Today’s Topic: Sixteen NC counties among top 100 places for farming in US

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

Farm Futures Magazine recently ranked the best places to farm in the nation, and North Carolina had a strong showing with 16 counties among the top 100. Bladen County, ranked 10th, was the highest-ranked North Carolina county.

Farm Futures calculated financial ratios and performance for more than 3,000 counties across the U.S. The magazine analyzed Census of Agriculture data from 2002, 2007 and 2012 to compile its rankings. The magazine’s staff calculated countywide financial performance by looking at many factors, including profit margin, asset turnover and average net farm income.

Editors noted that the 2012 data included information from a time when record high corn and soybean prices and long-term drought were hurting livestock producers across the country. And nursery and greenhouse operations were still hurting from the recession’s effects on the housing industry. Commissioner Troxler says that might explain why Duplin and Sampson counties, which led the survey a few years ago, weren’t ranked as high this time.

In addition to Bladen, other North Carolina counties ranked in the top 100 were Hertford (11), Anson (19), Wayne (24), Pender (25), Montgomery (32), Duplin (37), Sampson (40), Wilkes (46), Greene (51), Edgecombe (53), Union (54), Onslow (57), Richmond (81), Beaufort (82) and Lenoir (97).

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this survey, what North Carolina’s strong showing says about agriculture in the state, and to find out which U.S. county ranked first.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


News Roundup: Sept. 13-19

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.

  • “Small farmers, female farmers to benefit from Louisburg event,” The News & Observer: On Sunday night, Franklin County farmer Martha Mobley will gaze out on a meadow across from her family’s home place and, she hopes, see hundreds of people gathered for a feast. For Mobley, this will be more than another farm-to-table event in a community where those happen every other week; it will be the fulfillment of a promise made to her late mother and her late husband.Mobley, 55, works as a livestock extension agent in Franklin County and owns Meadow Lane Farm in Louisburg. She sells grass-fed beef, pork and goat meat as well as organic vegetables at the Durham Farmers’ Market. In 2012, she lost her mother, Marjorie Leonard, who ran the family’s 1,000-acre farm for decades. In August 2013, Mobley lost her husband and fellow farmer, Steve, at the age of 58. After her mother died, Mobley and her husband accepted donations instead of flowers to start a nonprofit to help women in agriculture, a cause dear to her mother. Steve Mobley was actively organizing an event for last fall as a fundraiser to fulfill his mother-in-law’s wishes. …
  • “Public gets behind-scenes look at at Person Co. buffalo farm,” Durham Herald-Sun:  Visitors to 14 Person County farms were treated to a behind the scenes look at what it means to be part of the number one industry in the county. The third annual Person County Farm Tour allowed for a variety of tours to take place across the county. From organic vegetables to a dairy farm, and even a farm where buffalo are raised, there were plenty of options for farm-goers. Guests at the Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm just outside of Roxboro were able to get a look at a portion of the meat industry that many don’t get to see. …
  • “Hog virus cases dwindle over summer, but threat remains,” WRAL: Summer temperatures in North Carolina have slowed the spread of a virus deadly to young pigs that has decimated swine herds across the country. The highly contagious porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has hit hog farms across the country hard since it was first detected in April 2013. Since then, the disease has killed 10 percent of the nation’s hog population by some estimates, primarily in the winter months. But with fall looming, livestock farmers and veterinarians in North Carolina say they hope the measures they’ve put in place to stop the virus will prevent the massive die-offs they saw last winter, which resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the state’s $2 billion industry. “We’re all holding our breath to see what happens,” said Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health programs at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We’ve only had one winter, and that’s been kind of a horrendous winter for us.” PEDv is classified as a coronavirus, which all share a common enemy in heat and humidity. Summer means PEDv can’t spread as regularly, and that’s brought the number of new cases identified nationally down to around 60 per week from a peak of about 350. …
  • “Festival pays homage to the grape,” Wilmington Star News: The billboards along I-40 shout about the hoopla that is the N.C. Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville – 260 wines to tempt you, loads of regional foods and crafts to interest you, and four bands to move you Sept. 26-27. The event originated as a serious business, with a plan put together by Lynn Davis, a Kenansville native with an MBA from East Carolina University, who was working for a Winston-Salem health-supplement company when the festival launched in 2005. “There were three reasons it made sense to do this,” says Davis, now the event’s executive director. The tobacco buyout across the state in 2004 gave farmers a reason to consider alternative crops. “Why not wine,” says Davis. “Especially since our dry sandy soil is conducive to grape growing.” …
  • “Mycotoxins a concern for North Carolina corn farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: The issue of mycotoxins in corn isn’t one of the most pleasant conversational topics for corn farmers, but North Carolina Extension Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger stresses that mycotoxins are a major concern in North Carolina that needs to be addressed. “There are no good mycotoxins. We want it gone, stomped out, eliminated. It’s just like a weed in a field. There is no good weed, and the same is true about mycotoxins,” Heiniger said at a corn aflatoxin control field day held Aug. 14 at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station’s Fountain Farm in Rocky Mount. A mycotoxin that is of top concern in North Carolina is aflatoxin which is caused by ear rot fungi Aspergillus Flavus, according to Heiniger. Aflatoxin is harmful to livestock and humans, and by law corn with high mycotoxin levels cannot be sold and should not be harvested, Heiniger said. …
  • “Richmond County in top 100 for farming,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Richmond County is one of the United States’ 100 best places to farm, according to a magazine group’s analysis of census data from more than 3,000 U.S. counties. Farm Futures, whose corporate parent FarmProgress publishes 17 agriculture-industry magazines, ranked Richmond County 81st in the nation. Susan Kelly, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Richmond County extension center, said she wasn’t surprised. “If you’re thinking about starting a farm, Richmond County is the place to be,” Kelly said. “Many counties weren’t even mentioned in the top 3,000. It is very significant.” The Tar Heel State fared well in the Farm Futures survey. …
  • “Hoke County’s 30-year Turkey Festival to get new name,” Fayetteville Observer: Lady Bird has been strutting her stuffing for the past 30years. This week, the well-seasoned mascot of the North Carolina Turkey Festival will waddle off into the sunset. The Turkey Festival, which annually swells the population of Hoke County with a home-grown collection of events and competitions, will close its barnyard door after this Saturday. In its place, community volunteers hope to launch what they’re calling the North Carolina Poultry Festival, with similar activities and wider commercial appeal. …
  • “Sky Top Orchard named one of the best places to go apple-picking,” Hendersonville Times News: Zirconia’s own Sky Top Orchard is tops in the country when it comes to apple-picking, according to recently published article from Bustle, a national online women’s magazine. “We’ve been lucky over the years to have different editors, readers and folks in the media take notice of our uniqueness,” said David Butler, who runs Sky Top Orchard alongside his wife, Lindsey. “We’re thrilled about it. We’re just flattered.” The article published less than a week ago names the 10 best places in the country to go apple-picking. Sky Top was joined by nine other orchards from around the country, including Stribling Orchard in Markham, Va., Brighton Woods Orchard in Burlington, Wis. and Johnson Orchards in Yakima, Wash. …
  • “NC State receives $12.4 million grant from Gates Foundation for sweet potato research,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University will receive $12.4 million over the next four years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve a crop that is an important food staple in sub-Saharan Africa – the sweet potato. The grant will fund work to develop modern genomic, genetic and bioinformatics tools to improve the crop’s ability to resist diseases and insects and tolerate drought and heat. Sweet potatoes are an important food security and cash crop with potential to alleviate hunger, vitamin A deficiency and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 13.5 million metric tons are produced in sub-Saharan Africa annually; they are predominantly grown in small plot holdings by poor women farmers. …
  • “Forget the Bookmobile—This Town’s Getting a Farmers Market on Wheels,” Summer interns can do more than fetch coffee and fix the photocopier. In Guilford County, N.C., an intern’s experience with a family-owned food truck is helping bring fresh food to the area’s 24 food deserts. More than 60,000 residents of Guilford County live more than a mile from a supermarket, more than 20 percent live below the poverty line, and many don’t have cars. “We got an idea about two years to do a mobile farmer’ market, and we wrote a grant about a year ago to a local foundation to refurbish a bus,” Janet Mayer, a nutritionist with the Guilford Department of Health and Human Services in Greensboro, the county seat, said in an interview. “When we received the grant and started to lay the groundwork for the bus, we realized there was a lot of money and details we hadn’t counted on.” …
  • Peanuts focus of field day,” Kingstree News: Peanuts are continuing to grow in popularity among farmers. As peanut production increases so does the need for knowledge to produce high quality and high yields. Local farmer Brian McClam hosted a field day event that brought 113 farmers from two states for that purpose. Representatives from Severn Peanut Company, the Department of Agriculture, several chemical companies, and Clemson Extension provided a wealth of information applicable to peanut production. McClam, who farms 418 acres of peanuts, is host to 80 test plats. “Field trails are priceless to farmers being that they allow you to take a look into the future on seed varieties and chemicals without ever having to purchase them,” said McClam. “This allows you to make better management decisions when the time comes.” McClam said Wayne Nixon, agronomist for Severn, oversaw the test project. “He (Nixon) is the star of the show,” said McClam of the former NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Regional Agronomist and respected advisor to farmers. “He’s the one that did it all. He visited these test plats every week.” Nixon and Dr. Jay W. Chapin, professor of entomology discussed the varieties planted on McClam’s test site as well as diseases and timely management. Attendants also enjoyed a demonstration of a Brazilian made rotary-system peanut combine. …
  • “Two new dehydration facilities in North Carolina to open, another possible,” The Produce News: North Carolina is the nation’s leading grower of both sweet potatoes and tobacco, and two or possibly three new facilities opening Sept. 30 and in the second quarter of 2015 will build on both products to create new markets for farmers. The new companies will be located in Farmville and Nashville, and possibly Goldsboro, in eastern North Carolina where about half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown. The plants will produce dried sweet potatoes — sliced, diced or ground into flour — and juices that will compete in the $60 billion global health and wellness beverage market, the $143 billion U.S. healthy foods market and the global pet food market, expected to reach $74.8 billion by 2017. …
  • “The Label You Should Look for at Your Supermarket,” Farming runs in Robert Elliot’s family — but he never expected that he’d make a living off of the land. Instead, he served in the Marines, completing five years of active duty service before returning to the U.S. and taking a job as a contractor for the Marine Corps. In 2011, he was abruptly laid off along with many others due to budget cuts, and he didn’t know what to do. “It was hard to make ends meet so I moved home,” he tells Shumurial Ratliff of WNCN News. Back home in Louisburg, N.C., on the land his family used to farm, Elliot decided to try his hand at the old family profession, establishing Cypress Hall Farms with the help of the nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition. The organization supports veterans looking to transition into farming with resource guides, training and funding opportunities. It partners with Homegrown by Heroes to help veteran farmers label their produce with a patriotic-looking sticker that informs consumers know that they’re buying food grown by vets. …



Flavor, NC: Goodnight Brothers County Ham, Boone

Flavor NCTwice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode three of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Goodnight Brothers County Ham and The Gamekeeper Restaurant in Boone.

“Think country ham only comes on a biscuit?” asks Lisa. “Well get ready to think again if you are talking about all-natural country ham from the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains.”  Ham is the hind leg of a hog and country ham is the salted and seasoned version. Goodnight Brothers County Ham hasn’t significantly altered the way they season their country ham since opening in 1948.  In the video below,  they show it is still all about ingredients, aging and climate.


After learning a little about the curing process, Lisa visits with the chef and owner of Gamekeeper Restaurant, Ken Gorden. He provides the recipe below for Seared country-ham-wrapped asparagus.


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 6 slices Goodnight Brothers thin-sliced country ham
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Trim away the fibrous base of the asparagus then blanch in seasoned boiling water for a couple of minutes until cooked but still crisp. Shock in an ice bath to cool. Wrap asparagus with ham in groups of two to five, depending on size of asparagus. Sear in hot pan or on griddle with a splash of olive oil until ham is lightly bronzed on all sides. Place on serving dish. Serve hot or room temperature with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction, crumbled goat cheese, roasted tomato slices and cracked pepper.

To make balsamic reduction, simply cook ½ cup of balsamic vinegar in a small pan until reduced by at least half. Test by drizzling a few drops of reduction on a room temperature plate, waiting a few seconds for it to cool, then test consistency with your finger.
Watch Flavor, NC on WUNC TV. Season four premiers Thursday, Oct. 2 at 10:30 p.m.


Today’s Topic: New reports from Market News Service focus on sales of local food

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 State and Federal Market News Service is launching a series of new reports focusing on locally produced agricultural products. Reports for the state-operated farmers markets in Raleigh and Asheville, which list current wholesale prices, are now online. Another new report is Farm to School information, which provides total produce sales delivered plus unit prices.

In addition, the Market News Service is developing reports for direct-to-consumer sales, which will capture the prices of commodities that farmers market to consumers. Reports on grass-fed beef are expected to be available this month.

Consumer interest and demand for locally grown foods has grown significantly in the past 10 years. This has been a win-win for farmers and the economy. Consumers are enjoying more foods straight from the farm, which is creating new markets and supporting the local economy.

According to USDA figures, the total value of direct sales from farms to consumers was $31.8 million in 2012.

The new reports will provide users with information that can assist them with making informed business decisions. The information can assist producers with their financial planning, assist insurance companies with settling insurance claims, and benefit other members of the industry. These new reports will be a nice addition to the wide variety of information provided by the Market News Service. Reports include information on prices, volume, quality, condition and other market data on farm products in specific markets and marketing areas.

To view reports, click here .

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this topic.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


September: What’s happening on the farm?

Muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

Muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

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 Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville.

September is N.C. Wine and Grape Month and a perfect opportunity to highlight some of the research going on at our stations with muscadine grapes. Muscadines are grapes that are native to southern North America and are for sale this time of year at farmers markets and grocery stores. The grapes are also used in wine production. Muscadine grape research is conducted at Upper Piedmont, Sandhills and Castle Hayne research stations by James Ballington, professor emeritus of horticulture science at N.C. State University.

“The research we are doing is mostly to identify additional breeding varieties,” Ballington said. “We are looking for large-fruited grapes for the fresh market (retail sale), cold hardiness, and for red-fruited wines, grapes that maintain a stable color.” The grapes are also evaluated for disease resistance. “We do not spray the grapes,” he said, “we let nature take its course. With some varieties, fruit rot is a problem.”

White muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station

White muscadine grapes at the Upper Piedmont Research Station.

Only about two acres of grapes are grown at Upper Piedmont Research Station. However, the research going on here is important to study cold hardiness of the vines. “Last winter was really cold and you can see a lot of damage on the vines,” Ballington said. “However, the fruit that the vines are producing is promising. There is uniform ripening within the clusters.” Muscadines are typically harvested by picking individual berries. If the grapes could be harvested in clusters, similar to the way table grapes are sold in grocery stores, they would have a longer shelf life.

Ballington’s trials will continue a few more years with these vines. “The next step is replicated trials,” he said. “This is where we compare the fruit being produced to what is considered to be industry standard. For white grapes the fruit would be compared to the Carlos variety, for red grapes, the Noble variety.”

After the replicated trials, Ballington would hope to propagate the cuttings and do observation trials with grape growers. He hopes the research leads to better grapes for the wine and grape industry.

Compared to other crops at the Upper Piedmont Research Station, maintaining the vineyard could be seen as easy. “We keep the middle rows cut, undergrowth sprayed back with herbicide and the trunks cut back,” said Joe French, station superintendent. But a two-acre vineyard is just one of the projects going on at this 835-acre research station.

“Right now we are harvesting about 20 acres of sorghum,” French said. “We are also gradually getting back about 50 cows from the Upper Mountain Research Station.” The station is sending its bull calves to Butner for a feed-efficiency study. “Animals are like people,” French said. “Some eat a lot and gain a little, others eat a little and gain a lot.”

Other work at the station includes horticultural trials of medicinal herbs. The Upper Piedmont Research Station is also home to one of the longest soil science trials, with research on no-till corn and soybeans ongoing for more than 30 years.

For the past 15 years, the station has hosted the N.C. Angus Association Spring Feeder Sale on the first Saturday in May. The station is also home to the Rockingham County Farmers Market, which is held Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to October. The market offers produce and crafts by local farmers and artists, and the station hopes that in the future the market can be used to test market new crops being grown at the research stations. In addition, the station hosts the 1.5-mile Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail, which is maintained by station staff and open to the public.

With harvest time here for many crops and cows returning home, it’s a busy time to be in Reidsville.


The Upper Piedmont Research Station is home to about 150 head of cattle.







USDA designates 5 coastal counties as disaster areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Pamlico County as a primary natural disaster area because of damages and losses caused by excessive rain and winds that occurred when Hurricane Arthur hit the North Carolina coast on July 3. Farmers and ranchers in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven and Hyde counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 10, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.

Additional information is also available online at

-Information from USDA


News Roundup: Sept. 5-12

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 Equipment Manufacturing to Wine Making on the Same Farm,” Southern Farm Network: September is wine and grape month in North Carolina, and you can’t talk about either without talking to Ron Taylor, with LuMil Vineyards, and DiVine Foods in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Taylor talks about how they got their start in the grape and wine business: “Well, what we were doing at Taylor Manufacturing making tobacco, cotton and peanut equipment, that kind of thing, and with the buyout of the federal tobacco program, and we were looking for other implements to make. So, we put in a few acres of grapes just to do research & development to make equipment. We made an automatic grape harvesters, sprayers, and pruners, we have sold this equipment throughout the muscadine belt, primarily and in other grape producing areas particularly, and that put us in the grape growing business.” …
  • “The great pumpkin: NC man’s 1,296-pound fruit sets a state record,” The News & Observer: By Aug. 22, Danny Vester’s prize pumpkin had grown to the size of a small boulder, so he loaded it onto a forklift and gently dropped it in the bed of his 4×4 pickup, where it fit with only a half-inch to spare. Vester then drove south to a pumpkin weigh-off in Alabama, his treasure secured in a nest of hay. Passing drivers snapped pictures, waved arms and honked horns, so distracted by the moon-sized fruit that they wouldn’t let him change lanes, forcing Vester to tote his giant gourd through the middle of Atlanta. “Something about a big pumpkin on the back of a pickup truck will make people happy,” said Vester, 60.  …
  • “Farm Fresh offering early cured sweet potatoes,” The Produce News: With most North Carolina farms growing diverse crops, it’s hard to pinpoint a solid start date for the harvest of North Carolina sweet potatoes, according to Steven Ceccarelli, the owner of Farm Fresh Produce Inc., based in Faison, NC. Ceccarelli said Sept. 5 that about 10-20 percent of the sweet potato harvest was complete. But many growers also harvest tobacco, and from a farm management and labor point of view, tobacco harvest would precede sweet potatoes. Farmers of peanuts or other crops would have still other harvest schedules. But for Ceccarelli, an early start is important, and he planned to be the season’s first exporter of cured sweet potatoes. “We will have cured potatoes this weekend,” which would be Sept. 6, he said. The curing process can take between two and six weeks, depending on variables such as ambient temperature and humidity. The two-week process is a “quick cure” he said. “It takes a month for a full cure, but six weeks if you have unfavorable conditions.” …
  • “Area breweries investing millions, adding staff,”Asheville Citizen-Times: Asheville’s craft brewery boom continues to see explosive growth, with local beer producers dropping millions on expansions and staff. The $175 million New Belgium brewery going up in West Asheville along the French Broad River stands out as the area’s biggest project, and it reflects the nation’s growing preference for craft beer, such as IPAs, pale ales, bitters and others styles. Year-to-date sales for craft beer are up 20 percent in 2014 from 2013 numbers, according to the Brewers Association trade group. Overall, craft beer was 7.8 percent of beer sold in 2013, the association said. …
  • “Chickens come home to roost for Tim Cathey,” Lincolnton Times-News: Tim Cathey is a disruptive innovator. He finds unexpected solutions to problems and creates new technology in the process. Some of that technology may soon impact farming practices in Lincoln County and beyond. Through his company, Novovita, Cathey has developed a line of bio-based agricultural products that can organically suppress weeds, reduce erosion and create fertilizer from industrial chicken waste. Two of the products are currently being tested in the county. Cathey’s business card says he is an environmental designer. Recalling the environmental movement of the late 1960s, Cathy speaks with an air of ownership regarding issues of the time. His design process is mindful of the natural world. “I try to design things in a way that is acceptable environmentally by choosing materials based on recyclability and performance,” he said. …
  • “Crank Arm Brewery Nabs Best of Show in State Fair Competition,” TWC News: The winners of the NC State Fair’s 2014 N.C. Brewers’ Cup competition have been announced, and Best of Show went to Rickshaw Rye IPA by Crank Arm Brewing in Raleigh. The competition was organized by the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild and presented by All About Beer Magazine. The third-year competition drew 228 professional entries and 182 home-brew entries. Entries were evaluated by 30 professional beer judges Sept. 6 and 7 at Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough. The top winners will be displayed in the Education Building at the N.C. State Fair Oct. 16-26. …
  • “FDA’s Taylor says food-safety inspections to change in post-FSMA,” The Produce News: The Food & Drug Administration is retooling inspectors to be more specialized in food and teaching them to assess a company’s food-safety culture for the first time when deciding whether to return for another inspection, Mike Taylor, the FDA ‘s food-safety chief, said Sept. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here. This was just one of several messages he brought to the breakfast meeting of the conference as he mapped out the FDA’s plan for assuring compliance with the massive Food Safety Modernization Act. …
  •  “Efficiency key to success for Steve and Archie Griffin,” Southeast Farm Press: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Steve Griffin’s return to the family farm in Beaufort County North Carolina. Much has changed in farming since 1974, but one constant is the importance of efficiency. It’s a lesson Griffin has taught to son Archie, who returned to the farm three years ago after completing a degree in soil science and crop production at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Ever since I came back, Dad has stressed the more efficient you are with your farm, the more you get out of it. You can always better your farm by being more efficient,” Archie says. The Griffins farm six miles north of Washington in Beaufort County, where sandy soils have always been a challenge. A key to efficiency is incorporating new technology. The Griffins say it’s a must for controlling costs. …
  •  “NC Fish Fry: Farmer’s Market Hosts Seafood Day,” WUNC: North Carolina is known for its diverse agriculture offerings. And you can always count on the State Farmer’s Market to feature the best the state has to offer, from collard greens to sweet potatoes. But on Thursday, for the first time, the State Farmer’s Market hosted Seafood Day. Enthusiasts said it’s been a long time coming. It was the perfect day for a fish fry. It was hot outside and the fish was hot, right out of the skillet. Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh could hardly get a break. “We steamed about 600 clams and they’re all gone,” said Armstrong. “I’m actually surprised. Pleasantly, surprised.” …






Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Heirloom Resturant

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 Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte.

In the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series 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 course — appetizer, entree and dessert. Competitions are held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Chef Clark Barlowe and his team from Heirloom competed again Chef Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro in the first round of Fire in the City on August 18. The secret ingredients were NC-raised eggs and Harrell Hill Farms Molasses. Harrell Hill is the largest producer of sorghum-syrup molasses in the state. The farm is located in Bakersville and has been in operation since the late 1700s.

Passion8 won the night and went on to compete in the next round of competition on Sept. 8. Fire in the City continues through Sept. 29. Remaining dinners are sold out.

Pastry Chef Joselyn Perlmutter, a member of Chef Barlowe’s team from Heirloom, provided the following recipe for sorghum cake. Heirloom Restaurant’s sorghum cake was the second highest scoring dish of the night and made great use of both eggs and molasses.

Sorghum Cake

    • 1/2 pound brown sugar
    • 7 1/2 ounces butter
    • 3 local farm eggs
    • 1.5 cups Harrell Hill Farms sorghum-syrup molasses
    • 12 1/2 ounces cake flour
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add in molasses. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk until the bath is just incorporated. Bake in a half sheet pan at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The cake is finished when a tester comes out clean.


Dark Chocolate Sorghum Cremeux

  • 1200 grams heavy cream
  • 240 grams yolk
  • 150 grams Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 700 grams dark chocolate

Bring the heavy cream and sorghum to a boil and temper in the yolks. To temper in the yolks whisk a cup of the hot cream into the yolks, and pour the now warm yolks back into the cream. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or coats the back of a spoon. Once at temperature, pour over the chocolate. Wait five minutes for the chocolate to melt, and whisk the chocolate and cream mixture together.


Sorghum Raspberry Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Harrell Hill Farms sorghum syrup molasses
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces butter

Mix the water and sugar in a medium pot until all of the sugar is wet. Juice the lemon into the sugar, and rub it on the sides of the pot. This will keep the sugar from crystalizing. Let the sugar boil on medium heat until it is a dark amber color. Add the butter, cream, sorghum and raspberry puree. Be careful to add the cool ingredients slowly as the caramel will bubble.


Raspberry Anglaise

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 ounces local egg yolks
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree

Bring the cream, sugar, and raspberry puree to a boil. Temper in the egg yolks, and whisk over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees, or when the mixture can coat the back of a spoon. Serve cold. Once cool, this can also be used as a raspberry ice cream base. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to churn.


Coming soon to a tree near you! (Maybe.)

North Carolina has its fair share of invasive insects and diseases that threaten to destroy our natural resources. In 2011, laurel wilt was first found in the state. In 2012, thousand cankers disease was found. And in 2013, the first detection of the emerald ash borer was made. But what does the future hold? Will the invasive species just keep on coming? The short answer is: most likely, yes.

There are already some invasive insects that have used their one-way ticket to the U.S. They threaten other parts of the nation and have the potential to enter North Carolina either through natural spread or via long-range dispersal in firewood. In the case of invasive species, all good things do not come to those who wait.

The Asian longhorned beetle is one of these. It is a striking beetle with long antennae. Native to Asia, it has been found in several states, including Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. To date, it has not been found in North Carolina. Unlike many of our other invasive species that only attack a single group of trees, the Asian longhorned beetle attacks many tree species. Among its favorites are maple, willow, and elm. When the Asian longhorned beetle comes to town, it leaves dead trees in its wake. But only if you let it!

The good thing about the Asian longhorned beetle is that in areas where small infestations have been detected, eradication has been possible. Trees with any signs or symptoms of infestation are removed quickly and a quarantine is typically put into place to prevent further spread. This plan, while leaving an area with much less trees that it had before, has shown to be successful more than once.

The interesting thing about these early detections is that almost all of them have been detected by homeowners. These homeowners have taken the bug by its horns and been proactive participants in efforts to mitigate damage caused by the Asian longhorned beetle, equipped only with the ability to identify the insect and the damage it causes.

So, equip yourself! Identifying this pest and its signs is fairly simple. The Asian longhorned beetle is fairly large, measuring 1 to 1½ inches in length. They are black with about 40 white spots on their wing covers. Their antennae are very long, extending past the tip of their abdomen, and have black and white banding. Not only will an infested tree likely look in poor health, but it may have exit holes or egg laying niches on the bark.  Exit holes are round and about the diameter of a pencil (up to ¾ inch). Egg-laying niches are round or oval depressions in the bark, chewed out by the female beetle.

LEFT: The adult Asian longhorned beetle is black with white spots and has banded antennae.  Early identification of the insect is critical in an eradication program.  Image: Joe Boggs,  RIGHT: Exit holes of the Asian longhorned beetle are round and about the size of a pencil (shown below finger).  Egg-laying niches are oval or round depressions in the bark.  Image: Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service,

LEFT: The adult Asian longhorned beetle is black with white spots and has banded antennae. Early identification of the insect is critical in an eradication program. Image: Joe Boggs, RIGHT: Exit holes of the Asian longhorned beetle are round and about the size of a pencil (shown below finger). Egg-laying niches are oval or round depressions in the bark. Image: Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service,

Now, you’re ready. If this insect ever does make its way to North Carolina, then maybe it could be you who alerts authorities to its presence. Hey, there are worse ways to become famous! To report an invasive species, call 1-800-206-9333 or report by email:


Today’s Topic: September is NC Wine and Grape Month

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

Wine Month LogoGov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed September as North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. Commissioner Troxler says it’s a good month for celebrating the state’s wine and grape industry, as wineries are popular attractions in the fall, and September and October are prime time for the muscadine grape harvest.

The state’s wine and grape industry continues to grow and is now home to more than 140 wineries and 400 commercial grape growers.

Whether it’s buying a pint of grapes at the farmers market, trying a new North Carolina wine or planning a trip to a vineyard, Commissioner Troxler encourages everyone to find a way to support the state’s wine and grape industry this month.

Farmers produce native muscadine grapes, including the famed scuppernong, which was the nation’s first cultivated wine grape. Muscadines are grown in the Coastal region of the state. The fresh-market muscadine crop is looking good this year, thanks to some dry weather at the beginning of the harvest. Drier weather concentrates the juice inside the grape and enhances the sweetness. You can find muscadines at farmers markets and roadside stands.

North Carolina farmers also grow European-style grapes, such as merlot and chardonnay. These are grown mainly in the Western and Piedmont regions of the state.

North Carolina is now home to four federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. The latest is the Upper Hiawassee Highlands AVA in the western part of the state. It joins the Haw River, Swan Creek and Yadkin Valley AVAs. These regions are important in helping consumers identify a wine’s origin.

For more information about North Carolina wine and grapes, plus special events planned throughout September, click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss Wine and Grape Month.

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