News Roundup: July 19-25

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.

  • “Farm Aid concert coming to Raleigh in September,” News & Observer: Since 1985, Farm Aid has had concerts in 18 states from sea to shining sea. This year, North Carolina makes state No. 19. Farm Aid’s 2014 concert will be Sept. 13 at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. All four members of Farm Aid’s board will perform – founder Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. Over the years, Farm Aid has raised more than $45 million for family farmers with benefit concerts almost every year, pulling everyone from Lou Reed to Julio Iglesias onstage. Dylan, Kenny Chesney, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and Paul Simon are among the many acts to play Farm Aid shows. …
  • “Wonderful watermelon,” Wilmington Star News: Watermelon is a summertime treat that you’ll see popping up at cookouts and other gatherings when the temperature is at its peak. Its high water content offers refreshment and hydration in the midst of the hottest days of the year. According to information from the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the watermelon is of the cucurbitaceae, or gourd, family. The Tar Heel State ranks about eighth in the nation, producing more than 193 million pounds. …
  • “Goat Dairy Industry Sees Big Boost in NC,” Time Warner Cable News: Not everyone wakes up with the sun, but for ten years, Sammy Gray has been doing just that to tend to his more than 200 goats. “When one of my girls dies, it’s like a part of me dies, because I live with them I do everything to kept them healthy,” said Sammy Gray of Wilderness Trail Dairy. Gray spends hours milking more than 165 goats at Wilderness Trail Dairy every day. He sells the milk, which eventually becomes cheese. He says he’s seen a growing demand for goat dairy in the state with more people buying local. “There’s a large demand for the cheese, plus also fluid milk because there’s a lot of people who cannot drink cow milk,” said Gray. …
  • “Wineries thriving in mountains and across the state,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Craft beer gets plenty of attention and promotion in North Carolina. But the state also has a lively wine scene that is constantly adding new players of all sizes. The mountains are home to more than a dozen wineries including America’s most-visited (Biltmore in Asheville) and the nation’s smallest (Calaboose Cellars in Andrews, with just 300 square feet). Wineries (about 129) in North Carolina outnumber breweries (110). The same is true nationally, with 7,946 wineries (according to the National Association of American Wineries) and more than 2,700 craft breweries (according to the Brewers Association). This weekend, a cluster of wineries in Cherokee and Clay counties in N.C., and Towns and Union counties in north Georgia will be officially designated as a federal wine growing American Viticultural Area, the first AVA in the mountains and one of only four such areas in the state. Together, the state’s wineries are packing quite an economic punch, said Whit Winslow, wine marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture. …
  • “North Carolina Innovation, From Barcodes to Berries,” Xconomy: If you’ve made a retail purchase recently, chances are good you used technology developed in Research Triangle Park without even realizing it. The modern day barcode has its origins in the 1970s research of IBM scientists Joseph Woodland and George Laurer. Their work in IBM’s RTP labs was accompanied by the scanning technology to read Universal Product Codes. This technology was so transformative for retail that it found widespread adoption. These days, no one even gives the technology that facilitates their shopping transactions a second thought. Silicon Valley and Boston always top the lists and rankings of technology and life sciences hubs. Like barcodes, Research Triangle Park often remains a distant thought. But there’s a lot happening in North Carolina that the rest of the country doesn’t know about. There’s more happening here than drug research and new cloud-based software. And it’s not just in the Park. …
  • “Tour of poultry plant shows what business may bring to Cumberland County,” Fayetteville Observer: Every day, 60 tractor-trailers loaded with chickens are hauled to Sanderson Farms Inc.’s only North Carolina plant, where they are processed into fresh meat for retailers such as Harris Teeter, Walmart and Lowes Foods. Sanderson Farms, which is considering a Cumberland County site for a processing plant that would employ 1,000 workers, gave The Fayetteville Observer a tour Monday of its Kinston operations employing 1,600. …
  • “State officials close down gas pump after water discovered in tank,” WBTV: Lauren Smith takes pride in the Mercedes that she normally drives, but these days the big sticker on her rear window reads ‘courtesy vehicle,’ and she says there’s a good reason for that. This past Sunday night, Lauren had just filled up with 93 octane at the Quick and Easy convenience store near Trade Street and I-77. “I drove about a mile home and then the next morning I made it about three blocks before the she engine seized up. I had to pull off, it broke down on the side of the road,” she said. After her car was towed to the dealership, Lauren returned to the store to complain, and that’s where she learned of another problem at the pump. …
  • “Premium Lock Precision agriculture: Tech drives next big thing in farming,” WRAL: Farming continues to evolve, becoming even more high tech. The latest wave is called “precision agriculture,” and it was the topic of the NC Ag Biotech Professional Forum at the NC Biotechnology Center, uses GPS guided, self-steering equipment, drones to monitor crops, precise, hyper-local weather reports, and the collection and analysis of data in real time for immediate action or strategic planning. WRAL TechWire Insider Allan Maurer has the exclusive details. …
  • “Agribusiness: What Does NC Produce The Most Of In The U.S.?” WFMY: North Carolina’s agriculture industry contributes $78 billion to the state’s economy. Agribusiness is everything from fish to Christmas trees, cotton to sweet potatoes! North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state. Not a surprise. What is the other crop they produce more than another other state? Sweet potatoes. North Carolina ranks second in the nation for Christmas trees and the production of hogs and turkeys. Agribusiness accounts for nearly 17% of the state’s income and employs 16% of the work force! Four Triad counties are in the top 10 in the state for producing beef cows. And one ranch in Snow Camp has been doing it the old fashioned way for 40+ years. And by old fashioned, we mean the rancher herds the cows by calling them! We visited Little Creek Ranch a few years ago to show you how cattle is Made in the Triad. …
  • “N.C. State Fair makes Fodor’s Top 10 list,” Triangle Business Journal: The North Carolina State Fair, held each October in Raleigh, has made it to Fodor’ s list of Top 10 State Fairs in the U.S. Ours is the only southeastern state fair on the list, and the Midwest dominates the list with five. …
  • “Apple growers escape ‘crazy’ weather with good crop,” Hendersonville Times-News: With the N.C. Apple Festival right around the corner, Henderson County’s apple orchards are lucky to have weathered freeze, frost and hail storms mostly intact, farmers and county extension agents say. “Everybody around has got different damage in different orchards,” said Jerred Nix, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers. “Some places, Romes are affected; other places, they’re not. Some places, Galas are affected, and others they’re fine.” Despite the scattered damage, Nix said they’ll be no lack of unblemished apples in a range of varieties for sale at the Apple Festival, which starts Aug. 29 and runs through Sept. 1. “There’s going to be plenty,” he said. “One grower might be a little bit short on something, but the next two growers are likely to have it. It’s just sporadic the way the weather’s happened. It was so crazy this year.” …





Beetle-trapping wasps help track potentially invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer

Little League, school and travel-club baseball teams are not the only ones making use of baseball diamonds these days.

Some fields are also home to Cerceris fumipennis, a native, non-stinging wasp that bores brood nests into the ground to lay lay its eggs on the beetles it traps and brings to the lair. To look casually at a field, you could easily overlook the tell-tale signs of cerceris wasps — small volcano-shaped eruptions from the ground with larger holes in the center.

A cerceris wasp emerges from its nest.

A cerceris wasp emerges from its nest.

Turns out these beetle-gathering wasps are scientists’ biosurveillence allies in keeping track of beetles in an area — both the good ones and the bad. And, with North Carolina officially joining the ranks in 2013 of states with the highly destructive emerald ash borer, interest is strong in knowing what types of beetles cerceris wasps are capturing, said Whitney Swink, an entomologist working in the NCDA&CS Beneficial Insects Lab. To date, only Connecticut has been successful in identifying emerald ash borers using the cerceris wasp, but other states are operating similar programs to North Carolina’s in an effort to keep watch for the movement of the emerald ash borer.

Entomologist Whitney Swink marks wasps nests with flags on a Louisburg baseball field.

Entomologist Whitney Swink marks wasps nests with flags on a Louisburg baseball field.


“When it comes to destructive beetles, the wasps could locate beetles long before we would notice tree decline. So the hope is we would be able to save trees before they had too much damage,” Swink said.

On a recent sunny summer morning, Swink visited a Louisburg ball field to check wasp activity at the site. Swink and a co-worker had previously identified the field as a good, active site with around 60 easily detected nests. Using bright pink flag markers to note the brood nest sites, Swink waited and watched for the wasps to return to their nests carrying beetles.

Catching the wasps takes a well-trained eye and a quick swing of the net.

Catching a wasp takes a well-trained eye and a quick swing of the net.

Armed with a flowing, butterfly-style net, Swink walked back and forth between the first- and third-base sidelines watching for wasp activity. And it wasn’t too long before her efforts were rewarded. With a well-practiced swipe and twirl of the net, Swink hauled in a wasp with a paralyzed beetle. Before releasing the wasp, Swink carefully measured and wrote down information about the capture, depositing the beetle in a plastic bag to be examined at more length in the lab.

This successful catch has both a wasp, pictured at top of net and the beetle, seen near the bottom.

This successful catch has both a wasp, pictured at top of net, and the beetle, seen near the bottom.

On one side of the field, Swink placed small, rectangular, yellow plastic pieces with holes over the nests. With stones to hold them in place, these served as collars for the nests, allowing enough room for the wasp to enter the nest, but not enough room for them to also take in beetles.

Knowing when a flying wasp was carrying a beetle requires a well-trained eye.

“They have a specific flight pattern, so once you know what they look like, then it is easier to spot them,” she said.

The wasp tends to curl its tail inward and bob up and down close to the ground, she explained. When they are trying to get their bearings to their nests, they tend to fly higher in the air and circle around the site.

Swink places a collar over a nest to aid in the collection of beetles.

Swink places a collar over a nest to aid in the collection of beetles.

While there is a good deal that is known about the wasp, there is still plenty more to discover.

“Our basic understanding is that the adults live six to eight weeks,” Swink said. “When the wasp finds a beetle, she’ll paralyze it and take it into her brood nest and she’ll lay her eggs on it. Her brood will actually kill it after they hatch. Once a female lays as many eggs as she is going to, she plugs up the entrance to her nest. At the end of their flight season, we sometimes find the female dead in the entrance.”

And there are other unexplained behaviors.

When it comes to beetles, the wasps tend to collect all sizes of them, so there is not one particular type they are partial to.

“We don’t know how they find the beetles, whether it’s by sight, by smell, by sound or from some characteristic of damaged trees,” she said. Also, these insects are not known to be social, but Swink has noticed the wasps returning sometimes in clusters, leading to some funny moments in capturing the wasps. “A bunch of them will come back all at once with beetles and I’m running around all over the place trying to collect them.”

One of the interesting aspects of the biosurveillence program is the “Adopt a Colony Program,” where community members can volunteer to monitor a site.

Volunteers will check a site once a week for five to six weeks and then send in their beetles to the lab, Swink said. Most sites are in Western North Carolina, but there are some in the East, too.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the program, contact Swink at 919-233-8214 or by email at












Flavor, NC: Currituck Soft Shell Crabs

Flavor NC logoTwice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode nine of Season 3, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights soft shell crabs from Currituck County and Steamers Restaurant in Corolla. 

“It wouldn’t be summer in the South without a trip to the beach,” says Lisa. “And it wouldn’t be a trip to the beach without seafood.” The North Carolina coast is teeming this time of year with fresh and local fish and shellfish. In 2013, North Carolina’s fisherman harvested 50 million pounds of fish and shellfish. Danny Newbern, a fisherman from Powells Point, has been fishing and crabbing the waters of Currituck Sound for about 30 years. Each season he harvests 15,000 to 20,000 soft-shell crabs. A soft shell crab is a blue crab that has outgrown it’s shell. A blue crab molts its shell about 20 times throughout the course of its life, giving a fisherman about 20 times to catch him. Beginning with the first full moon of May, Newbern traps the crabs and checks for ones getting ready to molt. These soft shell crabs are then sold at seafood markets and to restaurants.

One of these restaurants is Steamers in Corolla. Lisa spent some time in the kitchen to learn the basics of cooking soft shell crabs. Chef Chris Braswell also shared a few recipes including the one below for Baked Soft Shell Crab:


  • 4 soft shell crabs washed and cleaned
  • ½ pound peeled local shrimp
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • ½ stick of butter
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 batch Chermoula Sauce (recipe follows)

Combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Season soft-shell crabs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in saute pan and saute crabs on each side until brown, about one or two minutes. Remove crabs and place in a baking dish top-side up. Deglaze saute pan with white wine. Add garlic, butter and shallots and reduce. Add shrimp to Garlic Shallot Saute. Heat for two to three minutes. Top soft shell crabs with shrimp saute and bread crumb/cheese mix. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Plate and drizzle with Chermoula Sauce

Chermoula Sauce:


  • 1 cup cilantro, stems and leaves
  • ½ cup parsley, stems and leaves
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Mix cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and spices in a food processor. Mix well, chopping stems and leaves to a pulp. Slowly blend in olive oil.

For more recipes, visit the Got to Be N.C. seafood cookbook at


Today’s Topic: Legislature makes change in farm-income requirements for sales-tax exemption

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

Farmers across North Carolina recently received letters from the state Department of Revenue alerting them to changes in the eligibility requirements for the exemption on sales taxes for supplies they purchase, and the steps farmers need to take if they want to continue to qualify. The NCDA&CS has received a number of calls and emails about this issue, because it’s going to affect a good number of small farmers.

The General Assembly’s tax modernization act last year increased the minimum level of farm revenue required for farmers to qualify for the sales-tax exemption. The minimum income needed to qualify was increased from $1,000 to $10,000, and it took effect July 1. Farmers can also qualify if their average gross income in the previous three years was $10,000.

The bottom line here is that many small farmers are now at risk of losing their sales-tax exemption. Commissioner Troxler says he shares their frustration over these changes and is concerned about their effects on small farms.

When legislators first began discussing possible changes to tax laws, the proposals were more far-reaching and potentially even more detrimental to farmers. The department fought to keep the sales-tax exemption for farms, but unfortunately the legislature increased the amount of revenue required to qualify for the exemption.

Farmers with questions about how to reapply for their exemption can call the Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Assistance and Collection Center at 1-877-252-4487. Information also is available on the Revenue Department’s website.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss these changes and their potential impacts.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


Made in NC: Norm’s Farms

gtbGRCM12 5x16metalsignIn celebration of Got to Be N.C. month we are featuring local farms and businesses and their products that are Grown. Raised. Caught. Made. here. This week we focus on Made, highlighting Norm’s Farms in Pittsboro.

Rodger Lenhardt, his wife Ann, and daughter Erin are elderberry farmers who use their crop plus the berries from other growers to make jellies, jams and extracts that are sold in about 60 retail locations in the state. “Our products are produced and distributed in North Carolina but only a small portion of our elderberry is grown here,” Lenhardt said. “We are hoping to change that by working with small farmers who are interested in growing elderberry for us.”  Lenhardt sells nursery stock on his website to encourage farmers and homeowners to grow elderberry on their land. It takes about five or six years for an elderberry plant to reach full productivity.

D’vine Foods in Elizabethtown processes the jams, jellies and extracts for Norm’s Farms and then the products are stored at a warehouse in Raleigh. “It’s been a great relationship with them,” Lenhardt said. “They have even helped us with sourcing local blueberries and other commodities for our products. We introduced blueberry-elderberry preserves at the Taste of Charlotte show last month it was a big hit. I think it going to be a great seller.”

Norm’s Farms is a frequent participator in shows and events hosted by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It was at one of these shows he met buyers from Whole Foods that offered him good advice. He was packaging his elderberry juice in barbecue sauce-style bottles. The problem was they didn’t fit on store shelves except for the very top or bottom, which isn’t an ideal place for selling. Also, calling his product a juice confused the consumer. “They weren’t sure if the product was a juice or a sauce, or how to use it,” Lenhardt said. He took the buyers’ advice and changed the shape and size of the bottle to one that fit on shelves easier, and changed the name of the product to extract instead of juice. “Extract actually is a better description of the product and its use,” he said. At the next Flavors Show, the regional buyer for Whole Foods placed an order that put Norm’s Farm’s Elderberry Extract and Elderberry Wellness Syrup in all 10 North Carolina stores. “We stay busy doing demos at these locations as well as other retail locations we are in,” Lenhardt added.

Norm's Farms display at a Whole Foods in Chapel Hill.

Norm’s Farms display at a Whole Foods in Chapel Hill.

Norm’s Farms continues to participate in NCDA&CS-sponsored events and shows. These include The Flavors of Carolina, Got to Be N.C. Food and Wine Expo and, Lenhartd’s favorite, The Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. “We were in the Got to Be N.C. section last year and it was a successful show for us,” he said. “It opened a few doors for us to be at other music festival shows that were coming up.”

“Setting up a booth and attending shows is a great way to get your product known with food buyers and the public. It certainly has helped us form relationships with customers, other small businesses and interested buyers. We extend a huge thank you to the NCDA&CS staff that set up and sponsor shows like The Flavors of Carolina.”

Lenhardt’s goals for future growth include growing more elderberry in North Carolina, including finding two or three acres in Chatham County to grow. “We would really like to be a part of the Chatham County Farm Tour,” he said. He is also looking into gaining a few angel investors to help fund test plots in North Carolina in the Piedmont, Mountain and Coastal Plain areas. “We would like to get some national attention for elderberry, and its health benefits, as well.”

More information on N.C. specialty foods can be found online. For upcoming events visit

Next week: Caught in North Carolina, featuring a Carteret County seafood market and community-supported fishery.


News Roundup: July 12-18

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.

  • “NCDA’s ‘Dig Into Local’ Restaurant Week Underway,” Southern Farm Network: This summer’s restaurant promotion through North Carolina Department of Agriculture is a bit different than in years past. Tim Parrish, Food Service Marketing Specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, explains: “We have taken a spin off a restaurant week promotion and created a promotion called ‘Dig Into Local Restaurant Week’ as a fixed source week. These chefs are agreeing to put at least four items in their menu that have NC connections.” …
  • “New Sales Tax Exemption Guidelines for North Carolina Farmers,” Southern Farm Network: North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Jake Parker and Paul Sherman are featured in a short video that outlines the new sales tax exemption guidelines that affect the state’s farmers – enacted by the state’s General Assembly recently. Parker and Sherman outline how a farmer maintains sales tax exemption for his farm, and the procedures required to qualify, the forms needed, and corresponding deadlines. …
  • “Hydroponic Lettuce Takes Root In Eastern NC,” Perishable News: Jedd Koehn is a young and innovative agricultural entrepreneur. Raised on an organic row-crop farm in western Kansas, he moved to North Carolina about nine years ago, wanting to live “where it was green.” Last November, his Pitt County company, Coastal Plains Produce, harvested its first crop of hydroponic lettuce. Now he finds himself surrounded by lots of green: 13 kinds of lettuce, plus watercress, arugula and dandelion greens. …
  • “Eat a peach, Asheville,” Asheville Citizen-Times News: Along with tomatoes and corn, peaches rank high on the list of most-coveted summer foods. Even those who rarely set foot in a farmers market are likely to be drawn by the prospect of buying a bushel of the fragrant, fuzzy fruit. How about the thought of a still-warm cobbler with vanilla ice cream mingling with the syrup as it melts? See WNC Parent editor Katie Wadington’s cobbler recipe and peach-buying tips (at the end of this story). The WNC Farmers Market (570 Brevard Road) is bursting with peaches these days, though plenty come from out of state. There’s no shame in that, but plenty of local orchards grow peaches, too, even though we have precious few streets named after the sweet fruit for which Georgia is known. Molly Nicholie, of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project said even though our area is best known for berries and apples, local orchards also bear plenty of peaches and plums. “South Carolina’s heat helps with the sweetness, but it’s not that much hotter,” she said, adding that ASAP’s Local Food Guide lists a large number of local farms growing peaches. …
  • “Store caters to local food lovers,” Winston-Salem Journal: When Becky Zollicoffer worked in a medical office, she never found time to go to farmers markets. She still doesn’t have time, but that’s OK. …
  • “Lorillard deal keeps Greensboro ahead of pack,” Greensboro News & Record: Greensboro leaders breathed a tad easier Tuesday after learning there’s a chance the massive sale of Lorillard might keep many of the tobacco company’s 2,900 jobs intact, including cigarette-making, product research, sales and management functions. As part of the 250-year-old cigarette-maker’s $27.4 billion sale to Reynolds American, a British company — Imperial Tobacco — would take control of Lorillard’s manufacturing, headquarters and research facilities in the Gate City. …
  • “Tobacco Company Merger Not a Great Concern for Producers,” Southern Farm Network: Triad-based Reynolds-American and Lorillard cigarette makers have agreed to merge, who together will have about 45% market share, with Phillip Morris continuing to have the majority of market share in the US. Blake Brown, NC State Extension economist says producers should take note of the merger, but not be especially concerned: “I think its something to take note of but it’s a trend we have seen for three decades. We have seen consolidation consistently and we will see some more. The part they need to be concerned about is what happens with e-cigarettes and noncombustible products. The new types of nicotine delivery will really have an impact on them over the next five years. It could have an impact on how much tobacco the companies need.” …
  • “Good morning! I’m here to scout your crop,” Delta Farm Press: They stir the imagination and tickle the fancy of possibility, but for now, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in agriculture are still a work in progress. They don’t zap insects, pull pigweeds or drive hungry deer from soybean fields – just yet. When a GPS signal shifts without warning, they might just land in a ditch full of water. Sometimes, they just fly off into the wild blue yonder. But they can “see” fields from new perspectives, detect pest infestations more quickly, spot problems in equipment and get around the farm faster than you ever could in a pickup truck, leaving you more time to figure out, say, the new farm bill. …
  • “Late blight threatens Carolinas tomatoes,” Lake Norman News: Late blight, the dreaded disease that wiped out the East Coast tomato crop in 2009, has shown up again in North Carolina. First identified in late June on potatoes growing in the Coastal Plain, it has also attacked a field of tomatoes in the mountains near Hendersonville. Dr. Lina Quesada-Ocampo, plant pathologist with N.C. State University, warns that the late blight pathogen can travel long distances and lurk in gardens and fields until environmental conditions are right, then destroy crops virtually overnight. …
  • “Recent Heavy Rains Not Hampering Crops,” WITN: The summer growing season is well underway and we wanted to see how crops are faring after all the heavy rains we’ve had lately. At the Davenport Farm in Pitt County growers tell us crops like soy beans and tobacco are handling the rain well. They did caution that those crops, along with peanuts and cotton, still have to make it through to the fall before they’ll be ready for harvest. …




Peach ice cream is a cool treat for a hot summer day

Today is National Peach Ice Cream Day and nothing compares to the sweet taste of homemade ice cream on a hot summer’s day. With North Carolina’s peach season in full swing, it’s the perfect time to head over to your local farmers market, pick up a few fresh peaches and whip up some homemade peach ice cream. North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for peach production, with farmers growing about 35 million pounds of peaches each year. That makes for a lot of peach ice cream!

Also, if you are in the Triad area tomorrow, head over to Peach Day at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax where they’ll be giving away free peach ice cream samples from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Celebrate Peach Ice Cream Day by trying out the recipe below.


  • 3 cups peach pulp
  • 2 quarts milk
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 4  eggs (slightly beaten )


To the peach pulp add the lemon juice and 1 cup of the sugar–all to stand 1 hour. Add the other cup of sugar and salt to the beaten eggs. Then blend in half of the milk. Cook the sugar, egg, and milk mixture over boiling water to create thick custard. Cool. Add the remainder of milk, the cream that has been partially whipped, the flavoring, and sweetened peach pulp. Pour mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Instructions and time may vary.) Recipe makes 1 gallon of ice cream.




The Butterfly Effect: The impact of an invasive disease on native butterfly populations

If we lose the redbay tree, we may also lose the Palamedes Swallowtail, which feeds almost exclusively on redbay as a caterpillar (caterpillar pictured left; adult pictured right).  Images: Left: J. N. Dell, University of Georgia,; Right: J. Payne, USDA,

If we lose the redbay tree, we may also lose the Palamedes Swallowtail, which feeds almost exclusively on redbay as a caterpillar (caterpillar pictured left; adult pictured right). Images: Left: J. N. Dell, University of Georgia,; Right: J. Payne, USDA,

Laurel wilt disease, a disease caused by a fungal pathogen, has already had major impacts on redbay trees across the Southeast. The pathogen is spread from tree to tree by the non-native redbay ambrosia beetle, a small insect that seeks out healthy redbays. A single beetle attacking a tree can spell doom and trees may die in as little as a few weeks. Already known to occur in six N.C. counties, the disease continues to spread.

While the death of redbay may not garner as much attention as, say, the death of a valuable lumber species such as walnut or ash, the ecological effects of losing redbay could be quite significant, especially for one of North Carolina’s most charismatic butterflies.

The Palamedes swallowtail feeds almost exclusively on redbay as a caterpillar. In turn, many fear that losing the redbay also means losing the Palamedes swallowtail. To determine if this is true, the N.C. Forest Service Forest Health Section has teamed up with Dr. John Riggins at Mississippi State University to survey the populations of swallowtails in areas both affected and unaffected by laurel wilt. By comparing the population dynamics in these areas over time, a population trend of the butterflies can be determined.

Are the populations indeed decreasing? Preliminary data seems to suggest so, but only time will tell. This summer marks the second year that NCFS will conduct the survey. For more information about laurel wilt, visit NCFS’ laurel wilt FAQ page.


July: What’s happening on the farm?

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month 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 Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs.

Tree Work #1

Alex Addison trims the research station’s Fraser fir crop.

The Christmas season may be several months away, but in Ashe County, known as the Christmas tree capital of the world, it’s growing season and Christmas tree farmers are busy. The Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs has about 15 acres of Christmas trees. These trees are used in research including ground cover studies, needle retention rates, shearing practices, pest management and fertilization techniques.

“Christmas trees are a year-round crop,” said Tracy Taylor, interim superintendent. “In the dead of winter after harvest it’s a little slower, but spring through the growing season is busy managing weeds and insects. Just like any other crop, it’s a full-time job during growing season.”

Trees are sheared annually in the spring, and during July research station staff are spraying for weeds, keeping the grass mowed between the trees and other maintenance needed on the fields of trees at the station.

Tree work #3

Research station employee Bill Fairchild walks through a stand of young Fraser firs.

Most of the trees at the station are about 5 to 12 years old. Christmas trees start their life in a seed bed, where they grow for about two to three years, then they are transferred to a line bed for another year or so. The Christmas trees that dot the landscape at the station are already around 5 or 6 years old when planted.

The station also maintains a seed orchard for Fraser firs. A seed orchard is a managed area of trees that are maintained for their genetics and used to create new trees or to re-establish a forest. At the station, the trees are grafted with specific genetics and seeds cans be harvested with these known genetics.

In addition to the fertilizer, weed control and pest management studies, several post-harvest studies are performed on the trees. These studies include best harvesting time, needle retention rates and flammability studies. One study is being done of a different variety of tree, the Turkish fir, to study its disease resistance and tolerance to North Carolina’s climate. Many of the results of the research being done at the station is presented to growers at the annual N.C. Christmas Tree Association meeting. The good news for consumers is that many of these studies will lead to hardier trees for the Christmas season.

Happy Cows #6

Cows graze at the research station.

Christmas trees are not the only crop keeping staff busy at the station this month. The Upper Mountain Research Station is just one of two stations in the state that grows burley tobacco for research. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries also are grown at the station as part of the effort to study ways to extend the availability of fresh North Carolina berries. And, the station is the only seed orchard for the Carolina Hemlock in the United States.

During the hot summer months, beef cattle from the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville are relocated here to spend the summer. In July, there are about 150 beef cattle at the station. Just like kids at summer camp, the cattle enjoy the cooler temperatures  and graze on the abundant cool season grasses. “Other stations will use their fields to grow hay and other silage during the summer months,” said Taylor. “Sending the cattle here allows them to get their work done in the fields. It sounds like they are coming up here for summer camp, but there is really a lot more behind it.”

Recently, North Carolina changed its approach to beef cattle and has moved toward creating a single statewide beef research herd. This will help remove variability in research and increase the study size for research. Another advantage to the cattle spending the summers in cooler mountain air is that they stay reproductive in the heat of the summer.

To help support the beef cattle research, the station is in the middle of renovating one of its buildings into an indoor livestock facility for working cattle. This would include space for vaccinating, de-worming, weighing and more. Also underway is a project to replace fencing at the station, including 50 acres of pasture land, and provide well water instead of creek water for the cattle to drink.

Whether you think of work at the Upper Mountain Research Station this month as Christmas in July, or cows gone camping, one things for sure: It’s a busy time at this farm.





Today’s Topic: Tobacco growers approve assessment program

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

Flue-cured tobacco growers in North Carolina recently approved an assessment to support the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina’s efforts to promote the interests of its farmers. The assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Growers approved an assessment of up to 15 cents per hundred pounds of flue-cured tobacco sold in North Carolina. But initially, the association will collect only 10 cents per hundred pounds. The assessment will begin this year and will be collected when farmers sell their tobacco. Tobacco buyers will submit collected funds to the NCDA&CS for distribution to the association.

Until now, tobacco was one of the few commodities in the state without a checkoff program to support advocacy work. Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill authorizing the Tobacco Growers Association to conduct the referendum.

This assessment joins existing checkoff programs that support tobacco research and export promotion.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the new tobacco checkoff program.

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