Today’s Topic: Workshop for farmers market managers set for Feb. 20


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

The fifth annual workshop for local farmers market managers will take place Feb. 20 in Greensboro. It will be held at the Guilford County Cooperative Extension Office, but is open to farmers market managers from across the state.

The workshop will feature sessions on legal protections, liability insurance, grant funding and event planning.

When it comes to farmers markets, North Carolina is a national leader. There are more than 200 markets of all sizes across the state. This workshop will give local managers the tools they need to build stronger markets. Commissioner Troxler says having strong farmers markets benefits farmers, consumers and communities as a whole.

There are a number of benefits to local and regional farmers markets: They provide farmers with a way to sell directly to the public; they provide consumers with fresh local produce, meats and other foods; and they help support a stronger sense of community in our towns and cities.

The cost of the workshop is $20 and includes lunch. Registration deadline is Feb. 11. For more information, contact Kevin Hardison at 919-707-3123. Information is also online here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the workshop for farmers market managers.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


FSMA Files: What is FSMA and what does this mean?

FSMA filesThe Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January 2011. This act represents significant and historic change in food regulation and addresses every aspect of food production from farm to fork. Assistant Commissioner Joe Reardon will address FSMA and its impact to agriculture in this blog series.

What brought about the Food Safety Modernization Act?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 Americans, representing about 48 million people, get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. These illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. Foodborne illnesses represent a significant public health issue that can be largely prevented.

Joe Reardon, commissioner for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, answers questions about FSMA in this blog series.

Joe Reardon, assistant commissioner for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, answers questions about FSMA in this blog series.

Through the passage of FSMA, Congress intended to overhaul the existing food safety system to better protect the public. FSMA strengthens the existing food safety system and shifts the focus more to preventing rather than reacting to food safety problems after they occur. This shift from reaction to prevention is a cornerstone of FSMA along with provisions to strengthen inspections, expand response activities, increase the safety of imported foods and enhance partnerships with state and local regulatory partners.

How has the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services been involved in FSMA’s rule-making process?

We are extremely fortunate here in North Carolina to have strong, forward-leaning food safety leadership to guide our implementation of FSMA. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is a tireless advocate for food safety and is deeply committed to ensuring the safety of food grown, raised, caught or made here in North Carolina. In food safety, we all have a common goal. We are dedicated to ensuring that consumers have access to the freshest, healthiest and safest food possible. We are equally committed to ensuring that our industry has the tools to be successful in meeting these new food safety requirements.

In 2013, in his role as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Commissioner Troxler established a technical working group to review proposed FSMA rules. This group, now 23 states and 70 members strong, has dedicated hundreds of hours over the past two years to the systematic and methodical review of all seven areas of FSMA rules. This group provided more than 250 pages of comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the comment period. These comments include potential impacts on industry, unintended consequences and suggested revisions.

What is covered under FSMA?

FSMA covers every aspect of food production. More specifically, the act:

  • Amends the existing Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to incorporate risk-based preventive controls into the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh produce commonly served raw.
  • Applies risk-based preventive controls to virtually all aspects of human- and animal-food manufacturing — from baked goods to pet treats.
  • Addresses safety of imported foods, sanitary transportation of food and the intentional adulteration of food. The food safety enhancements are intended to apply equally to both domestic and foreign suppliers of food.
  • Establishes and clarifies the role of industry in assuring the safe production of food.
  • Establishes requirements for industry to develop and implement processes to minimize the potential for contaminated foods reaching the consuming public.

The act requires the FDA to issue regulations in seven areas: produce safety, preventive controls for human food production, preventive controls for animal food production, foreign-supplier verification, third-party accreditation for foreign auditors, intentional adulteration and sanitary transportation of food. Beginning in January 2013, FDA issued proposed rules covering all seven areas; each rule was open for public comment for a period ranging from a few months to nearly a year. Response to the proposed rules was monumental, with more than 39,000 comments posted to the official docket for produce safety regulations alone. In fact, each rule received a substantial number of comments.

What is the current status of FSMA?

The FDA is operating under a court order to complete the rules on a specified timetable; the preventive controls (human and animal food) and produce safety rules will be the first final rules issued, in August and October of this year, respectively.

As we put the rules review phase behind us, industry and regulators must shift the focus to implementation. There is no question that FSMA will have a significant impact on both industry and the regulatory community. Our department is busy preparing for the upcoming regulatory changes and is committed to ensuring that industry has the necessary tools for successful implementation. Significant outreach, education and technical assistance must take place before regulation begins. Industry and regulators will also need substantial training in order to understand the new food safety provisions found in the various FSMA rules.

In upcoming blogs we will continue to explore FSMA implementation and cover such important topics as the potential impact of FSMA on industry; how farms and businesses can determine which rules apply to their operations; and how to assess infrastructure and resource needs in preparation for FSMA implementation. The NCDA&CS, along with trusted partners in cooperative extension, local universities and associations, is dedicated to providing the assistance necessary for our local growers, packers and manufacturers to be successful in the new regulatory world.


News Roundup: Jan. 24-30

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.

  • “Fueled by oil, agriculture sector welcomes low diesel prices,” Winston-Salem Journal: The recent plunge in fuel prices have been a welcome relief across the agricultural sector, helping ease the pain of low grain prices for growers and boosting profits for cattle ranchers. “Every movement we make in farming takes fuel,” Kansas cattle rancher and hay grower Randy Cree said. Livestock producers in the Midwest and vegetable growers in the Sun Belt alike are reaping the immediate benefits. And with average retail gas prices for 2015 forecast to be about $1 lower than last year, farmers this spring may end up planting more of energy-intensive crops, such as corn or rice, as the cost to irrigate and cultivate drops. …
  • “A Jump Start for New North Carolina Farmers,” Public News Service: As the interest in locally-produced foods grows, an increasing number of young people are looking to make a living farming the land. Allison Kiehl, farmland stewardship and sustainability director with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, says there is a great need in North Carolina to have a successful flow of farmers producing local foods. But she says there are many challenges including the high price of land, which often is prime for development. “Agriculture is one of the biggest economic producers in our state,” says Kiehl. “Farmers are aging and in a lot of cases they don’t have children that want to take over the farm, and sometimes the best option is to sell to development.” …
  • “New biofuels testing lab opens at North Carolina technical school,” Renewable Energy from Waste Blog: The first biofuels testing lab in the Southeast has opened at the Enka, North Carolina, campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech). Researchers at the lab “will provide convenient, cost-effective testing of biodiesel to assure quality products are going to market,” says Sam Brake, of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Bioenergy Research Initiative, located in Oxford. “Consumers will be assured they’re getting high-quality product,” says Brake, who added that the N.C. Department of Agriculture awarded the project a $150,000 grant. “Long-term, it should help boost demand and production.” Biofuels are petroleum fuels that include organic material such as vegetable oil or corn. “Having a lab here decreases the testing-turnaround time so it increases biofuel companies’ ability to release batches (of fuel for customers),” says Sarah Schober, senior director of A-B Tech’s BioNetwork, a program throughout the North Carolina community college system that focuses on biotechnology and life sciences. …
  • “Childers the winemaker behind Herrera success,” Stokes News: Local winemaker Kevin Childers was first introduced to wine when he worked at an Italian restaurant in college. He quickly learned to love wine and went on to work in retail sales at a wine shop before deciding to move to the production side of the industry. He is now the winemaker at Herrera Vineyards in Dobson, which is slated to open this year. Childers completed his associate’s degree in viticulture and enology at Surry Community College in 2012 and went on to craft his first vintage that same year. The innovative pairing of chemistry and art that comprises what a winemaker does, is what appeals most to Childers. “I enjoy the science side of it and the creative process,” he said. “It’s just a creative release, kind of like cooking.” Having experienced selling wine to customers previously, for Childers, it is an even greater experience to have his own product for wine-lovers to drink. Seeing the entire process from taking the raw ingredients and then having a final product for someone to enjoy is a great feeling, Childers said. …
  • “A Food Sisterhood Flourishes in North Carolina,” The New York Times: Back in the 1970s, when Nathalie Dupree and Shirley Corriher were cooking together in Atlanta, they wanted to avoid the kind of relationship in which competition slides into rancor. So the two women, who went on to build national reputations, developed the pork chop theory. The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better. The pork chop theory is as good an explanation as any for what’s happening in North Carolina, where women dominate the best professional kitchens. The North Carolina food sisterhood stretches out beyond restaurants, too, into pig farming, flour milling and pickling. Women run the state’s pre-eminent pasture-raised meat and organic produce distribution businesses and preside over its farmers’ markets. They influence food policy and lead the state’s academic food studies. And each fall, the state hosts the nation’s only retreat for women in the meat business. “Really, the women own every single link in the food chain in North Carolina,” said Margaret Gifford, a brand consultant in New York City who spent 16 years in the state and started Farmer Foodshare, which connects North Carolina farmers with dozens of hunger relief agencies. To be sure, women are still only nibbling around the edges of North Carolina’s big agricultural engines, like the $2.5 billion hog industry. And the most recent United States census figures show that women run just over 12 percent of the state’s 50,218 farms, a little less than the national average. But in the state’s local-food movement and top-flight restaurants, women are represented in outsize proportions. …
  • “Man who led US boll weevil eradication honored with “White Gold,” Southeast Farm Press: Marshall Grant, North Carolina farmer and the man who led the way in eradicating the boll weevil, received the inaugural “White Gold Award” at the 25th Annual Joint Commodities Conference, held January 14-16 in Durham, N.C. “It takes confidence and clarity of vision to accomplish great things. I believe timing plays a role as well. It is clear to me and to many cotton producers that Dad’s tenacity, foresight and confidence came along at the right time and helped save our cotton industry in North Carolina and across the nation,” said David Grant, a second generation cotton producer in Garysburg, during his father’s introduction. Cotton was the official host commodity at this year’s conference, and the timing could not have been more appropriate to announce the establishment of the new award. “With North Carolina harvesting a record cotton crop this year, and with cotton being the host commodity at the year’s conference, we knew the timing was right to announce the creation of this award, and Marshall Grant as our first recipient,” explains Joe Martin, Conway, North Carolina cotton producer and President of the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association. …
  • “North Carolina Cannot Leave Rural Counties Behind,” WUNC: The North Carolina Legislature is back in town and ready to get to work for the year. During this “long session” lawmakers will likely take up a number of important topics including Medicaid and teacher pay. But what do you do if you represent a county that is oftentimes overlooked? Representative Ken Goodman does just that. Goodman represents Scotland County which is in one of the poorest parts of the state. Rep. Goodman says Scotland County is typical of southeastern North Carolina. First, he says the population of the county is not growing, and has even lost population over the last couple of years. There is also a loss in jobs. “Scotland County has lost 34 percent of its jobs since the year 2000. So that is very significant,” says Goodman. Property values have dipped and Goodman says it’s just a tough situation economically. In addition, the county is rural and Goodman says much of the workforce is not highly educated. This, coupled with the fact that the county is not situated near a major highway, makes attracting infrastructure is difficult. As a result Goodman says there are extreme challenges in trying to represent Scotland County at the General Assembly. “We are not in a metropolitan area, we are not near a major airport, we are not where the population is going,” notes Goodman. “We are not on the radar screen for companies that are waiting to come to North Carolina. Those are things, we have to deal with them but they are hard to overcome.” …
  • “Local Farmers Endorse Healthy Foods in Public Schools,” Time Warner Cable News: Healthy eating is a concern for us all, but for parents who have children in grade school the degree of interest is on a higher level. To assist schools with healthy eating, the NC Department of Agriculture coordinates a program called “Farm to School” in which sweet potatoes from farmers in the state are served in schools. “’Farm to School’ is a wonderful program that we are very happy to support,” said Laura Hearn, of Nash Produce. Nash Produce is located in Nashville, NC and is a huge contributor for the “Farm to School” program. The facility ships sweet potatoes from 30 local growers to customers all over the U.S. and Canada. “We think it’s the best food they can have. We work with the schools to find out what they want, when they want it, how it should be packed,” said Gary Gay, NC Department of Agriculture. The program began in 1997 and has grown in popularity ever since. “It feels good to a lot of people, the farmers, we’re buying produce from our local farms and we’re getting local produce into the school systems in North Carolina,” said Gay. It’s a source of pride that the potatoes are also getting to North Carolina schoolkids. “They’ve done a wonderful job of working with nutrition directors and the school cafeterias to educate students on what produce is in season,” said Hearn. …
  • “Low supply pushing up prices for popular Bermuda grass,” WRAL: It’s not yet spring, but it is harvest time for sod. There’s plenty of zoysia on its way to market, but it’s a different story for Bermuda grass this year. “We feel that we’re just low (on) our overall supply heading into the peak season of 2015,” said Brad Hubinek, owner of Super Sod in Raleigh. He said the entire sod industry in the Southeast is having supply problems with the increasingly popular grass. The problems began during the recession of 2007. When construction plunged, so did the demand for sod. That’s when a lot of growers switched their fields to other crops. …

What’s Happening on the Farm: Tomato research at Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station

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

There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River. This station sits on 377 acres in the French Broad River Basin in Henderson County.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station.

It’s late January in North Carolina, which means the weather outside is cold, the trees have long shed their leaves and spring is still a couple of months away. But in a greenhouse at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River, it smells like summer. This research station is home to the N.C. State University fresh market tomato breeding program, which grows tomatoes year-round in greenhouses.

“We grow any kind of tomato,” said Jeremy Smith, research specialist and greenhouse facilities manager. “Slicers, plum, grape, cherry and improved heirlooms are all part of the research.” Tomato research is ongoing to find varieties that are more resistant to disease and pests, drought-tolerant and produce improved yields.

Tomatoes grown in the greenhouse are strictly for research purposes. When the fruits begin to change color, that means the seeds are ripe. The fruits are then cut in half and the juice is squeezed out. The seeds are placed on a heat source to help ferment the seed and separate the gelatinous material from the seed. The seeds are then rinsed clean and treated with a bleach solution. After another rinse, the seeds are placed under dryers to help prevent mold. Then the seeds are packed up for future trials or to be sent to seed companies for field trials. Dried tomato seeds will last 20 to 30 years.

Over the last few years, several varieties have been released from the tomato breeding program. These tomatoes are sold as the “mountain series” at farmers markets and in seed catalogs. The varieties have been grown for resistance to early blight, late blight and tomato spotted wilt virus. Some varieties also have increased lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. Growers might find mountain belle, mountain delight, mountain fresh, mountain gold or other varieties at their stores.

Traditional breeding trials for tomatoes still occur at the station. However, several of the research trials now take place at the molecular level. These trials let the plants grow to about 5 or 6 inches and then run a sample through a polymerase chain reaction machine to test for markers indicating desired traits. If those markers aren’t there, then the plant is tossed and the trial is restarted. The method can be time-saving.

“We pretty much have the perfect climate for tomato research,” said Smith. “The moisture conditions makes it a good environment to test for early blight and late blight.” The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station does more tomato research than any other station in the state, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the crop research taking place. Other research programs include aquaculture, vegetable crops, soil conservation, pest management and apple research. The station is a leader in the Southeast in apple research. The station is also involved in biofuels research and grows plots of miscanthus and sugar cane for potential biofuel production.

Ornamental trees growing in the greenhouse at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station.

Ornamental trees growing in the greenhouse at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station.

This station also conducts research on ornamental plants. Several breeding projects from these trials can be found in stores, including the N.C. Nursery and Landscape Association’s release of the Little Ruby Dogwood. The station was also used in field trials for a sterile ornamental grass that won’t spread called My Fair Maiden. This variety should be released this year.

This time of year the station has about 50 people working on staff or as faculty researchers and support staff. In the summer, the number can easily swell to more than 100. Among the structures on the site is housing for graduate students finishing their research projects.

The station hosts numerous tours, workshops and field days. Annual field days include Fresh Market Tomato and Vegetable Field Day and Plow Day. An Apple and Peach Field Day and Nursery and Landscape Field Day are held every other year. With the help of local food banks and gleaning programs, the station donates its produce to those in need.

In North Carolina, mid-winter may have us in its grip. But the work being done right now at this station could affect the delicious, red tomatoes we might see at farmers markets and grocery stores in the years to come.



In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: January Recipe Roundup


WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Got to Be Good Cookin’ segment using local ingredients. This month’s recipes are hearty and delicious soups made with ingredients grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina. Recipes include Red Eye Sweet Potato Soup, Peanut Butter Cup Chili, Crab and Corn Chowder, Sweet Potato Soup and Sausage and Corn Chowder.

The first recipe is for a soup that will keep you warm and awake. The N.C. Sweet Potato Commission shared this recipe  for red-eye sweet potato soup with Lisa. Brian said that “whatever the winter weather, we have our delicious soup…make two gallons of it for the weekend.” Lisa suggest serving it with fried grit cakes or polenta.

Red-eye sweet potato soup

  • 3 cups fresh North Carolina Sweet Potatoes (peeled and cut into a 2-inch dice)
  • 3 ounces North Carolina country ham (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1⁄2 cups sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3⁄4 cup brewed coffee

In Dutch over or large soup pot over medium heat, add canola oil. When oil is hot, add country ham and cook until brown. Add onion and saute until golden brown. Add sweet potatoes, peppercorns and water. Simmer for 30 minutes over low heat until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add soup mixture to blender and process on medium-high until smooth. Add sour cream and coffee to blender and pulse mix. Serve hot. Serves 4

The next recipe won first place in the N.C. Cattlemen’s Association Chili Contest at the N.C. State Fair. Julia Truelove created this delicious chili that is packed with peanut flavor. Lisa suggests serving with cornbread or a jalapeno cheddar loaf.

Peanut Butter Cup Chili

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (divided)
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded and minced)
  • 1 cup raw peanuts (shelled, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
  • 1 can beef broth (14.5 ounces)
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • sour cream
  • chopped green onions

Sprinkle the ground beef with 1 teaspoon salt. Brown the meat in the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from the pan and add the onions. Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and jalapeno. After one minute, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, spices, peanuts, tomatoes, beef broth and chocolate. Stir well, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add additional beef broth or water to the pot if it begins to get too dry. Remove about a 1/2 cup of liquid into a heat-proof bowl. Stir the brown sugar and the peanut butter into the bowl of liquid until smooth, and then return all to the pot. Stir, taste for salt & pepper, and heat through. Serve with sour cream and chopped green onions.

The next recipe is for a crab and corn chowder that Brian says is a “hearty way to beat the winter chill.” Lisa loves the sweet corn in it and that little bit of crab flavor. She suggests serving with chives, additional grated cheese and toasted French bread.

Crab and corn chowder

  • 8 ounces bacon (chopped)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onion (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1⁄4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups white potatoes (unpeeled and medium diced)
  • 5 cups corn (fresh blanch for 3 minutes in salted boiling water or frozen)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1⁄4 pound sharp white cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 4 ounces lump crab meat

Cook the bacon in a large stock pot or in the microwave, reserve the drippings. Remove the bacon from the pot and add the olive oil to the bacon drippings. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter and cook for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add corn, crab, half and half and cheese. Cook for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with bacon. Serves 6

Lisa received the next recipe from Sherri Pulcino, a friend of hers. The recipe is full of N.C. sweet potatoes. Lisa recommends adding a few croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese to each serving .

Sweet potato soup

  • 3 sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 2 large carrots (chopped)
  • 1 pound spicy sausage (we used hot Italian sausage)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 7 cups chicken stock

Heat large skillet with first seven ingredients and cook for about 8 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are slightly soft. While vegetables are cooking bring chicken stock to a boil in a separate pot. Add all ingredients to the liquid and cook for another 10 minutes. Place in blender or use a submersible blender and blend until smooth. Serve.

With just five ingredients, the next recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner. Kerry Prather of Greensboro shared this recipe with Neese’s Sausage Company.

Sausage and corn chowder

  • 1 pound N.C. sausage (hot or mild)
  • 2 cans cream of potato soup
  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 10 ounces frozen shoepeg corn
  • 1 cup milk

Brown the sausage in a frying pan and drain. Combine soup and milk in medium cooking pot. Add corn and sausage and heat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



Laurel wilt detected in Duplin County for the first time

Known distribution of laurel wilt in North Carolina (January 2015). Map created by K. Oten, NCFS.

Known distribution of laurel wilt in North Carolina (January 2015). Map created by K. Oten, NCFS.

Another one bites the dust! During recent winter surveys by the N.C. Forest Service, laurel wilt was detected for the first time in Duplin County. Laurel wilt is a devastating invasive disease of redbay trees. This new find makes Duplin County the seventh county in the state in which the disease had been found. Previously, it had been detected in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Pender and Sampson counties.

To date, approximately half a billion trees in the Southeastern U.S. have been killed by laurel wilt. It will likely continue to spread and continue to kill trees. The disease is caused by a fungal pathogen that is delivered by the redbay ambrosia beetle. When the beetle attacks a new tree, it inoculates the tree with a fungus. The fungus, which is also the food source of the beetle, obstructs the transportation tissues of the tree.  As a result of this obstruction, water and nutrients are unable to move within the tree and death occurs in just a few weeks.

The beetle, which is native to Southeast Asia, was first detected in the U.S.  in 2002 near Savannah, Ga. In the following years, it spread rapidly to nearby states but was not found in North Carolina until 2011. While the disease has only affected redbay trees in North Carolina, sassafras, avocado, spicebush, pondberry (a federally endangered species), pondspice (a species of concern in North Carolina), and other plants in the laurel family are also susceptible (mountain-laurel is not affected). As it continues to spread, it will also likely have a significant impact on our native butterfly populations.

The N.C. Forest Service urges North Carolinians not to move firewood. If infested material is moved from one place to another, insects and disease pathogens may accidentally be spread to new habitats, giving the disease the ability to spread more rapidly and reach places it may not have otherwise. The same recommendation is given to reduce the spread of the emerald ash borer, thousand cankers disease and other invasive species.


Today’s Topic: Ag Development Forum is coming up 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.”

The 10th annual Ag Development Forum is coming up Thursday, Feb. 5, at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Holshouser Building, during the 49th Southern Farm Show.

Ag Forum logoThis year, we’re placing an emphasis on how agriculture and the military can work together. After all, they’re North Carolina’s two largest economic sectors. There will be a panel discussion about the benefits of agriculture-military partnerships. And presentations from organizations and businesses that supply food to military bases will help farmers learn about selling to the armed services. Following the program, buyers will be on hand to talk with farmers about potential sales opportunities.

The program also will include an agricultural economic outlook by N.C. State University economist Mike Walden. And Commissioner Troxler wrap up the forum with his annual State of Agriculture address.

Admission is free and includes lunch, but we ask that you register by Jan. 30. You can do that online. If you have questions, please contact Christina Waggett at 919-707-3008.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Ag Development Forum.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


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.