weather than in 2013, the yield is forecast to be 1,012 pounds per acre. That’s 213 pounds higher than last year’s yield and just a little lower than the record yield of 1,014, set in 2012.

The corn yield is forecast at 136 bushels per acre, down six bushels from last year’s record of 142. Some corn growers were hurt by Hurricane Arthur, which heavily damaged crops in the eastern part of the state in July.

Total corn production is down about 14 percent, to 106.1 million bushels. Lower production was expected, as growers planted less corn this year. Harvested acres are forecast to be 780,000, which is down 90,000 from a year ago.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this crop report.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


Food Business Almanac: How to source local products

NCDA&CS food business specialist Annette Dunlap offers resources that agribusiness owners and food entrepreneurs can use to grow and manage their business. Annette is available for free one-on-one consultations and can assist business owners with financial and market planning through the agribusiness development section. She can be reached at

There is no denying consumer demand for local products, but how can you make sure that your product is a true North Carolina product from ingredients to the store shelf? We have three resources available for you on the department’s website.

The North Carolina Grower/Shipper Directory gives you a listing of local growers who have the capacity to ship large quantities of agricultural products to your processing facility. For smaller quantities of produce, you can turn to for a directory of statewide roadside stands and farmers markets. There’s also the North Carolina General Store, which has a listing of fresh products as well as processed ingredients for your food product.

In addition to these directories, the department also offers information on locating shared-use kitchens, establishing your own certified home-based kitchen, or becoming a certified meat processing facility.

Grocery stores in the state understand demand for local products, which presents a great opportunity for your food business. For more information on how to get your product into North Carolina stores, contact one of our retail marketing specialists.

Yours to success!


News Roundup: Nov. 8-14

newsroundup11Each 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.

  •  “Work doesn’t end for apple farmers when fruit is picked,” Hendersonville Times-News: As Henderson County’s apple farmers wrap up a mixed season this month, their work is far from over. Now comes the pruning, raking, preventative spraying and repairs that lay the foundation for next year’s crop. With the exception of Sky Top Orchard outside Flat Rock, most u-pick and pre-picked operations have closed for the season, including Grandad’s Apples and J.H. Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard. Meanwhile, commercial growers are picking the dregs of their late-season varieties, including a few Pink Ladies and Gold Rushes. But even when those are gone, farmers don’t have time to rest on their laurels. “A lot of people will be raking orchards and as these apples are in cold storage, we’ll start hauling apples to shipping facilities,” said farmer Kenny Barnwell. “Then you have to repair all your boxes, and by the time you’re done pruning, it’s time to start spraying again.” …
  • “Organic Strawberry Research Gets $200,000 Boost From Walmart,” Growing Produce: With an additional $200,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, scientists from the University of Florida and North Carolina A&T University are expanding grower engagement in organic strawberry research. While the focus of the 2013-2014 work was broad and exploratory, a key component of this year’s research will be to test the best aspects of the organic strawberry production system under farm conditions and with grower management. Growers at three farms in North Central Florida are assessing two cover crops and three commercial strawberry cultivars that performed well in last year’s Phase I trials. Grower evaluations of the Phase I research resulted in suggestions that researchers assess cover crop combinations as well as a cover crop that could produce a marketable product. In Phase II, scientists will evaluate the on-station and on-farm research for seasonal variability in market yield, nutrient-use efficiency, consumer acceptance and response to postharvest handling and storage. …
  • “Demand pushes Pittsboro’s Farm Boy Farms to double in size,” Triangle Business Journal: Farm Boy Farms of Pittsboro – a local provider of barley, wheat and malt for craft beer – is doubling in size, which means more local ingredients could work their way into local craft beer. In 2012, the state had 85 breweries, it had 123 breweries by 2013 and currently has 146 breweries – most of which are craft breweries. Plenty of craft brewers believe part of creating a quality product means sourcing ingredients locally, driving the need for farm owner Dan Gridley to expand. “We are doubling our American Malting Barley Association-recommended two-row barley acreage from 25 acres to 50 acres,” says Gridley. “We are also adding five acres of rye and networking with other area growers to provide us wheat.” According to Gridley, more than half of next year’s hops crop has been contracted with existing and soon-to-be established Triangle breweries, but he isn’t disclosing which ones. …
  • “Women In The Meat Business,” WUNC: As the demand for local food and farm-to-table restaurants rises, the American agriculture and food production industries are expanding. Burgeoning local food systems have opened up opportunities for more women to own and operate businesses throughout the supply chain, especially in the meat industry. Farms and ranches operated by women have more than doubled in the last 30 years, and more women are also entering the fields of livestock production, meat processing, butchery and culinary arts. But succeeding in this new landscape presents a unique set of challenges. Host Frank Stasio talks to some of the women who recently gathered for the 2nd annual Women Working in the Meat Business Conference. …
  • “Farmers harmed by decline in nation’s public seed supply,” Agriview: A much-anticipated analysis of the state of the country’s plant and animal breeding infrastructure and seed supply was released recently, marking the first such analysis in more than 10 years. The proceedings from the Summit on Seeds and Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture were published by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a farmer-based non-profit organization located in Pittsboro, N.C., and member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). In the proceedings, RAFI and other key stakeholders within the agricultural research community express their increased concerns about farmers’ limited access to seed, the narrowing of our country’s agricultural plant and animal genetic diversity, consolidation within the seed industry, the decline in public cultivar development, and how these trends are impacting farmers’ abilities to confront the unprecedented challenges of climate change and global food security. …
  • “WNC Farmers Market to develop 20-year master plan,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The WNC Farmers Market is asking locals to tell it what to do. The results, according to a recent press release, will be used to help develop a 20-year master plan for the market, a task that has been outsourced to Market Ventures in Portland, Maine. The master plan will propose physical upgrades to the market’s buildings, changes to operating hours, new programs and facilities for education and events. The Brevard Road market, open since 1977, is a hot spot for tourists, and ranks among the top 10 places to shop in Asheville on Tripadvisor. Even so, the market is searching for ways to stay competitive in an increasingly crowded farmers market landscape, citing the “changing needs of Western North Carolina.” Indeed, a search of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s website for “tailgate markets” turns up more than 100 results for the Western North Carolina area. …
  • “James Butler: North Carolina’s first Extension agent, hired 107 years ago this month,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina’s first county Extension agent was James A. Butler, who, according to the best information available, was hired Nov. 18, 1907 to work with farmers in Iredell County. Butler was paid by funds from the John D. Rockefeller-supported General Education Board to expand pioneering educational efforts, called demonstrations, taking place under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on farms in several other Southern states. Within two days of being hired, Butler had arranged for local farmer J.F. Eagles of Statesville to host the first North Carolina farm demonstration. Eagles agreed to grow 2.5 acres of corn and 2 acres of cotton according to USDA recommendations so that Butler could demonstrate to other farmers how the recommendations increased crop yields – not just in theory or in a laboratory – but under actual real-world conditions. Eagles told others that the recommendations were key to rejuvenating the worn-out soils on his farm. “I don’t think I ever would have succeeded had it not been for the use of limestone and clover,” he said. …
  • “NCDA’s Soil Testing Fee In Effect Soon,” Southern Farm Network: For the second year, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Agronomic Division will have a fee for soil testing during the winter and early spring months. David Hardy, Chief of Soil testing for the Agronomic Division for NCDA: “The fee was put in place by the General Assembly to encourage people to send in soil samples at other times of the year, not just fall and winter, and to help defray the cost of overtime and temporary help during the lab’s busy soil testing season.” Hardy says the fee structure seems to have helped with the back log and turnaround time: “Farming is the first thing you think of when you think of soil testing, but soil testing is available for anyone in the state with dirt under their feet.” …




Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Brian Williams

G2BNC Competition Dining1Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This month, we are featuring Chef Brian Williams of Upstream in Charlotte. Williams made it to the semifinals of this year’s Fire in the City Competition. He describes his cooking style as Asian Fusion.

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

Below is a recipe from Chef Williams using fresh-caught grouper from Charlotte Fish Company. Watch Chef William’s prepare the recipe on The Daily Special segment of Good Day Carolinas on Fox 46 in Charlotte.

Tim Griner’s Pan Roasted Grouperwith scarlet queen turnip & breakfast radish salad, shishito peppers, okra, forbidden rice, ginger vinaigrette


  • 6 ( 6 ounce) grouper filets
  • 6 scarlet queen turnips – shaved thin
  • 12 breakfast radishes – shaved thin
  • 2 cups black forbidden rice
  • 1/2 pound local okra – cut lengthwise
  • 12 shishito peppers – small dice
  • 1/2 cup pickled ginger with liquid
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 scallion – minced, green part only


For the rice:

  • Combine the black rice with 2 1/2 cups water
  • Bring rice to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove from heat, add the scallion and fluff with a fork


For the grouper:

  • Heat a heavy cast iron pan medium/ high heat
  • Season the grouper with salt and pepper
  • Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan then add the grouper filets
  • Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes


For the okra:

  • Wipe out the grouper pan with wet paper towels
  • Return to medium/ high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Add the shishito peppers and sauté for 30 seconds
  • Add the okra and sauté for four minutes until tender, season with salt and pepper


For the salad:

  • Combine the turnips, radish, pickled ginger with liquid and sesame oil


To assemble:

  • Divide the rice into 6 bowls, place the okra around the rice
  • Set the fish on top of the rice, place the salad on top of the fish

The Final Fire competition starts Nov. 19 at the Renaissance Hotel at North Hills in Raleigh. The first pits Fire on the Dock winner Antine Murray from the Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington against Fire on the Rock winner Michelle Bailey of Season’s at Highland Lake in Flat Rock.  Tickets are still available.