Today’s Topic: August crop report forecasts big year for soybeans, cotton

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

USDA’s August crop report forecasts a big year for soybeans, cotton, flue-cured tobacco and peanuts in North Carolina.

More than 1.6 million acres of soybeans have been planted in North Carolina this year, and the yield is forecast to be 37 bushels per acre. That combination of acres and yield should push production up 32 percent compared with 2013.

Cotton acres are a little higher than last year, but the yield is forecast to be 939 pounds per acre. That’s 140 pounds higher than last year’s yield. Total production is forecast at 910,000 bales, which is a 19 percent increase.

Production of flue-cured tobacco is forecast at 416 million pounds, which is 16 percent higher than last year. Commissioner Troxler says some in the business are describing the crop as a barn buster, but recent wet weather in eastern North Carolina may temper the yield.

Peanut production also is expected to increase this year. The yield is projected to be 4,000 pounds per acre, which is not far off the record of 4,100 pounds that was set just two years ago. Peanut acreage is forecast at 89,000 acres, and total production is expected to be 356 million pounds. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2013’s totals.

These crops are on the rise, but corn production is forecast to dip about 15 percent this year. Acreage is forecast to be 800,000 acres, and the yield is projected to be 132 bushels per acre. That’s 10 bushels less than last year’s record yield.

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

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


Photos from the field: Commissioner Troxler attends Blackland Farm Managers Tour

Commissioner Troxler recently visited the Tidewater Research Station for the Blackland Farm Managers Tour. Troxler and Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, talked about equipment and technology upgrades to the 18 research stations across the state that are operated in partnership between N.C. State, N.C. A&T State University and NCDA&CS. Following are photos from the event.

The entrance to Tidewater Research Station near Plymouth.

The entrance to Tidewater Research Station near Plymouth.


From left to right, N.C. Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, Rep. Paul Tine, N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, Commissioner Steve Troxler, Rep. Jimmy Dixon and Dawson Pugh, president of the Blackland Farm Managers Association.

From left to right, N.C. Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, Rep. Paul Tine, N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, Commissioner Steve Troxler, Rep. Jimmy Dixon and Dawson Pugh, president of the Blackland Farm Managers Association.


Commissioner Troxler, center, talks with Dean Linton, left, and legislators Tine and Dixon.

Commissioner Troxler, center, talks with Dean Linton , left, and legislators Tine and Dixon.


Some of the new equipment being added at the research stations to improve efficiency in production and research. Different brands of equipment are being added since farmers today use a variety of brands.

Some of the new equipment being added at the research stations to improve efficiency in production and research. Different brands of equipment are being added since farmers today use a variety of brands.


Bethany Pugh, in the white shirt, was recognized at the Blackland Farm Managers Tour as the regional winner of Monsanto's America's Farmer's Mom of the Year.

Bethany Pugh, in the white shirt, was recognized at the Blackland Farm Managers Tour as the regional winner of Monsanto’s America’s Farmer’s Mom of the Year.



News Roundup: Aug. 9-15

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.

  • “Grafting operation called ‘a day to remember’ in farm economy,” Hendersonville Lightning: A global partnership’s decision to locate a plant-grafting operation in Mills River was described as a “monumental” recruitment coup and a “day to remember” for the business of farming in Henderson County and Western North Carolina. The international venture, a partnership of American, Italian and Israeli companies called Tri-Hishtil, announced the greenhouse operation that will bring 125 agricultural, marketing and management jobs to a 42-acre site formerly owned by Van Wingerden International on NC 19. Company officials and local agricultural leaders said the Mills River operation represents the first large-scale vegetable-grafting operation of its kind in the U.S.  …
  • “NC forest ranger from Morganton killed,” Morganton News-Herald: A state forest ranger from Morganton died Wednesday afternoon at Tuttle Educational State Forest. Education Ranger Jimmy Halliburton, 31, died while he and other forest staff members were trying to remove a tree that had fallen in the road, according to information from the state forest service. The crews were trying to use a tractor to remove the tree when the tree hit Halliburton in mid-section. EMS responded but Halliburton was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the information from the state. “We are heartbroken over the loss of Jimmy Halliburton, and our prayers are with his family,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. …
  • “North Carolina Pork Had Been Surging In Russia… Not Anymore,” WUNC: Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt. Russia released the list Thursday for what Western products it will no longer allow into the country. The move comes in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions leveled against Russia as a consequence for its interventions in Ukraine. The news is not a death knell for meat producers (nearly all of North Carolina’s exports to Russia come from the two Smithfield plants in Clinton and Tar Heel). But it will likely mean lost revenue. “The world demand for meat is greater than the supply,” said Peter Thornton, Assistant Director of the NC Department of Agriculture’s International Trade Office. “Yes, you will find a different market. But each time you lose a buyer you lose one more person who will influence the price in a positive direction. So that will have an impact. Hopefully it’s only slight. But it’s nothing you ever want to see.” …
  • “Popular No Calorie Sweetener Being Grown in the Carolinas,” Southern Farm Network: The alternative, no calorie sweetener, Stevia has been under cultivation in North Carolina since 2011 on private lands as well as research plots. Molly Hamilton, Extension Assistant in the Department of Crop Science with NC State: “It is winter hearty, but we had a really hard winter this year and there was a lot of kill in the fields. We are looking at what temperatures it can tolerate and what types of soil it is best grown in. We are expecting that this crop will be harvested for 3-5 years. The growth comes on in the spring and its harvested 1-2 times in the summer then it dies in the winter and resprouts in the spring.” …
  •  “Hops farming takes root,” The Wilson Times: The increasing interest in craft beer in North Carolina has taken off and inspired Guilford and Pam Leggett to grow their own hops in Wilson County. The idea came from their son, Justin, a homebrewer, and resulted in the Leggetts planting their first crop in April on a patch of land off Packhouse Road where they eventually plan to build a house. What they didn’t expect was to have a bumper crop at their first harvest, Aug. 2, and plans are already in the works for a second harvest in September. “We had no idea we would have 50 pounds of hops with our first harvest,” said Pam Leggett. “We were told we would have no hops this year.” …
  • “Growing a new cash crop with Chinese medicinal herbs,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The tobacco raised by Western North Carolina farmers once provided a good cash crop for a product deemed unsafe by the U.S. Surgeon General. Now farmers could make good money raising herbs for better health through traditional Chinese medicine. “These mountains have been growing medicinal herbs forever. A lot of these herbs grow well here and it’s more sustainable agriculture,” said Amy Hamilton, who operates Appalachian Seeds Farm & Nursery in Rutherford County. Hamilton is a founding member of the Appalachian Botanical Alliance, a cooperative of women exploring how to grow and market healing plants from a medical tradition halfway around the world. …
  • “Q&A: Why Farmers Markets Are Growing in the American South,” National Geographic Daily News: Federal assistance programs allow low-income regions to enjoy the season’s bounty. For many living in the lower reaches of the United States, it’s a touch of southern comfort: Farmers markets—with offerings of peaches, sweet corn, watermelon, and cantaloupe—are cropping up across the region, filling “fresh food deserts” with local produce and offering healthier alternatives to low-income families. New data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that between 2013 and 2014, five of the states that saw the biggest increase in farmers markets were in the South — Tennessee (20.2 percent), Louisiana (12.1 percent), Texas (6.6 percent), Arkansas (5.4 percent), and North Carolina (4.8 percent). Combined, the five states now support 725 unique markets. …
  • “Race-team owner’s NC vineyard marks 10 years,” Lexington Dispatch: Richard Childress is best known for developing world-renowned race teams, but his name has now become known in a different industry where his demand for perfection has led to a successful winery that is celebrating a major milestone. Childress Vineyards is holding a variety of special events to pay homage to 10 years of wine making. “It’s gone by so fast,” Childress said. “It’s been good. Like everyone else, we have been through challenges, but we’ve had so much support from locals in Davidson County and tremendous support from throughout the state.” …
  • “Port could be home to new cold storage warehouse,” Wilmington Star-News: Plans have been submitted to the city for a major cold storage warehouse to go up at the Port of Wilmington. The plans, submitted Wednesday, call for a 101,537-square-foot building on 6.72 acres at 1 Shipyard Blvd. It will be 44 feet tall, said Charles Schoninger, who heads the facility’s developer, USA InvestCo. The warehouse will have 3 million cubic feet and approximately 11,000 pallet positions, according to its website. …
  • “Sweet potatoes lead produce hit parade in North Carolina,” The Produce News: North Carolina produce crops brought in $608 million last year for fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. And sweet potatoes led the way, Kevin D. Hardison is quick to point out. Hardison is a marketing specialist with a 14-year career in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Raleigh that brings a working knowledge of the 60 kinds of produce grown in the Tarheel State. “We’re ranked first in the nation for growing sweet potatoes,” Hardison noted, gesturing toward racks of publications touting North Carolina vodka, butter and chips made from sweet potatoes, microwave-ready yams and even recipes for gourmet meals with sweet potato French fries. …
  • “Deadly U.S. Pig Virus Can Be Carried In Animal Feed: Study,” Reuters: A research study has shown for the first time that livestock feed can carry a virus that has killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd, the study’s lead author said, confirming suspicions among farmers and veterinarians battling outbreaks. The findings, published this month in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, bring increased scrutiny on the feed industry in the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv. The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million piglets since it was first identified in the United States last year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs. …



Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne

G2BNC Competition DiningOnce 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 Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West in Raleigh. He describes his cooking style as “cooking with love,” and “French classic and modern.”

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces two local chefs face off in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. Each 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. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Falcoz-Vigne  went up against Chef Adam Jones of Dean’s Seafood Bar and Grill in the quarter-final round of Fire in the Triangle on July 21. The secret ingredients were Kerala Curry from Pittsboro and Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh . Chef Falcoz-Vigne won the night and went on to compete in the semifinals on July 29.

Fire in the Triangle ended Aug. 4 with Chef Dean Thompson of Flights besting Chef Steve Zanini of Jimmy V’s Steak House & Tavern. Tickets for Battle in the City in Charlotte are on sale now, with a few dates already sold out.

Chef Falcoz-Vigne provided the following winning Elk Meatloaf recipe from course four of the quarter-final battle:


  • 2 pounds ground elk meat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/5 cup of Kerala Curry tomatoes, plus 1/2 cup for spread on the top
  • 1/2 cup bread crumb
  • 1 cup of duck fat
  • some chopped sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the duck fat in a pan or skillet. Mix carrots, celery and onion together and saute. Add the garlic, toss, and move off the hot burner. Let rest until you need it again.

Meanwhile, grind the elk meat, and incorporate all the elements left, mix well with your hands, it’s always better than all mechanical stuff (another tip from the chef)

To be sure of the seasoning, take 1-2 tablespoons of the mix and cook it in a pan and eat it. That way you will be able to taste if there is enough salt or pepper or if there is other seasoning you would like to add a bit more.

When you are happy with the flavor, form the mixture into a loaf, either in some individual greased containers, or one large one. Spread the Kerala tomato chutney on top.

Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let the dish rest a little before serving it, first because it will be too hot to eat and, a burnt tongue can’t taste very well. Second, because it’s always better to give a rest to this kind of product, when we expect all the flavor to come together… just relax a moment and let it rest .

Parsnip Puree with Labneh yogurt

  • 2.5 pounds of parsnips, peeled and cleaned
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • ½ pound of Hillsborough Cheese Company labneh
  • white salt and white pepper
  • 1 pound of love

Cut the parsnips and cook until soft. Puree in a food processor, add the butter.

Next, add the labneh yogurt cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Company, but not with the electric appliance, because at this point we need to be delicate… Let’s respect the product, this cheese is a fine one, so, you have to be careful when blending.

Add salt and pepper, but white pepper. Why? because What you see influences what you taste! And the labneh parsnip puree is so pretty, with no trace of black pepper. The specks of the black pepper will deter your attention when it come s to the moment of using your taste buds.

Use a spoon and try, If you like it, it’s good, if not, simply add more seasoning!

Heirloom tomato demi-glace:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup cup duck fat or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes
  • celery, garlic, thyme
  • 1 quart of veal, beef or chicken (or all three of them)

In a pot, add some duck fat, carrots, onions, celery, garlic cloves, thyme, and heirloom tomatoes cut into chunks. Heat over medium heat, let cook, like confit (we said that when the products cooked in some kind of fat, together, like when friends hang-out and chill with each other and each bring the best of themselves to the party).

When the color and the smell looks right, add the veal or beef base, combined with some chicken base too if you got some, and let cook slowly, until the consistency looks thick and not runny. You can also add a little bit of the Kerala tomato chutney, if you have extra, it will be a delicious addition.

Use a strainer to separate the vegetables from the liquid, retaining the jus, or sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste, if needed, with the salt and the white pepper.

For the finished plate – a spoon of parsnips, a ladle of sauce, a slice of meatloaf, and voila! Bon appetit!



Invasive insect vs. invasive plant: The kudzu bug and kudzu

Kudzu. You’ve probably heard of and seen this climbing vine that can cover, smother and kill other plants. The kudzu bug is an insect that may feed on not only kudzu, but other legumes as well. It may sound like a biological control effort gone awry, but the story is quite the opposite. Kudzu was an intentional introduction, while the kudzu bug was accidental. Regardless, both species are non-native and both species can be quite a nuisance to North Carolinians.

The kudzu bug (close-up, left) can be quite a nuisance to homeowners, congregating on the outside of light-colored structures in the fall and eventually finding their way inside.  Images: D.R. Suiter, University of Georgia,

The kudzu bug (close-up, left) can be quite a nuisance to homeowners, congregating on the outside of light-colored structures in the fall and eventually finding their way inside. Images: D.R. Suiter, University of Georgia,

Kudzu was first brought to the United States in the late 1800s and planted throughout the Southeastern U.S. until the 1950s. The plant was primarily used to combat erosion, with more than 85 million kudzu seedlings distributed for planting. Talk about planting a bad idea! It wasn’t until 1970 that kudzu was identified as a pest and now, known to be a noxious weed. Today, kudzu is a common sight in the Southeast, covering trees, shrubs and sometimes abandoned houses and cars, and it has become a major threat to forest health. The vines spread quickly, takes over native ecosystems killing native plants, and is difficult to manage.

The kudzu bug, on the other hand, is a relatively new find in North Carolina. Because kudzu is so widespread, the kudzu bug is able to quickly and effectively expand its range into new areas. It was first detected near Atlanta in 2009, and has since been found in most counties in North Carolina. The good news about this new invasive insect is that it loves kudzu. Both species are from Asia and in its native range, kudzu is a favored host plant of the insect. Unfortunately, they’re not just munching on kudzu. The kudzu bug also feeds on many plants in the legume family: soybeans and other beans, wisteria and vetches. As an agricultural pest, the stakes for managing this insect are suddenly much higher.

The kudzu bug has also become a major household pest. This fall, you may notice them congregating on the outsides of white or light-colored homes. If you’re unlucky, they’ll come find your home. And if you’re really unlucky, they might find a way to slip inside. The bugs find small cracks and crevices, such as doors, vents and gaps around windows, to accomplish a home invasion. Not only are the bugs annoying, but they’re smelly house guests. Kudzu bugs stink, and the foul chemical they emit could also cause rashes or blisters on those who handle or crush them.

Best way to protect your home this fall? Act now and seal up any cracks, crevices or gaps that might be used to gain entry. You can also try to find a nearby food source (is there a kudzu patch nearby?) and attempt to control it. No one likes an uninvited house guest, especially when they bring all their smelly friends!

To learn more about the kudzu bug, visit the NCSU Insect Notes on the critter!


Today’s Topic: Tenth annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum takes place Aug. 26

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

Food Safety Forum logoRegistration is open for the 10th annual Commissioner’s Food Safety Forum, scheduled for Aug. 26 at the State Fairgrounds. Commissioner Troxler will host the event from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Expo Center. It is sponsored by Harris Teeter and Publix.

The forum is open to farmers, food businesses, regulators, health professionals and others with an interest in food safety. Admission is free and includes lunch.

This year’s forum will focus on how the federal Food Safety Modernization Act will affect international accountability, international trade and the importation of food products.

Keynote speaker will be Dr. David Acheson, who has worked in food safety for 30 years. He is a former associate commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and he now runs The Acheson Group, a food safety consulting firm. His presentation will focus on the impacts of the food safety law on international trade.

Other speakers include Jeff Hawley, food safety manager with Harris Teeter, and Kim Taylor, meat and seafood director with Delhaize America. In addition, a panel of North Carolina producers will discuss consumer food choices and food safety practices on the farm.

To register for the forum, click here. Registration deadline is Aug. 22.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this year’s Food Safety Forum.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


Versatility, variety help Cleveland County farm stay profitable

Jason Rhodes and Steve Dillon

When it comes to making sure his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, Jason Rhodes, left, listens attentively to Steve Dillon, NCDA&CS regional agronomist.

First-generation farmer Jason Rhodes is not afraid to try something new.

Over the past 15 years, he has grown more than 12 crops under five different production systems at his Rhodesdale Farm in Grover. He currently produces about 650 acres of mixed seasonal produce and row crops.

Rhodes began farming part time in 1999 with an ornamental plant nursery. He went full time in 2002, adding cattle and soybeans to his operation. That same year, he planned ahead and planted five acres of blueberries and an acre of asparagus, crops that take several years before they start producing.

When the economic downturn in 2009 caused him to close the nursery, Rhodes shifted his focus to growing produce for local market. By 2012, he was selling an assortment of tomatoes, peppers (cayenne, jalapeño, habañero), squash, crowder peas, cucumbers, asparagus, garlic, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, peaches and muscadine grapes.

Rhodes says crop diversity is important from a business perspective, even if that philosophy doesn’t always translate into dollars.

“I’ve found that cucumbers are not an economical crop,” he said, “but we grow them to meet the customer demand at our roadside stand.”

‘I like what I do’

Last year, Rhodes converted several greenhouses from his nursery so he and his wife, Shelley, could produce tomatoes year round. This was also his first year growing garlic. In the past two years, Rhodes has added milo and canola to his field crop rotation. He is already talking about wanting to try his hand at popcorn and cotton and maybe even aquaculture trout production.

“When I wake up, farming is what I think about, and when I go to sleep, farming is what I think about,” Rhodes said. “I like what I do and that is priceless.”

Rhodes will tell you frankly that one of the reasons he likes farming is because he does not like to be told what to do. Even so, when it comes to making sure that his lime and fertilizer applications are correct, he listens attentively to Steve Dillon, regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is not unusual for Rhodes to call Dillon three times a week.

“Steve does the math for me to make sure I’m thinking right (with respect to fertilizer application rates),” Rhodes said.

Dillon said he is happy to double-check Rhodes’ fertilizer calculations. “A small error can mean too much fertilizer and wasted money, or too little fertilizer and reduced crop yield,” Dillon said. “No matter what crop you grow, it is imperative to get soil pH and nutrient levels correct to prevent potential problems. High-value crops like fruits and vegetables require intensive nutrient management. Since fertilizer is applied daily or weekly, is it important to sample the plant tissue to ensure that nutrient applications are on target.

“I have been working with Jason for 12 to 14 years, and he is always coming up with new ideas, which is a great challenge for me,” Dillon said. “It’s exciting to hear his latest plan and then help him carry it out.”

The Field Services Section of the Agronomic Services Division has 13 regional agronomists throughout the state. They are available to visit or consult with growers who need help taking agronomic samples, adjusting fertilizer programs, pinpointing nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, identifying nematode problems, or interpreting agronomic reports. For more information or for the name of the regional agronomist in your area, call Michelle McGinnis at 919-733-2655 or click here.


News Roundup: Aug. 2-8

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.

  • “Workshop to offer advice for food businesses,” Burlington Times-News: Opening a food business and knowing how to run it are two different things. The state Department of Agriculture hopes to improve the odds for operators with a workshop, “The Business of Being in Business,” from 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 27 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The session is open to existing food businesses, but only 30 slots are available. The session will focus on the nuts and bolts of running a food business, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. It will tackle basic issues such as trademarks and tax and business structure. “Learning the ins and outs of running a business can be a daunting task,” Troxler said in a news release. “If you plan on being successful in selling your product, then learning the difference between a corporation and a sole proprietorship, how to collect and pay sales tax, and registering a trademark are essential.” …
  • “Photos: Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party,” Hendersonville Times-News: Rose Pierce, 7, and Mark Barnett, 4, give Smokey Bear a big hug as they take part in Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Party at the Cradle of Forestry Saturday. Smokey Bear is the symbol of wildland fire prevention for 70 years, officials said.
  • “Fresh produce crates available at Lowes Foods,” Greensboro News & Record: Shoppers can now get crates of locally-grown fresh produce at select Lowes Foods stores. More than 200 local farmers are participating in the Lowes Foods Carolina Crate program. …
  • “If successful, Ebola serum is significant for tobacco’s future,” Greensboro News & Record: A small company owned by Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American is making an experimental drug that apparently is being used to treat two Americans infected with the deadly Ebola virus. The drug, called ZMapp, is made from modified tobacco plants grown by Kentucky BioProcessing, an Owensboro, Ky., company that Reynolds bought in January. …
  • “USDA: Farmers market growth in N.C. among top 10 in the U.S.,” Triangle Business Journal: North Carolina is among the top states when it comes to the growth of farmer’s markets. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a Farmers Market Directory, due to the continued growth of food hubs across the nation. North Carolina, ranked seventh in growth, has 240 farmers markets, compared to 182 in 2010, and 86 in 2004. …
  • “Two horses die after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis,” Jacksonville Daily News: One of two reported cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) this year in North Carolina included a horse in Carteret County that was euthanized due to the disease, state officials said. Two horses have died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis within the past two weeks, state officials have confirmed. EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable in equine by vaccination. Both horses that died were unvaccinated, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. …
  • “Like last year, expect Farm Aid concert to benefit N.C. agricultural sector,” Triangle Business Journal: Farm Aid concert organizers expect a sold-out show at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in September. But the event’s Raleigh location won’t directly help North Carolina farmers financially. Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization that uses concerts featuring big-name artists Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp to raise money to promote family farming and access to locally grown foods. Among its activities, the organization provides grants to ground-level farming organizations throughout the country. It also occasionally grants money to individual farmers in crisis. Concert net revenues, which average $1.3 million to $1.5 million per show, go back into the organization’s general fund instead of being distributed in the locations where concerts are held, says Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder. The concert does, however, offer an opportunity for local farmers to display their work. The all-day concert event will feature concessions made with locally sourced ingredients and a tent village where attendees can view exhibits on soil, water and farming techniques like seed-saving. More than a quarter of the land in North Carolina is farmland. The state ranks seventh in the nation for farm profits, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Last year, Farm Aid sent a total of about $28,000 to North Carolina organizations and farmers, representing about 5 percent of grant money distributed nationwide. Most of that went to Triangle-area organizations. Farm Aid provided a grant of $17,500 to Pittsboro’s Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA to provide financial counseling and mediation services to farmers, provide advocacy for farmers, and ensure fairness for farmers who contract with large-scale processors. …
  • “Plant company to employ 125 in Mills River,” Asheville Citizen-Times:  A collaboration between companies in the United States, Israel and Italy will result in 125 new jobs in Mills River at a facility that will graft vegetable plants for growers all along the Eastern Seaboard. The new company, Tri-Hishtil will build the grafting operation on 42 acres in Mills River, land it is buying from the Van Wingerden plant nursery operation. The project has been in the works for two years and brings together major players in the plant grafting and breeding, soil management and plant distribution. The plants produced will be disease resistant, reducing the need for chemical applications. The grafted plants are created in a manual process that melds the top of one plant with the root stock of another, and Tri-Hishtil plans to start in Mills River with tomatoes and watermelons. …
  • “State laws deny public access to information on farm operations,” Winston-Salem Journal: Kathy Kellam would like to know which chicken farms are dealing with viruses near her home in Surry County. But she’s not allowed to find out. Last year, the General Assembly approved a confidentiality clause that keeps her – the general public – from finding out. The N.C. Farm Act of 2013 – or Senate Bill 638 – put a cloak over documents collected by the N.C.Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that might reveal the identity of farmers dealing with animal viruses. …



Flavor, NC: Piebird

Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC.” This week, we review the last episode of Season 3, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights pie recipes from Piebird in Raleigh that feature locally grown ingredients purchased at the State Farmers Market and the Raleigh City Farm.

The Raleigh City Farm is a one-acre urban farm in the heart of Raleigh. Many area restaurants, including Piebird, use the farm for locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, vegetables gathered from the Raleigh City Farm are so local, they are often delivered on foot.

The State Farmers Market is open year-round and offers seasonally available produce, meats and more at its farmers building and Market Shoppes. The market also offers a wholesalers building. The NCDA&CS operates four markets located in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Asheville.

Piebird opened its doors in March 2011 with an emphasis on all things pie. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, serving a wide selection of savory and sweet pies made with locally grown ingredients. Piebird also offers whole pies to go.

“North Carolina specializes in just about everything when it comes to agriculture,” said Lisa.  The pie recipes featured in this episode highlight the diversity of N.C. agriculture with ingredients that include local seafood, tomatoes, honey and ham. The recipe below is for Tomato Pie, which can utilize all those great tomatoes that are fresh this time of year.

Tomato Pie

Butter Crust ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 pound chilled butter, cut into small pieces (lard can be substituted)
1⁄2 cup chilled shortening

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add butter and shortening, and cut into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 4–5 tablespoons ice water, until dough just holds together. Divide into 2 uneven balls: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top. Pat each into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the dough to rest. Roll out on a floured surface to fit a 9″ pie pan.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2-3 large, fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix goat cheese, mayo, Gruyere, hot sauce, flour, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Place one layer of red onions in unbaked pie crust. Top with one layer of sliced tomatoes and a layer of basil, pour the filling over the layers and then top with another layer of sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with more Gruyere cheese and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Click here for a link to all recipes featured on the show.


Today’s Topic: North Carolina’s wine industry, UNCG collaborate on strategic plan

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

The NCDA&CS, the N.C. Wine and Grape Council and the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro have gotten together to develop a road map for the industry’s growth. The resulting plan covers a variety of topics, such as quality assurance, marketing, research, tourism and the regulatory environment.

The plan was put together with input from stakeholders, including people from the industry and government, as well as business leaders and academics.

North Carolina’s wine and grape industry has seen explosive growth over the past decade. The state has 400 commercial grape growers and 125 wineries. The industry employs more than 7,600 people and has an economic impact of $1.3 billion.

The strategic plan is a chance for the wine and grape industry to take a look at where it is, what its key concerns are, and how it wants to develop in the next five years.

Certain initiatives, such as a push to enhance the state’s reputation as a producer of high-quality wines and grapes and increase market share, are being given high priority. Two studies already are under way. One is focused on the use of highway markers to draw tourists to wineries and vineyards. The second study seeks to classify the various types of wineries in the state by looking at factors such as source of grapes, tasting-room size and marketing.

North Carolina is ranked 10th nationally in wine and grape production, but one of the state’s key strengths is the diversity in grape and wine products. North Carolina’s fertile soil makes it possible to grow both native muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes.

In addition, wine tourism offers a unique activity to the state’s existing tourism mix. This creates additional business for local hotels, restaurants and tour companies. Whit Winslow, the department’s wine marketing specialist, says the winery is one of the best places to enjoy North Carolina wine. “We want to make it easier for consumers to find wineries when they are traveling throughout North Carolina,” he says.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss North Carolina’s wine industry and the strategic plan.

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