Top five blog posts of 2012

It’s been a busy year for North Carolina agriculture. From the 75th anniversary of soil and water conservation in January to the news of a new record for agricultural exports in December. Along the way, we’ve featured tips for food businesses, milk-chugging contests and department success stories.

It’s always interesting to see which blog posts are the most popular in a given year. This year, recipes, marketing programs and employee profiles seemed to be the most appealing. Following is our list of the top five blog posts of 2012. Do you like other posts that didn’t make the cut? Let us know in the comments section below.

5. N.C. sweet potatoes take root abroad

Jose Calderon helped Farm Pak in Nash County become one of the largest sweet potato producers in the world.

When Barnes Farming opened in 1960, the Nash County farming operation planted just one acre of sweet potatoes. In 1969, the company added a sales and brokering arm, Farm Pak, to provide sweet potatoes for domestic and international grocery, produce and foodservice outlets. Now, the company is one of the largest growers, packers and shippers of sweet potatoes in the world.A lot of the company’s recent success has to do with growing international demand for N.C. sweet potatoes, especially in Germany and France. Since 2006, the department’s International Marketing office has worked with the N.C. SweetPotato Commission to expand markets, with the goal of taking the North Carolina agriculture staple from a domestic product to a vegetable commonly found in European supermarkets and restaurants.

“It’s about being a connector,” NCDA&CS international trade specialist Kelly Powell-McIver said. “The department helps connect local growers to buyers and sellers abroad.”

The partnership has led to the development of marketing materials and press coverage, in-store promotions and trade shows, as well as direct-to-consumer marketing to educate consumers on the benefits of N.C. sweet potatoes.

“Sweet potatoes are sexy.” Powell-McIver said. “In Germany and France they seem exotic, but we want them to become a mainstream product.” (Read More)

4. Jeff Marshburn named January 2012 Employee of the Month

Assistant Commissioner David Smith presents Jeff Marshburn with the NCDA&CS Employee of the Month for January 2012.

Duplin County forest ranger Jeff Marshburn was recently honored as the NCDA&CS Employee of the Month for January 2012. In recognition of Marshburn’s achievement, Chief Deputy David Smith presented him with a plaque and department shirt at a recent meeting in Raleigh.

The past few months have been full of change for Jeff Marshburn and the Duplin County office. Through resignations and retirements, Marshburn found himself having to do the work of four positions. Despite this adversity, he has continued to provide the people of Duplin County with services they expect from the N.C. Forest Service. (Read More)

3. New Got to Be NC dining series starts Tuesday

If you’ve ever wanted to be a judge on reality cooking shows such as “Iron Chef,” then you won’t want to miss the first-ever Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series. Sixty-four North Carolina chefs will compete against each other in weekly competitions, as diners help decide who will be named the grand champion. The contest kicks off with Fire on the Rock in Blowing Rock Tuesday, Jan. 31.The department was a sponsor of the original Fire on the Rock held in 2005. This year, the department is helping the local event expand to include Fire on the Dock in Wilmington, Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh and Fire in the Triad in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

“The concept fits in well with our established programs,” NCDA&CS marketing specialist Tim Parrish said. “It’s a great way to showcase fresh local product and the chefs that prepare it.”

Each region will host a single-elimination bracket series featuring 16 area chefs, and each round will be held at a neutral restaurant. Two chefs will compete in each round and prepare a six-course meal using a secret locally grown ingredient revealed to them by the department less than an hour before the competition. Diners, culinary experts and celebrity judges will determine which chef advances to the next round of competition. (Read More)

2. In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: Wolf Pack Specials


This recipe may be named after a college team, but it’s good enough to go pro and would make a great addition to your Super Bowl party this weekend. To make a Wolf Pack Special, simply brown a pound of hot sausage and a pound of hamburger in a skillet. After draining the grease, add a pound of cubed Velveeta cheese and stir with the meat until melted. Finally, serve the mixture between sliced dinner rolls. (Read More)

1. Strawberry Trifle has the sweet taste of success in the State Farmers Market Strawberry Dessert Contest

This Strawberry Trifle from Margaret Hicks of Clayton took top honors in the strawberry dessert contest.

Margaret Hicks of Clayton won $100 and bragging rights in the State Farmers Market Strawberry Dessert Contest for her Strawberry Trifle recipe.

Second-place honors and $75 went to Lisa Raschke of Raleigh for her Strawberry Tiramisu recipe. Third place and $50 went to Kristina G. Harris of Raleigh for her Strawberry-Lemon Shortcake recipe. Judges recognized a Strawberry-Berry Cobbler by Cheri Szcodronski of Pittsboro with an honorable mention.

Following is the winning recipe, which figures to be easy to prepare with just six ingredients:

Strawberry Trifle

1 cup cold milk
8 ounces of sour cream
1 3.4-ounce package instant Vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
8 cups cubed Angel Food cake
4 cups sliced strawberries

In a large bowl, beat milk, sour cream and pudding mix on low speed until thickened. Fold in whipped cream. Place half of cake cubes in a 3 quart glass bowl. Arrange a third of the strawberries around the sides of the bowl and over the cake. Top with half of the pudding mix. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining strawberries. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Desserts were judged on flavor, appearance, texture, tenderness and quality, ease of preparation and creativity. Each recipe had to include at least two cups of North Carolina strawberries.

The contest was sponsored by the N.C. Strawberry Association, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the State Farmers Market.

What’s missing from the list? What are your favorite stories from 2012? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

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