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 year, 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.


Flavor, NC: State Farmers Market

Flavor NC logoTwice a month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight the second episode of season two, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights the State Farmers Market in Raleigh and the Growers Market in Fuquay-Varina.

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

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

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

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

Market Basket Crostini Trio

For the crostini:

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

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

Heirloom tomato topping:

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

Lightly mix all ingredients together and serve on toasted crostini slices

Jumbo Lump Crab Salad:

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

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

Pepperonata with Chilies:

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


News Roundup: Jan. 10-16

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

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