July 21, 2010

N.C. Cooperative Extension partners with 10% Campaign to promote local foods


North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems have teamed up to encourage North Carolina consumers to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on foods from local sources. The 10% Campaign was launched through a new website, www.nc10percent.com.

The website will allow consumers and business the opportunity to pledge to spend 10 percent of their food dollars locally, purchasing products from area farmers and food producers. Campaign participants will receive weekly email reminders to report how much money they spent on local food. The website will show consumers how their dollars spent on local foods grow.

North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If each person spent just 10 percent on food locally – roughly $1.05 per day – then approximately $3.5 billion annually would be available in the state’s economy.

Cooperative Extension will support the project by providing a local foods coordinator who will help connect consumers and food producers and support local businesses and organizations who want to spend 10 percent of their food dollars locally. Local food coordinators will personally contact businesses and organizations that register through the website to help them develop a plan for purchasing local products.

To find out who is serving as your local foods coordinator, visit Cooperative Extension’s website and find a link to your county center. Then select “Local Foods” from the left-hand column.

In addition, the 10% Campaign website provides a “Find Local Foods” page with links to help consumers find local food and farm products in their own communities. A “Learn More” page includes links to information on a variety of partner organizations, such as Slow Food USA and Eat Smart, Move More NC. There are also links to educational information on topics ranging from how to set up a workplace community-supported agriculture program or how to cook seasonal, local products.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems is a partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services that conducts research and provides education and outreach related to sustainable agriculture.

The Compass Group of Charlotte, the world’s largest food service provider, is leading the way in the campaign by pledging to purchase 10 percent of its food from local sources. Compass Group is developing a parallel model farm-to-institution buying program and will purchase 10 percent of the produce it serves in its North Carolina accounts from local farmers in the state.

Funding for the 10 Campaign and website is provided by Golden LEAF.

Posted by Natalie at 05:11 PM

Beef profitability workshop to be held July 26 in Chatham County

"Increasing Beef Profitability: Perspectives on Processing and Marketing Opportunities in Local Markets" will be offered July 26, 7-9 p.m., at Chatham County Cooperative Extension Agricultural Building, 45 South St., Pittsboro. The event sponsors are NC Choices, Weaver Street Market and Chatham County Cooperative Extension.

Please join us for a roundtable discussion with panelists Dr. Scott Barao, Dr. Arion Thiboumery and Dr. Matt Poore, a question-and-answer session and a “meat social” with producers, Cooperative Extension professionals and meat processors.

Topics for discussion will include grass-fed genetics, determining production costs, maintaining high quality carcasses, smart carcass utilization, forage management, value added products, successful case studies around the country and building a relationship with your processor.

The event is free, but please RSVP to Casey McKissick at casey@ncchoices.com by July 23.

About the speakers:

Dr. Matt Poore is as a Extension livestock commodity coordinator, Extension ruminant nutrition specialist and professor at N.C. State University. Poore also serves as the Beef Unit coordinator at the Center for Environmental Systems (CEFS) research farm in Goldsboro.

Dr. Scott Barao is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned his doctorate in beef cattle nutrition and management. He also holds degrees in human nutrition, biochemistry and ruminant microbiology. Barao held a faculty position in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Maryland for 20 years where he served as the state Beef Cattle Extension Specialist. He also served his last 10 years, as Beef Program leader, directing all beef research and outreach programs at the university’s Wye Research and Education Center, the home of the historic Wye Angus herd. Barao retired from his faculty position as a full professor in 2005. Since then, he has served as the executive director of the Jorgensen Family Foundation, an agricultural research and education foundation devoted to developing and demonstrating profitable and sustainable models of beef cattle production for beef cattle producers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Scott also directs the day-to-day operation of Hedgeapple Farm, the foundation's centerpiece.

Dr. Arion Thiboumery co-coordinates the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN, www.nichemeatprocessing.org), a national network of professionals in Cooperative Extension and state departments of agriculture working to support small-scale meat processors. Thiboumery splits his time between Iowa State University Extension, specializing in Sustainable Agriculture and Meat Science, and Lorentz Meats, a Cannon Falls, MN, medium-small-sized meat processing plant specializing in organic and natural meats. Thiboumery earned his doctorate from Iowa State University in sustainable agriculture, rural sociology and meat science. Before going to graduate school, he was a truck farmer in New England.

-C. McKissick

Posted by Natalie at 10:19 AM

July 16, 2010

A berry good experience

Moore County 4-H’ers earn money, gain work skills and learn
about science in one-of-a-kind farm business project

Bryan Blake
4-H Bryan Blake harvests blueberries as part of a Moore County extension project. (Marc Hall photo)

Eight teens and tweens wandered beneath and between the branches of blueberry bushes under a sweltering July sun in Moore County's Cameron community. Some mentioned the careers they'd like to pursue when they grow up: One said a hockey player. Another, an auto mechanic. And yet another, a veterinarian.

Whatever careers they ultimately choose, all of the 4-H'ers were gaining skills that will help prepare them. They were learning what it means to work hard, develop a business plan, put it into action and move on to new strategies when things don't work out as planned.

Since March, with the help of the county's entire North Carolina Cooperative Extension staff and grant funding from N.C. State University's Office of Extension, Engagement and Economic Development, the students have been running a blueberry business.

Landowner Mary McCulloch loaned a quarter-acre patch to the 4-H'ers for three years in return for a fraction of the profits.

County 4-H Agent Linda Gore said that McCulloch's children had previously taken care of the blueberry patch, using the money they earned to pay for college. But with those children grown, the patch became overgrown with kudzu and needed considerable renovation.

McColluch thought 4-H'ers might be interested in taking over, and -- to Gore's surprise -- she was right: Twenty youngsters signed up for the project.

To start getting the patch back into shape, agriculture agent Taylor Williams conducted a March pruning workshop during which some 90 participants learned by doing. Since then, the kids have taken over the operation with the help of Extension Master Gardener Bruce Fensley.

The 4-H'ers learned that when the blueberries are ripe, tickling the berries would make them fall off their stems and into their hands. (Marc Hall photo)

The 4-H'ers care for the bushes, harvest the berries, package them and find ways to sell them. Along the way, they have been getting good exercise, learning some of the science and technology behind organic farming and gaining an understanding of food-safety standards and marketing principles.

But it's at the end of the season when they will reap perhaps the biggest reward: That's when they'll get paid. How much will depend on how much they sell minus the costs they incur.

Williams expects they'll gross $6,000 to $7,000 from the sale of about 2,000 pints of the sustainably produced berries that they harvest through August.

After paying back the costs they've spent on things like packing materials and irrigation, the 4-H'ers will split the profits based on the number of hours each has put in and the pints of berries he or she has picked.

The budding entrepreneurs sell most of the berries they harvest to a cooperative, taking the remainder to two local farmers' markets and also selling them to county employees.

None of the 4-H'ers come from farms, so they've learned a lot, Fensley said. Perhaps the hardest lessons relate to some of the harshest realities that farmers face: the vagaries of weather and of supply and demand.

"One of the times we went to the farmers' market, and it was 101 and we were out in the sun," he said. "It was brutal, so there weren't many people at the farmers' market. They didn't come out. I said, 'This is a good lesson to you, because you see all the other farmers here. They've been growing all season, too, and there's no one here. They are going to have to take their stuff back home.' It was a good lesson that things don't always go your way."

Packaged blueberries
The 4-H'ers designed their own labels and sold their berries to a local cooperative, to farmers' markets and to county employees. (Marc Hall photo)

Already, some of the kids are putting the lessons Extension is teaching them into practice. For example, 13-year-old Eden Holt of Robbins is taking what she's learned about business planning and using it to launch her own company, an egg production business she plans to call Eden's Coup.

Eden and the other participants, Williams said, could one day be at the "vanguard of the local food movement."

"If they want to go into this business, they will know how to do it," he said. "They will know the business aspects, the horticultural aspects, the marketing. They are seeing it all."

Posted by deeshore at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2010

Pesticide safety toolkit developed

Extension has a new Spanish-language training kit for pesticide safety. (Marc Hall photo)

Recognizing that farming is among the nation's most hazardous occupations, North Carolina Cooperative Extension offers educational programs to help farmers, farmworkers and their families lower their risk of injury, illness and death. Its latest tool in this effort is a kit of easy-to-use materials to teach pesticide safety to Spanish-speaking agricultural workers with limited formal education.

Extension tested the kit with workers and trainers to make sure the educational materials were simple yet effective. It also was reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that it met the federal Worker Protection Standard's training requirements. The WPS calls for agricultural employers, owners, managers and labor contractors to provide training not only to those who handle pesticides but to all the people who are involved in the production of agricultural plants.

Table-top flipcharts are the kit's centerpieces. On the side that faces the trainer, there are lesson plans, while on the side that faces the audience, there are colorful photographs illustrating the trainer’s message.

The kit also comes with one-page illustrated sheets -— available in Spanish and English -— related to some of North Carolina's most important crops. The sheets list common pesticides used at various stages of crop growth; indicate each pesticide's toxicity level; and spell out how long areas treated by each pesticide should be off-limits. There are also realistic drawings that illustrate the symptoms a worker might experience because of unsafe exposure and phone numbers for the worker to call in case of problems.

Right now, materials are available covering tobacco, sweetpotato and tomato crops. Material for other crops -- cucumbers, green peppers, grapes, landscape, Christmas trees, blueberries, strawberries and apples -- will be available for the 2011 growing season.

A website for dissemination of the toolkit for tobacco, sweetpotato and tomato crops will be available later this summer.

The toolkit was funded by a grant from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund and developed by Dr. Greg Cope, Julia Storm and Catherine LeProvost with the College’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

The three introduced the materials during a train-the-trainer session in June 2010, when dozens of extension agents, state agriculture and labor officials, community health and migrant education workers, a fertilizer dealer and others came to Raleigh for a one-day train-the-trainer session.

For information, contact Storm at julia_storm@ncsu.edu.

-D. Shore

Posted by deeshore at 02:52 PM

June 11, 2010

Chatham County to celebrate National Pollinator Week

A bumble bee enjoys a Baptisia bloom - note the pollen baskets on her hind legs, filled with orange Baptisia pollen. (Debbie Roos photo)

The Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers' Association will host the 4th annual celebration of National Pollinator Week on Saturday, June 26, from 10am until 2pm on The Lawn at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that help to produce 80 percent of flowering plants and one third of human food crops.

Come hear presentations about beekeeping -- how to get started, equipment needs, management tips -- from local beekeepers. Tour Cooperative Extension's Pollinator Garden at Chatham Mills and learn how to attract and protect pollinators.

Visit the display tables and talk with local beekeepers. Watch expert beekeepers work an actual hive inside a bee cage (bees inside, participants outside), see honey bees up close and personal and get your beekeeping questions answered.

Visit the kids' tent with lots of activities including pollinator story time, scavenger hunt, beeswax candle making, Chatham County pollinator coloring books, papermaking and more. Watch "Bee TV" -- park yourself in front of an observation hive and watch the worker bees attending the queen.

Meet the local Chatham County beekeepers and learn all about what it takes to produce the nutritious and delicious local honey available at Chatham Marketplace. We will have beekeeping equipment and products from the hive for "show and tell."

View the complete schedule and get all the details on the Growing Small Farms website at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/2010pollinatorweek.html.

Posted by Natalie at 02:06 PM

June 07, 2010

Vermiculture Conference attracts 116

vermicompost conference
Participants crowd the room at the 10th annual Vermicompost Conference. (Photos by Natalie Hampton)

When N.C. State’s Rhonda Sherman started her large-scale vermiculture workshop in 2000, there were only a handful of attendees. But at this year’s 10th annual Vermiculture Conference, the room was filled to near overflowing with 116 participants from 28 U.S. states – including 49 from North Carolina -- and five other countries.

Sherman, Extension solid waste specialist in biological and agricultural engineering, hosts the conference each year, bringing together experts from around the world to share information on vermicomposting, the process of using earthworms to break down organic wastes. As the only conference of its kind, it has a loyal following of participants, ranging from backyard gardeners to entrepreneurs to municipal waste managers.

This year’s international participants came from Guatemala, India, Thailand, Israel and Canada. In addition to providing a means of reducing organic wastes, vermiculture has the added benefit of producing a vermicompost -- earthworm castings – that is valued as fertilizer. Research shows that plants raised with vermicompost produce greater yields and have stronger disease resistance.

Sherman urged conference participants to look for opportunities to profit from a vermiculture operation. Such opportunities can include sales of earthworms, vermicompost and teas – liquid fertilizer made with vermicompost. In addition, Sherman said that composters and soil blenders are adding vermicompost to their products, which will bring new market opportunities.

Some participants at the conference were already making a living in vermiculture. Linda Leigh of Tuscon, AZ, has been in the earthworm business for three years. Her business, Vermillion Wormery, uses food waste from grocery stores and restaurants, as well as horse manure for vermicomposting. In Arizona, horse manure is a fire hazard, so providing a means of disposing of the waste helps reduce the hazard, Leigh said.

Leigh, whose grandfather also raised worms, says that her business involves selling earthworms and vermicompost at local farmers’ markets. She learned about the Vermiculture Conference three years ago, but this year was the first she was able to attend.

Vince Ivory of Los Angeles and Kirk Sudheimer of Wake Forest represented those considering starting an earthworm business. Ivory, a teacher laid off in California’s budget crisis, said he was “looking for something to do.” He was attracted to the conference because of the agenda. “This vermiculture is very complex in terms of looking at a business model,” Ivory said.

Rhonda Sherman
Rhonda Sherman speaks at the annual conference.

Sudheimer, who was raised on a farm in the Midwest, said he and his wife were interested in returning to some type of agriculture, possibly vermicomposting. Like many at the conference, he found Sherman’s resources on the web and was thrilled to discover she was so close by.

Maria Rodriguez of Guatemala, one of the conference speakers, is the founder of a small sustainable development group – Byoearth – that is helping extremely poor women in Guatemala to begin small-scale vermicomposting businesses of their own. These women, who live near Guatemala’s garbage dumps, receive a small bin and earthworms they can use to generate vermicompost and earthworms to sell.

Rodriguez also found Sherman online, and Sherman asked her to speak to the conference. “In Guatemala, there’s not this level of scientific knowledge about vermicomposting,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez’s presentation was so moving that conference participants flocked to ask how they could contribute to her organization, Sherman said.

Conference speakers discussed issues such as effective large-scale biosolids vermicomposting and the effects of vermicomposts on plant growth and suppression of pests and diseases.

Mark Purser of Durham, CA, told the group about his 40-acre earthworm operation. Sherman said Purser had attended the conference for several years before she learned about his extensive operation. Now he is a regular speaker.

Purser told the group that he started the Worm Farm in 1994, as a way to transition out of chicken production. The operation now includes earthworms raised outdoors in windrows 300 feet long and 20 feet apart, earthworms raised indoors and storage for vermicompost, which is harvested once a year. Compost mixes make up about 75 percent of the Worm Farm’s business. The company also sells earthworms for $26.50 per pound, plus shipping, and the Worm Farm Learning Foundation hosts hundreds of school groups each year.

In addition to speakers, conference participants toured the Harris Worm Farm in nearby Mebane. Owner John Harris has 18 outdoor, on-ground earthworm bins that are bordered by railroad ties. He feeds his earthworms horse manure from a neighbor’s farm.

At the conference opening, Sherman announced that the first scientific book on vermicomposting, Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management will be published by CRC Press in October 2010. This 35-chapter book is edited by Dr. Clive Edwards (Ohio State University), Dr. Norman Arancon (University of Hawaii-Hilo) and Rhonda Sherman (N.C. State University). Contributing authors are from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 10:19 AM

Vermiculture Conference attracts 116

vermicompost conference
Participants crowd the room at the 10th annual Vermicompost Conference. (Photos by Natalie Hampton)

When N.C. State’s Rhonda Sherman started her large-scale vermiculture workshop in 2000, there were only a handful of attendees. But at this year’s 10th annual Vermiculture Conference, the room was filled to near overflowing with 116 participants from 28 U.S. states – including 49 from North Carolina -- and five other countries.

Sherman, Extension solid waste specialist in biological and agricultural engineering, hosts the conference each year, bringing together experts from around the world to share information on vermicomposting, the process of using earthworms to break down organic wastes. As the only conference of its kind, it has a loyal following of participants, ranging from backyard gardeners to entrepreneurs to municipal waste managers.

This year’s international participants came from Guatemala, India, Thailand, Israel and Canada. In addition to providing a means of reducing organic wastes, vermiculture has the added benefit of producing a vermicompost -- earthworm castings – that is valued as fertilizer. Research shows that plants raised with vermicompost produce greater yields and have stronger disease resistance.

Sherman urged conference participants to look for opportunities to profit from a vermiculture operation. Such opportunities can include sales of earthworms, vermicompost and teas – liquid fertilizer made with vermicompost. In addition, Sherman said that composters and soil blenders are adding vermicompost to their products, which will bring new market opportunities.

Some participants at the conference were already making a living in vermiculture. Linda Leigh of Tuscon, AZ, has been in the earthworm business for three years. Her business, Vermillion Wormery, uses food waste from grocery stores and restaurants, as well as horse manure for vermicomposting. In Arizona, horse manure is a fire hazard, so providing a means of disposing of the waste helps reduce the hazard, Leigh said.

Leigh, whose grandfather also raised worms, says that her business involves selling earthworms and vermicompost at local farmers’ markets. She learned about the Vermiculture Conference three years ago, but this year was the first she was able to attend.

Vince Ivory of Los Angeles and Kirk Sudheimer of Wake Forest represented those considering starting an earthworm business. Ivory, a teacher laid off in California’s budget crisis, said he was “looking for something to do.” He was attracted to the conference because of the agenda. “This vermiculture is very complex in terms of looking at a business model,” Ivory said.

Rhonda Sherman
Rhonda Sherman speaks at the annual conference.

Sudheimer, who was raised on a farm in the Midwest, said he and his wife were interested in returning to some type of agriculture, possibly vermicomposting. Like many at the conference, he found Sherman’s resources on the web and was thrilled to discover she was so close by.

Maria Rodriguez of Guatemala, one of the conference speakers, is the founder of a small sustainable development group – Byoearth – that is helping extremely poor women in Guatemala to begin small-scale vermicomposting businesses of their own. These women, who live near Guatemala’s garbage dumps, receive a small bin and earthworms they can use to generate vermicompost and earthworms to sell.

Rodriguez also found Sherman online, and Sherman asked her to speak to the conference. “In Guatemala, there’s not this level of scientific knowledge about vermicomposting,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez’s presentation was so moving that conference participants flocked to ask how they could contribute to her organization, Sherman said.

Conference speakers discussed issues such as effective large-scale biosolids vermicomposting and the effects of vermicomposts on plant growth and suppression of pests and diseases.

Mark Purser of Durham, CA, told the group about his 40-acre earthworm operation. Sherman said Purser had attended the conference for several years before she learned about his extensive operation. Now he is a regular speaker.

Purser told the group that he started the Worm Farm in 1994, as a way to transition out of chicken production. The operation now includes earthworms raised outdoors in windrows 300 feet long and 20 feet apart, earthworms raised indoors and storage for vermicompost, which is harvested once a year. Compost mixes make up about 75 percent of the Worm Farm’s business. The company also sells earthworms for $26.50 per pound, plus shipping, and the Worm Farm Learning Foundation hosts hundreds of school groups each year.

In addition to speakers, conference participants toured the Harris Worm Farm in nearby Mebane. Owner John Harris has 18 outdoor, on-ground earthworm bins that are bordered by railroad ties. He feeds his earthworms horse manure from a neighbor’s farm.

At the conference opening, Sherman announced that the first scientific book on vermicomposting, Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management will be published by CRC Press in October 2010. This 35-chapter book is edited by Dr. Clive Edwards (Ohio State University), Dr. Norman Arancon (University of Hawaii-Hilo) and Rhonda Sherman (N.C. State University). Contributing authors are from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 10:19 AM

May 25, 2010

'Scientists in the Classroom' bring learning to elementary school

Amie Newsome
Amie Newsome, center, in full bee costume, teaches third graders at West Smithfield Elementary School about insects as part of a school science activity. (Photo by Marc Hall, N.C. State University Communication Services)

Third graders at West Smithfield Elementary School were all abuzz recently over the opportunity to take their classroom outdoors to study plants, insects and soils. And N.C. Cooperative Extension agent Amie Newsome dressed in a bee costume was the center of attention, as she shared information about insects with the eager students.

Newsome and four other local extension and conservation professionals were on hand for some serious science lessons, all conducted outdoors, using hands-on learning activities. The Scientists in the Classroom program is like an on-campus field trip to help students learn, according to school parent and program coordinator Paula Woodall.

Read more from CALS News

Posted by Natalie at 11:47 AM

May 24, 2010

She cultivates organic farming and healthy eating

Dr. Nancy Creamer directs the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

For years, the state has watched textile mills close and tobacco farms turn to seed. More recently, technology jobs have been lost, and the state has 10 percent unemployment.

But at N.C. State University, there's a woman quietly bringing together farmers, businesses, politicians and individuals to nurture a new economic sector in North Carolina: locally grown organic food.

Nancy Creamer, director of N.C. State University's Center for Environmental Farming Systems, is cultivating sustainable, organic farms and the infrastructure they need to get their food to market across the state. It's a plan that she hopes will create small businesses and jobs, as well as boost local economies that have lost jobs to overseas competitors.

Read more in The (Raleigh) News and Observer

Posted by Dave at 02:32 PM

April 21, 2010

State Action Guide on local foods now available

“From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy” has just been issued by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. The guide provides goals and strategies that will put North Carolina on the fast track to achieving a sustainable local and regional food system. With its diverse agricultural economy, superior educational system and adaptable workforce, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the nation in this effort.

Building the state’s sustainable local food economy will stimulate economic development and job creation, bolster the viability of local farms and fisheries and help address diet-related health problems, according to CEFS, a partnership between N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS’s mission is to develop and promote food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.

The guide is the result of a year-long “Farm to Fork” initiative spearheaded by CEFS to take an in-depth look at where and how our food is produced and processed. The initiative involved the active participation of well over 1,000 North Carolinians, and included people and organizations working in the fields of agriculture, commercial fishing, community organizing, education, faith, finance, public policy, state and local government and youth outreach.

“Y’all are red hot,” declared Gov. Beverly Perdue while addressing the more than 400 participants at the CEFS’ May 2009 Farm to Fork Summit. “You are beginning to change the tide, directing the links between local agriculture, jobs and the economy. “Finally, people across the state and the country are beginning to realize you are red hot,” Perdue said.

The guide identifies nine challenges North Carolina must address to succeed and recommends a variety of actions that can be implemented at the state and local levels, starting with 11 “game-changers” that are actionable within two years and statewide in scope. One major game changer—the establishment of a statewide food policy advisory council to engage decision makers in strategic food-systems planning and implementation—has already been accomplished. Other game changers moving forward support:

• Expanding local market opportunities by developing a model farm-to-institution program (Fort Braggs’ “Feed the Forces” program);

• Increasing consumer education and outreach (the 10% Campaign, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation);

• Addressing public health and food access disparities by expanding and strengthening N.C.’s SNAP-ED program; and

• Promoting farm-to-school programming through the development of a model farm-to-school pre-service teacher instruction program.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If individuals spent just 10 percent, or $1.05 per day, of their existing food dollars on local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy, directly benefiting farmers and food-related businesses. Greater spending locally can also increase the economic activity at the regional and community level, which can translate into jobs.

Financial support for the Farm to Fork initiative came from the Golden LEAF Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, North Carolina Rural Center – Agriculture Advancement Consortium and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Posted by Natalie at 03:17 PM

April 13, 2010

Nine NC producers receive cost-share awards

Parker and Whitmire in milking parlor
Richard Parker, left, cost share recipient, and Brittany Whitmire, NCVACS program coordinator, look over the technology in place at the milking parlor of Parker’s organic dairy. (Courtesy of Megan Brame)

Nine value-added producers in North Carolina just received a financial boost as recipients of the N.C. Value-Added Cost Share NCVACS) award. The NCVACS program, administered by N.C. MarketReady, has announced the 2009 cost share awards, which are funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The NCVACS program provides financial support, through matching funds, to producers who are applying for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant VAPG), a nationally competitive program.

“The nine recipients represent a diverse array of value-added enterprises and are geographically scattered throughout the state,” said Brittany Whitmire, NCVACS program coordinator. The award recipients fell into three categories of cost share funding for grant writing and feasibility assessment.

Read more from Perspectives Latest News

Posted by Natalie at 08:17 AM

New bulletin focuses on small-acreage crops

Specialty Crops in North Carolina, a new technical bulletin released by the N.C. Agricultural Research Service, documents production statewide and by county for 153 small-acreage crops grown in North Carolina. The bulletin is available online from the Department of Horticultural Science at N.C. State University: www.cals.ncsu.edu/hort_sci/extension/tb-327.pdf

This overview of North Carolina’s specialty crops includes data on 93 vegetables, 14 fruits and nuts, 36 culinary herbs, and 10 miscellaneous crops. Crop maps depict each crop’s distribution in North Carolina, and county tables list the crops grown in each of the state’s 100 counties by acreage and crop type.

Prepared by Roger Batts, field research director at N.C. State’s IR-4 Research Center, Specialty Crops in North Carolina summarizes data collected in a 2007 survey of Cooperative Extension agents developed by Batts and eight specialists in the Department of Horticulture. Survey responses from 70 counties were supplemented with data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Field Service Agency in Raleigh.

The bulletin includes a copy of the survey used to collect the data, along with a summary of the IR-4 pesticide registration procedure for minor crops.

Crops defined as “minor crops” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency include food and ornamental crops that involve small acreage yet account for more than $43 billion in annual production nationwide.

Posted by Natalie at 08:09 AM

April 07, 2010

Hopping into a new crop

Rob Austin of NCSU and Chris Davis, head brewer at Fullsteam, plant hop rhizomes at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh.
Rob Austin (left) of NCSU and Chris Davis, head brewer at Fullsteam Brewery, plant hop rhizomes at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh. (Becky Kirkland photo)

When Van Burnette wanted a drought-resistant crop to try on his 6-acre farm near Black Mountain, he decided on hops. The problem is, no one really knows much about how the essential beer ingredient will grow in North Carolina, much less whether burgeoning interest in local beers and home brewing will translate into a sustainable market.

N.C. State University specialists are out to change that, cooperating with Burnette and a few other pioneering North Carolina hops growers to figure out viable production, post-harvest and marketing options.

At the university’s field laboratory off Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, Rob Austin and Dr. Deanna Osmond, of the Department of Soil Science, planted a quarter-acre experimental hop yard recently.

And from the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, horticulture specialist Dr. Jeanine Davis is monitoring conditions at four mountain farms where hops are being grown.

Some of the key questions the scientists will be asking: Can new varieties and better production practices ease the disease pressures that pushed the East Coast hops industry to Oregon and Washington decades ago? What types of nutrients and soils do the fast-growing plants need? And do local conditions impart flavors and aromas that beer producers will be interested in buying?

Austin, a geographic information specialist, has some experience with hops: He’s a home brewer, and for eight years he’s been growing a few plants along a fence in his backyard in Apex.

But, he points out, there’s a big difference between growing something in your backyard and growing it on a scale that makes it a worthwhile commercial endeavor.

Hops are climbing perennials that on most farms are grown on expensive 20-foot trellis systems, he explains. The up-front costs that such systems require aren’t immediately recouped because, as with winegrapes, hops take about three years to be fully established.

Also, cost-effective mass production requires large acreage and specialized machinery for harvesting the flowers (or cones, as they are called), drying them and turning them into pellets. Such machinery is used in Oregon and Washington, which currently have the national hops market sown up.

But a few years ago there was a national hops shortage, which raised the price of hops -– and the hopes of growers looking for alternative crops. Austin says the Raleigh home brew store he bought hops from even went as far as to limit the amount of hops a customer could buy. That led him to wonder if North Carolina farmers might be able to help fill the gap.

Davis says scores of growers had similar ideas.

“When it comes to interest in growing hops, people are coming out of the woodwork. We had 100 people on a hops tour we had last year,” Davis says. “But we need to stress this is very risky. We know very little about it. And we have real concerns.”

She, Austin and Burnette think that North Carolina is unlikely to become a major hops producer. The major hops-growing region is drier than North Carolina, and this makes them concerned about the damage that diseases such as downy mildew and powdery mildew could cause. But they are hopeful that new, more resilient hops varieties and advances in disease control might make it easier to avoid devastating losses.

Van Burnette started growing hops in 2009. (Photo courtesy of Van Burnette)

Burnette is looking forward to being involved in the N.C. State hops research project, which is funded by a one-year grant from Golden LEAF, a foundation that supports research into economic alternatives for tobacco-dependent communities.

Burnette’s farm has been in his family for 150 years, and he’s hopeful that niche markets for crops like hops and blueberries and associated tourism will prove economically sustainable.

A Western North Carolina AgOptions grant from North Carolina Cooperative Extension enabled him to set up his hop yard, and he’s hopeful that the grant-funded research project will led to reliable production recommendations.

“The hops project can’t do anything but benefit me and the rest of us growers,” he says. “I know that I found it frustrating -– and so did the other growers -– that there’s not enough known about hops. … I mean, how do you know what hops need as far as the soil? And how are we going to take care of these pests and diseases? And how are we going to know for sure what kind of pests and diseases we have?”

In spite of so many production challenges and questions, he and others think the growing local food movement and the interest in specialty and regional beers could mean that buyers are willing to pay a premium for locally produced hops with special qualities.

In Burnette’s case, a small brewery that’s less than 5 miles from his farm bought all the hops he was able to produce last year. This year, he plans to sell most of what he produces to that brewery, but he’s also planning a second “you-pick” harvest for home brewers.

Interest in North Carolina hops production has been highest in the mountains, perhaps because Asheville has a growing reputation as a center for microbrewery. It’s been called “Brewtopia” and named the East Coast’s “Beer City, USA.”

In the Piedmont, interest is gaining momentum. For example, Sean Wilson is weeks away from opening Fullsteam, a Durham brewery. The company’s tagline -- “plow-to-pint beer from the beautiful South” -- emphasizes local connections.

“Our goal is to try to … be the bridge that connects consumers who want local with farmers,” he says.

Already, the beer maker is buying all the rhubarb it can find locally, and the company is looking into purchasing locally processed sweet potato puree.

When it comes to locally produced hops, Wilson is cautiously enthusiastic.

“We would like nothing more than for our flagship beer, which we call Carolina Common, to use North Carolina-grown hops, at least in part of the process if not for the entire thing,” he says. But, he adds, “beer is an art and a science, and for us to rely on a hop provider, there has to be a fair amount of science involved. … They have to meet exacting standards to make quality, consistent beer.

“And we have to be practical when we look at our flagship beer,” he says. “Like any business, we have to be attuned to our raw ingredient costs, and that’s where the challenge is: There’s an opportunity, but it’s a challenge.”

-D. Shore

Posted by deeshore at 02:29 PM

March 11, 2010

Extension educators are all a-Twitter

Debbie Roos and her Twitter page
Debbie Roos is among the Cooperative Extension agents using Twitter to reach people with research-based information on agriculture. She tweets @GrowSmallFarms. (Marc Hall photo)

When agricultural Extension agent Debbie Roos first learned about the Internet service Twitter, she was, as she puts it, a decided non-believer. Why in the world, she wondered, would people want to send and receive messages limited to just 140 characters –- fewer letters than are in this sentence?

But today, after 383 "tweets" and counting, Roos –- or @GrowSmallFarms, as she's known in the Twitterverse –- has done an about-face.

"I fell in love with Twitter last summer. It really works," she says. "A lot of people who follow me now on Twitter weren't familiar with my programs, and the potential to reach even more people is high," she says.

Read more from N.C. State's Bulletin

Posted by deeshore at 08:50 AM

N.C. A&T State faculty to present workshop series

The School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences' Center for Post-Harvest Technologies in Kannapolis has inaugurated a Tuesday night seminar series in March that will wind up with presentations by Dr. Leonard Williams on March 16, Dr. John O’Sullivan on March 23 and Dr. Ram Rao on March 30. All the March seminars in the Center for Post-Harvest Technologies’ “Food Science for a New Age: Safer, Healthier Food for the 21st Century” series are open to the public without charge, and all will begin at 7 p.m. in the in the Event Room of the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, at 201 N. Main St., in Kannapolis.

Read more in ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:38 AM

February 19, 2010

Franklin County Extension partners on farmer scholarships

Martha Mobley talks with an employee at Raleigh's Whole Foods. (Natalie Hampton photo)

Beginning, small or part-time farmers in Franklin County will be able to apply for grant funds to implement small projects on their operations, thanks to a partnership between N.C. Cooperative Extension and Whole Foods of Raleigh. During the month of February, the store on Wade Avenue has posted donation boxes at cash registers, inviting customers to contribute to the scholarship fund. The money collected will be turned over to Franklin County’s agriculture board.

Martha Mobley, Franklin County agriculture Extension agent who helped arrange the program with Whole Foods, said the agriculture board will award grants to local farmers, based on an application process. On Feb. 18, Mobley and several Franklin County farmers were on hand at Whole Foods to share information about Franklin County farms and the scholarship project. Store customers stopped by with questions and to drop donations in the scholarship box.

Mobley says small operations in her county are growing, thanks in part to the promotion of local foods in the county. In May, Cooperative Extension partners with the Franklin County Arts Council and other sponsors to host a two-day Farm, Foods and Crafts Tour, along with a local foods dinner. This year’s events will take place May 15-16.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:16 AM

February 16, 2010

Webinar series on agritourism begins March 2

N.C. State University’s Tourism Extension, based in the College of Natural Resources, has teamed with colleagues from Rutgers University to offer a free webinar series on agritourism. The East Coast Agritourism Webinar Series will include five different sessions designed to provide an overview of important information related to agritourism.

Topics include:
Introduction to Agritourism: March 2
Is Agritourism Right for You? March 9
Marketing Basics: March 16
Creating the Customer Experience: March 30
Social Media 101: April 6

This webinar series will be offered twice each Tuesday, March 2 through April 6, at noon-1 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. This webinar series is free, open to anyone, and does not require pre-registration or a microphone.

View the flyer by visiting http://www.ncsu.edu/tourismextension/WebinarSeries.html for
additional information and for instructions on how to participate. Also, contact Dr. Samantha Rich (samantha_rich@ncsu.edu) or Dr. Stacy Tomas (stacy_tomas@ncsu.edu) for additional information or with any questions.

Posted by Natalie at 11:32 AM

February 10, 2010

Small Farms Week registration begins

Online registration is now under way for the Small Farms Week, March 21-27 kickoff, educational forums and the annual Small Farmers Appreciation Luncheon. The kickoff program will be in Hoke County on Monday, March 22. The four programs in the education forum the afternoon of Tuesday, March 23, will cover transplant management, grafting tomatoes, winter vegetable crops and production technologies for getting a jumpstart on the spring growing season.

The educational forum the morning of Wednesday, March 24, will include sessions covering the nutritional and health advantages of locally grown crops, recipe ideas for fresh produce, and food safety concerns and regulations now facing small-scale producers selling their wares directly to consumers. The featured speaker at the Small Farmers Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, March 24 will be Pearlie Reed, USDA’s top management official, and the first African American chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:10 AM

February 08, 2010

Gary Bullen conducts market research in Malawi

Gary Bullen in Malawi
Gary Bullen, left, of N.C. State University, talks with a farm store manager in Malawi. The farm stores would also buy peanuts to resell as seed peanuts. (Photos courtesy of Gary Bullen)

Gary Bullen, Extension associate in Agricultural and Resource Economics at N.C. State University, recently returned from a volunteer assignment in Malawi where he conducted a market assessment of peanuts. His assignment was part of a project with CNFA, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people and enterprises in the developing world.

Bullen jokingly claims that residents of rural areas around the world share certain commonalities, “having grown up on a vegetable and livestock farm in a Berea, Kentucky, I’ve always felt comfortable approaching rural people in villages across Africa." In fact, he has gone on volunteer trips to Africa every year for the past ten years so that he now finds himself at ease with the culture, “I know how to word my questions the right way to get the real answers."

Bullen pursued undergraduate studies in agribusiness at Eastern Kentucky University, and earned graduate degrees in agricultural economics and extension education from the University of Tennessee. On his recent trip, he shared his knowledge and practical expertise with CNFA’s local staff in Malawi to help them identify bottlenecks for future volunteer projects in the groundnut sector. They went from interviewing farmers in rural areas to visiting processors and market outlets to meeting with government officials.

Bullen noted that most groundnut farmers were living "just at the edge, some were eating the crops before they mature," an indication of poor food security. He suggested several projects that would increase low yields, such as improving soil fertility and introducing certified seeds and basic disease control practices. While some farmers had heard of these techniques, they complained that they lacked funding to initiate them. Yet, Bullen believes that peanuts are good agricultural crops because they can feed farmers' families and the surplus can be sold in various forms.

Indeed, poverty could be the reason why the farmers Bullen met seemed to expect him to bring them something. “Everyone was gracious, but the question of 'what are you going to give us,' rather than 'what can we learn from you,' has been brought into the culture." He emphasized to CNFA’s staff that the results of his studies should be relayed to the government officials who received him and took time to provide him with vital information.

woman selling in market
A woman sells peanuts, rice and dried beans in open air market in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi.

This desire stems from the sense of commitment that Bullen developed by completing of this project. He promised to send processors sample peanut products, such as roasted peanuts. He is currently engaged with a group that seeks to start a project to support Malawi’s peanut industry at N.C. State University.

Gary Bullen traveled to Malawi under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food processing, production and marketing.

Founded in 1985, CNFA is dedicated to strengthening agricultural markets and empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world. CNFA is now recruiting for many similar volunteer assignments. Visit www.cnfa.org/farmertofarmer for a list of available opportunities and to learn how you can become a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer.

Posted by Natalie at 03:25 PM

SARE scholarships available to attend workshops

North Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (N.C. SARE)announces Travel Scholarships for the 2010 Seasons of Sustainable
Agriculture workshops sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Farming

N.C. SARE will cover up to $100 for registration/travel/mileage. All
scholarships are reimbursement only. Please send fill out and send the
attached application to Carol Moore at carolmoore27@gmail.com.

Check out the workshops at www.cefs.ncsu.edu/main-news-and-events/events/2010-seasons-of-sustainable-ag-calendar.html and apply soon!

Other events may also be eligible for travel scholarships. Questions?
Contact Carol Moore at carolmoore27@gmail.com or by phone, 919.273.6322.

Posted by Natalie at 01:05 PM

February 04, 2010

N.C. MarketReady offers Tomato Growers Information Portal


KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - As greenhouse tomato growers in North Carolina are gearing up for the season, N.C. MarketReady, a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension, has launched the Tomato Growers Information Portal. The new Web resource is the third in a series of "growers information portals" developed by the program that provide North Carolina producers with one-stop shopping for their fruit and vegetable production needs. The Tomato Growers Information Portal currently features N.C. State University production resources for both greenhouse and field-grown tomatoes, including materials on economics, energy management and specialized equipment. Growers will find resources on marketing, food safety, integrated pest management, industry events and risk management specific to North Carolina tomato production. The portal can be accessed by visiting N.C. MarketReady online at
www.ncmarketready.org and clicking the Growers Information Portals tab on the left menu bar.

Posted by Natalie at 10:53 AM

January 08, 2010

Forages conferences will feature international expert on livestock and wildlife grazing behavior

A series of conferences on pasture and forage management held across the state this month will include remarks from an expert on livestock and wildlife grazing behavior. This is the second conference series on which North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council have collaborated.

Conferences will be held at the Nash County extension center Jan. 19 in Nashville, at the Union County extension center Jan. 20 in Monroe, and at the Mountain Research Station Jan. 21 in Mills River. Each conference will run 1-7:30 p.m.

Utah’s Dr. Fred Provenza will present information at each conference, along with panels of exceptional local forage managers. Provenza is often featured in Stockman Grass Farmer magazine. Among his most interesting accomplishments is the successful management of livestock and wildlife to eat weedy and invasive plants.

North Carolina forage managers will appear at each conference. In Nash County, the featured managers will be Linda Fisher, E.B. Harris and Bill Freeman, while in Union County, Rob Kalmbacher and Corey Lutz will be featured. In Mills River, George Lenze, Page Modlin and Steve Lemel will be the featured local pasture managers.

Tradeshows and dinner are included in each of the conferences. For more information, contact your local county Extension center or Sue Ellen Johnson at N.C. State University, 919.513.1335 or se_johnson@ncsu.edu. Find contact information for Cooperative Extension county centers at www.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=countycenters.

Posted by Natalie at 08:33 AM

December 15, 2009

New facility to reduce costs of salt-water aquaculture

n early December the College opened the new Marine Aquaculture Research Center in rural Carteret County. A gift from Dr. I.J. and Sue Won made the center possible. Pictured above, from left, are Sue Won, I.J. Won, Dean Johnny Wynne and Dr. Tom Losordo. (Dave Caldwell photo)

Location, location, location. That phrase that describes all things related to real estate is also a major impediment to the development of marine - or salt water - aquaculture in North Carolina.

But that may be about to change with the development by North Carolina State University of the Marine Aquaculture Research Center near Marshallberg in rural Carteret County on the North Carolina coast.

The center, which officially opened Dec. 11, was made possible by a $500,000 gift from Dr. I.J. and Sue Won of Williston, N.C. It is located on land owned by the Wons. The North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, the fund raising arm of N.C. State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is leasing the site from the Wons.

Read more from the Comm Serv news release

Posted by Natalie at 01:49 PM

December 09, 2009

Will Allen says food system is broken

Will Allen and Eva Clayton
Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton greets Will Allen at a reception before his speech at McKimmon Center. (Marc Hall photos)

Will Allen, urban farmer, is a giant of a man at 6-feet, 7-inches and 300 lbs. Yet he has the rough hands of a farmer and the ability to relate to audiences ranging from elementary and high school students to academics and farmers like himself.

Allen, the CEO of Growing Power and MacArthur “genius award” winner, delivered this year’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ 2009 Sustainable Agriculture Lecture in November before a stand-room-only crowd of more than 700 at McKimmon Center. Earlier in the day, Allen spoke to a packed auditorium of 600 students and local citizens at Goldsboro High School, delivering the Urban Community Lecture there.

Growing Power has developed urban farms and community gardens in “food deserts” of Milwaukee and Chicago. The organization also engages inner city youth in learning farming skills and translating those lessons into academic achievement. For his efforts, he was recognized with a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a “genius award.” He was recently featured in the movie Fresh and has been the subject of numerous magazine articles, including one in the New York Times.

"It was an honor to have Will Allen come to North Carolina to share his vision for providing sustainably raised food for urban consumers," said Nancy Creamer, director for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. "Urban farming is one of the solutions that CEFS is looking at as we seek to build local food economies in North Carolina."

Allen’s message was simple: It’s time to change the way we produce food. “I believe that the future is smaller scale, more intensive production because our current food system is not a sustainable food system. So that’s where we’re headed, and that’s what we’re working on,” he said.

“ We have to get people into action rather than just talking about it. We have to grow a lot more farmers, restore the earth by composting, and we’ve got to use renewable energy as a part of the formula to be able to grow that food year-round.”

In 1993, Allen purchased what he calls “the last remaining farm in Milwaukee” – a three-acre tract with six greenhouses and a small house. At the time, the former professional basketball player was working for Procter & Gamble, and the site seemed like a good place to sell produce from his family’s 100-acre farm nearby.

Two years into the effort, a group of kids from the local YMCA came to him with a plan for developing an organic garden and selling the produce. Allen offered the group a piece of land on his property that was not being used. The plot was rich from potting soil that had been dumped there years before.

After an article on the garden project ran in the local newspaper, other groups sought out Allen’s assistance connecting youth to food production. Within a few years, friends suggested that Allen consider starting a non-profit, but he protested that he came from a for-profit world and knew nothing about non-profits. So supporters took on the role of directors, and Growing Power was born.

The effort has helped change the way people eat in the inner-city neighborhoods near Growing Power’s farms. Early on, Allen began his market basket program, delivering boxes of fresh, local food to schools that families can purchase weekly. The program even accepts cards from government-assistance programs like Food Stamps and Women Infants Children (WIC).

Crowd for lecture
Allen spoke to a packed crowd at McKimmon Center.

“A lot of my friends had Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations, and they always said, ‘Will, I can’t get my food into your communities,’ and I said, ‘sure you can.’ In every community, there’s a school or a social service agency of some kind, and those can become drop centers. So we started our market basket program by delivering to schools.”

Since Growing Power began, it has incorporated different initiatives that Allen had started on his own farm, such as large-scale composting, picking up food waste around the city and turning it into high-quality soil for farms and gardens. In addition, there are vermicomposting bins, where about 5,000 lbs. of worms per farm devour food waste and convert to high-nutrient fertilizer that is sold and incorporated into the farm soils.

He also partnered with Heifer International to incorporate small-scale aquaculture projects into the greenhouses – raising 50 lbs. of tilapia in barrels over a three-month period. Today, much of Growing Power’s urban farms are under plastic to provide year-round food production, including tanks where 20,000 tilapia are grown. Some operations even incorporate outdoor livestock like chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats and bees.

With his hands in many different food-related projects, Allen himself says he likes to cook and eat the food that he grows, “because I know it’s safe. I like a lot of different foods. I like seafood; I could probably eat fish every day. I eat a lot of different salad greens. Okra is probably my favorite vegetable. I eat okra all different ways: steamed, fried, rolled in olive oil and baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I like okra chopped and stir-fried with corn, just okra and corn cut off the cob – that’s delicious.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:00 AM

N.C. MarketReady lauches blackberry, raspberry portal


Farmers in North Carolina have a new online resource to help them grow their blackberry and raspberry operations. The Blackberry & Raspberry Growers Information Portal was launched recently by N.C. MarketReady, a program of N.C. State University, with a grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. N.C. MarketReady developed the Blackberry & Raspberry Growers Information Portal as a one-stop shop to bring together on one Web site all the resources pertaining to business management and production of blackberries and raspberries in North Carolina.

Farmers, N.C. Cooperative Extension agents and home gardeners can find research-based information specific to North Carolina blackberry and raspberry production on the site. A selection of available resource topics includes marketing, food safety, integrated pest management, industry events and risk management.

New growers will find resources specific to business start-up. Home gardeners can learn the berry basics. All growers will recognize the convenience of the weather and climate links. The portal can be accessed by visiting N.C. MarketReady online at www.ncmarketready.org and clicking the tab on the left menu bar.

The Blackberry & Raspberry Growers Information Portal is a compilation of materials developed by multiple departments, programs and organizations associated with N.C. State University, as well as from other academic and agricultural sources.

The goal in designing information portals is to save growers and Extension agents time and effort by creating a one-stop shop for a specific agricultural commodity; in this case, blackberries and raspberries. The two fruits are combined because both crops are “brambles” and produced similarly. Development of portals for other crops, including tomatoes, is under way.

N.C. MarketReady, formerly known as the Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture, is a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension, which is an educational outreach of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. N.C. MarketReady’s multidisciplinary team builds partnerships and educational resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable. N.C. MarketReady is a partner of the Plants for Human Health Institute at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Learn more at www.ncmarketready.org or www.ces.ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 09:04 AM

December 01, 2009

Registration now open for popular turfgrass course

The 2010 N.C. State University Turfgrass Short Course is scheduled for the week of Feb. 22, so mark your calendars. This event provides four days of comprehensive turfgrass education and is appropriate for anyone interested in turf, including homeowners, career-changers and professionals needing a refresher.

Lectures are presented by faculty in N.C. State's award-winning turfgrass program, who will cover all aspects of turfgrass management. Successful completion prepares attendees for the Turfgrass Professional Certification program.

The McKimmon Center state-of-the-art classroom settings are intimately sized to allow focused instruction and maximize individual and group learning success. Turf and weed samples, fertilizers, insect identification and control methods are closely examined in the hands-on sessions.

The N.C. State Turfgrass Short Course program is a key building block to any turfgrass or lawn care professional's career. Covering topics from turfgrass selection, weed identification, best management practices to protect available resources and much more. Whether you're just starting out in the lawn care profession or you're a homeowner who is tired of looking at that straggly patch of mud you call a lawn, the Turfgrass Short Course is the best practical how-to education you can get in a one-week study program.

This program is held only once a year and sells out quickly. Contact Dr. Dan Bowman (919.515.2085) to reserve your seat now.

Posted by Natalie at 08:50 AM

November 13, 2009

A (Mount) Pleasant taste

When you call Marvin's Fresh Farmhouse a local restaurant, you're saying a lot.

It's a country restaurant in a small town, with a down-home menu that is literally down on the farm. Almost all of the meat and vegetables are from local farms.

Marvin is Marvin Bost. He and his wife, Cabarrus County extension agent Debbie Bost, live on a state-recognized "century farm" - meaning a farm that has been farmed in the same family for more than 100 years - although their 145-acre spread actually dates back to an original land grant to Marvin's ancestors.

Read more in the Charlotte Observer

Posted by Dave at 09:22 AM

October 30, 2009

CEFS will host Will Allen lectures


The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is bringing Will Allen to Raleigh for its 2009 Sustainable Agriculture Lecture on Nov. 9. Allen’s Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee has become a national model for adapting community supported agriculture to work for inner-city consumers, and he was selected for of one of the 2008 MacArthur Fellowships (the “genius award”) for urban farming initiatives he has developed. Allen will be discussing “Steps to Successful Urban Farming” during a talk that will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the McKimmon Center on the N.C. State campus. This talk will be free and open to the public, but seating is limited. The SAES, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State, and the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Sciences operate the CEFS jointly. Among its research units is a Small Farm Center, and the CEFS also has swine, dairy, organic cropping, farm systems and pasture-based beef units devoted to innovative practices for advancing sustainable food and farming.

Read more about the lecture
Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:29 AM

October 22, 2009

N.C. MarketReady is new name for Value-Added Agriculture Program

NCmarketready logo

KANNAPOLIS -- N.C. State University’s Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture will become N.C. MarketReady, effective Oct. 20.

The value-added program was founded in 2006 by Dr. Blake Brown, director and a professor in the N.C. State Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, with funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Since then, the program team, based at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, has grown to five faculty and four staff members. It works closely with N.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute, also based at the N.C. Research Campus, as well as with faculty from main campus and Cooperative Extension field faculty across the state.

“We are excited about this new name,” Brown said. “The new name, N.C. MarketReady, more accurately communicates the scope of our program’s work.

“Inherent in the name ‘N.C. MarketReady’ is the message that our educational programs help North Carolina producers effectively compete in the marketplace,” Brown added. “Market ready, or being ready for market, implies all facets of a business: research, business planning, production, management, food safety and marketing.

“Our team collaborates with faculty across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) to develop multidisciplinary programs. Our partnerships with other departments and faculty in CALS are an essential ingredient to programs that help North Carolina farm families.”

The team’s focus areas are agricultural enterprise development, business skills education, fresh produce safety, horticultural skills education and strengthening markets. In addition to N.C. MarketReady being used as the team name, it will be the brand used on a comprehensive set of educational materials being developed. One of the first resources to be rolled out with the N.C. MarketReady brand will be the fresh produce safety curriculum in November.

Reflected in this curriculum are contributions from numerous departments within N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. It was developed to teach growers Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to help them minimize fresh produce safety risks.
Brown cites the N.C. MarketReady team’s success in securing grants to carry out its mission. The team has received more than $2 million in grant funding and more than 72 percent of its operating budget this fiscal year will be from grants.

Through support from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension, the Agricultural Advancement Consortium of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and USDA Rural Cooperative Development, the N.C. MarketReady team has developed numerous resources. Among them are www.ncmarketready.org, which includes the one-stop-shop growers’ information portals, fresh produce safety materials, business development files, The Produce Lady videos and value-added cost share applications and guidelines.

-L. Chester-Davis

Posted by Natalie at 09:33 AM

October 19, 2009

News from NC A&T State University

The nomination deadline for the 2010 Gilmer L. and Clara Y. Dudley Small Farmer of the Year Award has been set: Monday, Dec. 1. The award will be presented on Small Farms Day (March 24, 2010) to a family farm in North Carolina that exemplifies success, innovation and leadership in small-scale agriculture. To be eligible, farmers must generate at least half their gross income from farming, have averaged less than $100,000 in annual gross farm revenue over the last three years, and the farm must be one with a family member making general management decisions.

Farmers living more than 130 miles from campus who would like to get their name in the hat for lodging, meals and waiver of registration fees for Small Farms Week activities on campus March 22 and 23 have until Jan. 15, 2010, to apply for a scholarship. In addition to living more than 130 miles from campus, applicants must rely on farming for at least 50 percent of annual gross income, and be part of a operation that has a family member making the general managerial decisions.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 03:47 PM

Extension SARE scholarships available for conference

This year the 2009 Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference (CFSA SAC) will be held at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, Dec. 4-6.

Extension Day, Friday, Dec. 4, will include a three-hour morning (9 am – 12 noon) workshop focusing on local food, sustainable business practices and safe food handling and an afternoon tour of value-added facilities. Dec. 5 and 6 will be devoted to CFSA SAC.

This year, Southern Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) is offering travel scholarships up to a maximum of $800 for Extension agents who would like to attend. Funds may used for registration, lodging and travel for the conference.

Anyone who receives an NC SARE travel scholarship must:
* Attend Extension Day, Friday, Dec. 4, both morning and afternoon sessions.

* Complete the SARE online basic sustainable ag course before attending the conference.

For information and registration forms, contact Carol Moore at carolmoore27@gmail.com for details.

Posted by Natalie at 11:24 AM

October 12, 2009

A&T hosts Fall Small Farms Field Demonstration

On Nov. 3, head over to the Fall Small Farms Field Demonstration at the N.C. A&T State University Farm in Greensboro. Read here for more details.

Posted by Natalie at 01:45 PM

October 06, 2009

Third sheep, goat roundup is a success

Chef serving goat dish
A chef serves up lunch at the sheep and goat cookoff competition in August. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

In August, the third educational N.C. Goat & Sheep Producers Roundup was held in Greensboro at the Guilford County Cooperative Extension Center. The two-day conference was well attended by over 135 goat and sheep producers from North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina.

A special feature of the event was the “N.C. Chefs Cook-off of Lamb and Chevon.” Five high-end restaurants and chefs that participated include Spanky’s Restaurant of Chapel Hill; Taste of the Caribbean Restaurant, Greensboro; The Stock Pot, Winston-Salem; JuJube Restaurant, Chapel Hill, and Chatham Marketplace, Pittsboro.

Each restaurant was given a half carcass of both lamb and goat and could prepare it any way they desired for the competition. After the judging of the dishes by area food editors of newspapers and a sponsor representative, the wonderful food was served to the participants at the conference with rave reviews.

Judges were Andrea Weigl of The News & Observer (Raleigh), Michael Hastings of the Winston-Salem Journal and N.C. Farm Bureau Representative and goat producer Susan Proctor. The Franklin County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, based in Louisburg, sponsored the cook-off event with $2,000 in prize money for the top chefs. The top winner of the both the lamb and chevon dishes was Chef Dave Schirmer of the Chatham Marketplace. Chef Schirmer took home $600 for his “Drunken Goat Burritos” and the “Roast Leg of Lamb with Orange, Chipotle and Rosemary Marmalade.”

Conference topics included various marketing avenues for the small ruminants from “Direct Sales at Farmers Markets” to “Utilizing Grazing Contracts.” Other topics included utilizing forages on small acreage, weed identification and poisonous plants in pastures, predator control, discussion of the COOL Program and Animal Identification Program.

Hands-on training was beneficial to many of the new producers with sessions on hoof-trimming, proper injection sites, how to build a goat-proof fence and how to perform fecal egg counts. A FAMACHA certification (parasite detection) training was held on Friday evening at N.C. A&T State University’s Small Ruminant Unit, and 22 producers became certified with FAMACHA.

Goat burritos
A sample burrito from the sheep and goat cookoff.

In addition to the adult sessions on both days, a youth training session was conducted by N.C. State and N.C. A&T State universities' Extension livestock specialists and others on Saturday morning. Youth learned how to win a blue ribbon in showmanship for meat goats, dairy goats and sheep. They also evaluated live animals for proper selection for competition and participated in a detailed Goat & Sheep Quality Assurance Program. Eight North Carolina vendors participated in a trade show.

The conference evaluations were “great meeting," “truly fantastic presentations," “excellent hands-on workshops," and “Look forward to the next one!” were just a few of the comments given on the conference. Cooperative Extension and planning committee looks forward to the next “Roundup” in 2011. We hope to see even more goat and sheep producers at the next big event.

For more information on the Roundup or to be placed on a goat/sheep mailing list, contact Agricultural Extension Agent Martha Mobley in Franklin County, 919.496.3344 or martha_mobley@ncsu.edu.

-Article by Martha Mobley

Read more from The News & Observer

Recipe for Drunken Goat Burritos, courtesy The N&O

Posted by Natalie at 02:53 PM

October 01, 2009

Williamson helped make Wilkes County an ag leader

The late Dwight D. Williamson, Wilkes County extension agent from 1963 to 1974, has been inducted into the Wilkes Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Read more in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot

Posted by Dave at 04:30 PM

September 29, 2009

Produce task force hosts USDA, FDA experts

Alex Hitt's farm
Farmer Alex Hitt (center) talks about postharvest handling at the Peregrine Farm packing shed.(Debbie Roos photo)

The N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force hosted the Food & Drug Administration in Raleigh for a Small Farm Produce Safety Listening Session on Sept. 28. Senior advisers and policy experts from both the FDA and the USDA listened to a panel of North Carolina small farmers as they shared their thoughts and concerns about impending produce safety legislation.

After the listening session, the FDA and USDA folks visited two area small farms: Peregrine Farm and McAdams Farm. View more photos from the event at Growing Small Farms.

Posted by Natalie at 09:50 AM

September 22, 2009

New technical bulletin focuses on switchgrass

Order a copy of Switchgrass, research bulletin TB-326, from the Department of Communication Services: www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/Publications%20Order%20Form%20for%20the%20Public.pdf
$8 per copy.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial grass native to the southeastern United States that can be used as a pasture, stored forage or biomass crop. A new technical bulletin developed by crop scientists at N.C. State University and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service summarizes the results of 26 independent research projects that focused on switchgrass—from its establishment and management challenges to its potential as a crop for grazing animals and biomass.

Based on their findings, the authors make recommendations for establishing switchgrass, managing it and selecting a cultivar based on use. The bulletin includes data on two improved cultivars developed jointly by the N.C. Agricultural Research Service and the USDA–ARS and released in 2006.

Switchgrass can be difficult to establish. Upland and lowland switchgrass cytotypes (or ecotypes) have different genetic characteristics. It’s important to select an ecotype and a cultivar within a type based on the crop’s location and intended use. Seed dormancy, insect damage and weed competition often contribute to poor establishment. Crop scientist J.C. Burns and ten other researchers designed their studies to investigate these challenges.

The researchers used switchgrass plots located at N.C. State University field laboratories to test the effects of cover crops, insecticides and the herbicide atrazine on switchgrass cultivars. Seeds collected from established switchgrass stands received prechilling and plant-growth-hormone treatments. Germination tests revealed differences among treatments.

To investigate switchgrass as a forage crop, the researchers conducted yield trials and analyzed the cell wall content of different cultivars. Grasses were managed as pasture—or harvested from established stands and stored as silage or hay—and used in feeding experiments with grazing animals. Differences were detected in nutritive values among switchgrass cultivars and other forages, such as tall fescue and bermudagrass. The researchers also analyzed the yield potential of switchgrass ecotypes for use as biomass.

Posted by Natalie at 03:38 PM

September 03, 2009

Extension initiative focuses on year-round fresh produce safety

September is Food Safety Month, and North Carolina Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with the N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force, is leading an initiative to educate fruit and vegetable growers and consumers about measures that can minimize food safety risks. The organization has received more than $250,000 in grant funding to support the statewide Extension and research effort.

Cooperative Extension has conducted train-the-trainer workshops for Extension agents, who, in turn, will train producers. The training focuses on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and what it takes to obtain GAPs certification. Industry, such as grocery stores, is increasingly demanding that growers they buy from be GAPs certified.

The fresh produce safety curriculum consists of nine training modules that cover GAPs measures, such as verifying the safety of irrigation water, regular hand-washing procedures, packing facility and transportation vehicle cleanliness, maintaining the "cold chain" temperature and establishing traceability. The workshops also include modules focused on managing risks and liability as well as crisis communication.

In addition, a Web site, www.ncfreshproducesafety.org has been developed as a resource for growers, consumers and Extension agents.

Additional efforts include development of food safety plan templates for growers to use and adapt to their operations, presentations focusing on fresh produce safety education and active representation on the Governor's Food Safety and Defense Task Force.

Traceability systems research is being conducted by N.C. State University faculty. The research will identify current measures and assess the industry's ability to trace fresh produce in the event of an outbreak or food safety incident triggering a recall. The research will be used to make recommendations for improvements. Researchers are also studying typical North Carolina farming and produce packing and shipping operations.

Extension specialists and agents will use these studies to develop traceability templates that farmers statewide can use to implement traceability measures cost effectively on their farms.

Other research includes testing irrigation water for potential contamination and looking at ways to reduce risks.

N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE), USDA Rural Cooperative Development, Agricultural Advancement Consortium of The N.C. Rural Center, Risk Management Agency, N.C. Tomato Growers Association and PPG Inc. provided funding for the fresh produce safety initiative.

N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members serve as co-chairs of the N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force. The task force brings together fresh produce growers, educators, government officials, public policy makers, industry representatives and researchers. It consists of five working groups: education, research, industry and policy relationships, networking and Communications, and executive management oversight.

The co-chairs are Dr. Ben Chapman, CALS Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences; Diane Ducharme, CALS Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture; Dr. Chris Gunter, CALS Department of Horticulture Science; and Dr. Trevor Phister, CALS Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

In addition to Ducharme, other Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture team members are members of the task force. Rod Gurganus and Leah Chester-Davis, serve as co-chairs of the education, and networking and communications working groups, respectively.

N.C. Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. It has programs in all 100 counties and the Cherokee Reservation.

Learn more at www.ces.ncsu.edu. The Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture is located at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. The multidisciplinary team builds partnerships and educational resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable. The team works closely with N.C. Cooperative Extension personnel who work with farmers across the state. Learn more at www.ncvalueadded.org.

-L. Chester-Davis

Posted by Natalie at 10:11 AM

August 27, 2009

Cooperative Extension focuses on lamb, goat

dish from goat cookoff
(Becky Kirkland photo)

Eaten any good goat lately?

Well, I have.

I was invited last Friday to the Guilford County Agricultural Center to help judge a cook-off featuring goat and lamb meat.

The cook-off was part of the third N.C. Goat and Sheep Producers Roundup, held by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Read more from the Winston-Salem Journal.

Posted by Suzanne at 09:13 AM

August 11, 2009

Poultry science hosts Chinese group

Chinese poultry delegation

N.C. State's Poultry Science Department and Feed Science Program continues to expand its extension and outreach programs. In June, the department hosted a group of 30 workshop participants from China. Participants attended a Poultry Production and Feed Manufacturing Workshop at N.C. State, sponsored by the American Soybean Association International Marketing office in Beijing, China. The participants work for poultry production and feed manufacturing companies located throughout China.

The group attended lectures and worked in laboratories on campus and at the Feed Mill Education Unit located on Lake Wheeler Road. The group toured the Mountaire Farms feed mill in Candor, Southern States feed mill in Farmville, Cargill soy processing plant in Raleigh, East Coast Soy Processor in Pantego and Reggie Strickland’s soybean farm in North Carolina.

Cooperative Extension specialists in poultry science and biological and agricultural engineering presented the workshops. Topics included: broiler breeder and incubation management (Mike Wineland), layer nutrition and management (Ken Anderson), broiler nutrition and management (Edgar Oviedo), bio-security and disease control (Donna Carver), ventilation and brooding (Sanjay Shah), feed manufacturing processes (Peter Ferket) and feed mill operations and management (Charles Stark).

The group also completed a feed mill quality assurance laboratory and manufactured feed using the new state-of-the art Repete® automation system at the Feed Mill Education Unit. The group toured the JC Raulston Arboretum, met with members of the N.C. Soybean Board and attended a pig pick’n. The workshop provided an excellent opportunity for participants, faculty and staff to share experiences and ideas that will improve poultry production and feed manufacturing throughout the world.

-C. Stark

Posted by Natalie at 08:23 AM

August 06, 2009

Third Goat and Sheep Roundup will be Aug. 14-15 in Greensboro

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, along with several goat and sheep producer associations in North Carolina, will host the N.C. Goat & Sheep Producers Roundup III, Aug. 14-15 in Greensboro.

The event will be held at the Guilford Cooperative Extension center, 3309 Burlington Road in Greensboro, and N.C. A&T State University Research Farm, also in Greensboro. Goat and sheep producers, along with youth in the Southeast, are invited to this educational event to share and learn more about the latest issues related to the production of sheep and dairy and meat goats.

Experts from around the United States will address many topics of interest to sheep and goat producers. Special features of the conference will include an North Carolina Chefs Cook-Off of both chevon and lamb for Friday’s lunch. On Saturday, a youth program will be added, targeting youth interested in fitting and showing goats and sheep for competitions.

Read more from CALS News

Posted by Natalie at 10:31 AM

July 06, 2009

Chatham celebrates pollinators for third year

child visits pollinator garden

Hannah Cowell is a frequent visitor to the pollinator garden at Chatham Marketplace. The bed, which features herbs as well as native perennials and vines, was center piece of the pollinator celebration held last month in Chatham County. For the third year, Chatham County Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers Association partnered for a pollinators' celebration in Pittsboro. Agent Debbie Roos says the event has grown every year, and she expects to repeat it next year. The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of the bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that are needed to produce 80 percent of our flowering plants and one third of our human food crops.

To see more photos from the event, visit Debbie Roos' Growing Small Farms Web site.

Posted by Natalie at 02:36 PM

July 02, 2009

Extension responds to interest in home food preservation

canning workshop
Susan Condlin, right, Lee County Extension director, teaches participants how to can tomatoes at a recent workshop. (Marc Hall photo)

With a renewed interest in home gardening and purchasing local food across North Carolina comes renewed consumer interest in preserving food at home, through canning, freezing or drying North Carolina Cooperative Extension centers are responding to this interest by offering canning classes across the state.

Once a hallmark of extension programming through Tomato Clubs for girls, canning and other home food preservation techniques had largely fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years. But this year, Cooperative Extension centers are reporting enrollment in canning workshops is up, and many extension agents are adding classes to accommodate demand.

Cabarrus County has scheduled nine workshops, up from the usual four, and all filled quickly. Several television news groups taped the Cabarrus workshops to use as on-air instructional pieces. Five workshops will be offered in Lee County, including one focusing on canning green beans and two on canning tomatoes. In Buncombe County, workshops are scheduled throughout the summer produce season on canning strawberry jam, dill pickles and relish and tomatoes, along with several lectures on home canning.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, 14 participants crowded the kitchen of Lee County's Cooperative Extension center for a lesson on canning tomatoes. All participants went home with their own quart jars of fresh-packed tomatoes canned during the class.

Dr. Ben Chapman, food safety Extension specialist based in N.C. State University’s Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, reports that about 20 percent of inquiries he receives have been about home food preservation. Chapman came to N.C. State from Canada in January.

removing jars
Two participants in the Lee County workshop remove processed jars of tomatoes from a pressure canner. (Marc Hall photo)

Earlier this year, he led a home food preservation workshop for Extension agents some of whom had never taught canning before. He believes that nearly every agent who has participated is offering community food preservation workshops this summer.

Chapman attributes this renewed interest in home food preservation to three factors: The rise in home gardeners, who want to preserve what they grow – home vegetable seed purchases are reportedly up by 40 percent around the country; the local foods movement, which has encouraged consumers to purchase and eat more local produce; and the economy, which is bringing out new tendencies toward thrift in many consumers.

“The resurgence of local foods and home food preservation is good news for both the health of North Carolinians, and the economic health of the state,” Chapman said. “However, there are areas of potential concern related to food safety.”

For Web-based canning information, consumers can visit www.homefoodpreservation.ncsu.edu, a site developed by Cooperative Extension agents and specialists. The site includes information on how to evaluate a pressure canning gauge, how to can various products and how to prevent illnesses caused by improper canning practices.

jars of canned tomatoes
The finished product. (Photo courtesy of Susan Condlin)

In addition to offering canning workshops, many Extension centers will check the gauge on pressure canners to determine if they are calibrated properly. An accurate gauge will assure a safe product if correct canning procedures are followed. A pressure canner is required for safely canning low-acid foods, and Condlin says the gauge should be checked each year prior to the canning season.

To locate your county Extension center, visit the Web site: www.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=countycenters or look in the government section of your phone book under “North Carolina Cooperative Extension.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:00 AM

Small Farm Field Day is July 16

N.C. A&T State University will host the Small Farm Field Day July 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon at the University Farm in Greensboro. Demonstrations will include pastured chickens, pastured hogs, mushrooms, specialty vegetables on mulch, no-till raised beds with pumpkins, Asian eggplant, Scotch bonnet and amaranth. The University Farm is located at 3136 McConnell Road, Greensboro, approximately three miles north
of I-40, exit 43 (old exit 130).

Posted by Natalie at 10:23 AM

June 24, 2009

Chatham Extension center, beekeepers celebrate pollinators

bees in a hive

Come join the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers’ Association for the third annual celebration of National Pollinator Week on Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on The Lawn at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of the bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that are needed to produce 80 percent of our flowering plants and one third of our human food crops. The National Academy of Sciences has reported that there is direct evidence of the decline of some pollinator species in North America. And recently, Colony Collapse Disorder of honey bees has alarmed the agricultural industry.

Activities for folks of all ages are planned for this event in Pittsboro:

* Hear presentations about beekeeping – how to get started, equipment needs, management tips – from local beekeepers.

* Tour Cooperative Extension’s new Pollinator Garden at Chatham Mills and learn how to attract and protect pollinators.

* Watch expert beekeepers work an actual hive inside a bee cage (bees inside, participants outside!), see honey bees up close and personal, and get your burning beekeeping questions answered.

* Participate in a pollinator-themed Scavenger Hunt for kids!

* Watch “Bee TV” - park yourself in front of an observation hive and watch the worker bees attending the queen. It’s mesmerizing!

* Meet Chatham County beekeepers and learn all about what it takes to produce the nutritious and delicious local honey available at Chatham Marketplace. We will have beekeeping equipment and products from the hive to show and tell.

* Visit Chatham Marketplace to learn which products depend on bees for pollination (hint: look for the bee signs).

* Pick up some educational literature to further your knowledge about honey bees, beekeeping, pollinators, and pollinator conservation.

* Learn about the Chatham County Beekeepers’ Association and how you can get involved with this fabulously friendly group through monthly meetings and field days and even an email listserv. We welcome members of all skill levels -- from never-tried-it (but always wanted to) to beginner to experienced!

* Enjoy a pollinator-friendly local lunch at Chatham Marketplace during the program! Did you know that worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, spices, fiber and medicine require pollination by animals?

All Pollinator Week Events are free and open to the public. This event will be held rain or shine. For directions, go to chathammarketplace.coop/location.

This event is sponsored by Chatham Mills Development Corporation, www.chathammills.com, and hosted by Chatham Marketplace, www.chathammarketplace.coop.

For more information about pollinator conservation, visit Cooperative Extension’s Web site at www.protectpollinators.org.

Visit the Chatham Beekeepers’ Association Web site at www.chathambeekeepers.org.

For more information about this event, contact Debbie Roos at 919.542.8202 or debbie_roos@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 10:15 AM

Cooperative Extension provides new online tools for growing farmers’ businesses

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – A new resource from N.C. State University is designed to help farmers be more successful. The “Business Development Files,” for small- to mid-size farmers, are distributed through N.C. Cooperative Extension centers statewide. They offer step-by-step advice for those interested in building or expanding an agricultural business. The new information consists of seven files, or steps, each providing guidance on various aspects of developing an agricultural business, from estimating market potential to calculating costs. Farmers should contact an N.C. Cooperative Extension agent in their county to review these files.

The Business Development Files include:
1. Evaluating a New Business Idea
2. Estimating Income and Cost: Calculating a Price
3. Researching Your Market: Identifying Your Customers
4. Researching Your Market: Evaluating the Competition
5. Estimating Market Potential: Is There a Market?
6. Legal, Regulatory and Insurance: Checklist for North Carolina
7. Product, Price, Place and Promotion

Gary Bullen, an Extension associate in the N.C. State Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture, spearheaded the effort to create the Business Development Files after realizing a gap in the flow of information between business experts and farmers.

“There are a lot of materials telling farmers what they should do to be successful, but they don’t explain how to do it,” says Bullen. “These files will walk farmers step-by-step through the business development process and evaluate issues before farmers invest their time and money.”

Cooperative Extension agents will work with farmers to complete worksheets for each of the seven files, thus evaluating the feasibility of a business endeavor in advance.

Growing an agricultural business
N.C. Cooperative Extension agents are integrating the Business Development Files into public workshops and training seminars for farmers across North Carolina. The events are presented by Extension personnel like Amy-Lynn Albertson, Extension associate horticulture agent in Davidson County, and are often localized to meet the needs of the region’s farmers.

“As Extension agents, we have to help farmers in our regions market effectively,” says Albertson. “They know how to grow it; not necessarily how best to sell it.”

Albertson uses the Business Development Files in her workshops to touch on many aspects of agricultural business development, including market and competitor analysis, legal and insurance considerations, and product promotion and marketing. Individuals from five farms have completed Albertson’s Business Development Files-inspired trainings, including Brenda Garner from SandyCreek Farm.

SandyCreek Farm has especially benefited from the Business Development Files provided through Cooperative Extension. Having recently expanded to include new products, a greenhouse and a Web site complete with an online shopping cart, Garner cites the benefits.

“It’s paying off big time,” she says.

The recent grand opening of the SandyCreek Farm store brought upwards of 70 people to the property in Lexington, N.C. “I would’ve considered 20 to 30 people a success,” Garner notes.

Subscriptions to SandyCreek’s e-newsletter have more than tripled over the past year, attendance is up at the farm’s workshops and demand from local restaurants for fresh produce is exceeding supply. “Right now we have waiting lists,” says Garner.

“We had no idea this resource was available. If other farmers will use it, I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t benefit. It’s a tremendous service.”

“We couldn’t operate without Amy-Lynn and the Extension Service.”

The Business Development Files were funded by a grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the Southern Region Risk Management Education Center.

About the N.C. State University Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture
Located at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, the multi-disciplinary team builds partnerships and educational resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable. Learn more at www.ncvalueadded.org.

-J. Moore

Posted by Natalie at 09:38 AM

June 02, 2009

Researcher helps second graders learn about strawberries

Gina Fernandez with students
Dr. Gina Fernandez, right, and students examine parasitized thrips on leaves from the strawberry patch at Swift Creek Elementary School. (Becky Kirkland photos)

While North Carolina strawberry growers looked forward to a bumper crop of berries in May, second graders at Swift Creek Elementary School in Raleigh also were watching their small crop come in. Though the school’s berries arrived a few weeks later than those of commercial growers, the students and their teachers have gained a wealth of knowledge from their year-long study of strawberries and how they grow.

The project started last fall as a collaboration between Dr. Gina Fernandez, small fruits specialist and associate professor of horticultural science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Swift Creek second grade teacher Megan Sedaghat. Fernandez’s daughter, Anya Yencho, was a student in Sedaghat’s class this year. When Sedaghat learned of Fernandez’s expertise with strawberries, she asked if Fernandez would help students grow and study strawberries.

The North Carolina Strawberry Association also got involved, providing Strawberry Time coloring books for the students and some funds to help develop a school curriculum on strawberries that other schools could implement.

As a crop, strawberries fit nicely into a traditional calendar school year, Fernandez said. The strawberry plants are planted in the fall, cared for throughout the winter and harvested in May, just before the school year ends. School gardens planted in the spring won’t yield their harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers until mid-summer after students have left school.

In the fall, Fernandez helped the second-grade classes prepare a bed for strawberries, covered in plastic like most commercial strawberry beds in North Carolina. Each of five classes planted six strawberry plants to raise during the school year. Through the winter, students monitored night-time temperatures and covered their plants when a freeze was expected. They also had to cover their plants with netting when birds and squirrels threatened their berries.

“This has been so cool,” Sedaghat said of the project. “Why in the world anyone studying plants in school wouldn’t grow strawberries, I don’t know.”

Sedaghat said the students had enjoyed the lessons that Fernandez brought to the classroom. “She’s an expert, a role model. We couldn’t have done it without her,” Sedaghat said.

Second-grade students don’t study plants as part of the state’s curriculum, but they do study measurement, so Fernandez helped the class set up a system for measuring plant growth each month throughout the growing season. The classes planted “control” plants – one for each month of the growing year. Fernandez visited the school each month to measure and weigh different plant parts. Students in Sedaghat’s class kept “scientific journals” to record the progress of their strawberry crop during the year.

Students shared what they had learned about strawberries – that they grow from flowers, that the new plants are called “tips” and that you have to cut off the plants’ runners.

Measuring strawberry growth
Teacher Megan Sedaghat and a student examine strawberry leaves from fall and from May to see how much the plants grew.

In early May, they measured their final plant of the growing season. First, Fernandez removed the plant from its pot, and then students rinsed dirt off the plant’s roots so they could measure their length. Sedaghat, a self-proclaimed pack rat, still had the dried roots sample from the first plant the students measured in the fall. The students were able to compare how the plants’ roots had grown since September. Cries of “wwwwooooooo” arose as students compared the two root samples.

The students also removed, counted and weighed the plant’s leaves, then weighed the remaining crown of the plant. Fernandez told the students that the scientific measurements they took were the same research practices used by her graduate students at N.C. State. With a year’s worth of plant measurements recorded in their journals, students were able to create graphs showing the strawberry plants’ growth over time.

In addition to Fernandez’s visits, the students heard from Apex strawberry grower Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm, who explained how she raises strawberries on her farm. When she told them she has 56,000 strawberry plants at her pick-your-own operation, they were stunned.

The day the students measured their last strawberry plant was significant in another way: the school cafeteria served strawberries at lunch that day. North Carolina strawberries will be served in 47 school districts across the state this season through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Farm to School program. Students received another unexpected treat for their efforts – a quart of berries for each second grader from Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury.

The second grade strawberry patch didn’t get quite enough sun to produce lots of berries, but Sedaghat already has plans to move the whole operation to a sunnier site next season. The project was such a success, that Liz Driscoll, youth horticulture Extension associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is developing a strawberry curriculum with help from the N.C. Strawberry Association that could be used in schools throughout the state. Cooperative Extension agents could get involved in the project in their own communities.

"Kids love strawberries. Helping kids become lifetime strawberries eaters is good for their health and for our farmers,” said Debby Wechsler of the N.C. Strawberry Association. “This project is great because it also encourages budding scientists and builds understanding of how plants grow.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:13 AM

June 01, 2009

Farm to Fork Summit focuses on local food systems

Gov. Beverly Perdue offers support for local food systems at the Farm to Fork Summit. (Becky Kirkland photos)

How would you build local food economies for North Carolina communities? About 400 farmers, food service buyers, health professionals, county government officials, chefs and university representatives came together at the Farm to Fork Summit held in N.C. State’s McKimmon Center in May to ask that question as they develop a State Action Plan. The conference included remarks and pledges of support by Gov. Beverly Perdue, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, former U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton and other dignitaries.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), directed by Dr. Nancy Creamer, hosted the summit, which took place after more than a year of planning and conversations. Last fall, CEFS hosted six regional summits to learn what was happening regionally to build local food economies and to identify opportunities and obstacles. Other dignitaries offering support were Dr. Jon Ort, director of N.C. Cooperative Extension Service at N.C. State University, Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, administrator of N.C. Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University, and Maurice Totty of the Compass Group, the world’s largest food distributor.

Ort and McKinnie pledged support for local food economies in North Carolina during the Farm to Fork Summit. When Extension interviewed 22,000 citizens last summer about what they needed, local food was a key issue identified as needing support from Extension, Ort told the group. He pledged support for a Web site that would help producers and consumers with production, marketing and access to local foods.
In addition, training will help Extension agents increase their skills for building local food economies.

"Extension is working on all sides of this issue," Ort said. "A number of counties are already working on this, but there’s a lot more work to be done."

McKinnie said the local foods movement takes Extension back to its roots – teaching people how to grow food. By working across program areas, he said, Extension can help support local foods initiatives.
Brenda Sutton, who serves as The Produce Lady for Extension’s Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture Program and Rockingham County Extension director, was among the Extension professionals attending the conference.

"I'm just so excited to see such support from a diverse audience for a more common sense approach to food distribution,” Sutton said. “The summit provided an opportunity for so many conversations to help us all move forward with the local foods movement in our own communities."

"The most exciting part for me was meeting all the different people who have a similar interest in local foods," said Amy-Lynn Albertson, agricultural agent in Davidson County. "I am
excited about all of the potential partnerships and the energy these people bring to the table."

Gov. Beverly Perdue told the crowd enthusiastic crowd that the Governor’s Mansion – which she called "the people’s house" – had an organic vegetable garden that contributed food to local food banks. She pledged her full support for building sustainable, local food economies for North Carolina.

"I’m on your team. Tell me what you need to grow this whole new industry," she said to the large summit gathering. "If you need a Sustainable Agriculture Council, you tell me. I understand. I will join with you."

Farm to Fork participants discuss issues in breakout sessions.

The first day of the summit, 11 working issues teams presented Game Changer ideas that could be implemented to move their causes forward. The ideas ranged from establishing a marketing campaign aimed at getting North Carolina consumers to eat 10 percent local foods to developing a community garden in each county to creating a state Food Safety and Security Commission to help small producers deal with regulatory complexity.

Before the conference even got underway, one of the working issue teams came close to achieving a major goal – legislative action on establishing a sustainable local food policy council for North Carolina. As a direct result of action by the Foundations and Baselines WIT, Sen. Charles Albertson introduced S.B. 1067, which passed the state senate on May 12, the second day of the summit.
Summit participants also met in six regional groups to discuss how to implement a plan for their regions. Listserv groups will be established for the regional areas to stay in contact with one another.

CEFS Director Nancy Creamer told the participants of next steps for the project. CEFS is developing the State Action Plan for Building a Sustainable Local Food Economy in North Carolina that will be presented to decision makers, policy makers, business leaders, government agencies and funders over the next few months. Many of the other Game Changer ideas are being developed.

Grant funds from Golden LEAF Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will establish a position to help move many aspects of the Farm to Fork initiative forward. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program funds will support training for county teams that want to develop local food economies. W.K. Kellogg Foundation funding to CEFS will provide mini-grants for small projects.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:25 AM

The Produce Lady offers helpful hints for consumers, farmers

Brenda Sutton

As farmers’ markets attract more and more consumers in search of nutritious, high-quality foods, many of those same consumers are looking for ways to prepare and preserve what they buy at markets. A new resource from the N.C. State University Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture at the new N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis offers help.

The Produce Lady video series tells farmers and consumers the wonders of locally grown fruits and vegetables – the nutrition they provide, the delicious meals or snacks families can enjoy with each vegetable or fruit and how to prepare them as tasty meals and snacks or freeze them to use throughout the year. The Produce Lady is Brenda Bryan Sutton, the new N.C. Cooperative Extension director in Rockingham County, who served as family and consumer sciences Extension agent until recently. The Produce Lady’s recipes and videos are available in two sites: www.theproducelady.org and www.youtube.com/user/TheProduceLady.

Posted by Natalie at 09:47 AM

May 12, 2009

Franklin farm, crafts tour adds events

The weekend of May 16–17 offers the opportunity to discover the day-to-day life on a working farm. If you've had questions about how produce is grown, or you'd like to educate your children, this is an inexpensive weekend adventure offering farm tours, local arts and crafts, a children's Fishing Rodeo on Saturday morning, Dinner on the Green Saturday evening, and a Farm to River Fun 5K Run/Walk on Sunday morning. The farms are open for the tour from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Follow the signs to the historic Person Place on Main Street, downtown Louisburg, and visit our Hospitality Tent. Starting at 10 a.m., you can purchase a farm tour button for $5/adult, children under 13 free. While there, make sure to enjoy and purchase local heritage arts and crafts, such as wrought iron garden gates, paintings, pottery, hand-made quilts and much more. Pick up the brochure/map with descriptions of the nine farms on the tour. Any tours you miss on Saturday, you can visit on Sunday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Also, “support local farms” tour buttons and brochures will be available at each of the farms. Don't forget to bring your cooler and purchase farm fresh eggs, produce and meats directly from the farmers at their farms.

To download a tour brochure with farm map and other events, visit the Web site, www.FranklinCountyFarmFresh.com or call the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Center at 919. 496.3344. All the entire weekend events are sponsored by the Franklin County Tourism Development Authority, Whole Foods Grocery, N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Franklin County Arts Council.

“Dinner on the Green” Local Food Festival: Sat., May 16

For the second year, a “Dinner on the Green” featuring locally raised foods, will be showcased on Saturday evening, May 16, in downtown Louisburg at the Historic Person Place Grounds. The menu will include local natural grassfed beef, chevon, pastured chicken, fresh local “just picked” produce such as new potatoes, lettuce and even chocolate-dipped strawberries. Homemade breads will be on the menu also. The food will be prepared by Triangle area chefs. Entertainment will be the Doc Branch Band, a local family of bluegrass musicians, from 6 until 9 p.m.

Tickets include the dinner and entertainment and are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the event on May 16. To purchase tickets in advance, call 919.496.3344 or contact any of the nine farms on the farm tour; details can be found at www.FranklinCountyFarmFresh.com.

Youth Fishing Rodeo: Sat., May 16

For the first time, Franklin County will be hosting a “Youth Fishing Rodeo” on Saturday morning, May 16, from 8 until 11 a.m. at 20-acre lake on Double D Equestrian Farm,. Youth 13 years old and under accompanied by a parent or guardian can fish for free. The parent or guardian must purchase a Farm Tour button ($5) to participate. Each youth 13 years old and younger will receive a free “Rod and Reel and Tackle Box” sponsored by Shakespeare Fishing Tackle. Prizes will be furnished for various fishing categories, such as “biggest fish,” “smallest fish,” etc. from Jim's Cricket Ranch near Louisburg. Fishing demonstrations and lessons from professional fishermen will be held at the farm. To participate, register online at www.FranklinCountyFarmFresh.com or call 919.496.3344. It is limited to the first 250 youth to pre-register. There will be a $5 fee for youth older than 13 years old to participate.

Farm to River 5K Fun Run/Walk: Sun., May 17

A “Small Farmer” Benefit Farm to River 5K Fun Run/Walk will be held in Franklin County on Sunday morning, May 17 at Double D Equestrian Farm near Louisburg. Participants can register from 8 -- 9 a.m. with the event beginning at 9 a.m. sharp. The fee to participate is $20 per person with a specially designed t-shirt given each runner/walker. Children 13 years and younger are free to participate. This is a non-competitive race and is a family event. Join us for fitness and fun at the farm and river. This is also a dog-friendly event; dogs must be on a leash and current on vaccines. Prizes will be given to top walkers and runners.

Participants can pre-register at www.FranklinCountyFarmFresh.com or call (919) 496-3344. Funds raised will establish the first-ever Small Farmer Grant program for a small farmer in Franklin County.

Farm Life Photography Contest: May 16 & 17

Bring your camera along on the upcoming Franklin County Farm Foods & Crafts Tour scheduled for May 16 & 17. Nine diverse farms will be showcased during the two-day event with many farm life photography opportunities available. Submit a photo entry on the Web site, www.FranklinCountyFarmFresh.com, for a chance to win prize money based on various age categories. A reception showcasing the photographs will be held on Saturday, Aug. 1 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Louisburg College Auditorium Gallery with the winners announced. Light refreshments will be provided the public during the Aug. 1 reception. For more information, call (919) 496-3344. This event is sponsored by the Franklin County Arts Council.

Posted by Natalie at 02:26 PM

April 24, 2009

Farm safety workshop focuses on prevention

Master Sgt. Kevin Bennett explains the laws governing ATV use in North Carolina(Rebecca Kirkland photo)

“You never think it will happen to you.”

That was the haunting refrain behind the safety messages delivered at the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids workshop at the Johnston County Extension Center March 12. There an audience of more than 80 participants heard about farm safety and health programs for children, youth and families at the event coordinated locally by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, N.C. Agromedicine Institute/AgriSafe North Carolina, N.C. Farm Bureau and Ashe/Alleghany Rural Community Safety 4 All Seasons. The workshop was sponsored by USDA Risk Management Agency through a grant to the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK ) organization.

-T. Leith

Read more from Perspectives Latest News

Posted by Natalie at 02:24 PM

March 17, 2009

Extension helps Raleigh land a new farmer's market


People in North Raleigh will soon have a new place to go for fresh produce and local goods.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension and an advisory board of local residents have decided to develop a community farmer's market at Falls River Town Center off of Durant Road.

The extension surveyed about 4,000 neighbors about the idea, and discovered overwhelming support for a market.

Read more from NBC 17.

Posted by Suzanne at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2009

Almanac Gardener season begins April 4

Almanac Gardener

Almanac Gardener begins its 26th season on Saturday, April 4 at noon on the statewide UNC-TV network. The Saturday show will be repeated at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Almanac Gardener is a half-hour home horticultural program telecast for 20 weeks from April through August. Almanac Gardener is one of the longest running series on UNC-TV and is a co-production of UNC-TV and Cooperative Extension at N.C. State University.

Viewers send questions to Almanac Gardener and horticultural experts from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service answer them on the air. The show also airs how-to horticultural features that are produced in the field.

Regular Cooperative Extension panelists include: Karen Neill, horticultural agent, Guilford County; Linda Blue, horticultural agent, Buncombe County; Bill Lord, environmental agent, Franklin County; Lucy Bradley, urban horticultural specialist, N.C. State University; Stephen Greer, horticultural agent, Forsyth County; Charlotte Glenn, horticultural agent, Pender County and Amy-Lynn Albertson, horticultural agent, Davidson County. Mike Gray is a co-producer and host of Almanac Gardener.

With the stressful economy, a special emphasis this season will be on saving money by home vegetable gardening and preparing fresh vegetables right from the garden. Almanac Gardener panelists will also continue to help folks conserve water with tips on collecting and using rainwater for irrigation.

Field features this season will include:
Starting a Spring Garden
Growing Spring Lettuce
Growing Broccoli
Growing Cabbage
Asheville Farmers’ Tailgate Market
Preparing Greens
Preparing Cabbage
Preparing Turnips
Preparing Collards
Preparing Sweet Potatoes
Water Independence/Going Off the Grid
Building Planting Beds to Conserve Water
Drought Tolerant Plants
Gardening for Exercise
Reducing Stress by Using the Right Gardening Tools
Taming a Swarm of Bees

Posted by Natalie at 03:11 PM

February 17, 2009

Strong demand for Bogue Sound watermelons

Bogue Sound watermelon (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

Bogue Sound watermelon production is taking off faster than the juice that rolls down your chin when you bite into a slice.

In 2007, the total number of Bogue Sound watermelons produced rose by 35 percent over the previous year. The melons are now available, for the first time, in major grocery chains throughout North Carolina and across the United States. And the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers' Association, a co-op formed just three years ago, recently won $400,000 in grants to fund a new storage and distribution facility.

Times are good, says Carteret County farmer and co-op president Billy Guthrie, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

"Demand is strong and our yield per acre is up," he says. "We’ve even begun shipping into Canada. But in order to become even more successful, we need more farmers to get involved."

Any watermelon grower whose land drains directly or indirectly into North Carolina’s Bogue Sound is eligible to join the co-op, which has 20 members right now.

"Big and small farmers are working with each other ... everybody helps," says Ray Harris, Cooperative Extension director in Carteret County. "This effort has pulled farmers together more than anything I’ve seen in this area in the last 35 years."

Sherry Guthrie, Billy wife and business partner, agrees. "The number of farms that went under in 2006 is astounding," she says. "We want to keep families on the farm, and we also want to get more young farmers involved."

Terri and Jeff Collins with Ray Harris
Extension's Ray Harris (right) touches base with watermelon growers Terri and Jeff Collins.

One such farmer is Jeff Collins. He and his wife Terri run a 25-acre family farm that produces tobacco, corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sod, and of course, Bogue Sound watermelons. Collins says they made more money off watermelons last year than on tobacco and plan to expand their watermelon acreage next year.

"We've got a good product," he says. "Everybody wants it. We've sent them all the way to Quebec and a lot to New York. It's the best melon you'll taste."

A warehouse on the Collinses farm has served as a collection and distribution center for Bogue Sound Watermelon co-op farmers to use. While they won't need to take advantage of the new facility being developed, the couple believes it could be a boon for the co-op.

"We've been friends with Billy Guthrie for a long time, and we've talked about this for four to five years," Terri Collins says. "It's a good feeling to see it working."

Two grants – $300,000 from the North Carolina Rural Center and $100,000 from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – will fund the new facility. It will meet a critical need by providing farmers with a central location to sort, grade and store the increasing volume of melons. With refrigeration and ice-making equipment, Harris says, the facility eventually could be used to process other types of produce.

At press time, the cooperative was scouting locations for the new facility. Harris says they hope to begin operation by summer.

Harris has played a key role in establishing the cooperative and fueling the growth of the Bogue Sound Watermelon enterprise, connecting Guthrie and the co-op with opportunities for marketing, distribution and grant funding.

"We've had some bumps in the road and growing pains, but that's to be expected," Harris says.

Guthrie says the concept for the organization is simple. "Once you've established that reputation of integrity and quality, and you remain constant, you'll grow."

With a product that literally tips the sweetness scales, the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association has nowhere to go but up.

--S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 02:17 PM

February 12, 2009

Registration open for Small Farms Conference

Enough food crises have occurred in the past 10 years for even the most casual grower to be on point about how food is produced and harvested. With each report of bad meat, tainted spinach or suspect
tomatoes, comes a renewed focus on how food gets from the field to the table, and it is that journey that frames the thrust for the
23rd Annual Small Farms week.

“Farm to Fork” is the theme of this year’s Small Farms Week, set for March 22 to 28 and sponsored by The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T. The experts who will work with farmers during the Small
Farms Week activities include food, nutrition and farm experts from Cooperative Extension as well as faculty with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Both departments are part of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at A&T.

Presenters will discuss ways farmers can improve their farming and handling practices with a safer food supply as the goal, and the potential to attract more business as further incentive. Dr. M.
Ray McKinnie, administrator of The Cooperative Extension Program, says farmers who adapt to standards for how produce is developed in the
field and to what happens to it after it’s harvested, can likely expand their market.

For more information on the conference, and to register, visit the site: www.ag.ncat.edu/onthemove/OTM02-09.pdf.

Posted by Natalie at 03:46 PM

February 05, 2009

Workshop will address youth safety on farms

farm safety image

At the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids Workshop March 12, Extension agents and others can learn how to make training programs come alive on farm safety and health programs for children, youth and families. Hear and share success stories. Discover resources. Learn the latest on ATV, pesticide and farm machinery safety.

The workshop will be held at the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Center in Smithfield, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is free, and lunch will be provided.

For more information and to register, visit the Web site:

Registration deadline is Feb. 27. The workshop is sponsored by Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, N.C. Agromedicine Institute, USDA Risk Management Agency, N.C. Farm Bureau, N.C. Cooperative Extension and AgriSafe-North Carolina.

Posted by Natalie at 08:44 AM

CEFS workshop focuses on high-tunnel production

There will be a workshop covering research findings in high-tunnel greenhouse production on Tuesday, Feb. 17, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) near Goldsboro. Topics on the agenda include updated guidelines for insect, nutrient, disease and water management. There will also be discussions of crop selection and budgeting. For information, or to register, visit www.cefs.ncsu.edu/calendar2009.htm#hightunnel.

Read more news from ag e dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:35 AM

February 03, 2009

CEFS to host summit on building local food economies

summit flower

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems will host the 2009 Farm to Fork Summit March 2-3 at McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The day and a half conference will explore the outcomes of six regional meetings held last fall, and Working Issues Teams will provide input about “game changer” and “local tool box” ideas. The goal of the summit is to help produce a Statewide Action Plan for Building a Local Food Economy.

Working Issues Teams will report in the areas of:
* Expanding institutional, retail and food service markets for small and medium-sized farms
* Farm-to-school programming
* Public health and food access disparities
* Direct markets
* New and transitioning farmers support
* Community gardens and farms
* Land use and local government initiatives
* Youth and social networking
* Consumer outreach and marketing
* Processing and other physical infrastructure
* Formalizing the initiative: Foundations and baselines

Registration is $35 and can be completed online by visiting the Web site: ncsustainablefood.wordpress.com/summit/. A limited number of scholarships are available.

The Farm to Fork statewide initiative is funded in part by Golden Leaf Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Ag Advancement Consortium and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Summit sponsorship support is provided by the Carolina Farm Credit and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Posted by Natalie at 01:57 PM

February 02, 2009

Terra Madre: Extension professionals attend Slow Food International conference

Leah and Natalie at Terra Madre
Leah Chester-Davis and Natalie Hampton participate in a workshop at Terra Madre. Headphones allowed participants to hear presentations translated. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Hampton)

Fast food, slow food, local food. What does it all mean? Here in North Carolina, consumers have shown much interest in local food. Across the state, there are many examples of ways that North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents and specialists are helping to bring consumers and producers together through farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture and other marketing strategies.

In October, three Cooperative Extension professionals from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences decided to take a global look at the issue of local food by attending Terra Madre, the world conference of Slow Food International in Turin, Italy.

Leah Chester-Davis, Extension communications specialist and coordinator of communications and community outreach with the program for Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture in Kannapolis; David Kendall, Extension agent from Madison County; and I, Natalie Hampton, news editor and media specialist in Communication Services, were the Extension participants. With nearly 40 members, North Carolina had one of the larger delegations from the United States. More than 700 delegates represented the United States, making it the largest visiting delegation.

Slow Food is a fairly young organization, founded by Carlo Petrini in response to a plan to open a McDonald’s restaurant in a historic area of Rome, Italy. Petrini, who still leads Slow Food, spoke at N.C. State University in 2007 as the Sustainable Agriculture lecturer.

The mantra of Slow Food is providing food that is “good, clean and fair” through a partnership of producers, consumers and chefs. The 2,000 delegates attending this year’s conference included producers, chefs, educators and students. The three of us were among the educators’ group of the U.S. delegation. Observers and other attendees brought the conference attendance to 6,000 to 7,000 people.

The five-day conference provided delegates opportunities to interact with others around the globe involved in work related to food. Where else can you talk with a vanilla bean grower from Madagascar while waiting in line for dinner? And since waiting in line with the other delegates was a regular activity, many interesting conversations took place.

“What impressed me was the genius and the wherewithal to pull off such a diverse global gathering of people who share a common interest: local foods and sustainability. The opportunity to meet and talk with people from around the world was quite inspirational,” Chester-Davis said.

Just weeks before I left for Terra Madre, I saw a documentary, Black Gold, about a fair trade coffee cooperative in Ethiopia. While waiting in line one day at Terra Madre, I realized that I was standing behind the Ethiopian delegation, and I wondered if they were coffee growers. I soon recognized that Tadesse Meskela, the head of the cooperative featured in the documentary, was among the Ethiopian group.

I talked with him about the documentary, and he showed me his Black Gold button. Later in the week, I had the chance to speak with Meskela and his colleagues, who were very excited to meet someone from a U.S. university. I’ve since received an email from a prospective graduate student in his group, who is interested in finding a communications program.

David Kendall at Terra Madre
David Kendall, center, talks with other delegates, including author Patricia Klindienst, left. (Photo courtesy of Leah Chester-Davis)

Among the U.S. educators’ group were a number of authors, including Patricia Klindienst of Connecticut, author of The Earth Knows My Name, winner of a 2007 American Book Award. The book is about food, culture and sustainability in the gardens of ethnic Americans. After Leah convinced Patricia to hand out her card on our bus to the conference one day, other authors in the group felt empowered to hand out their book promotions. Two authors have written a book on food in New York City, and another writer, a baker, has written a book on baking bread.

Terra Madre took place only two weeks before the U.S. presidential election, and there was great interest among the delegates. Delegates from around the world mentioned the election, their knowledge of the candidates and their hopes for relationships with a new administration.

“I gained a much broader understanding of the importance of our decisions and policies here in the United States. Our decisions impact the world,” Chester-Davis said. “It seemed that most of the delegates I met, when they learned I was from the United States, asked me about the elections.”

Though neither Leah nor I had ever met David Kendall of Madison County before, he was one of the first people we met in Turin. On the first day of the conference, I went outside our quarters to find out when the bus was coming. David came up and asked where I was from. When I replied, “North Carolina,” he said, “Oh, me too. I work with North Carolina Cooperative Extension.” Such a small world!

Kendall said that he learned new ways that North Carolina’s small farmers can use to develop niche market products and marketing strategies. “Associative marketing is becoming almost mandatory to compete with industrial farming and large-scale production,” he said. “I am already planning how I can re-invent all my programs in the context of sustainable agriculture principles learned at Terra Madre.”

“Terra Madre’s commitment to small, sustainable farming cannot be described in words or captured images: You had to be there,” Kendall said.

Chester-Davis said she wants to incorporate the experience into her work helping promote consumer education related to local food through the Value-Added Web site -- www.ncvalueadded.org. She recently shared news of the conference as part of a panel discussion in her hometown of Davidson. And she’s trying to get word to other Extension colleagues about the value of attending Terra Madre.

“I love this quote from St. Augustine: ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,’ ” she said. “So many of our Extension colleagues would find this conference quite valuable, I'm telling everyone they must apply in two years. Slow Foods pays most expenses, except for travel. Apply for scholarships, apply to be a delegate and go!"

Posted by Natalie at 02:35 PM

December 08, 2008

N.C. State, N.C. A&T State announce historic endowment

CEFS grant announcement event
UNC System President Erskine Bowles, NC A&T State Chancellor Stanly F. Battle, Ricardo Salvador of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and NC State Chancellor James L. Oblinger participated in the CEFS grant announcement event. (Photo by Becky Kirkland)

Nearly 75 people packed into a conference room at UNC General Administration on a soggy fall day – Election Day, no less. They were there to celebrate a $3.15 million endowment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in support of the Center for Environmental Faming Systems (CEFS) and its efforts to a build a sustainable, community-based food economy statewide.

The first of its kind, the award will create two endowed chairs – one at N.C. State University and one at N.C. A&T State University – as well as support CEFS efforts to increase production, processing, distribution and consumption of local, sustainably raised foods in North Carolina.

"This is an historic day," said Erskine Bowles, president of the UNC system. "We've never had a dual endowment in the university. This is also an excellent example of how sister institutions can work together for sustainable development all across North Carolina."

Telling the story of his personal ties to agriculture, Bowles said, "With our rich agricultural history, I can't think of a better place than North Carolina to build sustainable food economies. This will put us in the forefront of what I believe is a growing industry."

The W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Community Based Food Systems awards N.C. State and N.C. A&T State $1.575 million each.

"This award will make a real difference in the lives of the people of North Carolina, from farmers struggling with difficult economic times to consumers looking to put a healthy meal on the table," said N.C. State Chancellor James L. Oblinger.

Oblinger was associate dean for Academic Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences when CEFS was created in 1994. "Back then, I saw not just tremendous opportunities for students, but also for research and extension that are relevant and responsive," he said.

Ricardo Salvador, program director with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, described how the foundation is endowing chairs at select universities across the country, in an effort to establish a network of 14.

"We are extremely pleased to add N.C. A&T State and N.C. State to this peerless group of institutions that are leaders in the agricultural realm," Salvador said. "N.C. A&T State and N.C. State have been leaders in community-based food systems."

Speaking of the "precarious energy environment" in which we live and its interconnectedness to the global food supply, Salvador painted a picture of a very challenging – and critical – time for universities to make a difference.

"There is nothing more relevant that N.C. State and N.C. A&T State could be doing now," he said. "That is what we are investing in. We envision a future food system that creates benefits fairly and in perpetuity for all."

N.C. A&T State University Chancellor Stanley F. Battle also delivered remarks at the event, as did Simon Rich, chair of the CEFS Board of Advisers.

Chancellor Oblinger best summed up the spirit of the celebration, saying, "This is a great day for the university system, it's a great day for our two institutions, and it's a great day for agriculture in North Carolina."
-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 09:03 AM

December 01, 2008

Organic Grain Project receives NCRS grant

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant to N.C. State University to support development and education of a cover crop and no-till production method for organic grains.

The NRCS awarded N.C. State and its collaborating partner, the Center for Agriculture Partnerships, $249,289 to demonstrate and promote adoption of an innovative cover crop management system (roll kill/no-till) that significantly reduces tillage and resource concerns in organic grain rotations in the Southeast.

Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton, project director and professor in the Department of Crop Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that the intensive tillage needed in organic grain production to control weeds can be the biggest environmental resource concern in an otherwise environmentally-friendly production method. Cover crop mulches are used by farmers to control weeds, supply nitrogen and reduce soil erosion.

Read more from The Southeast Farm Press

Posted by Natalie at 11:06 AM

November 25, 2008

Prawn industry gets boost in North Carolina

prawn harvest
Workers process prawns after they are harvested at Crazy Claws Prawn Farm. (Photos by Marc Hall)

By 10 a.m. on a Tuesday in October, the prawns are out of the pond at the Relyeas’ “Crazy Claws” Prawn Farm in Greene County. According Mike Frinsko, area aquaculture agent, this is a big change from years past, when the harvests went on from early morning until late afternoon and evening.

Malaysian prawns are large, freshwater shrimp-like crustaceans raised in specially designed earthen ponds. And they are the hottest trend in North Carolina aquaculture, thanks largely to the efforts of Frinsko and the formation this year of the new American Prawn Cooperative, based here in North Carolina.

In 2004, North Carolina had a single prawn operation in Johnston County. The owners of the DJ&W Shrimp Farm had enlisted Frinsko’s help in creating two ponds to raise the prawns. Today, the state is home to 12 prawn producers from Vanceboro in the east to Mt. Airy in the west. Five of the producers joined the new cooperative this year.

The Relyeas, who have raised prawns for three years to supplement their produce operation, next year will host the nation’s first quick-freeze prawn processing plant. The cooperative received a grant through Greene County from the N.C. Rural Center to develop the processing line to support the state’s growing prawn industry.

Raising prawns is a lot like other types of food animals. The ponds are stocked in the spring with juvenile prawns that grow throughout the summer. Mature prawns are harvested in the fall before the water gets too cold. Unique to aquaculture, producers must carefully manage a variety of water-quality factors on a daily basis, paying special attention to the impact of feed-derived nutrients and the daily fluctuations of oxygen.

When the prawns are large enough to harvest, the farmers drain the ponds, and the prawns follow the water flow as it exits into a catch basin. Once in the basin they are then netted, placed in baskets and carried on for additional processing.

At the Relyeas’ farm, the prawns were transported in large tanks from the ponds to the processing lines. First, they are submerged in ice water, then their heads removed before they are shipped to a nearby catfish processing plant for quick freezing. From there, many find their way north to the “white tablecloth” restaurants of New York and other cities.

The American Prawn Cooperative was developed with assistance of N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to Frinsko. Natalie Relyea of Crazy Claws is the treasurer and processing manager for the co-op. The processing facility will be located at a site adjacent to her Walstonburg-area farm.

“The five producers (in the co-op) have all worked collaboratively, assisting each other at harvest,” Frinsko said. “They’ve developed real teamwork.”

Mike Frinsko, left, talks with Natalie Relyea at the October prawn harvest on her farm.

Frinsko attributes this teamwork to the speedier harvests seen this season. He hopes that forming the cooperative will allow the growers to not only benefit from the support of other members, but to provide increased market penetration by working together.

“We’ve proven for seven years that we can raise prawns,” he said. “We’ve been able to market individually, and now we feel we will be more successful marketing together.”

Working together is something new to many farmers, who are accustomed to looking after their own operations. But these five growers in the co-op set a goal of working together, and it seems to work for them.

“We don’t always agree,” said Natalie Relyea, “but we are committed to working together.”

And by combining their product, the co-op producers will also provide clients with more prawns to supply larger markets.

Natalie Relyea and her husband John added prawns to their business three years ago. They already had learned how successful a local produce business can be – the Relyeas sell 4,000-5,000 gallons of shelled butterbeans and peas each summer.

“This prawn thing has really caught on,” Natalie said. “We realized that there is a huge market for people who want to know where their food comes from.”

She is proud of the quality of the prawns the Crazy Claws produces. “They’re the best prawns because of the way they’re handled,” she said. “They are raised and processed with no preservatives, no additives.” And Frinsko added, “Prawns are also a sustainably produced food, another important point as we compete in an increasingly green economy.”

The Relyea’s have three two-acre prawn ponds, which can each produce roughly 2,000 pounds of prawns. This year was probably their best harvest ever, she said. “We learn more and get better every year.”

Natalie appreciates the support that Mike Frinsko has provided to her family and other prawn producers. “Mike knows the industry, and he’s very quality conscious,” she said. “He attends our harvest. He’s our tech guy, and a good friend too.”

She also credits other N.C. State faculty for their support of agriculture in North Carolina, including Bob Usry, now retired from Agricultural and Resource Economics; Blake Brown of the Value-Added Program in Kannapolis; Matt Parker of NCDA&CS, ; and Mark Seitz, area horticulture agent; and Stan Dixon, soon-to-be-retired Greene County Extension director.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:12 AM

College team works to ensure farmworkers' health

A N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences team is working to make crop fields safer for Spanish-speaking laborers through bilingual pesticide safety training.

Dr. Greg Cope, Julia Storm and Catherine LePrevost of the College’s Environmental and Molecular Toxicology Department are developing “Pesticides and Farmworker Health: A Toolkit to Enhance Pesticide Safety Training for Hispanic/Latino Workers.” The three-year project is funded by a $223,785 NC Pesticide Board Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund grant.

Cope is associate professor, department Extension leader and N.C. State agromedicine coordinator; Storm is an agromedicine information specialist and LePrevost is a doctoral candidate and project coordinator.

“The project is necessary and timely for several reasons,” says Cope. “Pesticide products and their use in agricultural practice have changed since our original series was developed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating changes to the Worker Protection Standard involving hazard communication and relevant stakeholders have expressed the need for effective pesticide safety training resources for farmworkers to augment the crop sheets.”

Says Storm, “We are developing innovative materials for crop-specific pesticide safety training for Latino farmworkers based on the latest research in hazard recognition and hazard communication as well as our own product development testing. The product we are developing is more visual and comprehensive than existing crop sheets in our state and others, and addresses preferences expressed by farmworkers.”

Based on the success of their 1998-through-2003 bilingual publication series, “Pesticides and Human Health” -- which covered tobacco, green peppers, cucumbers, Christmas trees, sweet potatoes, apples, tomatoes and grapes -- the team decided to enhance farm worker pesticide safety training by developing the toolkit.

The toolkit includes:
o updated, improved, culturally appropriate, illustrated, low-literacy crop sheets and posters in Spanish and English that include information about toxicity signal words printed on pesticide labels, such as “caution,” warning” and “danger”
o information on restricted entry intervals, or the time period, based on a pesticide’s toxicity, during which workers can’t enter a pesticide-treated area
o symptoms of acute health effects for pesticides most commonly used in many hand-labor-intensive crops in North Carolina
o lesson plans for Extension and outreach educators, including a set of interactive activities from which trainers can choose to reinforce lesson learning objectives and assess most appropriate learning for a low-literacy audience with lower levels of formal education.
o a color flip chart with crop-specific images and scenarios for each crop that provides trainers with appropriate questions for engaging workers while displaying visual cues
o references to more training resources

“Because this is a low-literacy population and a Latino audience, traditional lecture methods such as PowerPoint presentations are less appropriate,” says LePrevost, who has taught at NC State and completed the NC State Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching program. A NCSU doctoral candidate in science education, she spent a semester in Mexico and studies Spanish.

“We are developing resources and educational tools based on basic and adult education principles and culturally appropriate design,” she says. “For adults, lessons should validate learners' knowledge and experiences by providing opportunities to contribute these aspects to the training. So the lesson takes on a guided discussion format in which the trainer engages farmworkers in a conversation about pesticide safety. ”

Assisting the team are Cintia Aguilar, Cooperative Extension’s Latino Affairs facilitator; Cesar Asuaje, bilingual farm safety educator, University of Florida Cooperative Extension, who also collaborated on farmworker focus groups; and NC Farmworker Health Program consultants from the state Health and Human Services Department. The team field tested toolkit prototypes with 25 farmworkers through focused small-group discussions to assess learning and preferences.

"I think it is particularly valuable for the project to conduct field tests of materials with the target population,” says Mercedes Hernández-Pelletier, health educator and the NC Farmworkers Project Inc.’s former executive director. Hernández-Pelletier, now a state public health worker, recruited farmworkers for one of the focus groups and provided a meeting place.

The team also consults with crop specialists for current use information for commonly used pesticides for each crop in the series. Consultants for the tobacco crop sheet in progress include NC State doctors Clyde Sorenson, entomology professor; Loren Fisher, associate professor and extension crop science specialist; and Asimina Mila, assistant professor and extension tobacco specialist.

The team will later include crops covered in their previous series -- tobacco, Christmas trees, sweet potatoes, green peppers, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and grapes -- and several new ones: blueberries, landscape horticulture and strawberries.

“Some of these crops, like tomatoes, blueberries and strawberries, have a greater proportion of female workers,” notes LePrevost. “To be sure the established prototype effectively communicates information to both men and women, we’ll begin field testing the materials with a group of women working in tomatoes in 2009.”

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at 10:58 AM

November 24, 2008

CEFS hosts meetings on local food economies

What will it take to build a sustainable, local food economy in North Carolina, where local growers have access to local markets for their products? Consumers in Greenville, Winston-Salem and the Charlotte area will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the subject at three upcoming regional meetings, sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Efforts to build a local food economy can include new farmer’s markets, local food policy councils, comprehensive county or region-based food initiatives, farm incubator programs, farm and/or garden youth education programs, health and nutrition projects focused on local sustainable foods, procurement initiatives by large retail and institutional buyers and schools.

The upcoming meetings will be held in the following locations:
Charlotte area: Dec. 8, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, 4751 Highway 49 North, Concord, NC 28025. Directions: www.cabarrusarena.com/pages/Direction.html.

Winston-Salem: Dec. 10, 5:30-8:30 p.m. SciWorks. 400 W Hanes Mill Rd, Winston Salem, (336) 767-6734. Directions: www.sciworks.org/SciInfoDirections.html.

Greenville: Dec.15, 1:30-4:30 p.m., St. Timothy’s, 107 Louis St., Greenville.

Over the next year, CEFS and its partners will gather information from across the state’s food system sectors, conducting regional meetings, targeted working issues groups, interviews and hosting a statewide summit on March 2 and 3. The goal of this initiative is to develop a Statewide Action Plan for Building the Local Food Economy.

The plan will include specific steps -- short- and long-term -- that policy makers, universities, government agencies, environmental organizations, businesses, funding agencies, social activists, NGOs and citizens can take to make local food economies possible. Regional meetings have already been held in Raleigh, Asheville and Burgaw.

“If each North Carolinian spent 55 cents a day on local food -- just 5 percent of the $4,010 that we spend on average on food consumption per year -- it would mean $1.7 billion for the state’s economy,” said Nancy Creamer, CEFS director, based at N.C. State University. “That money circulates here in the state, so has a multiplier effect, rather than going to a corporate headquarters in another state.”

Other benefits of a sustainable, local food economy in North Carolina include economic development, job creation within farming and food sectors, preservation of open space, decreased use of fossil fuel and associated carbon emissions, preservation and protection of the natural environment, increased consumer access to fresh and nutritious foods, and greater food security for all North Carolinians.

Please contact Amber Polk, amber_polk@ncsu.edu, to respond for attending a regional meeting, as these meetings have been filling up, and to be added to a listserv. Check the local foods initiative Web site -- www.cefsfarmtofork.com -- for updates. For more information about the initiative, contact nancy_creamer@ncsu.edu.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems, based in Goldsboro, is a partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Internationally recognized, CEFS provides research, teaching and outreach on sustainable agriculture.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:44 AM

November 12, 2008

IPM program fights global agricultural pests

fruit fly traps
Yulu Xia holds two types of fruit fly traps being used in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Yulu Xia)

Integrated Pest Management and information technology specialists at North Carolina State University are helping developing countries use the Internet to manage old pests and to guard their borders against new pests.

Funded by the U.S. Agency of International Development Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (USAID IPM CRSP), Yulu Xia and Ron Stinner with the Center for Integrated Pest Management (CIPM) are developing a network of pest databases for developing countries around the world. The center is housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University. Xia and Stinner have been working with scientists from Clemson University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the Pennsylvania State University on these new global information systems that provide pest management guidance in English and in the native languages.

Southeast Asia
Bogor Agricultural University of Indonesia will use the system to share information about the Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB), a major pest in Southeast Asia. A pest that is relatively unknown outside of Asia, the cocoa pod borer is a potential threat to cocoa production in South America and Africa. The information system provides a detailed review of CPB’s history, biology, ecology, management practices and previous research. In addition, detailed images help identify the insect’s different stages, and mapping software allows users to track the pest’s movements from day to day.

The project team includes Xia and Stinner, Aunu Rauf from Bogor Agricultural University, and entomologists from Clemson University. They are currently refining the mapping system. The system will eventually allow the user to see information about CPB news, such as the time of the event, the nature of new findings and the source of the report. Xia, who is the principle investigator for the project, is the assistant director for international programs at the center.

West Africa
In West Africa, scientists from five countries have teamed up with scientists from Virginia Tech to develop a regional integrated pest management network. The network includes Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Gambia, part of the West Africa Regional IPM Consortium. The project involves a pest information database that will store information on insect pests, plant diseases, weeds and storage pests. The system also includes a pesticide training module that will provide pesticide safety information and links to pest information throughout the region.

The Caribbean
In Jamaica, Xia and Stinner are working with another team of scientists from the Pennsylvania State University and the Jamaican Rural Agricultural Development Authority to combat fruit flies. While fruit flies are mildly annoying to most consumers, they wreak havoc on the fruit and vegetable industry. In the United States and several other countries, fruit flies are at the top of the list of phytosanitary pests -- pests the U.S. wants to keep out.

The database, which eventually will include the entire Caribbean, includes monitoring data from hundreds of fruit fly traps in every Jamaican parish. The team is currently developing the mapping software needed to visualize changing fruit fly abundance and distributions.

South America
CIPM has also joined with scientists from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Ecuador in developing a national pest management information system for identification and information sharing. Currently, scientists in Ecuador are collecting information and entering the data into the system.

“Pests in cocoa and other major crops are a very serious issue in Ecuador,” says Dr. Carmen Suarezcapello, director of the pathology department at the institute. “Growers come to our experiment station all the time to obtain pest management information. We need to set up a national pest information system to let growers obtain pest management information on line.”

For now, the center is developing a number of software options for
sharing global pest information such as pestMapper and Global IPM
Technology Database.

Posted by Natalie at 10:55 AM

November 07, 2008

N.C. ag agents step up for N.C. farmers

At a time when some question the validity of Cooperative Extension in general and county agents specifically, a group of six Extension agents in northeast North Carolina annually step well beyond the expected an put on one of the very best field days of the year.

The Northeast Ag Expo, named for northeast North Carolina, has been going on for a few years now. Last year the topic was corn — corn was a hot topic in 2007. This year the topic was peanuts — peanuts are making a comeback in the upper Southeast. Next year the topic will be another timely one — small grains.

The Northeast Ag Expo is planned, developed and brought to reality each year by six county agents and their dedicated staffs to bring the latest in research and Extension information on what they deem to be the hottest topics for farmers in their area of the world.

The six counties involved include: Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Perquimans and Pasquotank. The six movers and shakers who have made the Expo work for the past few years are: Mark Powell, Camden County; Mike Williams, Chowan County; Tommy Gandy, Currituck County; Paul Smith, Gates County; Lewis Smith, Perquimans County; and Al Wood, Pasquotank County.

Read more from The Southeast Farm Press

Posted by Natalie at 03:59 PM

September 24, 2008

Franklin County third graders learn about agriculture

Field day participant

Agriculture Field Day at Riverbend Park in Louisburg, held in September, was sponsored by the Cooperative Extension center in Franklin County. The event gives third-graders in the county an opportunity to learn about rural life, farming and agriculture. Field day organizers also teach students that food comes from the farm, and then to grocery stores and restaurants. Here, youth listen to a presentation.
(Photo by Carey Johnson, The Franklin Times)

Read more from The Franklin Times

Posted by Natalie at 11:52 AM

July 29, 2008

National ag agents conference held in Greensboro

Fred Miller
Catawba Extension Director Fred Miller, right, is arrested by 'Barney Fife' during the barbecue dinner at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem. (Photo courtesy of Wick Wickliffe)

More than 1,500 participants from 46 U.S. states were in Greensboro as the North Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents (NCACAA) hosted the 93rd Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference (AM/PIC) of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) from July 13-17.

The conference received high praises from participants, administrators and sponsors for its professional development opportunities, relevance of topics and speakers to the needs of county staffs, as well as the organization and hospitality the North Carolina agents shared with their co-workers from across the nation. Participants enjoyed and commented on many parts of the program.

Speakers included General Hugh Shelton on “Leadership that Leaves a Legacy” and Ralph Otto, USDA CSREES, on “Sustaining Agricultural Productivity,” Dr. James Johnson, director of Urban Investment Strategies Center, on “How the World is Changing.” Dr. Marshall Stewart served as Master of Ceremonies for the 4-H Talent Review which highlighted the great talents and accomplishments of 4-H'ers from several southern states. On Wednesday of the conference, 30 tour buses led by North Carolina agents crossed the state, highlighting the importance and diversity of the state’s agricultural industry, as well as numerous Cooperative Extension programs and projects.

The conference also recognized 66 agents from across the nation with the association’s top honor, the Distinguished Service Award. Five of these award winners were from North Carolina: Nelson Brownlee, Jeff Carpenter, Ron Hughes, Diana Rashash and Charles Young. The conference was lead by Fred Miller, Catawba County Extension director and NACAA president. Fred is the first ever North Carolinian to serve as NACAA president. He was praised during the conference for his personal character, engaging leadership style, deliberate and thorough examination of all view points on critical issues.

Pictures from the conference can be found at www.nacaa.com/ampic/2008 which has two selections for AMPIC pictures; one by conference participants and the other by the conference photographer, AT Industries.

Posted by Natalie at 10:24 AM

June 12, 2008

Guidebook to enhance artisan, agritourism trails

woman painting
Janet Francoeur of Carolina Creations Fine Art and Contemporary Craft Gallery in New Bern paints porcelain at the launch event for the Homegrown Handmade guidebook in Greene County. (Photo by Natalie Hampton)

Ever dreamed of paddling down Greene County’s Contentnea Creek, shopping through the artwork of a chainsaw sculptor, visiting the humble Wayne County birthplace of Gov. Charles B. Aycock or attending the fall Muscadine Festival in Kenansville?

If you’re the type of tourist who longs to wander the back roads of North Carolina, seeking historic sites, artisans, farms and produce stands, and of course, the state’s finest barbecue, the new guidebook, Homegrown Handmade: Art Roads and Farm Trails, is not to be missed.

The guidebook was launched in June at an event in Greene County, which boasts a number of sites in the book. The book was created through a partnership of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Five years ago, both groups asked the Golden LEAF Foundation for funds to develop a guide to both cultural arts trails and agritourism sites across Piedmont and eastern North Carolina. Golden LEAF asked the two groups to partner in their efforts, and Homegrown Handmade was born.

Cooperative Extension’s Southeast AgriCultural Toursim Task Force worked with the N.C. Arts Council to identify sites across 76 Piedmont and eastern North Carolina counties. Their efforts had resulted in the development of 16 driving trails across some of the state’s most scenic and rural counties. Until now, the trails were available only through the Homegrown Handmade Web site --
http://www.homegrownhandmade.com/ -- which required tourists to do some serious planning before embarking on a trail tour.

The book is available for $19.95 in retail book stories, through Web-based book sellers and Cooperative Extension county centers. It gives driving tourists the flexibility of leaving the Internet behind as they meander down country roads.

At the launch, several business owners described their experiences with Homegrown Handmade. Natalie Relyea, co-owner of Relyea’s Produce Patch and Crazy Claw Prawns, described how she and her husband had decided 18 years ago to diversify their tobacco operation into a produce operation. Recently, the couple received a grant to open the first prawn processing facility in the United States to support the growing region’s prawn industry. She expressed confidence that the guidebook would be a dream for both tourists and business owners.

“There’s nothing like riding in the country and seeing a green field with grazing cows,” she said.

Mary Betty Kearney of the Benjamin W. Best Country Inn and Carriage House and her husband have converted an historic home and carriage house into their business, the site of the guidebook launch. Visitors at the event also enjoyed another of Kearney’s products, hamburgers made from her family’s natural Nooherooka Angus beef.

She also described her term as a Greene County commissioner, working to convince fellow policymakers that the economic future of the county – once the state’s most tobacco-dependent – was tied to prospects for attracting and supporting new business enterprises. Today, a number of Greene County’s successful small businesses are featured in the Homegrown Handmade guide.

A podcast from the event is available on the N.C. Division of Cultural Resources Web site.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 08:46 AM

May 22, 2008

Franklin farm tour draws 1,800

strawberry photo
John Anderson of Youngsville tries to eat more strawberries than actually made it in his pail at Vollmer Farm on Saturday. (Photo by Kathy Harrelson, reprinted with permission from The Franklin Times.)

More than 1,800 visitors, some from as far away as New Mexico and California, attended Franklin County's fifth annual Farm, Foods and Crafts Tour May 17-18. The two-day event was to promote sustainable agriculture in the county, giving local farmers a showcase opportunity while boosting sales and embracing environmental stewardship. North Carolina Cooperative Extension was a partner in the event, along with Franklin County Arts Council, Franklin County Tourism Development Authority and the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Whole Foods was a major sponsor for the event.

This was the first time the farm tour included the "LOCAL Food Festival" Saturday evening, with a local band providing country/bluegrass music. Chefs from six restaurants donated their services to prepare and serve local foods. The restaurants participating included: Q Shack in Raleigh/Durham (local natural Angus beef and chevon or goat); Edna Lee's Bakery (bread); Twin Sisters Catering from Chapel Hill (various local vegetables); Murphy House in Louisburg (beverage); Joey's Chophouse in Louisburg (local turkey and poultry); and Vollmer Farm Cafe (strawberries/lettuce salad; strawberries in chocolate). All foods were produced locally.

About 300 folks attended the food festival with a blanket or lawn chair for the picnic. Plates were full of local food. Locally made ice cream was provided by Lumpy's in Wake Forest.

Also, the "Farm Life" Photography Contest was held this weekend as part of the tour festivities. A reception and awards ceremony will be held from August 2 at Louisburg College Auditorium Gallery. Reporter Donna Smith captured the farm tour in her blog, which can be read at: http://donnacampbellsmith.blogspot.com/

Report courtesy of Martha Mobley, Cooperative Extension in Franklin County, and The Franklin Times

Posted by Natalie at 01:29 PM

May 14, 2008

CEFS gets publicity in Triangle publications

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems' NC Choices program was featured in a recent Triangle Business Article, "Technology would track food from farms to your table." NC Choices was highlighted in the May 12 issue.

In addition, the May 7 issue of The Independent included an article on local food, featuring Jennifer Curtis of NC Choices, Chatham County agricultural Extension agent Debbie Roos, Noah Ranells and his work at Breeze Farm, and Chris Reberg-Horton of the organic grains program. Read more in "The road to real food."

Related Independent articles from May 7:
"One missing link: Organic grains"

"Farmers helpers"

Posted by Natalie at 01:21 PM

February 26, 2008

Extension agents learn much from Uruguay trip

Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña
Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña, right, of Richmond County listens as an organic grower in Uruguay describes his operation. (Photos by Natalie Hampton)

In December, a group of 23 students, faculty and Cooperative Extension agents traveled to Uruguay for a “Short Course on Organic Agriculture in Uruguay.” The trip was sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a research, teaching and extension program dedicated to sustainable agriculture.

The trip was a partnership between CEFS, the Universidad de la Empresa in Montevideo, Uruguay, and BIO-Uruguay International, a non-profit sustainable agriculture research and extension center in Tacuarembo, Uruguay.

The group visited a number of organic farms, as well as research centers of INIA, Uruguay’s agricultural research service.
Extension agents on the trip were Martha Mobley, Franklin County livestock agent; Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña, Richmond County livestock agent; Mary Helen Ferguson, Randolph County horticulture agent; and Kevin Starr, Lincoln County Extension director, with horticulture responsibilities.

All four said that through the study tour they had learned much about sustainable agriculture, made new connections with N.C. State faculty and other Cooperative Extension agents and renewed their interest in international extension work.

“The trip for me was very life changing,” Conrad-Acuña said. “I’ve never been exposed to organic agriculture before. After coming back from the trip, I have answered two questions about farms possibly turning organic and have taught one Hispanic farmer about composting horse manure for his pasture.”

Martha Mobley agreed that she learned more about sustainable agriculture and the resources available at N.C. State to support small farmers.

“I had the opportunity to speak with and interact with faculty members involved with various programming on campus that I had no idea existed, such as the wonderful sustainable agriculture program for the small farmer,” Mobley said. “The relationships that developed will be long lasting.”

Conrad-Acuña also connected with campus specialists who could provide information in the areas of meat processing and sustainable agriculture.

Kevin Starr commented on the similarities of sustainable production between Uruguay and the United States. “We witnessed a variety of partnerships among universities, INIA, BIO-Uruguay and farmers that are reminiscent of what is happening here in North Carolina,” Starr said. “Our big advantage (in the United States) is having Extension agents in the field.”

Mobley agreed. “Farmers and others in North Carolina are at a real advantage in having N.C. Cooperative Extension to provide information for a better way of life,” she said.

Mary Helen Ferguson
Mary Helen Ferguson, left, of Randolph County and student Suzanne O'Connell visit a plaza in Tacuarembo.

Mary Helen Ferguson was struck by how much growers in Uruguay have in common with growers in her own county. “It was interesting that growers there face many of the same issues as our growers do – erratic weather, labor shortages and disposal of plastic mulch for example,” Ferguson said.

During their trip, group members learned that – like North Carolina – much of Uruguay was experiencing a drought. While staying at BIO-Uruguay, they learned that the center was struggling with drought and was concerned with a shortage of water for crops.

“I was sort of hit in the face at BIO-Uruguay because we learned that if we didn’t conserve water while there, they would have to abandon their crops and several months of hard work,” Conrad-Acuña said. The experience made her realize how dire the consequences of drought could be in her own state.

Starr is looking into a squash variety – Zapallito de Tronco – that the group saw at a small organic farmers’ market and supermarkets in Uruguay. He believes that the variety could be grown in Lincoln County.

Prior to the trip, Ferguson had worked diligently on learning Spanish to help her serve the 9 percent of our county’s population that are Hispanic. After traveling in Uruguay, she felt her Spanish comprehension had improved. And the trip left her eager for more international experiences. “It did re-spark my interest in rural, international ag work,” she said.

Participants posted their insights and photos from the Uruguay trip in a Web log. To read more, visit: blogs.lib.ncsu.edu/page/uruguay.

This is project was supported by a USDA International Science and Education grant. For information about the program, visit www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/educationinternationalscience.cfm.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:43 AM

February 12, 2008

Keeping the family farm in the family

Steve Smutko, left, polls the audience, while Grace Lawrence tallies their concerns at the "Keeping the Farm" workshop in Wake County. (Art Latham photo)

Landowners seeking financial and technical help to diversify and manage their farms and forests so they can maintain, sustain or keep the farm in the family flocked to North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Wake County center recently.

More than 170 attendees at the third annual "Keeping the Farm" workshop on Jan. 30 learned about the state of working lands and development in Wake County, forestry, taxes, tax credits and estate planning.

Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the top five concerns attendees expressed related to taxation issues, while the other two regarded rules for qualifying for a small farm and how to find a successor to work the land.

“With the rapid growth Wake County is experiencing,,” said Grace Lawrence, Wake County Cooperative Extension agent for the environment, “there are many changes that can be exciting and, sometimes, overwhelming for landowners.

“Many people don’t realize there are 800 farmers in Wake County alone,” she said. “Working lands don’t just produce crops, they benefit everyone by preserving wildlife habitat, enhancing air and water quality and providing open space.”

Harold H. Webb, Wake County commissioner, introduced the session and Emmett Curl, Wake County revenue director and tax assessor, provided details on county taxation efforts and procedures.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialists and others, listed below, led breakout sessions that provided more details and addressed concerns voiced by attendees.

The sessions, listed with their coordinators’ specialties and affiliations:

Tax and regulatory issues for land: Dr. Steve Smutko, Natural Resources Leadership Institute director and Guido van der Hoeven, farm management and taxation specialist, both of the Agricultural and Resources Economics Department, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), North Carolina State University; and Mark Megalos, N.C. State Forestry Extension.

Frameworks for property decision-making and goal-setting: Carolyn Bird, CALS 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences Department; and Robin Landsman, Wake County assistant Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

Working with resource professionals: Morris Dunn, Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Wake County; Matthew Kinane, Natural Resource Conservation Service; Keith Miller, Wake County Farm Service Agency; Alton Perry, N.C. Forestry Service; and Mark Edmonson, Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

Updating estate plans: Dr. Ted Feitshans, CALS Agricultural and Resources Economics Department environmental and agricultural law specialist; and Andrew Branan, executive director, N.C. Farm Transition Network.

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at 01:26 PM

January 16, 2008

Remote control: A better way to survey swine lagoons

View a slide show of a remote-control boat used to survey swine lagoons

View a slide show with sound

Perhaps necessity is the mother of invention, but surely convenience and efficiency are aunts and uncles.

Consider a task North Carolina hog farmers call a "sludge survey." The North Carolina Division of Water Quality requires farmers who use lagoons to treat the waste created by their animals (the vast majority of North Carolina hog farmers use lagoons) do a sludge survey of each lagoon annually.

A typical sludge survey involves two people and a small boat, says Dan Bailey, a livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Sampson County. It’s one of those, "There has to be a better way," scenarios, and Bailey and others appear to have found that way.

Lagoons are earthen pits. Waste is flushed with water from the barns in which pigs are housed to the lagoons, where it decomposes. The solid portion of the waste stream that is more resistant to decomposition sinks to the bottom of the lagoon, forming a layer of sludge.

To ensure that lagoons are operating correctly and have not filled up with sludge, farmers must certify annually that each of their lagoons contains at least 4 feet of sludge-free liquid treatment area. Most do this by rowing out into the lagoon in a small boat and measuring the liquid depth, either with a pole or a rope with a disk attached to one end. The pole or rope is let into the liquid disk first. The disk stops when it meets the sludge layer. The liquid depth can then be measured on the pole or rope.

It is this rowboat-in-the-lagoon method of determining the amount of sludge in a lagoon that Bailey and faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences began to ponder several years ago.

Rather than a rowboat, Bailey and colleagues proposed, how about a remote-controlled model boat? Bailey credits Mark Rice, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at N.C. State, with developing the first boat in 2003. Rice had the boat custom made and attached a sonar depth finder. The 3- to 4-feet-long boat could be operated from the bank of a lagoon while the depth finder recorded the liquid depth.

It worked well enough, but its propeller kept getting tangled in vegetation.

Bailey recalls, "I said, 'Mark, we need an air boat.'"

Rice responded with two words: leaf blower. It was a "eureka" moment.

Bailey, who describes himself as a fair carpenter, set about building an air boat. His first effort was made of wood and had a leaf blower mounted on the stern and a depth finder mounted on the bow. It worked well enough, but tended to leak a little.

He turned to 6-inch diameter white PVC pipe for his second effort. He arranged the pipe in a "U" shape with the bottom of the "U" upturned to form a prow. The leaf blower and depth finder are mounted between the legs of the "U." The result is a PVC-sludge-surveying pontoon boat.

When Bailey demonstrated his boats to Sampson County farmers, they apparently liked what they saw.

Glenn Clifton and James Lamb, employees of Prestage Farms whose duties include sludge surveys, liked the idea so much they built their own boat. The craft they came up with is made of aluminum, but like both of Bailey’s boats, it relies on a leaf blower for power and a depth finder to measure liquid depth.

Lamb said doing a sludge survey the old way required two people to load and unload a rowboat and drag it to a lagoon. Then it took 10 to 15 minutes to row out into the lagoon and do the 10 to 12 depth readings required.

Using a remote-controlled boat, Lamb does sludge surveys by himself. He said a typical survey takes about five minutes. Rather than 10 or 12 depth readings, the depth finder measures depth constantly, recording perhaps 2,000 readings. The depth finder records the readings on a computer memory card, so the data can easily be downloaded when the boat returns to shore. Software is available that produces a picture of the contours of the lagoon bottom. Because of the increased number of readings, Lamb thinks a survey done with a remote-controlled boat is considerably more accurate than one done manually.

At the same time, Curtis Barwick, who does sludge surveys for Coharie Farms, is using Bailey’s pontoon boat.

"It's so fast," Barwick says of the pontoon boat. "It saves a lot of time."

Barwick says he could survey five to six lagoons per day the old-fashioned way, while he can survey 12 to 15 lagoons in a day with the pontoon boat. With 80 to 90 lagoons to survey each year, Barwick adds, "It's just going to save so much time."

But efficiency notwithstanding, Lamb says the biggest advantage is what he calls improved safety. While he says he's never fallen into a lagoon, Lamb points out that rowing out into a lagoon in a small boat always presents that possibility. That alone would seem to be a huge selling point for remote-controlled boats.

Dave Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 10:16 AM

December 05, 2007

Commodity leaders tour research campus, nursery

Phyllis Beaver, right, director of marketing for Castle and Cooke Inc., describes the core lab to commodity leaders touring the building which is still under construction. (Natalie Hampton photo)

A group participating in the Commodity Leadership Development Program recently toured the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. The campus, which will house food and nutrition research programs of North Carolina universities, is being developed by entrepreneur David Murdock and the state of North Carolina. The commodity leaders are participating in a four-part workshop series dealing with negotiation, public policy and legal issues related to non-profits, as well as the research campus tour. The program is led by Lanny Hass and Eleanor Stell of Cooperative Extension's Personal and Organizational Development group. During the research campus tour, the leaders visited the core lab, under construction, that will house high-tech research equipment. The group also traveled to Mecklenburg County to visit Baucom Nursery, a large green industry operation.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 05:15 PM

December 04, 2007

Person County workshops focus on local foods

Alex Rilko of Whole Foods, left, talks with a grower at the local foods workshop about getting produce into area Whole Foods stores. (Natalie Hampton photo)

Growers in north central North Carolina had a chance to learn tips on creating a local food system through a series of workshops sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Carl Cantaluppi, horticulture agent for Granville and Person counties, and Mike Lanier, area agribusiness agent based in Orange County, teamed up in October and November to present the workshop series. Participants met in Roxboro for five consecutive Wednesdays. Workshop topics included: Buying locally to promote the local food concept, How the energy outlook is raising the stakes for local and organic food production, Staggered planting and season extension techniques, Organic vegetable production, and Starting and managing your produce enterprise: Marketing, post-harvest handling, insect and disease identification and control. The first session drew about 25 participants who learned how to sell local foods to grocery stores from representatives of Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market in Carrboro.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 08:56 AM

November 28, 2007

'Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference' will be Dec. 8

As a result of increased interest in small-scale farming, Gaston County Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a "Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference." This conference will provide information for people interested in starting or expanding small-scale farm enterprises. Whether for profit or personal enjoyment, a new project should be carefully thought out.

The Dec. 8 conference presentations kick off at the Gaston County Police Department at 9 a.m., following registration at 8:30 a.m. The keynote speaker will feature Tim Will of Foothills Connect, speaking on creating a unique Internet-based produce market, aptly named Farmers Fresh Market, that links growers of locally grown fresh food products with Charlotte based restaurants and chefs.

Participants will explore alternative enterprises, learning from successful producers and university personnel who are already growing, producing and researching specialty crops and livestock. These experts will provide the practical, no-nonsense, hands-on advice growers will need when considering crop production, market development and other important business options.

Topics to be discussed include small fruit production, organic vegetable production, direct marketing freezer meats; beef and pork, meat goat production; bee keeping, agritourism, CSA and subscription sales, medicinal herbs, and pasture systems.

Class sessions will start promptly after registration. The program will include one general opening session and three breakout sessions. Three topics will be discussed concurrently during each of these breakout sessions. Participants will receive lunch and resource materials for all sessions. Fees for the conference are $20 per person or $30 per couple before Dec. 3.

Registration information for the conference is available at: http://gaston.ces.ncsu.edu/ or by contacting Lara_Worden@ncsu.edu or 704.922.2118.

Posted by Natalie at 03:55 PM

November 27, 2007

Jordan, Brandenburg work with peanut growers in Ghana

Rick Brandenburg
Rick Brandenburg shows peanuts to a group of children from rural Ghana. (Photos courtesy of Rick Brandenburg and David Jordan)

At a typical agricultural field day in North Carolina, the crowd would be largely men wearing John Deere caps. But in Ghana, West Africa, the farmers you’ll find at a field day are mostly women, some with young children.

Such field days scenes are not unusual to Dr. Rick Brandenburg, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology, and Dr. David Jordan, peanut specialist in crop science, both in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Brandenburg and Jordan have been involved for more than 10 years with the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program in Ghana, a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In that time, they have seen increases in peanut yields, which are significant for the country’s subsistence growers who rely on peanuts as a primary source of dietary protein. And the knowledge they’ve gained working with growers in Ghana has direct benefits for growers back in North Carolina.

“Since it is subsistence agriculture in Ghana, we’re trying to bump them out of that. In one of the villages where we work, they’ve really made big strides. They’ve doubled and tripled their yields; they’ve increased their acreage,” Brandenburg said. “But Africa’s a place of extremes, and life is not easy there.”

The USAID Peanut CRSP is managed by the University of Georgia, with partner universities working in locations around the world. The College’s involvement in the program goes back to the early 1980s and has included leaders such as Dr. Johnny Wynne, peanut breeder and now dean of the College; Dr. Tom Stalker, former head of the Crop Science Department; and the late Dr. Jack Bailey, professor and Extension plant pathologist.

Other College leaders have included Dr. Tom Isleib, crop science professor; Dr. Robert Moxley, sociology and anthropology professor, Bill Campbell, emeritus professor of entomology; and Marvin Buete, emeritus professor of plant pathology.

Brandenburg began work with the program in Southeast Asia in 1989, and in 1996, he was asked to work with the project in Ghana. Jordan joined the project in 2002, following Bailey’s death.

The N.C. State researchers work with two research centers in Ghana, the Crop Research Institute in Kumasi to the south, and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute in the north. Despite some initial ambivalence about the assignment, Brandenburg says the experience has been wonderful.

“One of the biggest challenges (for the scientist at these institutes) is that they have such limited resources with which to fund their research. That’s what the Peanut CRSP is all about. We team up with them, and we find good scientists. We’re fortunate in Ghana, the scientists have really been good at doing quality research,” Brandenburg said.

David Jordan, left, poses with farmers at a field day in Ghana.

Through the Peanut CRSP, USAID provides funding and experts like Brandenburg and Jordan to support Ghana’s research and extension efforts. The two institutes team up with rural villages to conduct field demonstrations and involve local farmers in deciding which production strategies are most useful for them.

“They’ve really taken it upon themselves, once they test a strategy at the research station, to get it out to the farmers,” Brandenburg said. “They get the village chief to donate them a field, and they travel every two weeks to the site. And the farmers see what they’re doing; the farmers are intimately involved.”

Farmers are eager to come to the field days, and for their participation, they receive a day’s wage – about one U.S. dollar – as compensation for giving up a day’s work. After three years of regularly attending the field days, farmers are awarded a certificate from the Peanut CRSP, a valued achievement in rural Ghana.

Growers in Africa face so many challenges and have so few resources to fight back. So finding cost-effective production and pest management strategies is the challenge of the researchers. Leafspot, for instance, is one problem that Ghana’s peanut farmers face, but unlike U.S. farmers, they don’t have chemicals to combat the disease.

“Their big step forward is that they can actually take homemade soap and spray the peanuts with it, and it will suppress the disease; not a lot, but it helps,” Brandenburg said. “Well if they could just insert one application of fungicide early in the season, it would make a huge difference. But the farmers don’t have the money to go out and purchase it. If they did, their yields would increase, and they could put money aside for next year to purchase fungicide. But they face the challenge of getting out of that cycle of just getting by.”

Weed management is another important issue to these farmers, who do all their weeding by hand. “They spend like half of their life weeding fields. So weed management and practices that minimize weed production is just a huge thing. If you could cut their weeding time in half, you’d free up 25 percent of their time,” Brandenburg said.

Jordan said that there is a big difference between developed countries and developing countries in terms of farmers’ ability to try new technologies or production strategies. In the U.S., growers trust that new technologies have been thoroughly studied, and there are safety nets available for those willing to take a risk on something new.

Women at field day
Women farmers examine peanut plants during a field day.

“In developing countries, their lives are shaped by the predictability of what they’ve been growing for a long time,” Jordan said. “If we make a mistake there, the consequences are much greater.”

An important challenge for Africa growers is trying to achieve consistent levels of production, rather than highs and lows. “You have to really search for a plan that flattens those peaks and valleys out,” Brandenburg said. “A record year one year, and a record low yield the next, is the worst situation they can be in. If there’s a disaster, the impact is huge.”

Research on peanut-related problems has also benefited growers in North Carolina. In fact, about half of the funds received from the Peanut CRSP stay in North Carolina and are used to support graduate students or to supply resources needed to address peanut issues in the state. One example of a direct benefit occurred when tomato spotted wilt virus threatened peanuts, and the Peanut CRSP was able to quickly fund a graduate student to work on research related to the problem.

Both Jordan and Brandenburg are passionate about their work in Ghana, a passion that has extended to their families. Brandenburg took his 15-year-old daughter Ashley on a recent trip to the country. And researchers visiting from Ghana enjoyed a traditional North Carolina dinner at David Jordan’s family home near Edenton.

Jordan, who first came to N.C. State as an undergraduate, recalls that his interest in international research and extension began while he was a student in Dr. Bob Patterson’s popular class on World Population and Food Prospects.

“After beginning my career at N.C. State, the idea of international agriculture, learning and assisting developing countries was something I was very interested in, but it still seemed a challenge in terms of finding a way to be involved,” Jordan said. “The Peanut CRSP opened that door for me 15 years after I first thought that it would be neat to be involved in that type of work.”

Now, Jordan has opportunities to lecture in Patterson’s class and describe his work to today’s undergraduates. He finds that many of them also are interested in international development. “The hope is that they will not forget what they see in this class, and they may be involved in similar work two, five, 10 or 20 years down the road,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:56 PM

November 20, 2007

Roos named CFSA 'Agent of the Year'

Debbie Roos, Chatham County agricultural agent, received the Agent of the Year Award for North Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Programs from Carolina Farm Stewardship. Roos is recognized nationally for her work promoting small farms and healthy farm ecosystems and for her award-winning Web site, "Growing Small Farms." Carolina Farm Stewardship Association serves both North and South Carolina in its efforts to promote sustainable agriculture practices.

Posted by Natalie at 09:00 AM

November 06, 2007

Field days still pull in crowds

Tractors at field day
In 2007, tractors pull wagonloads of interested attendees to research sites at the Fresh Market Tomato and Vegetable Field Day at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher. Becky Kirkland photo

Field Days are a North Carolina tradition. This year, the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences set 18 field days at N.C. State locations and research stations from Waynesville to Castle Hayne.

Click here for a listing of all 2007 field days.

Here’s a little field day history and a wrap up of a few activities at this year’s field days.

Read more from Perspectives

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at 03:03 PM

College celebrates feed mill grand opening

More than 300 people celebrated the grand opening of the new Feed Mill Educational Unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Representatives of the feed milling, swine and poultry industries, as well as university officials, faculty, staff and students, gathered Wednesday, Oct. 31, for a day-long celebration that included tours of the feed mill and a dedication ceremony.

The Feed Mill Educational Unit, a hands-on learning laboratory of the college's Departments of Poultry Science, Animal Science, and Biological and Agricultural Engineering, will provide opportunities for students to learn the principles and methods of feed manufacturing. The facility is one of only two teaching and research mills in the nation, and the only one on the East Coast.

Read more from the Communication Services news release

-S. Stanard

Posted by Natalie at 02:57 PM

October 26, 2007

Nominees sought for 'Small Farmer of the Year Award'

Do you know an exceptional small farm business man or woman? Why not nominate him or her for the 2008 Gilmer L. and Clara Y. Dudley Small Farmer of the Year Award! Now is your chance to embrace and applaud that farmer's accomplishments. The award will be presented during the 22nd Annual Small Farms Week recognition which is March 30 – April 5, 2008.

This award will be presented on Wednesday, April 2, 2008, during the Small Farmers Appreciation luncheon. The award recipient will receive a plaque, a Small Farmer of the Year jacket and $1,500.

The Gilmer L. and Clara Y. Dudley Small Farmer of the Year Award recognizes a North Carolina small farmer who is:
* A creative innovator in his or her production (livestock and/or crop) and marketing strategies;
* A leader, involved in contributing time and other resources to build their communities;
* An environmental steward who protects and enhances the earth's resources; and
* A savvy and wise business man or woman who runs a farm business in an entrepreneurial and enterprising manner.

Read more or submit a nominee

Posted by Natalie at 08:33 AM

October 19, 2007

Moyer receives research and education award

Jim Moyer receives award
Dr. Jim Moyer, right, head of N.C. State's Department of Plant Pathology, receives the 2007 Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education from the Society of American Florists (Photo courtesy of SAF)

Dr. James W. Moyer, head of North Carolina State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, received the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) 2007 Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education on Sept. 27 at the annual Industry Awards Dinner during SAF’s 123rd Annual Convention in Palm Springs, Calif.

The Alex Laurie Award, established in 1948, is presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to research and education in the floriculture industry. The award is named for Alex Laurie who, throughout a career that spanned more than 60 years, laid the groundwork for research that revolutionized the floriculture industry and who left a lineage of students, teachers and researchers continuing to provide the information necessary to ensure the industry’s future.

Active in both teaching and research on viruses affecting floral and vegetable crops, Moyer’s expertise is recognized and relied upon worldwide. In the 1980s, Moyer discovered the existence of a new virus, the impatiens necrotic tospovirus (INSV), which others had assumed to be merely a strain of the tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV).

The INSV became extraordinarily important to the floriculture industry because it is spread by the difficult-to-manage Western flower thrips.

“Dr. Moyer has improved our industry by developing critical knowledge of viruses and genetic engineering,” says Margery Daughtrey, senior extension associate with Cornell University’s Department of Plant Pathology. “Of equal importance, he has always been available to the flower industry, offering his considerable expertise and good counsel.”

Moyer’s work on the biology of INSV supplied research that was the basis for developing test kits industry members use to diagnose INSV. He has continued to investigate both INSV and TSWV, conducting research to help solve growers’ problems, and is currently investigating ways that viruses are able to adapt to new hosts and to overcome resistance in plants.

Posted by Natalie at 02:09 PM

October 09, 2007

Local food is focus of workshop

Agents and growers are invited to a five-part workshop series on local foods, to be held in Person County beginning Oct. 17, and continuing on Wednesdays through Nov. 14. All sessions will be held at the Person County center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

The workshop series has been organized by Carl Cantaluppi, area horticulture agent for Person and Granville counties, and Mike Lanier, area agribusiness agent based in Orange County. A registration fee of $25 covers the entire series, including lunch for the first session and a notebook of materials.

"There has been a growing interest among farmers, consumers and grocery chains in promoting and marketing locally grown foods. Farmers who grow and market locally provide a fresher product to the consumer, compared with food that is grown in distant areas and shipped in," Cantaluppi says.

The first workshop will be held noon to 3 p.m. and will include a lunch of pasture-raised chicken, grown by Bailey Newton of Triple B Farms in Bullock. The workshop session, entitled "Buying Locally to Promote the Local Food Concept," will include guest panelists from Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market in Carrboro.

To register, contact Cantaluppi at carl_cantaluppi@ncsu.edu or 336.599.1195.

The other workshops and speakers are:
Session 2, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to noon
How the Energy Outlook is Raising the Stakes for Local and Organic Food Production

Mike Lanier

Session 3, Oct. 31, 1-3 p.m.
Staggered Planting and Season Extension Techniques

Steve Moore, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Goldsboro

Session 4, Nov. 7, 1-3 p.m.
Organic Vegetable Production

Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farms, Graham

Session 5, Nov. 14, 1-3 p.m.
Produce Enterprise: Marketing, Post-Harvest Handling, Insect and Disease Identification and Control

Carl Cantaluppi

Posted by Natalie at 10:51 AM

September 20, 2007

Fall Festival held at Center for Environmental Farming Systems

A vendor at the Fall Festival farmers' markets wraps flowers for a client. (Photo by Natalie Hampton)

On average, the food most people in Wayne County will sit down to eat tonight, will have traveled about 1,500 miles to reach their plates.

At the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at Cherry Research Farm on Saturday, though, visitors had the opportunity to buy and eat food from a little closer to home.

Hosting their second annual Fall Festival, officials at CEFS said they were pleased at the turnout, estimating that more than 1,000 people took advantage of the warm, sunny day to come learn a little bit about farming and the importance of eating local.

Read more from The News-Argus

Posted by Natalie at 02:04 PM

September 15, 2007

Harnett County hosts large animal rescue workshop

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At a Harnett County farm, a small group of volunteers maneuvers around a horse that has fallen from an overturned horse trailer. Careful not to injure the animal, they place straps under and around his body to pull him to safety.

Though the horse and volunteers are real, the situation is actually a technical large animal rescue training organized by North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Harnett County, along with Harnett County Emergency Management, County Animal Response Teams of Harnett and Cumberland counties and the N.C. Farm Bureau.

The training, held in May, was the second one organized by livestock agent Tyrone Fisher and the other partners. The event attracted 45 hands-on trainees, along with 10 auditors from across the state and even across the state line. The group included animal control officers, Cooperative Extension professionals, first responders, horse owners, veterinarians, fire fighters and paramedics.

Tori Miller
Tori Miller of Harnett County works with a horse as part of the large animal rescue held there recently.(Photo by Daniel Kim)

During the three-day training, trainees participated in drills and exercises designed to prepare them for training and assisting other rescue personnel with removing large animals from mud, high water, an overturned trailer and more.

The professionals who conduct the training, Tomas and Rebecca Gimenez, use their own live horses, and a llama, that have been trained to cooperate as part of the training. The mud-rescue drill is performed with a “horse mannequin” because the live horses learned to shun the mud pits created for training.

“Participants can take this type of training back to the counties where they reside or work and use it as mutual aid,” said Tori Miller, 911 dispatcher in Harnett County and animal welfare officer.

“If they have knowledge from this training, they can respond with the emergency responders or with the veterinarians and assist in an emergency. They can actually teach other people in their county certain techniques that they have learned in this training.”

Once they’ve gone through the rescue training, these individuals will be equipped to assist with animals stuck in mud, hurricane situations, barn fires or large animals in overturned vehicles, Miller said.

A number of trainees in the class represented County Animal Response Teams. The teams are called to help with both small and large animals in the event of an emergency.

Melissa Brunner, an agricultural technician with the Onslow County CART, said her county near the North Carolina coast often has to activate when hurricanes are approaching. The group works with the American Red Cross to set up small animal shelters at sites designated as Red Cross emergency shelters. The CART-provided shelter allows evacuees to bring their pets with them when they are forced to leave their homes.

Brunner says her team has not been called on to perform large animal rescue operations. But now in the middle of hurricane season, she feels it is only a matter of time.

“We can take this information back and start up our large animal group,” she said. “I have a feeling that it is imperative to know this information. You never know when you’ll need to use it.”

Fisher says accidents involving horses getting mired in mud or slipping into rivers or streams are fairly common, especially in the Piedmont where there are numerous trail riding opportunities exist on private farms. Trained CART volunteers are helpful to rescue personnel who encounter these situations.

“We’ve had several situations along the Cape Fear River where animals have fallen into the river and because of the steep bank, animals could not get out of the river,” Fisher said. “So our volunteers have shown up and assisted in the situation and resolved it with the training like what they received today. You’ve got to know where to put the belts on the animal, where to hold the animal properly. If lifted in the wrong place, the animal can fall out or be injured.”

There is a four-step process involved in creating a CART group, Fisher says. The steps are 1) initiation; 2) committee formation; 3) writing a plan; and 4) completing tabletop exercises. Many counties have begun the process, but have not had a CART certified.

The State Animal Response Team has a database of 100 individuals trained in technical large animal rescue, but more are needed, Fisher says. Although the Eastern counties are well aware of the hurricane threats, counties even in the West have experienced floods and other disasters in recent years that can pose problems for large animals.

“All of North Carolina needs to be covered with CART teams,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:39 PM

September 07, 2007

Drought management for agricultural producers

Cooperative Extension has undertaken a coordinated effort to compile the latest information available to help farmers make the best decisions possible in coping with the worst drought in several decades. The severe rainfall deficit this summer coupled with an early spring freeze has caused a tremendous shortage in feed for livestock and large yield losses in corn and soybeans. A recent survey of 63 counties in North Carolina estimated that an additional 800,000 round bales of hay will be needed to feed the beef and dairy cattle in the state during the normal winter feeding period. This hay is not available without significant transportation cost, which makes it financially unrealistic for most operations.

Read more from The Lincoln Tribune

Posted by Natalie at 01:53 PM

September 05, 2007

Chapel Hill chef wins first goat cookoff

chef serving goat dish
Chef Josh De Carolis, center (Photos courtesy of M. Bebber)

Chef Josh De Carolis, center, from the Ju Jube in Chapel Hill won the first North Carolina chevon cookoff held in Sanford last month as part of the second N.C. Goat and Sheep Roundup. The cookoff was held at the Lee County Fairgrounds, and roundup participants had the opportunity to taste the dishes prepared by Triangle-area chefs. De Carolis created three goat dishes from a half-carcass provided by Steve Mobely of Meadow Lane Farm in Louisburg.

De Carolis's creations included coconut and curry braised goat with black-eyed pea and corn ragout, marinated goat chops and new potato green bean salad with Sriacha aioli and cilantro pesto, as well as a goat sausage and heirloom tomato crepeinette with Thai basil.

Other goat dishes included:
From Lilly's Pizza of Raleigh, goat meat lasagna.
From Foster's Market of Chapel Hill, Caribbean barbecued cabrito and mango cabrito sausage.
From the Weathervane of Chapel Hill, mustard braised goat meat with sambuca creamed onions.

chef serving goat dish
Roundup participants enjoy the goat meat creations.

Others competing included: Enoteca Vin chef Aaron Vaughn, and Piedmont Restaurant chefs Drew Brown and Andy Magowam of Durham.

Judges for the event were Dan Campeau, area poultry specialist; Dr. Jean-Marie Lughinbuhl, associate professor at N.C. State University in charge of the goat program.

Posted by Natalie at 10:50 AM

August 13, 2007

Agricultural agents present awards

North Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents recognized agents who have provided outstanding programs during the association’s annual meeting June 20 in Southern Pines.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to five agricultural agents who have demonstrated outstanding service in their counties or area. Nominees for this award must have at least 10 years of service and be members of the agents’ association. Each winner receives a plaque and financial support to attend our national meeting and professional improvement conference held in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July.

Those receiving the Distinguished Service Award include:
· Marjorie L. Rayburn, area agent for Gates, Chowan, and Perquimans counties, received the Distinguished Service Award. She has served as an agricultural Extension agent since January 1991.
· Linda Blue of Rowan County, who has served as an agricultural Extension agent for 20 years.
· Ralph Blalock Jr. of Edgecombe County, who has been an Extension agent for more than 28 years.
· Dalton Dockery of Columbus County (soon to be Bladen County's Extension director) has led the horticulture, forestry, and pesticide education Extension programming efforts for more than 11 years in North Carolina.
· Allan Thornton of Sampson County has worked for North Carolina Cooperative Extension for 14 years.

The Achievement Award is given to agents from across the state for the purpose of recognizing those Agents who have less than ten years of experience and who are doing an exceptionally good job. Winners are:
· Diane Turner of Henderson County.
· Debbie Roos of Chatham County.
· Kevin Johnson of Wayne County.
· Kelly Groves of Vance and Warren counties.

The association’s Young Agent Scholarship Award was presented to Tiffanee Conrad-Acuna for providing outstanding programs as a member of this Cooperative Extension professional association. This recognition supported her attendance of the national meeting of this professional association in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently.

Conrad-Acuna is a livestock agent in Richmond County, who started work Cooperative Extension in 2003 as an area livestock agent serving Robeson, Scotland and Hoke counties.

Posted by Natalie at 09:13 AM

August 09, 2007

Not horsing around: enthusiasts ride out new ideas

Franklin horse tour
The Southerlands, from left to right, Luke, Jocelyn and Rob, take time during the Franklin County Horse Farm Tour Aug. 4 to feed a horse on the first stop of the tour. The Southerlands were joined by about 100 other folks who braved heat to tour three horse farms in Franklin County to get ideas on fencing, bedding and housing. (Franklin Times photo by Carey Johnson)

(Reprinted with permission from The Franklin Times.)

The heat and attendance were as high as the passion for horses this past Saturday as equine enthusiasts gathered for the 13th annual Franklin County Horse Farm Tour.

More than 100 people attended this year’s event, receiving a tour of three horse farms noted for their diversity.

A caravan of about two dozen cars snaked their way through the county, stopping first at Paradox Sport Horse located off U.S. Highway 401 south of Louisburg.

The barn-in-progress is a project by Dr. Barbara Burggraaff. The stop also featured a horse-jumping demonstration.

The second stop showcased Barbara Robison’s handmade farm in Youngsville, some new fencing and no-till seeding of pastures.

The third stop highlighted Earl Haga’s Blossom Farm, a new facility for lease on Timberlake Road. It also featured some tips from Dr. David Green, a large-animal veterinarian.

Also, Youngsville businessman E. Carroll Joyner introduced a new horse bedding that is being tested at several Franklin County farms. He plans to develop the product in coming months.

“The farms showcased a variety,” said Cooperative Extension Agent Martha Mobley. “We had the really expensive ones to the ones made from a carport. You see $50,000 horses, and they’re still happy and safe in a converted carport. And we had the handmade barn to the custom pre-fabricated farm.

“It just gives people a bunch of new ideas,” Mobley said. “It’s a chance to showcase new farms and facilities and learn from others.”

It was that opportunity that brought Jamie Colley and his wife, Julie, from their Raleigh home to Franklin County’s horse farm tour.

Julie Colley has been taking riding lessons for about a year and is considering getting her own horse. She said she wanted a better idea of the type of responsibility it takes.

“I’ve been thinking about it a while,” she said. “With this tour, you get to ask questions and find out what’s involved. That’s what is so good about this.”

Mobley figured it was that sort of inquisitiveness that brought the crowd out to tour horse farms in temperatures that approached 100 degrees.

“It was a fabulous turnout,” said Mobley.

The tour concluded with a pig-picking lunch at Joyner Park in Louisburg.

-Carey Johnson, Times Staff Writer

Posted by Natalie at 08:36 AM

July 27, 2007

USDA announces action plan to address bee colony disappearance

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2007 - U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Gale Buchanan today announced that USDA researchers have finalized an action plan for dealing with colony collapse disorder (CCD) of honey bees. The plan can be read at www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/ccd/ccd_actionplan.pdf.

"There were enough honey bees to provide pollination for U.S. agriculture this year, but beekeepers could face a serious problem next year and beyond," Buchanan said. "This action plan provides a coordinated framework to ensure that all of the research that needs to be done is covered in order to get to the bottom of the CCD problem."

Read more

Posted by Natalie at 02:03 PM

July 26, 2007

CEFS draws Carlo Petrini for inaugural lecture

Carlo Petrini
Carlo Petrini makes a point during his lecture at McKimmon Center. (Becky Kirkland photo)

Building and supporting a local food system in North Carolina was the theme in May as the Center for Environmental Farming Systems hosted Carlo Petrini at its inaugural lecture on sustainable agriculture. Petrini is founder of Slow Food International, a movement that promotes local food systems and encourages relationships between growers, chefs and consumers.

Petrini, who lives in Italy, visited N.C. State University and the Triangle area as part of a six-stop tour of the United States. In addition to his speech at N.C. State, Petrini enjoyed a picnic dinner at the Chapel Hill Creamery and a reception with supporters prior to his speech. Both events featured locally produced foods prepared by Triangle chefs.

Petrini started Slow Food in the 1980s to protest efforts to bring a McDonald’s restaurant to Rome. Today Slow Food International has 80,000 members around the world, including 14,000 in the United States, dedicated to supporting local foods and local farmers. The organization defends food biodiversity, educates people about food and builds food communities.

Interest and awareness of local foods has grown in recent years. A recent Time magazine article advised, “Forget organic. Eat local.” Prize-winning author Barbara Kingsolver has written a new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, chronicling her family’s effort to eat only locally produced food for one year. And the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has doubled since 1999.

Next May in San Francisco, Slow Food will kick off a year-long campaign, “Slow Food Nation” aimed at promoting local food systems. CEFS director Nancy Creamer, in her opening remarks at the lecture issued the challenge, “Over the next year, CEFS will ask, ‘What will it take to build a local food system in North Carolina?’”

Petrini, who speaks Italian, was translated by Slow Food U.S.A. director Erika Lesser. He brought the N.C. State audience of about 850 a message from his new book “Slow Food Nation” – that food should be good, clean and fair, raised in ways that are sustainable for the environment, local economies and communities.

Carlo Petrini with Dean Wynne
Dean Johnny Wynne, left, introduces Petrini at a pre-lecture reception, while Erika Lesser, center, translates. (Becky Kirkland photo)

Slow Food International has developed two universities dedicated to the science of gastronomy. Petrini explained his definition of “gastronomy” as more than just recipes.

“We must have a different concept of gastronomy,” Petrini said. He quoted 19th century author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, whose book The Physiology of Taste asked the question, “What is gastronomy?”

“It’s everything that regards man and his nourishment,” Petrini said. “And so the list begins: agriculture, zoology, physics, chemistry, economics, history, anthropology, and … even … ‘political economy.’

“So as you can see, we are confronted by a complex and multidisciplinary science,” Petrini said. Students in Slow Food’s gastronomy programs study biology, anthropology, genetics, animal and plant production and “the noble science of nutrition.
They also learn how to cook,” Petrini said.

Today, gastronomists must also study ecology – a science that didn’t exist in Brillat-Savarin’s time, he said.

Petrini described a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization that found intensive agricultural production to be one of the greatest threats to the world’s environment. “So this shows us that gastronomy must also be ecology,” he said. “The choices that we make in what we eat will ultimately determine the ecosystem in which we live.”

Petrini urged consumers to become “co-producers” with farmers, becoming aware of where and how their food is raised.

“We in Italy get our tomatoes from China because they cost less. But it’s not true that they cost less because that airplane that flies (bringing the tomatoes to Italy) is consuming energy. And this is the enormous paradox of expending more energy than what we receive in return.

“And indeed food is not as good as it used to be. Those of you who are of my generation, you remember what peaches used to taste like – they didn’t taste like wood. And you remember the smell of a tomato…”

He described the “perfume” of fresh, local tomatoes being processed into sauce in courtyards of homes where he grew up in Italy – an aroma that is not found there today.

Petrini also urged the audience to support small-scale farmers by buying local. “We’re losing farmers. In 1950 in Italy, half of the workforce was in farming, and now we have only 4 percent. In the U.S., we’re at barely 2 percent (in agriculture),” he said.

“We have to give hope and inspiration to young people to stay on the land and to work on the land with dignity and with financial incentives, but also cultural and social recognition. Otherwise what future do we have?

“And so we need a huge campaign to return the rightful place of small-scale agriculture and to re-localize agriculture, and to elevate the value of farmers staying on the land because they will help us save the land. Local economies are what will save the world.”

Carlo Petrini
Petrini, center, tries his hand with the fiddle as he engages members of Kickin' Grass bluegrass band. (Eric Forehand photo)

The night before Petrini’s speech, about 400 people including chefs, farmers and picnic goers, enjoyed a sold-out dinner in Orange County, sponsored by N.C. Choices, a CEFS-sponsored program that promotes sustainable pork production; Slow Food Triangle, and South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Places Inc. or SEEDS. The crowd dined on a variety of dishes created by the Triangle’s best chefs paired with local farmers and their products.

“The atmosphere was warm, relaxed and delicious,” said Jennifer Curtis of N.C. Choices. “Everyone remarked on how wonderful the food was at this event. Farmers and chefs were part of the party and celebration.”

Children enjoyed a tour featuring the creamery's animals -- dairy cows being milked, pigs being fed the whey (leftover from milk after making cheese), and the chickens – as well as a pea shelling contest and egg toss. Traditional music was provided by Chatham County’s own Kickin’ Grass. Those who attended hope the successful event will be repeated. Other picnic sponsors included Haw River Wine Man, A Southern Season, Weaver Street Market and the creamery itself.

CEFS supporters enjoyed the chance to meet Petrini before the speech and have him sign copies of his books at a reception held at N.C. State’s Joyner Visitor Center. Dean Johnny Wynne of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences introduced Petrini at the event.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:30 PM

June 29, 2007

Client praises Amy Thomas for service

Amy Thomas
Amy Thomas

Consumers are quick to complain to others about an organization that has disappointed them, but not so quick to compliment those who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve clients. But Mary Joe Hanes, a cattle operator at the Hawk Farm in Stokes County, is an exception.

Hanes was so impressed with the service she received and the relationship she has developed with North Carolina Cooperative Extension livestock agent Amy Thomas that she wrote a three-page letter praising Thomas last fall to Dr. Jon Ort, director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. In her letter, Hanes described the many ways that Thomas has helped Hanes’s operation and contributed to a revived cattle industry in Stokes and Forsyth counties where Thomas has served for two years.

“In all my years of producing livestock in Stokes County, I have never utilized Cooperative Extension as I am now,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes is exuberant in describing her relationship with Thomas. When Thomas first came to Stokes County, Hanes received a letter from her about cow-keeping forms she had to share. When Hanes responded that she was interested, she expected to receive more information by mail.

One day while working on the farm, Hanes looked up to see Amy Thomas’s truck coming up the drive. “I had no idea she would come out. She just dropped by and introduced herself,” Hanes said.

Right away, Thomas began helping the Haneses with their operation. She taught them to take pregnancy test samples from cows, helped them get into a class on artificial insemination and helped them make decisions about animals to cull from their herd.

“Anything we came up with, Amy had an answer for – any direction we wanted to go,” Hanes said.

Thomas said she was surprised to learn of Hanes’s complimentary letter to the head of the Cooperative Extension Service. She acknowledges that she has a good relationship with and respect for Hanes.

She describes her job responsibilities as most livestock agents would – working with goat and cattle operators, helping with artificial insemination, breeding, selection and pregnancy, and working with local youth who show livestock.

Thomas helped introduce the Haneses to youth livestock showing. Last summer, she helped organize a show calf clinic at Hanes’s farm to train youth through a mock livestock show. “The youth were able to experience what the show ring might be like and receive a gentle critique from Amy as to their showmanship skills and cattle-handling abilities,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes was most touched at the way Thomas interacted with Mike, who Hanes described as a mentally and physically handicapped adult who competed in a special class in the livestock show. “For the cattle show, Amy’s husband Charlie brought one of their most gentle heifers for Mike to show. I wish you could have seen him in the ring with this beautiful heifer and the giant smile on his face when Amy awarded him his blue ribbon,” Hanes wrote.

Hanes said that the attention that Thomas gave to Mike illustrates her commitment to people. “Amy is here for everybody, and she treats everyone well,” Hanes said. “It doesn’t matter how trivial your need is, she’s ready to help.”

For Thomas, it’s all in a day’s work. “I try to do as much as I can. With two counties, it’s hard to do hands-on,” she admits.
Hanes also credits Thomas with reviving the local cattleman’s association. And the clinics Thomas offers to livestock producers have been well received. That level of service, Hanes says, is very important to farmers.

“I want state administrators to understand how important it is to those of us trying to stay in this business,” Hanes said.

Thomas grew up on a farm and is now married to a farmer, so she appreciates how important a livestock agent’s help can be. “I don’t see how anyone can be a good agent and stay in the office,” she said. “It’s not feasible in all cases, but it’s a disservice to livestock producers if Extension agents can’t get out to the farms.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:50 PM

Ducharme hosts farmer mentoring program

Diane Ducharme, an Extension agriculture agent working in Henderson, Haywood and Buncombe counties, has A&T Extension’s Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program in high gear this summer. Three farms near Asheville — Thatchmore, Full Sun and Flying Cloud — have been lined up to host a series of programs on Mondays, from 4 to 6 p.m., through Aug. 30.

Workshop topics will cover farm management from site selection to post-harvest handling. Well-experienced farmers as well as those completely new to the profession are welcome. Each workshop is a stand-alone, so participants can pick dates and topics that match personal schedules and interests. The registration fee is $5 per class.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:29 AM

June 27, 2007

Cheese school pays off for Gibsonville dairy

Jackie Gerringer
Jackie Gerringer, second from right, and employees remove curds for cheesemaking. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

In a gleaming workroom of a Gibsonville dairy farm, Jackie Gerringer and four employees work six days a week, making three types of farmstead cheeses. Each week, the Calico Farmstead Cheese Co. turns 3,000 gallons of milk into traditional Mexican cheeses marketed in North Carolina and neighboring states.

Like many small cheesemakers, Gerringer and her family are new to the business. But their marketing savvy and a growing consumer demand for fresh cheese has provided the Gerringer dairy with a new source of income.

Jackie Gerringer was among the first cheesemakers to participate in a Hands-On Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course, developed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Food Science Department.

The workshop helped her understand the food safety issues, labeling and regulatory requirements involved in cheesemaking, as well as how to get started in the business.

“It was just really a good experience,” Gerringer said.

In the Food Science Department, Gary Cartwright, food science pilot plant coordinator, and Dr. MaryAnne Drake, food science assistant professor, are among those who have put on the Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course in December of each year since 2004.

The course started in spring 2004 as a processing short course and in December of that year, the hands-on workshops began. Cartwright credits Dean Johnny Wynne with having the vision to offer the training through the College.

“Dean Wynne saw that there was a need to empower farmers who were interested in doing this and doing it the proper way, the legal way, and helping them stay on the family farm. He asked Dr. Drake and I to support this kind of the program, so we garnered funds from Golden LEAF, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center and North Carolina Agriculture Foundation. Their generous support -- and the dairy processing plant located here in the Food Science Department -- made the program possible,” Cartwright said.

Tia Anna's Cheeses
The Gerringers make three types of Mexican-style cheeses.

Since the workshops began, Cartwright says that 83 individuals from 34 North Carolina counties – and from several other states – have participated in the training. The workshop is offered in late November or December to accommodate goat dairy operators because the dairy goats do not produce milk that time of year.

The workshops deal with many aspects of cheesemaking, including a roundtable discussion with successful local cheesemakers, Cartwright says. “This is not just to educate farmstead-interested people on how to do it. It’s to educate them on whether they want to or not,” he said. “So they get a good taste of the technology involved, the labor involved, and then we also hit the economics and regulatory parts involved.”

Safety is emphasized in the cheesemaking workshops. “What makes a good cheese is sanitation, sanitation and sanitation,” Drake said. “What makes it your cheese could be the type of cheese you make, it could be how you position your product, could be your label. It could be any one of a number of things.”

“What makes a good cheese for someone trying to stay on the farm is making it economically successful. You can make the best cheese in the world, but if you don’t have a market for it, you’re not going to make it for long,” Cartwright said.

The workshops emphasize the importance of cheesemakers having a plan to market their cheese. In a survey of workshop participants who go into cheesemaking, Cartwright says that all of them underestimate how much time it takes to market and sell cheese.

Jackie Gerringer says she had no illusions about her sales abilities when it came to cheese. “I am not a sales person,” she says. “We knew we couldn’t sell because we didn’t have time. I could give you give you cheese all day long, but I couldn’t sell it.”

Fortunately, the Gerringers have had good partners in developing their cheese business. Several Mexican employees in the dairy first suggested that the make Mexican-style cheeses. Employee Juana Beltran taught Jackie Gerringer to make quesa fresca, a cheese Beltran learned to make from her mother.

Juana’s husband Manuel was eager to take on the role of marketing the cheese. Each day he fills his coolers and sells cheese to tiendas that cater to Mexcians living in North Carolina and sells direct to consumers at the Buckhorn Flea Market in Mebane. Two other distributors sell their cheese in Virginia and the Charlotte area.

Though it took time for the Gerringers to perfect the cheesemaking process and develop a processing facility, they now make three cheeses – quesa fresca, panela and requeson (ricotta) – under the name Tia Anna’s Cheese.

Food scientist Drake says that the Southeast dairies are in decline because of competition from other areas of the country. “The way dairy production occurs, we cannot compete with the Southwest and the West Coast. That’s reality – we just cannot compete production-wise,” Drake said. “But we do have niche markets here and throughout the Southeast for artisan and farm-raised and organic and small-scale, specialty value-added dairy products.”

Anna Gerringer
Herd manager Anna Amoriello gives her herd tender loving care, including this cow that likes to be scratched.

The Gerringers got into the cheese business after the tobacco buyout. Tobacco income had supported their dairy, but after the buyout, they needed to find a way to make the dairy profitable.

And cheese has been just the ticket, Jackie Gerringer says. “The cheese has more than made up for the tobacco income. Sometimes we think, ‘well, why didn’t we do it earlier?’” she said. But the family realizes that the knowledge they needed, the help and the market for the cheese might not have been there before now.

For the Gerringers, the dairy – started in 1949 by Larry Gerringer’s parents -- is really a family affair. Larry, Jackie’s husband, is up by 4 a.m. each day to sanitize equipment for the morning milking. Workers milk the Gerringers’ herd of 200 Holsteins and Jerseys twice each day. Milk that is not used for cheese goes into milk production.

Their daughter Anna Amoriello (CALS ’89, animal science and agricultural education) manages the herd health, breeding and calving.

Six days a week, Juana Beltran comes in about 9 a.m. to place labels on cartons that will hold that day’s cheese. Jackie Gerringer, Beltran and three other workers make cheese from around noon to about 5 p.m.

They’ve come a long way from their early cheesemaking days when production went on from about 3 p.m. until after midnight. “My first efforts at making cheese would have made a good bouncy ball for my grandchildren,” Jackie said.

The Gerringers are thrilled with their success, and Jackie says she would like to learn to make other types of cheeses. “But right now, I’m busy,” she said.

This year’s Hands-On Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course will be held Nov. 28-30. For more information, contact Gary Cartwright at gcart@ncsu.edu or 919.513.2488.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:54 AM

June 01, 2007

Agriculture secretary names 47 N.C. counties for disaster aid

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has designated 47 North Carolina counties as disaster areas, following an April freeze that devastated a number of the state's early crops. The counties received the designation of "primary natural disaster area" following crop damage assessments by the Farm Service Agency.

Counties receiving the disaster designation are:
Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Bladen, Burke, Cabarrus, Chatham, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Gaston, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Hoke, Hyde, Iredell, Jackson, Lenoir, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Orange, Pender, Perquimans, Polk, Richmond, Rockingham, Rutherford, Sampson, Stanly, Union, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes and Yadkin.

Additional counties received the designation "contiguous disaster counties." They are:
Alamance, Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Buncombe, Caldwell, Camden, Carteret, Caswell, Catawba, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Davie, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Guilford, Harnett, Hertford, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Macon, Madison, Martin, McDowell, New Hanover, Pasquotank, Person, Pitt, Randolph, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wilson, Yancey.

Farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. FSA will consider each application on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information.

Posted by Natalie at 02:53 PM

May 30, 2007

Asparagus Twilight Meeting to showcase new varieties

Those interested in learning about growing and marketing asparagus are invited to come to an Asparagus Twilight Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16, 6 p.m. at the farm of Garnett Carr, 982 Flem Clayton Rd., Roxboro.

The meeting is designed to showcase the quarter-acre variety trial plots and compare the 13 different varieties grown on the Person County farm by disseminating the research results from the first harvest season. Asparagus is a high-value vegetable crop that is easy to grow, has high consumer demand and needs to be promoted in the South.

Carl Cantaluppi, area horticulture agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Granville and Person counties, will talk about site and soil considerations for growing asparagus, as well as fertility requirements; insect, disease and weed control; harvesting and marketing techniques; costs associated with growing the crop and more. An asparagus planting will be demonstrated using a middlebuster or lister plow to open a furrow and plant dormant one-year old crowns (roots).

People will be encouraged to ask questions throughout the presentation. Door prizes will be on hand and cold drinks will be provided.

From Roxboro, travel about three miles north on NC 57. Turn right (east) on Flem Clayton Road. Go about half a mile a mile until the road ends. The asparagus plot is on the right.

-C. Cantaluppi

Posted by Natalie at 01:00 PM

May 21, 2007

Alum contributes expertise to improve campus, state water quality

Darrell Westmoreland, right, and Dr. Greg Jennings, BAE, along the banks of Rocky Branch on NC State's campus.

Last December, on a tree-lined terrace above Rocky Branch Creek on N.C. State University’s campus, two men monitored the progress of several groups of trainees and their instructors below. Darrell Westmoreland, stream restoration and wetlands mitigation expert, was on the job.

He and Dr. Greg Jennings, Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) professor at N.C. State, watched a multi-ton North State Environmental Inc. (NSE) trackhoe carefully repair part of the Rocky Branch stream restoration project damaged by last June’s Tropical Storm Alberto.

Westmoreland, a 1991 BAE graduate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, co-owns NSE. Jennings, a licensed engineer and water quality specialist who leads “River Course” classes for BAE’s Stream Restoration Program, also heads North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Watershed Education Network.

The heavy equipment operator they observed exhibited a delicate touch on this environmentally sensitive job, no problem for carefully hired and specially trained NSE operators. Westmoreland’s employees are noted for their ability to handle 30-ton tracked excavators or bulldozers in mid-channel, positioning rocks, logs and dirt to create natural-looking streams and banks without disrupting a site.

Water quality engineers appreciate NSE operators’ finesse.

“Darrell’s operators are all skilled, patient experts, who are not afraid to get out of their equipment and use their hands and feet to make sure things are built properly. They have a set of chest waders in every cab,” says Dan Clinton, a 1997 BAE alumnus, former Rocky Branch design team member and River Course instructor, and now a Town of Cary storm water engineer.

North Carolina’s streams are familiar habitats to Westmoreland.
With his wife, Stephanie, he founded the Winston-Salem-based NSE in 1994 to repair and restore waterways to their natural state through specialized channel design and installation services. Stephanie is NSE president; Darrell, project manager and vice-president. He handles field operations, stream restoration and wetlands mitigation, job estimating, equipment scheduling, and maintenance and field personnel management.

Despite the responsibilities and busy schedule, the company provides a dream job to Westmoreland, an outdoorsman who likes to fish any stream he has restored to make sure it supports aquatic life.
Westmoreland is noted not only for his efforts to preserve our environment, but also for his dedication to N.C. State.

The Westmorelands have provided at least $20,000 worth of in-kind donations to the Stream Restoration Program and other College water-quality efforts, Jennings says. They’ve been involved with five training workshop-related projects in Raleigh, Brevard and Purlear, near North Wilkesboro.

Workshop receipts supported the Rocky Branch restoration work during SRP’s three-day certification training as part of a hands-on training program. Instructors included Westmoreland, Jennings, Clinton and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Ecosystem Enhancement Program staff.

During training, 55 construction contractors, consulting engineers, regulatory agency employees and others visited a multi-faceted real-time water flow demonstration area that NSE had constructed earlier at N.C. State’s Lake Wheeler Road Field Labs. NSE also constructed storm-water research ponds on Centennial Campus for N.C. State’s water quality group, headed by Extension specialist Dr. Jean Spooner, also of BAE, who directs the College’s Soil and Water Environmental Technology Center.

“The Lake Wheeler area is unique,” Clinton says. “No other place in the country has a full-scale outdoor stream construction demonstration project for educational purposes, and Darrell helped build it.”

At Rocky Branch, class participants learned specific techniques and erosion control methods applicable to this type of construction. For instance, students spent 45-minute field rotations observing Westmoreland’s red-T-shirted workers use heavy equipment to install root wads and boulders in an Alberto-damaged stream bank. A group of his workers also installed a brush mattress, while others seeded and planted the stream bank with native riparian vegetation for bank stabilization.

Now in its 12th year, NSE was honored by Equipment World Magazine as 2006 NSE national Contractor of the Year. The same year, the nonprofit Soil and Water Conservation Society honored the company for outstanding efforts and achievements toward the society’s goals of “fostering the science and art of natural resource conservation.”

As evidenced during the December N.C. State restoration job, Westmoreland’s on-the-job streamside attention to detail pays dividends. “The Rocky Branch work was well done,” he says. “The rock and log structures and the channel held up, despite a major precipitation event after we finished the job.”

—A. Latham

Posted by Art at 09:35 AM

May 09, 2007

Petrini is speaker for CEFS lecture

Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International, will speak at North Carolina State University’s McKimmon Center at 7 p.m. May 23, during a rare United States appearance. Petrini will discuss the meaning and value of preserving food traditions, defending biodiversity and protecting food that is good, clean and fair.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is the Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ Inaugural Sustainable Agriculture Lecture. It will be part of a two-day celebration with Petrini, “Farm-to-Fork: A Celebration of Local Foods and Local Farms,” in the Triangle May 22-23.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems is a research, teaching and extension center in Goldsboro focused on sustainable agriculture. CEFS is a partnership of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Prior to the lecture, Friends of CEFS will host a private benefit reception with Petrini at the N.C. State University Visitor Center, 1210 Varsity Drive, adjacent to McKimmon Center, from 5-7 p.m. Friends of CEFS is a non-profit organization for those who support CEFS’ commitment to a sustainable future for agriculture. For information regarding CEFS benefit and reserved lecture seating, contact Lisa Forehand, 919.513.0954, cefs_info@ncsu.edu or the Web site, www.cefs.ncsu.edu

For more information about CEFS, local foods or sustainable agriculture, contact Dr. Nancy Creamer, 919.515.9447 or nancy_creamer@ncsu.edu. Creamer is a professor of Horticultural Science at N.C. State and CEFS director.

Background for Media
Through a number of efforts, North Carolina Cooperative Extension has been instrumental in bringing local growers and consumers together. Through farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs, farm tours and other arrangements, Extension has worked to develop local food systems across North Carolina.

Since 1999, the number of farmers’ markets across the United States has doubled as consumers’ interest in local foods grows. Local food systems provide consumers with fresh, locally grown products, while providing growers with an accessible market for their products. Information about the Slow Food movement in the Triangle is available at http://www.slowfoodtriangle.org/.

To learn more about how Cooperative Extension has increased the availability of local foods in the Triangle, contact the following Extension agents and specialists

Moore Square Farmers’ Market, Raleigh
North Carolina Cooperative Extension professionals were instrumental in helping establish this market last year.
Carl Cantaluppi, Extension agent for Granville and Person counties, 919.603.1350 or carl_cantaluppi@ncsu.edu
Morris Dunn, Extension agent, Wake County, 919.250.1117 or morris_dunn@ncsu.edu
Theresa Nartea, Extension agribusiness and marketing specialist, N.C. A&T State University, 336.334.7956, ex. 2109 or tjnartea@ncat.edu

Creedmoor Farmers’ Market
Carl Cantaluppi, extension agent for Granville and Person counties, has helped establish this market (Saturdays, beginning May 19).

Wake Forest Farmers’ Market
Morris Dunn, Wake County Extension agent, helped the market vendors acquire tents to enhance the market’s appearance.

Holly Springs Farmers’ Market
Morris Dunn and Theresa Nartea helped the town survey citizens’ desire for a local farmers’ market. Holly Springs’s first farmers’ market will open this spring.

Smithfield Farmers’ Market
Johnston County’s Cooperative Extension center has been involved in establishing a farmers’ market in downtown Smithfield that is open now (Fridays).
Amie Newsome, Extension agent, 919.496.3344 or amie_newsome@ncsu.edu

Pinehurst Farmers Market
Cooperative Extension in Moore County worked with First Health Moore Regional Hospital to create the new market in the heart of Pinehurst, with about a dozen vendors who sell fresh produce, flowers, herbs, jams and jellies (Mondays, 3-8 p.m.).
Taylor Williams, Extension agent, 910.947.3188 or taylor_williams@ncsu.edu

NC Choices
Affiliated with CEFS, NC Choices promotes sustainable pork production and helps develop direct markets. Triangle area producers can be found at the Web site http://www.ncchoices.com/farmers_piedmont.htm
Jennifer Curtis, project manager, 919.967.0014 or jencurt@mindspring.com

Community-Supported Agriculture programs
Extension has been instrumental in developing Community-Supported Agriculture programs for two local employers and more recently for a Wake County master-planned community. Bedford at Falls River teams with the Vollmer Farm of Bunn to host a CSA for residents. The employers who established CSAs with extension’s help are:
Research Triangle Institute, started by CEFS: http://www.rti.org/csa
Duke University: http://www.hr.duke.edu/farmersmarket/mobile_market.html
Theresa Nartea, Extension agribusiness and marketing specialist, N.C. A&T State University, 336.334.7956, ex. 2109 or tjnartea@ncat.edu

Chatham County’s “Growing Small Farms” Web site
Extension agent Debbie Roos reaches out to local growers through her award-winning Web site “Growing Small Farms.” The site offers information for growers on production, marketing and more. Roos also is involved with three local farmers’ markets in Pittsboro, Fearrington and Siler City.
Debbie Roos, 919.542.8202 or debbie_roos@ncsu.edu

Durham’s SEEDS and DIG programs
Specialists at N.C. A&T State University worked with this community garden and education program that sells produce at the Durham Farmers’ Market.
Robert Williamson, Extension natural resources specialist, 336.334.7956 or robertw@ncat.edu
Ellen Smoak, Western District Coordinator, 336.334.7956 or smoak@ncat.edu
Lucy Harris, SEEDS executive director, 919.683.1197

Franklin County Farm Foods & Crafts Tour (May 19-20)

Franklin County’s Cooperative Extension center has been involved in this tour, which introduces consumers to local farms, since in began four years ago.
Martha Mobley, Franklin County Extension agent, 919.496.3344 or martha_mobley@ncsu.edu

Marketing efforts for beef and goat meat
Franklin County Cooperative Extension was instrumental in establishing two organizations to market sustainably raised beef and goat meat.
Franklin County Natural Beef, http://www.buynaturalbeef.us
NC Meat Goat Producers, Inc., http://www.ordergoat.com
Martha Mobley
--N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:01 AM

May 07, 2007

Workshop to focus on safe produce handling, liability

A workshop for commercial fruit and vegetable growers that will focus on safe food handling and legal liability issues will be held May 15 at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Person County Center in Roxboro.

The workshop is designed for fruit and vegetable growers who sell their produce at farmers’ markets and through pick-your-own operations. It begins at 5 p.m. with registration and dinner and ends at 9 p.m. The workshop cost is a $15 per person, which includes the meal. The event is sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Titled “Profitable Produce: A Workshop on Legal Liability and Handling Food Safely,” the workshop will feature presentations by Dr. Lynn Turner, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University, Shirley Outlaw of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, and Ted Feitshans, an extension specialist in agricultural and resource economics at N.C. State University. Turner will talk about good agricultural practices and food safety, while Outlaw will discuss liability insurance, and Feitshans’ topic will be legal issues and direct marketing.

Registration and other information is available from Carl Cantaluppi, area extension agent-horticulture, at 919.603.1350 or carl_cantaluppi@ncsu.edu or from Annette Dunlap, extension associate, value-added and alternative agriculture, at 919.515.5969 or annette_dunlap@ncsu.edu. Information is also available on line at extension’s value-added and alternative agriculture Web site, http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added/

The Person County Extension Center, where the workshop will be held, is at 304 S. Morgan Street, Roxboro.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is an educational agency supported by county governments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and N.C. State and North Carolina A&T State universities. County agents, backed by specialists at the two land-grant universities, conduct educational programs related to agriculture and forestry, family and consumer sciences, 4-H, community and rural development and other issues.

Posted by Dave at 01:02 PM

April 16, 2007

Leadership lessons learned through program

Group in San Fransisco
Ag Leaders with a San Fransisco cable car. Pictured from left are Tom Porter, John Bizic, Art Bradley and Sue Leggett. (Natalie Hampton photos)

What do Brazil and California have in common with North Carolina agriculture? This winner, a group of 32 agricultural professionals recently visited both places to learn lessons they will need to lead North Carolina agribusiness into the future. The group members are part of a two-year leadership training program offered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The young growers and agricultural professionals, who represent the full spectrum of North Carolina agriculture, began the Agriculture Leadership Development Program in fall 2005. In January and February, group members participated in two educational tours to learn leadership lessons from Brazilian agriculture and, closer to home, California agriculture.

The program is a newer version of the College’s former Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Development Program, which was open to tobacco growers. The new leadership program, sponsored in part by Tobacco Trust Fund, Golden LEAF, North Carolina Farm Bureau and a number of North Carolina commodity organizations, is open to all types of agricultural professionals.

Leadership for the program included veterans Dr. Bill Collins of N.C. Agricultural Research Service and Dr. Billy Caldwell, associate director emeritus of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Dr. Lanny Hass and Eleanor Stell of North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Personal and Organizational Development group also served as organizers and trainers for the program.

The program strives to build leaders by teaching them to manage and lead issues and giving them the skills they need to compete, Hass said. The training focuses on the mastery of self, relationships and finally, social action.

"This program has provided effective leaders in a number of areas who have been successful in relating agricultural interests in the policy-making process," said Collins, who has worked with the program since 1986.

"We’ve seen growth in personal identity capabilities of participants to deal with issues more effectively and become leaders on behalf of agriculture,” Caldwell said.

The trip to Brazil gave the leaders a close-up look at Brazilian agriculture and the country’s potential as a global competitor, Stell said.

Of the two experiences, many said the California trip provided lessons more relevant to North Carolina. And while the learning experiences focused on agriculture, the lessons were related to leadership. In Marin County, a rural county outside of San Francisco, the group learned about farmland preservation efforts, marketing rural products to an urban audience and working across philosophical boundaries toward the common goal of water quality.

Prior to the trips, the ag leaders – many of whom hold N.C. State degrees -- participated in a variety of training programs and identified five focus areas they wanted to explore further. This spring and summer, they will work in groups to complete practicums in the focus areas.

The five areas include: increasing the use of biodiesel; educating the public about North Carolina agriculture; using agriculture to enhance green space; ensuring an adequate supply of farmworkers; and using the 2007 Farm Bill to ensure a safe and secure food supply.

The group that focused on the Farm Bill conducted legislative visits in Washington, D.C. One group member told Stell that without the experience from the leadership program, he would not have had the knowledge or confidence to conduct such a visit.

Ag leaders in field
Group members look over a field of calla lilies damaged by California's January freeze.

On the California trip, the group began in San Francisco with a tour of the downtown Ferry Market, a successful farmers’ market that brings rural growers and urban customers together two days a week. But more than a sales arena, the market is sponsored by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture as a means of teaching the public the lessons of sustainable agriculture and local food systems.

The next four days, the group traveled north and then south of the city to visit key California agricultural areas. Each day, the program was hosted by county Cooperative Extension directors who introduced the group to issue leaders in their counties.

In Marin County, the group explored the rural side of the rural/urban relationship. They visited the Hog Island Oyster Company –a Ferry Market vendor – to see how oysters are produced and harvested in the waters of Tomales Bay, part of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The group learned how Marin farmers add value to their operations and manage urban growth, issues that North Carolina growers also are facing.

Even the lunchtime meal in Marin provided a lesson on local food systems. The group enjoyed a feast created from all-local products, including pasture-fed beef, eggs, produce and even heavy cream for the (not local) coffee.

In Monterey County, the group learned lessons of crisis management, talking with Dale Huss of Ocean Mist Co. Huss and other Salinas Valley lettuce and spinach growers were caught in the crossfire last year when bagged spinach grown in the area became contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Huss advised growers to be prepared for such a crisis.

The group also learned how Salinas growers were coping with the loss of aquifer water because of saline infusion. Waste water from Monterey County communities is recycled through a three-step treatment process that makes the water suitable for food crops. Treated water is pumped to local fields for irrigation.

The group ended its tour in Fresno and Tulare counties, the first and second largest agricultural counties in the U.S., still reeling from a January freeze that destroyed the citrus crop. Frost-damaged oranges still hung from trees, while at the Kearney Research and Extension Center, faculty members looked for ways to determine the extent of damage to naval oranges.

Lessons learned? Be prepared for natural disasters. Jim Sullins, Tulare County Extension director, told the group the January disaster marked the third 100-year freeze to hit central California since 1993. Even with that experience, growers ran short of propane to heat orchards, some watering systems failed and other freeze protections were not enough to save the crop. In early February, half the local orange packing sheds were at 50 percent capacity, and 50-70 percent of the oranges were believed lost.

Perhaps the biggest concern for Tulare and Fresno growers was that 6,000-7,000 agricultural workers were out of work due to the freeze. Growers, who feared the workers would leave the state, organized relief efforts to help keep the workers in California.

Group photo
Members of the Ag Leaders group at Hilarides Dairy.

The participants have a great deal to say about their leadership program. Many point to relationship skills they have gained that have improved not only their professional relationships but those with friends and family as well.

"The real value to me is what I’ve learned about myself and how I interact with other people. I wish I had known this 20 years ago," said Richard Melton, Anson County agricultural Extension agent. "It has changed the way I look at developing Extension programming."

Billy Slade of Beaufort County, an agribusiness sales manager, said that learning to discuss high-stakes/high-stress issues had saved the jobs of three fellow employees. Being able to sit down to discuss a difficult personal matter had prevented two employees from resigning and a third from possible firing.

Keith Waller, a Wayne County grower who farms with his family, said the leadership training had made him a better manager and a better person. He is now more willing to call on other farmers for help or to discuss practices. When a corn bin at his operation burst, he turned to fellow leader Brandon Warren to ask for assistance.

Warren said the program had given him "friendships for a lifetime," as well as a group of peers who could work together to address challenges for agriculture. "I am more willing to serve in a leadership position now," he said. "It’s been a privilege to be able to participate in this."

Sue Leggett of Nash County, who farms with her husband, said the program has taught her better interpersonal skills and given her confidence to work with and inform other groups about agricultural issues. "This program has introduced me to methods and ideas for improving the interface between the agricultural industry and the general public," she said.

Davie County grower Stacy Walker, who kept a journal of his Brazil and California experiences, said the program had given him the confidence to try new things. "I don’t know yet the path this program has started me on, but I know I’m stepping more boldly now," he said.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 04:15 PM

April 04, 2007

Conference brings together churches, farmers, hunger advocates

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro will be a featured attraction during one of three meetings designed to explore how churches, farmers and hunger relief agencies can work together.

The North Carolina Council of Churches Rural Life Committee will bring together churches, farmers and hunger relief advocates for a conference titled "Come to the Table: A Conference on Food, Faith and Farms," which will explore how North Carolinians can honor the land, relieve hunger and sustain local agriculture.

Three one-day, regional sessions will make up the conference.
The Eastern North Carolina session will be April 10 at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Goldsboro, N.C.
The Central North Carolina session will be April 11 at Cedar Grove United Methodist Church in Cedar Grove.
The Western North Carolina session will be April 13 at Biltmore United Methodist Church in Asheville.

The Goldsboro session will include a tour of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a partnership of North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The center is one of the nation's largest efforts to study environmentally sustainable farming practices.

At all the sessions, speakers will address the theology of land stewardship and the regional state of agriculture and hunger. Leaders of local projects will discuss their work with faith, farming and hunger relief. Booths and exhibits will give organizations the chance to share their work and meet new partners. Participants will also have a chance to experience local agriculture.

"We hope this conference sparks successful projects and partnerships," said Betty Bailey, a member of the Rural Life Committee and executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA.

Speakers include Ellen Davis, a professor at Duke Divinity School; Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA farm sustainability program director; N. Yolanda Burwell, senior fellow at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center; and Christal Andrews, Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C.

Come to the Table is sponsored by the Duke Endowment, the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Hood Theological Seminary and the Heifer International-Southeast Regional Office. Anyone interested in connecting farmers to hunger relief efforts is invited to attend. Registration and other information is available online at http://www.cometothetablenc.org or by calling Claire Hermann at (919) 360-7416.

Posted by Dave at 09:27 AM

March 30, 2007

Author Anna Lappe to speak April 4

Best-selling author Anna Lappe will present a public lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University. Lappe, who is also a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute in Cambridge, Mass., is a frequent speaker on food politics, agriculture, globalization and social change.

Lappe is co-author of the 2006 book, Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, which she wrote with Bryant Terry. In 2002, she co-authored the book, Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet with her mother, Frances Moore Lappe, author of the original Diet for a Small Planet, published in the 1970s.

The event is free and open to the public. The JC Raulston Arboretum is located at 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh. Following Lappe’s lecture, dessert will be provided by Irregardless Café. For additional information, contact cefs_info@ncsu.edu or 919.513.0954.

The lecture is sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, promoting research, teaching and extension activities related to sustainable agriculture. CEFS is a partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Posted by Natalie at 01:54 PM

March 21, 2007

A burgeoning industry

Jack Loudermilk, Sara Spayd and Trevor Phister at Buck Shoals Vineyard
Viticulturist Dr. Sara Spayd (center), enology specialist Dr. Trevor Phister (right) and Yadkin County Extension director Jack Loudermilk (left) sample the grapes at Buck Shoals Vineyard and Winery in Hamptonville. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

When Dr. Sara Spayd makes presentations about growing wine grapes, she always shows a photograph of a Riesling vine that has pushed through dry desert ground, wrapped itself around a gnarly cluster of tumbleweed and is bearing fruit.

It’s a demonstration of how little water wine grapes need in order to grow. The image is also an eye-opening statement on the challenges of growing wine grapes in North Carolina, in a climate known for humidity, rain, and a long hurricane season that happens to coincide with harvest time.

“One of my biggest goals is to find varieties that are well-suited to the North Carolina climate and will produce a good finished product,” says Spayd, the College’s new viticulturist and professor of horticultural science.

A native North Carolinian whose father once grew muscadine grapes for wine down East, Spayd has just returned to the state from 26 years as a professor at Washington State University. Her work helped Washington’s wine industry become the second largest in the country.
North Carolina’s industry, she says, is growing legs.

The number of wineries in North Carolina has more than doubled since 2002, from 25 to 57, according to Margo Knight, director of the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council. The state has more than 350 commercial vineyards covering more than 1,500 acres.

In 2005, state-produced grapes were valued at nearly $3.7 million, and the value of state-produced wine was estimated at $54 million, according to Knight. A new winery opens every month on average, Knight says, and North Carolina ranks 12th for wine production and 10th for grape production in the U.S.

“North Carolina has the ability to grow a wide variety of grapes, which sets us apart from most,” Knight says. “In addition to traditional European wine grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot, we also grow native varieties like muscadine and scuppernong.”

But, the challenges to the industry in North Carolina are significant.

wine grapes

“Right now, the number-one challenge is consistent quality of grapes and wine,” Knight says. “There are still a lot of folks working out the kinks, so to speak. As a fairly new kid on the block, our state is judged by both its good and bad wines.”

Also, Pierce’s disease, an insect-borne scourge, is an issue for wine grape growers.

Spayd is one of three new faculty in the College whose work will support the wine and grape industry. Connie Fisk is a new muscadine Extension associate, and Dr. Trevor Phister, a new assistant professor in the Department of Food Science, specializes in enology (the science of wine and wine making).

“Industry members are excited about this new leadership and are optimistic that N.C. State will play a major role in assisting our grape growers and winemakers,” Knight says.

Spayd is responsible for bunch grape research and Extension in the Department of Horticultural Science. She’ll wear two hats: as a researcher, she’ll work to find new grape varieties that will grow well in North Carolina; and through Extension, she’ll help educate agents and growers on vineyard and winery management practices that will improve the quality of grapes and their products.

Since arriving last spring, Spayd has hosted a number of different workshops and packed thousands of miles on her truck visiting Extension agents and wineries throughout the state. She and Dr. Barclay Poling, professor of horticultural science, also launched a new distance-education viticulture course in January.

Fisk, who received a master’s degree at Oregon State University in 2006, will support Extension agents in counties where muscadines are commercially grown. Muscadine grapes are grown in nearly 50 counties as far west as Surry, but mostly in the east.

Naturally disease- and pest-resistant, muscadine grapes grow well in North Carolina, she says. The sweet grapes are valued not only for their juice, but also for their hulls and seeds. Packed with antioxidants, these byproducts of the winemaking industry are now being manufactured into nutritional supplements. Fresh market sales of muscadine grapes are also strong.

“With the growing demand for muscadines comes exciting opportunities for farmers in North Carolina to diversify,” Fisk says. “A lot of growers affected by the tobacco buyout are looking to keep their land and grow new crops.”

Based at the Duplin County Cooperative Extension Service Office, Fisk has focused her first year on learning the landscape. She’s been busy traveling to the muscadine-growing counties to learn first-hand the needs and concerns of growers, agents, wineries and vineyards.

She’ll help with site selection, vineyard management practices and fruit quality control, among many other things. She also finds time to help teach a viticulture and enology course at nearby James Sprunt Community College.

“With the market growing, agents are receiving more and more questions,” Fisk says. “Knowing the risks ahead of time will help them, and help growers, produce a quality product.”

Phister joins the College from Drexel University, where he served as assistant professor of bioscience and biotechnology. He’ll focus his research on fermentation and the science behind what makes wine taste good or bad. He also carries an Extension appointment and already has in mind a slate of ideas.

“I’m going to help support the viticulture work,” he says. “The ultimate end point of the grapes they’re growing is to make wine. And, once I pick up on what some of the industry’s concerns and problems are, then I’ll set up research in those areas. I think it’s exciting how the industry is growing in North Carolina.”

Among Phister’s goals is to establish a program through which wineries can submit samples for sensory, microbial and chemical analysis – a blind taste-test, so to say – that will help them determine strengths and weaknesses of particular wines.

He’ll also team with Appalachian State University and Surry Community College on research studies, and he hopes to set up a winemakers’ roundtable that would create new networking opportunities for the state’s wineries.

At the College’s annual “Celebrate N.C. Wines” event in October, 12 of the state’s wineries offered tastings. Designed as much to educate as to celebrate, the event also featured research demonstrations, wine and food pairings workshops, a silent auction and live music.

“Celebrate N.C. Wines” raised $22,000 to support viticulture and enology research in the College, as well as the JC Raulston Arboretum.

At the event’s closing ceremony, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Johnny Wynne said, “We in the College are proud to serve as partners in developing an industry with the potential to have significant impact on the economy and renown of our state.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 09:58 AM

February 27, 2007

CEFS team presents at Mexico symposium

Four North Carolina State University Center for Environmental Farming Systems research agriculturalists and The Rodale Institute’s research director, Dr. Paul Hepperly, presented exceptionally well-received lectures at a recent international symposium at Mexico’s leading undergraduate agricultural university.

CEFS develops environmentally, economically and socially sustainable farming systems through long-term interdisciplinary research.

The Fourth International Agroecology Seminar at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, Texcoco, Mexico, provided a forum for CEFS researchers and those from agricultural universities in Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Cuba to discuss interdisciplinary agroecological and sustainable agriculture research design and strategies. More than 200 Mexican students and educators participated in the mid-October week of marathon information exchange sessions at UACh.

Agroecology is the interdisciplinary study of ecological interactions within agricultural ecosystems.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presenters included CALS Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Dr. Paul Mueller and agroecology course development pioneer and ecologist Dr. Michelle Schroeder, both of the Department of Crop Science; Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, animal science and crop science departments member and Bryan Green, CEFS small farm unit manager. All delivered their talks in Spanish, as did Rodale’s Hepperly.

Mueller, who led the group, is the College’s sustainable agriculture and CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit coordinator. Schroeder directs the agroecology minor program; Lughinbuhl develops sustainable meat goat forage/ browse-based feeding and management systems. Luginbuhl and Green’s post-seminar workshops were so popular they presented twice.

Mueller and Dr. Mike Linker developed the College’s initial agroecology course, first offered in 1999. In 2004-5, the Crop Science Department hired Dr. Michelle Schroeder and added several courses as part of a newly established agroecology concentration within the crop science major, as well as a new agroecology minor.

Schroeder notes that while few agroecology programs exist at U.S. universities, the University of Chapingo’s program houses more than 300 students. “We were privileged to interact with the dedicated faculty and students and help them celebrate their 15th anniversary as an agroecology program,” she says.

In fact, says Hepperly, UACh is a birthplace of agroecology and is increasing its research, education and outreach to communities in need.

“Mexico,” he says, “has assumed world leadership in organic, free trade and shade-grown coffee, and has more organic farmers than any other country. Increasingly, re-invigorating traditional mixed farming as practiced in Mexico is seen as the remedy to declining rural revenue and the flight of rural Mexicans to the north.”

The CEFS-UACh partnership is growing its own history.

“During the last few years,” says Green, “we have hosted five interns from Chapingo’s agroecology department, with Mexican students living, working and studying with U.S. students from all over the country. All students deepened their understanding of sustainable agriculture from a more profound international perspective, learning about its political, economic and social aspects.”

Chapingo students, who work with community-based development programs throughout Mexico and at two on-campus field research sites – in agroecology and organic production -- also experienced such activities as the management of organic production of vegetables and small fruits and small animal husbandry, and outreach programs into immigrant communities and nearby Goldsboro, Green says.

“As a result,” says Mueller, “these students impressed our faculty with their knowledge of sustainable agriculture principles and practices, their strong work ethic and their interest and commitment to working with local communities.”

“Mexico and the United States are intrinsically linked,” Hepperly adds, “and we discussed the need for formalizing a collaborative relationship between our research, educational and outreach programs to permit a strong mutually beneficial development between us. We are two wings from the same dove.”

Mueller agrees. “We look forward,” he says, “to strengthening our relationship with scientists and students from the University of Chapingo's Agroecology Department.”

N.C. State’s forum participation was funded through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. CRSPs focus U.S. land grant universities’ capabilities to carry out the U.S. government’s international food and agricultural research mandate, according to a U.S. AID Web site.

Posted by Art at 07:35 AM

February 15, 2007

Ventured and gained

Madison Farms value-added processing center
Gathered at the Madison Farms value-added processing center are (from left) Aubrey Raper, David Kendall, Ross Young and Dewain Mackey. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

It all started with a bowl of lettuce.

Dewain Mackey, a Madison County farmer trying to diversify his operation, had just harvested his first crop of the leafy vegetable when an idea struck: take it to the schools. So he tossed a few heads of his hydroponic lettuce into a bowl and hit the road. After stops at the offices of the superintendent and school board chair, who both supported his idea, Mackey drove to a local high school. The nutritionist evaluated his lettuce, chopped it and put it on the lunch line. It was a hit. And, it was the start of something much bigger.

Mackey’s ingenuity forged the first of a number of new partnerships that would help establish Madison Farms, a nonprofit organization that helps local growers bring their produce to market and builds bridges between farmer and community.

Led by the Madison County office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Madison Farms gives new meaning to "sustainable agriculture" in a formerly tobacco-dependent community. At the same time, the venture supplies area schools with fresh, healthy foods.

"Our goal is to keep the farmers in business," says Ross Young, director of Cooperative Extension in Madison County.

After the tobacco buyout, Madison County’s annual burley production plummeted from a $10 million business to $3 million, leaving a hole in the local economy and a number of growers in need of new crops.

"Our county once had close to 3,000 burley growers. Now, there are about 350," Young says. "We’re helping farmers focus on other markets that have value here and will be profitable for them."

Madison Farms’ value-added processing center provides growers with the equipment and supplies to clean and package their produce, from potatoes to summer berries. The facility boasts produce washing equipment, walk-in coolers and freezers, produce slicers and an industrial kitchen.

On this particular August day, local farmer Owen Ball backs his truck up to the Madison Farms loading dock and, with the help of Mackey and Madison Farms volunteer Aubrey Raper, he gets to work washing and packaging his potatoes.

Photo of produce washer
Raper runs potatoes through the processing center's washer.

Madison Farms takes care of the rest, marketing and selling the produce to a growing local customer base.

"We’re trying to fill a gap between farmers and consumers by taking out the middle man," Young says. "A lot of these farmers will make more money selling clean, packaged produce."

Case in point: Ball netted $13 a bushel that day, instead of the usual $8.

Thanks to Mackey’s persistence, the Madison Farms customer base now includes Madison County Schools, Asheville City Schools, UNC-Asheville and Mars Hill College. Mackey himself provides about 1,000 heads of lettuce each week to area schools, while also serving as operating manager of Madison Farms.

Based partly on the model of the national "Farm-to-School" program, Madison Farms aims to restore the connection between farms and communities. "It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved," Young says. "Farmers benefit from the continuous customer base, and students benefit from receiving nutritious food."

Right now, the processing center is available to any farmer, and about 20 local growers regularly take advantage of the services of Madison Farms. Mackey and his team are still ironing out details about how best to manage a membership system. David Kendall, Extension agricultural agent in Madison County, says they’re considering charging membership fees, or perhaps "per bushel" fees. "We’re also exploring the possibility of other groups operating under the auspices of Madison Farms."

Major funding for the project comes from Madison County government, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the North Carolina Rural Center, a local farm organization, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Other partners include local farmers, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Duke Endowment, Handmade in America, the Madison County Partnership and e-NC, an initiative to link all North Carolinians to the Internet.

Madison Farms also operates a Web site that provides information to consumers and tourists about Madison County and its farms. The site features "Buy Local" and "Farm Finder" sections that highlight opportunities to visit the county’s family farms.

Gift baskets are another of Madison Farms’ enterprises. Stocked with locally grown or hand-crafted products like jams, soaps and pottery, the baskets cost about $40 each and can be shipped anywhere in the country.

Still settling into their new digs at the Madison County Multiple Use Agricultural Complex, Ross, Mackey and the Madison Farms team recently acquired a small commercial flour mill, as well as two dehydration machines and a vacuum sealer to enable production of dried fruits, vegetables and shiitake mushrooms.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," Mackey says. "Getting fresh North Carolina produce into the schools is such an obvious winning situation. And, supporting local farmers is key to the livelihood of our county."

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Workshop to focus on retail sales of produce

A workshop designed to help farmers sell produce to restaurants, schools and grocery stores will be held Feb. 28 at the Charlie Rose Agri-Expo Center in Fayetteville.

A workshop designed to help farmers sell produce to restaurants, schools and grocery stores will be held Feb. 28 at the Charlie Rose Agri-Expo Center in Fayetteville.

Titled "Bridging the Gap: Selling to Food Service and Retail," the workshop is being provided by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. The workshop cost is $25 per person ($12 per person for government employees), which includes lunch. The registration deadline is Feb. 20.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 2:30 p.m. The workshop will feature presentations on how to market produce to restaurants and retail chains, sell fresh produce to schools and legal issues involving direct marketing. Growers also will learn about possible grants and other funding sources they can use to more effectively market their produce.

"The workshop's goal is to give farmers information that could help them make decisions about what they want to do with their land and look at other things that could make money for them," said Annette Dunlap, workshop organizer and North Carolina Cooperative Extension associate, value-added and alternative agriculture.

Among workshop speakers is Craig Watson, vice president of Sysco, a national restaurant and food service supplier, who will talk about the potential market for growers in North Carolina. The company does not have contracts in North Carolina.

More information is available from Dunlap at (919) 515-5969 or annette_dunlap@ncsu.edu or from Kenny Bailey, North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Cumberland County at (910) 321-6871 or kenneth_bailey@ncsu.edu. Information is also on line at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added/Bridging_the_Gap.htm.

-D. Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 02:15 PM

January 29, 2007

Workshop to Focus on safe produce handling, liability

Media Contacts: Annette Dunlap, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Associate, Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture, 919.515.5969 or annette_dunlap@ncsu.edu, or Tim Hambrick, Forsyth Extension Agent, 336.703.2850 or tim_hambrick@ncsu.edu

A workshop for commercial fruit and vegetable growers that will focus on safe food handling and legal liability issues will be held Feb. 14 at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Forsyth County Center in Winston-Salem.

The half-day workshop is designed for fruit and vegetable growers who sell their produce at farmers' markets and through pick-your-own operations. It begins at 10 a.m. with registration and ends at 1:15 p.m. with lunch. The workshop cost is a $15 per person, which includes lunch. The event is sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Titled "Profitable Produce: A Workshop on Legal Liability and Handling Food Safely," the workshop will feature presentations by Dr. Lynn Turner, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University, Shirley Outlaw of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, and Ted Feitshans, an extension specialist in agricultural and resource economics at N.C. State University. Turner will talk about "Good Agricultural Practices for Raw Produce Handling," while Outlaw will discuss liability insurance and Feitshans’ topic will be avoiding liability lawsuits.

Registration and other information is available from Tim Hambrick, Forsyth County Extension agent, at 336.703.2850 or tim_hambrick@ncsu.edu or from Annette Dunlap, Extension Associate, Value-added and Alternative Agriculture, at 919.515.5969 or annette_dunlap@ncsu.edu. Information is also available on line at extension’s value-added and alternative agriculture Web site, http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added/

The Forsyth County Extension Center, where the workshop will be held, is at 1450 Fairchild Road, Winston-Salem.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is an educational agency supported by county governments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and N.C. State and North Carolina A&T State universities. County agents, backed by specialists at the two land-grant universities, conduct educational programs related to agriculture and forestry, family and consumer sciences, 4-H, community and rural development and other issues.

- Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or dave_caldwell@ncsu.edu -

Posted by Dave at 10:10 AM

January 17, 2007

Birdsell is one of four national Farm Bureau winners

Callie Birdsell

Callie Birdsell, agricultural agent with Cooperative Extension in Watauga County, was of four top winners in the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet held at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

Birdsell was one of three runners-up in the competition, which simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.

The three runners-up, including Charlene Espenshade of Pennsylvania and Bona Heinsohn of Illinois, each received a $6,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a Farm Boss chainsaw, courtesy of Stihl Outdoor Power Equipment.

Read more from Farm Bureau

Posted by Natalie at 11:15 AM

Nartea, Dunn conduct farmers market survey

Theresa Nartea, agribusiness & marketing specialist for the Cooperative Extension Program at A&T, and Wake County Extension agent Morris Dunn worked last fall with the town of Holly Springs in Wake County to put together a survey that is the backbone for a feasibility study for a farmers market.

Officials who authorized the feasibility study are pleased enough with it to distribute hard copies as well as linking it up on the Web site. The study has a number of factors and responses that other cities, towns and farm support organizations should consider in preliminary work to establish a farmers market.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 11:00 AM

December 18, 2006

For N.C. soybean growers, less really is more

Over the last five years, North Carolina soybean growers have been putting fewer seeds in the ground yet harvesting roughly the same amount of soybeans.

The result, as one might expect, is a healthier bottom line. Indeed, Dr. Jim Dunphy, a soybean specialist at North Carolina State University, estimates that soybean growers statewide made about $26 million more in 2006 than they would have had they continued doing what they were doing in 2001.

It was Dunphy, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State, working with Extension agents across the state, who persuaded growers that they could reduce seeding rates while maintaining yields.

Read more

Posted by Dave at 02:30 PM

November 16, 2006

Watauga Farm-City Banquet features zero-waste, local foods meal

Approximately 250 people were on hand Thursday evening to honor the Farm-City concept in Watauga County. This year’s 51st annual Farm City Banquet was a “zero-waste” event, with the food purchased at “fair market value” from local farmers – including chicken, potatoes and collard greens. It was all prepared by Jackie Brown of Accidental Bakery in Ashe County.

Sue Counts, director of Watauga County Cooperative Extension said, “We used real china, silverware and glasses, our programs and napkins went into the recycle bins, the table cloths were saved and will be used again and again, and the left-over food was turned into compost. We are very proud of the efforts of our committee in planning this environmentally-friendly event.”

Read more from The Watauga Democrat

Posted by Natalie at 02:15 PM

November 06, 2006

Sweet success: Bogue Sound watermelons

Bogue Sound watermelons
Bogue Sound watermelon. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

Billy Guthrie’s family has been growing watermelons in Bogue, North Carolina, for more than a century. They’re sweet as pure cane, juicy and ruby red.

So, what’s the secret to growing such tasty watermelons?

“I’m not going to tell you, or I’d have to kill you,” Guthrie says, smiling broadly.

Perhaps it’s the sandy soil, the sun-kissed coastal climate or maybe a little extra TLC. Whatever the secret to growing the melons, there are few things finer than sinking your teeth into a juicy wedge on a hot summer day.

Soon, Guthrie hopes, people across North Carolina, and throughout the country for that matter, will be able to experience Bogue Sound watermelons.

With support from North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Economic Development Council of Carteret County, Guthrie has launched the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association and serves as its current president. The cooperative is designed to promote Bogue Sound watermelons, just as Vidalia, Ga., did with its famous onion.

“My great-grandfather grew watermelons, and a lot of these growers’ great-grandfathers grew watermelons,” Guthrie says. “With the tobacco buyout, a lot of folks are looking for new things to grow. If we could capitalize on these melons, it’d be a great opportunity for all of us.”

Billie Guthrie and Ray Harris
Bogue Sound watermelon grower Billie Guthrie talks in the field with Ray Harris, Extension director in Carteret County.

Bogue Sound watermelons have been popular along the east coast for more than 100 years, he says, shipped aboard steamers to states like New York and New Jersey.

Ray Harris, Cooperative Extension director in Carteret County, says he still fields calls from northern states asking for Bogue Sound watermelon seeds. Bogue Sound watermelons aren’t actually a variety, Harris explains. While the melons are common varieties like Royal Sweet or Crimson Sweet, he says, they emerge from Bogue Sound soils with an extra-sweet taste that makes them distinctive.

Harris and the Cooperative Extension office in Carteret County have played a key role in getting this effort off the ground, especially in marketing the melons. They’ll also assist the farmers with production and disease control.

To qualify to join the co-op, growers must use land that drains directly or indirectly into the Bogue Sound, Harris says. This includes areas from Swansboro to Morehead City. Right now, there are 20 growers in the co-op. Harris and Guthrie hope for more.

“We’re trying to help save the family farm,” Harris says. “We’ve been looking for an alternative, value-added, product to replace tobacco. As this progresses, I see more growers coming into the co-op.”

The state granted a trademark for the Bogue Sound watermelon in early 2006. Thanks to a $30,000 Golden LEAF value-added grant, the association has produced stickers, flyers, hats, t-shirts and other marketing materials that bear the new Bogue Sound watermelon logo.

“I think it’s going great,” Guthrie says. “There’s just so much to do. But, if they can do it with the Vidalia onion, we can do it here.”

According to Harris, the area had about 19 tobacco growers before the buyout in October 2004. Now, there are two.

Among those who have made the switch from tobacco to other crops are David and Sarah Winberry in Cedar Point, N.C. Just down the road from Guthrie’s farm, the Winberry family grows Bogue Sound watermelons, as well as other fruit and vegetable crops.

As members of the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association, they’re working with Guthrie and other neighboring farmers to increase production – and awareness – of the melons. It certainly helps that the area’s average population spikes from 62,000 to about 375,000 during the summer months.

“People assume that I’ll dread summer and crowds, but I love it,” says Sarah Winberry amidst the throng of July 4 travelers who’ve pulled off the road to buy Bogue Sound watermelons, tomatoes and other summer delicacies offered at the family’s produce stand. “It’s my passion!”

For Guthrie, the success of the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association comes down to one thing: strong partnerships.

“I’ve known Ray for a long, long time, and he’s helped us tremendously,” Guthrie says. “Without him, we’d be groping in the dark. It’s critical that we all work together.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:58 PM

November 01, 2006

Publications update from Communication Services

Four new publications have been delivered and are available from Communication Services. Click on a publication title or go through http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/xrdb to reach Cooperative Extension’s online catalog and order copies.

If you’d rather, you can still fax orders to Jeanne Marie Wallace at 919.515.6938. Please note that these publications are free to county centers. The price shown in the online catalog is for public orders.

Grafting for Disease Resistance in Heirloom Tomatoes (AG-675)
This eight-page publication by Frank Louws and Cary Rivard describes grafting techniques that growers can use to unite the disease resistance and enhanced vigor of hybrid tomato cultivars with the high fruit quality of heirloom varieties. It describes the benefits of grafting and provides a step-by-step guide to grafting tomato transplants, healing and acclimating them to growing conditions and planting them in the field.

Godfrey Nalyanya has added three Spanish brochures to the titles in his Campana MIP en las Escuelas (School IPM Campaign):
· Combata las Plagas en las Escuelas (Get Tough on Pests in Schools) (AG-631-02S) tells how to use IPM in schools to prevent and solve pest problems by using safe, effective strategies.
· Como deshacerse de las Plagas en las instalaciones escolares (Get Tough on Pests in School Facilities) (AG-631-03S) tells how to use IPM to prevent and solve pest problems in school facilities from cafeterias to boiler rooms by using safe, effective strategies.
· Elimine las plagas en las areas de servicios alimenticios (Get Tough on Pests in Food Service Areas) (AG-631-05S) tells how to use IPM in school food service areas to prevent and solve pest problems by using safe, effective strategies.

Posted by Natalie at 08:45 AM

October 26, 2006

Tobacco Associates referendum is Nov. 1

The Tobacco Associates Export Promotion Referendum will be held Wednesday, Nov. 1. County tobacco agents and county Extension agents can provide information on individual county voting sites.

The referendum will allow tobacco growers to decide if they wish to continue the self-assessment programs for promoting their leaf in the world market. State law requires that a referendum be held every three years.

The referendum is open to all tobacco farmers -- 18 years or older at the time of the referendum – who were engaged producing flue-cured tobacco during 2006 and were listed on the Farm Service Agency Form 578. “Eligibility to Vote” requirements will be posted at polling places.

A two-thirds favorable vote will allow the continuation of an assessment to support ongoing export promotion programs. The assessment is 20 cents per 100 pounds (1/5 of one cent per pound).

If approved, the funds will be collected at the marketing centers and buying stations. Tobacco Associates will use the collected funds for the ongoing educational and promotional activities aimed at stimulating export demand for tobacco.

Posted by Natalie at 02:23 PM

October 12, 2006

'World of Agriculture' is success at Cumberland County Fair

ABCs of agriculture exhibit
A Cumberland County Master Gardener volunteer explains the ABCs of agriculture to preschoolers visiting the county fair. (Photo courtesy of Emily Revels)

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County office, sponsored the “World of Agriculture” during the 2006 Cumberland County Fair, held Sept. 14-24. Created by Emily Revels, consumer horticulture agent, and the Cumberland County Master Gardener volunteers, this educational element of the fair was well received and visited by fair goers.

More than 400 community children, ranging in age from 3 to 18, colored 48 large tractor posters for the exhibit. The tractors were displayed from the ceiling in the Civic Center Expo, making a showcase entrance into the “World of Agriculture.” Farm equipment, new farm tractors and antique farm tractors were also included in the display.

In addition, four educational backdrops were created that promoted the “ABC’s of Agriculture,” “Animals and Agriculture,” “Agriculture in Our Lives,” and “North Carolina Agriculture.” Informational handouts promoting the value of agriculture in our daily lives were developed to correlate with each backdrop. In addition, three display board developed for the exhibit promoted US farm facts, the life cycle of butterflies, chickens, plants and frogs, and included a board for “counting critters.”

Over 1,200 pre-K and kindergarten children visited the fair. Master Gardeners entertained the children in the “World of Agriculture,” with the “Animals and Agriculture” and the “ABC’s of Agriculture” exhibits. Volunteers said that performing for children with puppets and being rewarded with the ABC song by the children was a highlight.

Educational booths were set up around the “World of Agriculture” and included displays promoting agricultural topics by local FFA groups, 4-H clubs, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Soil and Water Conservation, City of Fayetteville Stormwater Department, the Fayetteville Water Action Committee, Extension Beekeepers, and Extension Forestry.

The “World of Agriculture” exhibit helped explain the value of agriculture to more than 11,000 residents of Cumberland County and North Carolina.

-E. Revels

Posted by Natalie at 09:35 AM

October 05, 2006

Farmers ridin' high on the prawns

Erika Harris thought she'd never see the day her parents would be selling seafood -- freshwater prawns -- under a tent in front of their Piedmont home in northern Orange County.

"This is all new," said Harris, standing near a baby pool filled with baskets of the chilled translucent-looking crustaceans with peach tails and bright blue claws.

Read more from the Raleigh News & Observer about Extension's role in new prawn farms.

Posted by Suzanne at 09:35 AM

September 27, 2006

CEFS Fall Festival draws crowd

Small Farm tour
Bryan Green, center, gives children a look inside a moveable chicken house during a tour of the Small Farm Unit at CEFS. (Becky Kirkland photos)

About 750 people turned out Sept. 16 for the first-ever Fall Festival at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro. The festival, an open house event for the public, was the culmination of "Seasons of Sustainable Agriculture," a celebration of 10 years of programming at CEFS.

The event was held at the CEFS Small Farm Unit, an organic farm where crops, poultry and goats are raised. Visitors could see a variety of crops and animals in the fields, including Sudan grass for grazing goats, pasture-raised poultry, a fall garden, cover crops, a no-till demonstration and a sorghum crop maze.

"We were extremely pleased with the turnout and response to this first-time event," said Nancy Creamer, CEFS director. "More than 700 were in attendance, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

"We had a lot of kid activities in addition to farmer and gardener workshops, a farmers market, music, local food and more. I expect this will likely become an annual event!"

The festival featured live music, including that of The Back Porch Boys, a three-member band of players with ties to CEFS. At the farmers' market, local vendors sold a range of products from produce to goat cheese to honey.

Throughout the day, visitors participated in tours of the Small Farm or of all the CEFS units, as well as workshops. Workshop topics included vermicomposting, tomato grafting, alpaca breeding, raising pastured poultry, eating local foods and more.

Kid in crop maze
A victorious youth exits the crop maze after finding his way through.

Children enjoyed a variety of activities, including getting lost -- and found -- in the crop maze, creating art with seeds and harvesting, shucking and milling corn. Face painting and other art activities were also offered.

Local food vendors served up barbecue sandwiches, ice cream and a variety of fried vegetables. Wayne County 4-H'ers made fresh orange-ades. A variety of exhibitors also offered information on CEFS and sustainable agriculture.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:49 PM

September 13, 2006

Canola workshop is Sept. 26

Canola plant

The North Carolina State University Solar Center will host a canola processing meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the McKimmon Center on the N.C. State University campus in Raleigh.

Canola is an oilseed that can produce more than two times more oil than soybeans per acre. This oil can be used as healthy cooking oil or to make premium biodiesel fuel for diesel engines. Now that food labeling requirements are emphasizing health, and diesel prices continue to rise, the Solar Center believes that canola will be an important feedstock for future oil production in North Carolina.

However, an intermediate crushing market must first develop to extract the oil, which is the target issue of this meeting. Topics will include crushing plant design and operation, marketing of the oil and meal, a Tennessee case study, and potential funding within the Value Added Producer’s Grant (VAPG).

An agenda is below, while the speakers include:
· Robert Stroup - oilseed and biofuels consultant and canola crushing plant design expert
· Dave Hickling – vice president for canola utilization for the Canadian Canola Council and expert on canola meal applications
· Larry Horn - former general manager of the U.S. Canola Processors plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee
· Adrian Atkinson – North Carolina State University economist working on the Energy Crops for North Carolina project
· Bruce Pleasant - business programs specialist at the USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service and authority on the Value Added Producer’s Grant

This is a busy time of year, so interested parties are encouraged to respond, even if they are not positive they will attend. For more information and to RSVP please contact:
Ben Rich
Biomass Program Coordinator
North Carolina Solar Center, NCSU
Office 919.515.9782
Cell 252.333.7579

Posted by Natalie at 11:16 AM

Veterinary college to host Food Animal Scholars' fall forum

The third annual Food Animal Scholars Forum for students who are interested in animal agriculture and food animal veterinary medicine will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in the South Theater of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.

Sponsored by the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), the forum will feature an address by Dr. Jack Britt, executive vice president of the University of Tennessee System, who will discuss "Food Animal Production and Health in a Global Economy."

The talk will include discussion concerning animal production technologies in developed and developing countries, global agriculture economies, global availability of drugs and therapies to treat animal diseases, and the need to understand and protect against transmission of emerging diseases that, if left unchecked, can spread quickly within a country or even internationally.

The forum will begin with welcoming comments by Dr. John Cornwell, CALS associate director of academic programs and director of the Agriculture Institute. Dr. Jeannette Moore, CALS undergraduate coordinator and associate professor, will introduce Food Animal Scholars currently in the CALS and the CVM programs. Dr. Jim Floyd, head of the CVM Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, will introduce guest speaker Jack Britt.

About Dr. Jack Britt
As executive vice president of the University of Tennessee System, Dr. Jack Britt is the chief operating officer and provides oversight for the system’s four campuses and three statewide institutes. Prior to his current position, he served as the UT vice president for agriculture and provided leadership for the Institute of Agriculture, which involves the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service.

Before joining the University of Tennessee, Britt served six years as the associate dean for research and graduate programs at the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine and spent 15 years as a professor of animal science in the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He was also a professor of dairy science at Michigan State University. He is the author or co-author of more than 540 scientific and technical publications and has been the invited speaker at conferences throughout North America and 20 countries.

About the Food Animal Scholars Program
The Food Animal Scholars (FAS) Program was initiated in response to a significant need for food animal veterinarians. Through FAS, up to six qualified sophomore students and two alternatives who are majoring in animal science or poultry science are selected annually to join the program. An academic plan and work experiences are devised for the students who receive mentoring through their CALS undergraduate degree. Upon graduating, successful scholars are admitted to the CVM where they continue their studies to obtain the four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, with a focus on animal agriculture. For more information on the Food Animal Scholars program please call 919.513.6463 or visit: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/an_sci/FoodAnimalScholars/

Posted by Natalie at 10:20 AM

September 11, 2006

eXtension launches HorseQuest site


eXtension is pleased to announce the launch of its first Community of Practice Web site: HorseQuest. Available at http://www.extension.org/horses, this is the first of many communities of practice to go public in 2006 and throughout 2007.

"We are very excited to launch HorseQuest today and to demonstrate the capacity that eXtension brings to America's Cooperative Extension System," said Dan Cotton, eXtension Director.

HorseQuest provides Internet visitors with reliable and up-to-date horse information through a knowledge base of commonly asked questions that have science-based, per-reviewed answers. In addition, online lessons use self-paced learning objects to help users learn more about specialized areas of equine science. The newest lesson being introduced is a module for new and prospective horse owners.

Read more at the "About eXtension" Web site

Posted by Natalie at 02:58 PM

August 25, 2006

Youth learn the importance of livestock preparation

Stacy Neal with steer
Lee County 4-H'er Stacy Neal practices techniques for showing her steer in the livestock ring. (Photos courtesy of Tyrone Fisher)

Livestock and 4-H agents from the Piedmont area coordinated a training session for 4-H’ers who exhibit beef cattle, sheep and meat goats. This training is held annually in Sanford, with the help of local cattlemen associations, the Sanford Lions Club and N.C. State University faculty members.

Youth exhibitors received hands-on training on how to prepare their animals before they go into the ring. A hoof-trimming demonstration was given to stress how to get animals to stand properly on all four feet and display the animals’ highlights for the judge.

N.C. State University livestock technician Brent Jennings taught the importance of shearing sheep. He discussed how and when to shear sheep, as well as how to train animals to stand during the show.

Jennings also conducted a practice show so exhibitors would know how to lead and set up their animals for the judge. This will help 4-H’ers perform and excel wherever they go, whether it be a local county fair or the grand finale of the N.C. State Fair.

Extension agents involved in the event were from Lee, Chatham and Moore counties. They included livestock agents Tyrone Fisher, Sam Groce and Randy Wood and 4-H agents Bill Stone and Sarah Hardison.

Brent Jennings shearing sheep
Brent Jennings demonstrates how to sheer a sheep.

-T. Fisher

Posted by Natalie at 10:07 AM

August 23, 2006

Ranney develops new 'Carolina' dogwoods

Student with dogwood flower
Intern Irene Palmer, who works with with Dr. Tom Ranney to propagate disease-resistant dogwoods at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, here pollinates a dogwood flower. (Photo courtesy of Tom Ranney)

With its four-petalled flower heralding spring from North Carolina's coast to its forested mountains, the dogwood has come to be known - and treasured - as a symbol of rebirth and revitalization. And N.C. State University researchers are working to make sure it stays that way.

At the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, Dr. Tom Ranney and his colleagues have spent the past five years working to breed hardier cultivars that withstand two diseases that have ravaged native flowering dogwoods. Recent grants from the N.C. Association of Nurserymen and Golden LEAF, a nonprofit organization focused on economic development, have allowed them to expand and accelerate these efforts.

Read more from Perspectives (scroll down)

Posted by Natalie at 09:56 AM

August 18, 2006

College Profile: Karen McAdams

Karen McAdams
Caring is at the heart of the work of Orange County Extension agent Karen McAdams. (Becky Kirkland photo)

Ask College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Associate Dean Jon Ort what has distinguished North Carolina Cooperative Extension throughout its 92-year history, and he'll say "people" -- intelligent, hard-working and, above all, caring people committed to helping others make changes.

It was a point he made consistently last spring as he traveled to seven North Carolina cities to talk with employees about their role in shaping the future of Extension and of the state. At each stop, he mentioned a news story about Orange County agricultural agent Karen McAdams.

Read more from Perspectives

Posted by Natalie at 07:41 AM

Moore County tour focuses on agriculture

Beginning with a stop at Samarkand Manor, Chamber of Commerce members plunged deep into Moore County farm country last Friday afternoon.

They feasted on vegetable muffins and tomato sandwiches at Samarkand Manor, visited a field of organic flue-cured tobacco, and saw and heard the joys and challenges of raising peaches.

Co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Agribusiness Awareness Day Tour was designed to introduce the uninitiated to the farm scene and to bring others up to date on the latest in farm practices. Extension Director Craven Hudson and Extension horticulture agent Taylor Williams served as guides.

Read more from The Pilot

Posted by Natalie at 07:30 AM

August 16, 2006

Franklin horse tour draws crowd

Girl with horse
This horse makes a new friend during the Franklin County Farm Tour. (Photo courtesy of Carey Johnson, The Franklin Times)

More than 140 horse enthusiasts attended the popular 12th Annual Franklin County Farm Tour on Saturday, Aug. 5. Three area farms were featured, each showcasing a new barn design or equine product. Sharing “horse sense” and educating both present and future equine owners was the primary purpose of the tour.

Educational programs focused on the topics economics of barn establishment, horse riding safety, adequate insurance coverage for the farm, government funds available to the horse owner and forage management. On-farm demonstrations included new forage varieties, pasture aeration and watering systems.

This was the largest horse farm tour yet. Local and regional businesses continue to support the event with sponsorship of lunch, refreshments and door prizes. The 12-member Franklin County Extension Horse Advisory Committee assisted livestock agent Martha Mobley with planning and conducting this educational event, one of many offered for horse owners in the area.

Upcoming horse-related events include the 3rd Annual Franklin County educational Trail Ride on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Double D Equestrian Center near Louisburg and a winter educational mini-series in 2007. Also, area equine professionals will assist in teaching the “Horse Boarding 101” session during the Nov. 18 Successful Small Farm Opportunities Conference in Louisburg. For more information on the Franklin County equine program, contact Martha Mobley, Extension agent, at 919.496.3344 or visit http://franklin.ces.ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 01:16 PM

Progressive Agriculture Safety Day draws local children

Sixty-two children from Camden, Currituck and Pasquotank Counties learned how to identify and deal with hazards both on and off the farm on August 8, 2006.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Progressive Agriculture Safety Day drew children ages 5-12 from these communities for a half-day session on how to take responsibility for their own safety, respect parents' safety rules and share safety tips with their family and friends.

Read more from the Outer Banks Sentinel

Posted by Natalie at 01:00 PM

August 15, 2006

Living with Pierce's Disease

Turner Sutton
Turner Sutton examines grape vines for signs of Pierce's Disease. (Photo by Daniel Kim)

The first symptoms usually appear in mid-July to August, the hottest part of a North Carolina summer. The leaves of grapevines turn brown at the edges, as though scorched by the summer heat. Then clusters of grapes shrivel up. Eventually, the entire vine dies.

This is Pierce's disease, and it is the bane of North Carolina's growing viticulture industry. It is also the object of Dr. Turner Sutton's scrutiny. Sutton, a professor of plant pathology and Extension specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is looking for ways to allow North Carolina wine grape growers to live with Pierce's disease.

"Growers are concerned about it, and they should be concerned about it," says Sutton.

Pierce's disease, he says, "has the potential to limit the success of North Carolina vineyards."

Growing European-type vinifera wine grapes and making wine is a growing industry in North Carolina. The number of wineries in the state has doubled since 2002, according to the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council. North Carolina is home to more than 50 wineries, with five more expected to open this year. How successful Sutton is in determining how to deal with Pierce's disease will likely affect the success of this expanding industry.

Pierce's disease is caused by a bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, which is spread from a variety of plants to grapevines by insects such as leafhoppers and spittlebugs, Sutton says. Among the reservoir plants on which the bacterium is found are oak trees, blackberries, wild grapes and Virginia creeper. When the bacterium infects a grapevine, it plugs the xylem, the water-conducting tissue of the plant, cutting off the vine's water supply.

Sutton has studied how the disease is spread and how it survives and plans to test methods of managing it.

If winter temperatures drop low enough, the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease can't survive, Sutton says. Sutton has looked at the effect of winter temperature on Pierce's disease in North Carolina. What he found is not particularly good news for grape growers.

Winters are warm enough throughout eastern North Carolina and the southern and eastern piedmont that the Pierce's disease bacterium can overwinter. As a result, Sutton describes the risk of the disease in these areas as "quite high." He describes disease risk as "somewhat less" in the north and central piedmont, where winters are a little cooler but still not cool enough to kill Xylella fastidiosa. Sutton points out that as a result of warmer winters in recent years, the risk of the disease has increased throughout the piedmont.

One of Sutton's students recently looked at the vectors of the bacterium, the insects that transmit the disease to grapevines. In 2004 and 2005, insect traps were placed in vineyards in the piedmont and coastal plain. Four species of leafhopper were identified as being most abundant in the vineyards, and three of the species tested positive for the bacterium. At least two of these leafhopper species are thought to be the primary vectors for Pierce's disease on grapes in North Carolina.

Sutton and Dr. George Kennedy, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology, are now working with a $72,000 grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to look at methods of managing Pierce's disease. They are attacking the disease on three fronts.

The grant is being used to develop an insecticide spray program designed to control the leafhoppers thought to be primarily responsible for spreading the disease. At the same time, Sutton plans to work on more specifically identifying the reservoir plants that harbor the Pierce's disease bacterium. If growers know where the bacterium resides when it's not on grapevines, it may be possible to eliminate these plants from the vicinity of a vineyard and reduce the likelihood of the disease.

Sutton is going to experiment with pruning to remove infected parts of the vine. It may be possible to halt the disease before it spreads too far on the vine. Sutton explains that the bacterium moves from grapevine leaves to the vine's cordon, the part of the vine that is trained to grow horizontally along a trellis. The bacterium then moves to the vine trunk, which kills the vine. If a grower sees infected leaves in July, he may be able to save the vine by pruning the infected shoots.

"We don't have a lot of answers at this time," says Sutton, who hopes to "come up with a plan that allows us to live with the disease."
D. Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 04:30 PM

August 01, 2006

Extension helps abalone farmer set up shop in North Carolina

Tom Losordo and Robert Bishop review blueprints
Extension specialist Tom Losordo (left) and New Zealand abalone producer Robert Bishop are mapping out plans to add a new element to the North Carolina aquaculture industry. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

Why on earth would a farmer from New Zealand uproot his family, rearrange his business plan and move to North Carolina to set up shop?

One word: “Support.”

So says Robert Bishop, a New Zealand abalone producer aiming to join the state’s burgeoning aquaculture industry. “We just don’t get the support back home that we’ve gotten here, especially from N.C. State. It’s a positive attitude. The people here want to get out and make things happen.”

After nearly three years of planning, Bishop arrived in North Carolina in May, ready to build his farm and start raising abalone, an exotic and popular shellfish used in Asian delicacies such as sushi and sashimi. Helping him is Dr. Tom Losordo, Extension specialist and professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences department of biological and agricultural engineering.

While the two have corresponded by phone since 2003, they first met at a 2004 World Aquaculture Society conference in Sydney, Australia. Losordo, past president of the organization, led a workshop at the conference that Bishop attended.

A regular part of Losordo’s presentation to international audiences is a tongue-in-cheek invitation to come to North Carolina and take advantages of the services offered by the College and North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

“I guess Robert took me up on my offer,” Losordo jokes. As an added bonus, he says, starting an aquaculture business in North Carolina is a much less expensive and time-consuming venture than in most other areas of the world. Instead of taking months and costing thousands of dollars, the licensing process in North Carolina takes about 30 days and is free.

Losordo has connected Bishop to the resources of Cooperative Extension, as well as to College researchers and representatives from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA). He’s also helped introduce Bishop to the broader community of aquaculture producers in North Carolina, largely through the relationships built by Extension agents across the state.

“Together, we’re bringing different ideas from our experience to figure out what will work best for Robert,” says Losordo. “The aquaculture network in North Carolina really comes together through the strong relationship between the College and NCDA. We work as a team, and we help each other out.”

Losordo and Bishop at N.C. State Fish Barn
Losordo and Bishop walk past the tanks at the N.C. State University Fish Barn.

Losordo and colleagues Dennis DeLong, Extension aquaculture specialist, and Matt Parker, aquaculture business specialist with NCDA, have helped Bishop with everything from securing the proper permits to locating a saltwater well. They’re helping tweak the design of his system, and they also are working to develop and implement a wastewater treatment process that will allow Bishop to completely recycle most of the water he uses.

With 16 years of experience raising abalone, Bishop will be the first such producer in North Carolina. The shellfish typically are grown in California and Hawaii. He plans to produce nearly 25,000 pounds of abalone each year and ship them live to major markets such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where abalone are in high demand by restaurants.

“We’re farming fish for a food market,” Bishop says. “By exporting regularly to cities like New York, where there are 500 sushi bars in the city alone, we’ll be able to bring income back to North Carolina.”

His entrepreneurial spirit is contagious and his vision ambitious. Bishop plans to truck the live fish to major metropolitan markets every Thursday, where restaurant patrons will consume them over the weekend. He’ll repeat this process each week, enabling restaurants to offer the delicacy fresh on their menus on a regular basis.

To get started, Bishop will acquire the baby shellfish from a hatchery in the U.S. They’ll grow to maturity in about 18 months, until they reach “cocktail size” of three inches. He’d eventually like to develop his own hatchery and hire three full-time staff, but will focus first on getting his business off the ground.

Currently scouting property in North Carolina’s Piedmont, Bishop plans to build his farm on 10 acres. Using metal-clad fish barns, he’ll operate a completely closed seawater system, which is essentially a series of trays with recirculating water flow.

He’ll join a $54 million aquaculture industry that is growing steadily each year in North Carolina. The state supports more than 2,000 acres of catfish ponds, 760 acres of striped bass ponds and is the third leading producer of trout.

“In each of these ventures, N.C. State has its hands,” Losordo says.

“We’re trying to build the industry one farmer at a time,” he adds. “Robert has been great to work with, and we’re learning a lot from him. It’s a win-win situation.”

–S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 04:55 PM

July 14, 2006

'Foothills Fresh' boosts locally grown options for consumers

Foothills Fresh logo

One of the best ingredients of summer is tasty, fresh, locally grown produce. For consumers in the Charlotte region, the options for locally grown food have just been boosted by the launch of "Foothills Fresh." North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties is instrumental in this local food initiative, helping small farmers in the four-county area market their fresh produce, farm products and agricultural tourism.

To kick off the new initiative and to celebrate the scrumptious tastes of summer, Foothills Fresh will offer farm tours and special events from 8 am until 1 pm on Saturday, July 29. Ten of the more than 30 farms will participate. Events hosted on the farms will include cooking demonstrations, food sampling, children and youth activities, tours and food safety information provided by North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

The farms for this summer tour are: Bird Brain Ostrich Ranch and Greasy Branch Gardens in Catawba County; Knob Creek Farm and Creamery and Lineberger’s Killdeer Farm in Cleveland County; Apple Orchard Farm and Oakridge Farm of Gaston County; Davis and Son Orchard & Cidermill, Houser Farms, Webb’s Orchard, and Woodmill Winery in Lincoln County.

For a directory of the 34 farms, markets, and agricultural tourism sites, and a list of featured summertime produce, other products and location and direction information, visit www.foothillsfresh.com. Call a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Center in Lincoln, Catawba, Cleveland and Gaston counties or pick up a Foothills Fresh directory at a farmers’ market, farm, library or chamber of commerce office in any of these four counties. Gaston County Farm Bureau is sponsoring the publication of the brochures this year.

Like most "buy-local" campaigns, Foothills Fresh touts the economic benefits to local communities by buying from neighbors. In addition to the economic pluses, Foothills Fresh helps the community preserve small family farms and the rural landscape. Foothills Fresh also encourages the public to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables and to sample the variety grown locally. Buying local produce assures a customer that the items are the freshest, most nutritious food.

For more information, contact Leigh Guth, Lincoln County family and consumer sciences agent, at 704.736.8462.

Posted by Natalie at 09:53 AM

June 28, 2006

Master Gardeners help students learn

Student with tomato plant
A student at Brunswick County's Supply Elementary School shows off the tomato plant he potted at a workshop, with help from local Master Gardeners. (Daniel Kim photo)

Brunswick County Master Gardeners helped teach youth at Supply Elementary School about growing things during a special education event held in April. Supply is the only Brunswick County school to receive a U.S. Department of Agriculture Fresh Fruits and Vegetables grant, designed to introduce students to fresh fruits and vegetables. Brunswick’s North Carolina Cooperative Extension center provided education for the program, combining the efforts of 4-H, family and consumer sciences and Master Gardeners.

“Extension has been involved from the beginning,” said Susan Morgan, family and consumer sciences agent in Brunswick County. “The success of this program has been that it involved students, parents, teachers and a number of volunteers who reinforced or enhanced the classroom activities and instruction.”

A total of 669 students, 55 teachers and staff members and more than 30 volunteers were involved in three outdoor workshops, led by Brunswick Master Gardeners. One session provided was a "hands on" opportunity for students to see a worm bin, where earthworms aerate soil. Students also learned about recycling kitchen wastes through composting, and everyone got to pot a tomato seedling to take home and plant.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:35 AM

June 16, 2006

Workshop helps agents create business opportunities

Wick Wickliffe with client
Guilford County agent Wick Wickliffe, left, looks over shiitake mushrooms grown by Deborah Bettini. Wickliffe and his group helped create a business plan for Bettini's operation. (Becky Kirkland photo)

With the tobacco buyout and a competitive market for agricultural products, North Carolina producers are turning to North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents to help identify new opportunities to make money. But armed only with production knowledge, agents often find it difficult to help producers make informed business decisions.

To help agents obtain the skills and resources they need to assist these clients, Gary Bullen, Extension associate in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, and a group of six colleagues developed the workshop "Creating Business Opportunities (CBO)." The workshop was funded by Golden LEAF and involved partnerships with the N.C. Farm Bureau, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agricultural Marketing Division and the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

Bullen said the workshop was an effort at capacity building in the area of business opportunities. The idea was to bring together professionals from Cooperative Extension, community colleges, NCDA&CS, small businesses and non-government organizations to form regional groups that could help entrepreneurs develop successful businesses. It is one way the university, and its partners, can get involved in helping achieve economic development for North Carolina, a priority of Chancellor James Oblinger and Dean Johnny Wynne.

"This was not just for Extension, but to establish a network of people who could work on business-development ideas," Bullen said.

The program helped participants, 70 percent of whom were Extension professionals, expand their knowledge of business development and provide them with business-development tools to use with clients. The training was held in four two-day sessions from February to September 2005 and included about 90 participants.

"We approached the training with the idea if someone walks into the office with a business idea, how do you help that individual get started?" Bullen said.

The first session covered evaluating business ideas. The group heard from several farmers with successful enterprises who described how they got started. The second and third sessions dealt with finance and legal issues, and market research and strategies.

Through the summer months, the regional groups were charged with evaluating a real business idea from their geographic area and developing a real market plan for that business. In September, all the groups presented their business plans.

The business ideas were very diverse, ranging from a bed and breakfast for riders and their horses to a greenhouse for raising hydroponic greens. Other business ideas included an ecotourism site at a farm on the New River, a community market, a vineyard and businesses for raising and selling freshwater prawns, organic produce and shiitake mushrooms, and an African-American farm co-op for selling roasted peanuts at sports events of historically black college and universities.

Each group had to conduct appropriate market research to evaluate the business proposals. "For the most part, they did a really good job," Bullen said.

Wick Wickliffe, Guilford County agricultural Extension agent, and his group developed a market plan for the shiitake mushroom business. The group members discussed area businesses they know of and decided to work with the Guilford County enterprise that raises mushrooms and organic produce.

The project was important for another group member, marketing specialist Theresa Nartea of N.C. A&T State University. Nartea helped establish a new statewide association for mushroom growers.

Wickliffe said the family that owns the business is already doing many of the things recommended in the market plan. "They’re actually moving ahead," he said. "They’re doing some value-added products, as suggested in the business plan," he said.

The CBO group approached the market plan by examining the product and how to market it, Nartea said. They analyzed the potential customers for shiitake, who they were and where they were most likely to buy mushrooms. And they explored competitors and potential markets as well.

Based on their findings, the group recommended selling mushrooms three ways: through a roadside stand, to targeted groups and at local farmers markets.

"Extension agents are called on to help stimulate business," Nartea said. "Gary’s class provided the tools necessary to do that."

Wickliffe said the class made him aware of the tremendous resources -– some within the regional team -- available to help small businesses.

"Ag agents are production-oriented and can get out of our comfort zone real fast," he said. "I probably won’t write a business plan -– I’m not totally qualified. But through the CBO course, I now I know one of my team members that I can refer new entrepreneurs to: Lonnie Hamm at Randolph Community College-Small Business Center."

Nartea agrees and said, "Most North Carolina community colleges have a small business center. In Extension, we strive to work together as a team with other community agencies in all things related to helping the people of North Carolina. Extension is strongest when we make the right connections and when we collaborate to provide resources to help clients reach success."

Taylor Williams, Moore County agricultural agent, worked with the team that developed a market plan for Oak Bluff Farm, a hydroponic greenhouse operation that produces mixed greens. He said the course has given him the tools necessary to help guide entrepreneurs.

"The class has already helped quite a bit," Williams said. "There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk with someone who needs help starting a business."

Williams now knows where to point people for help with those decisions, he said. He has even talked people out of starting things. And he has a better understanding of regulations, business plans and small business resources.

"I started out as an area alternative agriculture agent, with lots of production information," he said. "But to get someone started in a new business, you probably need an master’s degree in business administration."

Bullen said all the groups worked well together in developing their market plans. Now they have a group of peers they can turn to in their region to help new small businesses get off the ground. The groups also have been asked to host business development workshops in their regions. Several hosted workshops in the fall and winter.

"Extension agents recognize that we need to help businesses develop by following the economic-development direction of our state’s land-grant universities," Bullen said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 08:10 AM

June 01, 2006

'Nickels for Know-How' referendum passes with landmark vote

Nickels image

Described as a self-help program for farmers, “Nickels for Know-How” is a 55-year-old voluntary assessment on feed and fertilizer produced and purchased in North Carolina. On May 25, the 13th “Nickels” referendum passed with a whopping 94 percent of the vote. This was the referendum’s second-highest passing rate in 50 years.

“Nickels” raises about $1.2 million annually to support research, teaching and extension programs in the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture collects “Nickels” funds from the manufacturers of feed and fertilizer. The manufacturers build the extra cost—three nickels per ton—into the price of their products. The funds are then deposited with the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc., based in the college.

“Since Nickels for Know-How began in 1951, most of the state’s research-based agricultural advances have at some point shared ‘Nickels’ funds,” said college dean Johnny C. Wynne. “The college and the university are deeply grateful to the citizens who make these opportunities possible by voting for the statewide ‘Nickels’ referendum.”

All users of feed and fertilizer in North Carolina, along with their families, are eligible to vote. This year’s vote, which will extend the program for another six years, passed overwhelmingly in all 100 North Carolina counties and the Cherokee Reservation.

“Nickels” funds have supported a range of faculty-based projects in the college, from research on alternative fuel production to avian flu education programs. These funds also provide operating support for entities such as the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Foundation and the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund.

The “Nickels” program creates opportunities for students by helping raise funds for more than 475 endowments that provide $800,000 in scholarships each year. These endowments also bolster faculty efforts, county extension programs and commodity research efforts.

“Nickels” also supports college fundraising efforts by generating more than $30 million annually in private contributions.

“These are just a few of the ways ‘Nickels for Know-How’ has helped advance efforts in the college and the university that, in turn, support North Carolina farmers and bolster agribusiness in our state,” Wynne said. “By passing this referendum, the state’s voters have played a key role in creating opportunities that will benefit all North Carolina citizens.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 04:36 PM

May 23, 2006

Franklin tour draws 250

Charles Gupton with poult
Franklin County grower Charles Gupton of Shiloh Farms holds a turkey poult for tour participants to see. (Natalie Hampton photo)

About 250 people turned out May 20-21 for the third annual Franklin County Farm Foods and Crafts Tour, co-sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension. This year's tour featured nine farms, as well as participation by the N.C. Meat Goat Producers and Franklin County Natural Beef Alliance. At several sites, visitors were treated to bluegrass music, crafts demonstrations and activities for children. Many participants purchased beef, goat meat, eggs, shiitake mushrooms and other products from participating growers. At Shiloh Farms, visitors saw organic crops in fields, laying chickens and broilers, an orchard, mushroom production, sheep and cattle.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:35 PM

May 18, 2006

EDEN course continues to improve ag biosecurity awareness

A major attack or natural outbreak on American farms could cost the economy millions in control responses and billions in economic damages. Mismanaging a biosecurity outbreak by not detecting it or not communicating appropriate information could increase damages. To address this issue, the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) has an online course called “Plant Biosecurity Management.”

Now offering the 2006 edition, the course is geared toward Extension educators and specialists. However, it is readily usable by agricultural and horticultural producers, emergency managers, and public health officials who have a vested interest in plant biosecurity.

Developed for EDEN by the University of Missouri Extension with support from the USDA, the 2006 edition provides updated and timely resources, as well as preventative activities and current response efforts of Soybean Rust. The course is free of charge and designed to be taken at a user’s own pace. Completion time is approximately eight hours.

The six lessons focus on:
·the threat of both intentional and unintentional introduction of pests and pathogens to crops;
·how to mitigate plant biosecurity hazards and security risks to farm operations and agribusinesses;
·how to prepare for a rapid and appropriate response to a suspected plant biosecurity problem;
·what recovery activities to expect in the event a plant biosecurity problem is confirmed; and
·how to reduce the impact of a biosecurity event on humans, crops, property, and the environment.

Access to this course, as well as additional information, is available on the EDEN Web site at http://www.eden.lsu.edu/LearningOps. This course was created to be readily usable for a variety of Internet connections. Though recommended for 56K lines or higher, a lower connection speed of 24 K also has been successful.

Posted by Natalie at 10:46 AM

May 16, 2006

Franklin County Farms & Crafts Tour is May 20-21

The Third Annual Franklin County Farms & Crafts Tour will be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, 1-5 p.m. The cost for the tour is $5 per person; children 12 years and younger can visit the farms for free. To register for the tour in advance call the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service at 919.496.3344. You will receive an informational brochure with a map and "Support Local Farms" buttons to wear on the day of the tour as an indication that you are registered.

Visitors also can participate the day of the tour by purchasing a tour button at one of the featured farms. There will also be farm tour caps for sale.

The stops on the tour include a cut flower and nursery greenhouse farm, pick-your-own strawberry farm, sustainable vegetable production and free-range livestock farm, a nursery featuring heirloom vegetables and plants, diversified beef cattle and purebred goat farm, and a 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century French and English antique supplier with furniture, art and accessories on display. The Franklin County Natural Beef Alliance and N.C. Meat Goat Producers will also be featured at various stops and marketing pasture-based, natural beef and chevon.

In addition, the Ridgeway Opry musicians will play bluegrass and folk music at four of the nine stops. Area heritage crafters will showcase their talents such as quilt making and wood turning. Local artists from the Art du Jour will be set up under pecan trees at one stop to showcase their painting. Several stops are "child friendly" with hay rides and petting of small animals.

Sponsors for the tour include the Franklin County Arts Council, Whole Foods, and North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Posted by Natalie at 11:33 AM

April 21, 2006

Meetings to focus on avian flu

The first of five regional meetings designed to provide North Carolina's poultry industry and the public with information about the threat of avian influenza will be held April 27 in Siler City.

The Siler City meeting, which is sponsored by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, begins with registration at 9:30 a.m. at the Carolina Stockyard Company, 260 Stockyard Road. It ends at noon.

A particularly deadly strain of avian influenza, or flu, has been spreading around the world. The H5N1 strain of avian influenza originated in Asia and has since spread to Europe and Africa. The disease has killed thousands of domestic and wild birds and is responsible for some human deaths. Human health and agriculture officials fear migrating birds will spread the disease to the United States.

If avian influenza reaches North Carolina, it could seriously threaten the state's poultry industry, which generates more than $2 billion in revenue annually.

The meetings, which are open to the public, are designed for poultry growers, Cooperative Extension employees, government officials and others involved in the state's poultry industry, said Dr. Brian Sheldon, Department of Poultry Science Extension Leader and professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

Sheldon said the meetings will include an overview of avian influenza and the threat the disease poses to the North Carolina poultry industry. Topics to be discussed include the potential economic ramifications of introduction of avian influenza to North Carolina and current preparations for containment and control in the face of an outbreak. The meetings will conclude with a panel discussion featuring representatives from Cooperative Extension, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Division of Public Health.

For more information on the Siler City meeting, contact Daniel Campeau, area specialized poultry agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension at 919.542.8202 or dan_campeau@ncsu.edu.

Other meeting dates and locations:
May 3
Duplin County Cooperative Extension Center
165 Agriculture Drive
Information: James Parsons, area specialized poultry agent, 910.296.2143 or james_parsons@ncsu.edu

May 10
Robeson County Cooperative Extension Center
455 Caton Road
Information: James Cochran, area specialized poultry agent, 910.671.3276 or james_cochran@ncsu.edu

May 18
Iredell County Agricultural Resource Center
444 Bristol Drive
Information: Kathy Bunton, area specialized poultry agent, 704.878.3154 or kathy_bunton@ncsu.edu

May 30
Union County Cooperative Extension Center
3230-D Presson Road
Information: Jody Smith, area specialized poultry agent, 704.283.3743 or jody_smith@ncsu.edu

-D. Caldwell

Posted by Natalie at 04:17 PM

April 10, 2006

Alpacas pack ‘em in

photo of alpacas
Moore County farmer Joe Picariello feeds his alpacas. (Photo by Becky Kirkland)

Moore County farmer Joe Picariello, 63, was content with the idea of raising his alpacas – longhaired South American animals of the camel family – and enjoying a quiet life on his small farm. That is, until an invitation from Cooperative Extension planted a new seed and inspired him to become part of a burgeoning industry in North Carolina: agricultural tourism.

Within a year of receiving Extension’s invitation to visit agritourism operations in Eastern North Carolina, Picariello and his wife Ursula launched an agricultural tourism venture of their own, Crystal Pines Alpaca Farm, complete with hayrides, a petting zoo and educational programs.

“After visiting those [agritourism] farms, we said to ourselves, ‘We can do this with our alpacas,’” Picariello said. “We bought other animals, including miniature cows, pigs and donkeys; put up an old-fashioned barn; installed a barnyard and bought a hay wagon. We’ve only been in operation for about a year, and already it’s been very successful.”

Helping Picariello is Moore County Agricultural Extension Agent Taylor Williams. With support from the GoldenLEAF Foundation, Williams created the Sandhills Farm Market and Agritourism Development Project.

The project’s Web site, www.SandhillsAgriculture.com, offers visitors a detailed color map that features 42 different agritourism ventures in Montgomery, Anson, Moore and Richmond Counties. Stops along the map invite visitors to enjoy everything from pick-your-own berry farms to corn mazes, ice cream stands and animal farms.

And now, more farmers will be able to participate, thanks to a GoldenLEAF grant that will pump an additional $26,000 into the project, enabling it to expand to other counties and add new heritage sites that highlight the work of local craftspeople.

On a peak day, Crystal Pines Alpaca Farm hosts 200-300 children from area schools, and in it’s first year of business, the farm netted $4,000. The biggest attractions: friendly alpacas who give “kisses” on the cheek and chickens that lay colored eggs.

“Taylor and the Extension office were such a big help,” Picariello said. “We went to all the workshops … they answered all of our questions, or if they couldn’t, they’d tell us where to go to get the answers. I’m so pleased we got out there and tried this.”
--S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:12 PM

March 23, 2006

'Nickels for Know-How' referendum is May 25

Nickels image

On May 25, all users of feed and fertilizer in North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote on continuing the Nickels for Know-How program at Cooperative Extension centers across the state. Since 1951, and through 12 previous referenda, Nickels has been approved by North Carolina citizens by an average 90 percent favorable vote. In addition, most of the state's research-based agricultural advances have at some point shared Nickels funds.

The Nickels program provides over $1.2 million annually to support the academic, extension and research programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Additional information on the Nickels program and the May 25 referendum can be found on the Nickels Web site: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/advancement/nickels.htm.

Many thanks to county Extension directors and their staffs for carrying out the Nickels Referendum in every county on May 25. For questions concerning the Nickels program or the May 25 Nickels referendum, please contact Keith Oakley at 919.515.9262 or keith_oakley@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 08:49 AM

February 17, 2006

Valued-added workshop is March 1-2

Capturing Value from the Farm: Extension Programming and Resources for Farm Diversification and Developing Value-Added and Alternative Enterprises will be held March 1 and 2, 2006 at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro. This is an excellent opportunity for Extension specialists and agents interested in value added and alternative agriculture to interact.

A detailed agenda now posted: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added. Participants can attend sessions on a wide range of topics, including regulations governing direct-marketed meats, cut flowers, shared use kitchens, organic vegetable cooperatives, craft cooperatives, agritourism.

Register for the event at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added. You can commute to the event each day or book a room at the conference center. Costs of the conference and travel expenses of North Carolina Cooperative Extension faculty are paid for through a grant with the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund. (Please register for the event on the conference Web site even if you are not staying overnight.)

Conference objectives are to provide information on resources available to field and campus faculty working with alternative and value added enterprises and to provide a forum for sharing information on value-added and alternative enterprise Extension programs and resources among field and campus faculty.

Posted by Natalie at 12:25 PM

December 21, 2005

Given a chance to serve

Story on Karen McAdams, Orange-Durham livestock agent, from The Chapel Hill News. Read more

Posted by Natalie at 08:49 AM

Funds will help farmers with damage from 2004 hurricanes

Grants Are Part of the ‘Operation Brighter Day’ Relief Program
RALEIGH - Gov. Mike Easley announced Dec. 20 that the state has mailed $15.8 million in disaster-assistance grants to farmers who suffered crop losses in the hurricanes of 2004.

More than 1,300 checks were sent Dec. 20 for crop-disaster assistance under the Governor’s Operation Brighter Day hurricane recovery program. Today’s payment is the first phase in the distribution of more than $26.3 million in crop aid that is being made available to farmers.

"This aid will help our farmers offset the losses they suffered from the hurricanes," said Easley. "It is an important step in completing the recovery process."

Under the Hurricane Relief Act of 2005, the General Assembly appropriated $11.7 million for agriculture-related losses, including damaged farmland, farm structures, equipment, crops and commercial fishing and aquaculture operations. Fifty counties were eligible for assistance under the program. The bulk of that appropriation, $6.3 million, was designated for crop losses.

In October, Easley reallocated $20 million in Operation Brighter Day funds to address the crop losses suffered by producers of Christmas trees, nursery stock, sod and similar crops that were not covered by the original appropriation. Last spring, North Carolina Cooperative Extension staff across the state assisted Operation Brighter Day by accepting applications for this assistance from local farmers.

"The 2004 hurricane season dealt a huge blow to North Carolina farmers and their communities," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "This assistance will help them continue to recover from these devastating storms."

In addition to crop-loss assistance, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is continuing to issue checks to help farmers with the cost of removing debris from farmland, repairing fences and conservation structures, and restoring damaged farmland. To date, the department has distributed $975,000 of the $3.3 million allocated for this work and will continue to issue grants as it processes additional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

The department also has distributed $1.3 million to help farmers repair or replace damaged farm structures and equipment, and more than $645,000 to assist with commercial fishing and aquaculture losses.

-Governor's Press Office news release

Posted by Natalie at 08:40 AM

December 20, 2005

Small-acreage farming conference is Jan. 21

A day-long conference for small-acreage farmers will be held Jan. 21 at North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Duplin County Center in Kenansville.

Titled "Putting Small Acreage to Work," the conference is sponsored by Cooperative Extension. Speakers will explore innovative marketing methods and new product alternatives designed to increase profitability on small-acreage farms. Evaluating markets, natural pork production, market development, culinary herb production and ethnic and niche markets will be among the topics covered. Farmers will also learn about growing and investing in other types of commodities, such as freshwater shrimp, heirloom vegetables, muscadine grapes and goats.

The conference will run from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a $45 per person registration fee, which includes lunch and an informational CD. To register, contact Ed Emory, director of Cooperative Extension programs in Duplin County, at 910.296.2143 or by email to ed_emory@ncsu.edu. Information is also available on line at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/smallacreage.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:04 AM

December 19, 2005

Agritoursim association offers liability signs

The N.C. Agritourism Networking Association (NC ANA), a networking organization for North Carolina agritourism farmers and service providers, is organizing to plan, promote and deliver a statewide conference in November 2006. Membership dues will be used to plan and promote the 2006 conference. There will be two levels of dues: farmers and agritourism service providers, $25; Cooperative Extension agents, $15.

The NC ANA mission statement and goals can be accessed at www.ncagr.com/agritourism.

One benefit of membership is that the association will provide two liability signs free to agritourism farmer members of the organization who pay $25 dues. The signs are required for agritourism operators, including pick-your-own operators, to comply with a new state law that limits liability for agritourism operations that display proper signage. Farmers who do not join can buy the signs at $3 per sign plus $4 shipping.

The signs are made of a vinyl-type material that is resistant to weather and damage. Go to www.ncagr.com/agritourism to read the entire law, under “Limit Liability for Agritourism Farms.” The text for the sign is under the paragraph found in the text of the law under the heading “Warning.” At least two signs are required – at the entrance to the agritourism facility and at the site of activities.

Associate memberships are available to Extension agents, who can purchase one sign at cost plus shipping. Agents who are agritourism farmers may purchase three signs.

The NC ANA will provide signs to member farmers first, then non-member farmers. Service providers and Extension agents who join the ANA can indicate their desire for a sign on the membership application. Signs for service providers will not be filled until all agritourism farmers’ sign orders are filled. There will be an initial limit of two signs per order for farmers. For a newsletter with association applicaton, contact Martha Glass at 919.733.7139 or martha.glass@ncmail.net.

In addition, a brochure will soon be available with results from a recent statewide survey of nearly 400 agritourism operations. To receive a copy of the brochure, contact Martha Glass at 919.733.7139 or martha.glass@ncmail.net.

Posted by Natalie at 02:58 PM

December 15, 2005

Buhler’s pesticide record book is national model

What started out as an effort to help North Carolina pesticide applicators keep accurate records has turned into a national best seller. The 80-page record book, developed by a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences specialist, has been adopted as the standard by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wayne Buhler, horticulture specialist who helps coordinate pesticide training in this state, developed a record book several years ago to help pesticide applicators keep records that are required in the 1990 Farm Bill.

Under the Farm Bill, private applicators – growers who use restricted use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity must keep records on pesticide use for two years. The rule applies to restricted-use pesticides, those that can be harmful or risky for applicators or can cause environmental damage if not applied properly.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency requires pesticide applicators to maintain records, and post appropriate warnings to field workers, when pesticides are applied to crop fields. And that means another set of records for growers to track of.

The Pesticide Section within the Food and Drug Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is charged with enforcing the USDA regulations in North Carolina. Buhler, along with a broad network of North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents and colleagues within Pesticides Section, conduct training for the state’s 22,000 certified pesticide applicators. Part of the training involves how to meet the federal record keeping guidelines.

“Growers were aware of the regulations, but had no standard or reliable way to keep records,” he said

So Buhler worked with the Pesticide Section to develop an easy-to-use record book for North Carolina growers. The front of the book includes phone numbers for the National Poison Control Center, as well as other important contacts related to pesticides.

The record book Buhler developed includes forms that meet both the USDA and EPA record requirements for pesticide application. And it meets another grower requirement: It can be carried to the fields.

“We wanted something that would be versatile. We wanted to do it in a way that growers could take the record book to the fields,” Buhler said.

In North Carolina, pesticide education and NCDA&CS funds were used to print the record books. First 5,000 copies were printed in 1999; then 15,000 copies of the record book that were distributed free to growers. The project was so successful, that USDA began printing an adapted version of the record book in 2002. The first year, USDA printed 22,000 copies, then 25,000 copies, and in 2004, 70,000 copies of the record book were printed. Due to the high costs of printing, the record book is no longer printed, but is available to growers on the Web at http://www.ams.usda.gov/science/prb/Prbforms.htm.

In May, Buhler obtained a grant from the NCDA&CS Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund to print an additional 13,000 copies of the manual that will be distributed to North Carolina growers who participate in two-hour trainings this winter on record keeping and worker protection.

The project has been a truly joint effort between agencies that also blends education provided by North Carolina Cooperative Extension and regulation by the Pesticide Section, Buhler said. And it gives growers a tangible tool to avoid fines for poor record keeping -- a first offense can bring a fine of $650, and a second offense, $1,100. The record book can also help them keep an inventory of the pesticides they purchase and store, and help them look for application mistakes that can be the cause of a crop’s failure.

“By keeping records, farmers are being good environmental stewards,” Buhler said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 10:55 AM

December 07, 2005

Extension helps with Eastern N.C. agri-cultural trail

Extension employees at dedication
Tom Glasgow, Craven County Extension director; Lin Nichols, Duplin County agri-cultural tourism secretary, Regenia Bell, family and consumer sciences agent, Carteret County; Bill Ellers, Pamlico County Extension director; Ed Emory, Duplin County Extension director, Ray Harris, Carteret County Extension director; and Barry Nash, N.C. State Seafood Lab and N.C. Sea Grant. (Art Latham photo)

North Carolina Cooperative Extension personnel and state Arts Council officials have introduced another in a growing number of Web sites in the HomegrownHandmade.com Agri-Cultural trails series.

These Web pages, part of a Golden LEAF-funded project to boost the rural economies of many formerly tobacco-dependent North Carolina counties, promote Internet-accessible, do-it-yourself car tour guides along once-anonymous country roads to ag and cultural sites, as well as helping farmers find new ways to market value-added agriculture-related products and services. The trails provide visitors with activities such as festivals, "pick your own" farms and art galleries, always combining the arts with agriculture.

The newest trail, unveiled in October at kickoff ceremonies before about 30 attendees at the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, is called “Coastal Treasure Chest.” It includes possible tourist destinations in Pamlico, Craven and Carteret counties. Membership listings on the trail page are free if participants meet stated conditions.

Coastal Treasure Chest is the eighth in a series that eventually will encompass 77 of the state's 100 counties, says Ed Emory, Cooperative Extension director for Duplin County and a force behind the steadily growing agri-cultural tourism business in Eastern North Carolina.

“Similar trails are being developed in the Eastern Piedmont, along the Interstate 95 corridor and the ‘heartland’ areas,” says Emory.

Cooperative Extension has been instrumental in developing agricultural tourism in our state. Agri-cultural tourism, an aspect of heritage tourism, promotes preserving cultural, natural and historic uniqueness, protecting resources through stewardship and sustainable use and promoting North Carolina as a top tourist destination.

“The demand for programming and technical assistance for new and existing agricultural tourism enterprises has been overwhelming,” Emory says.

In addition to media and museum representatives, joining Emory were county Extension directors Bill Ellers, Pamlico; Tom Glasgow, Craven; and Ray Harris, Carteret. Also attending were Regenia Bell, family and consumer sciences agent, Carteret; Barry Nash, N.C. State Seafood Lab and N.C. Sea Grant; and Lin Nichols, agri-cultural tourism secretary, Duplin.

Also present were local historic attraction personnel, such as Patricia Suggs, Beaufort Historic Site executive director and several business owners who had just joined or were intending to sign on for the trail.

-A. Latham

Posted by Natalie at 02:12 PM

November 29, 2005

Extension partnership results in new pesticide sprayer

photo of air blast sprayer calibration
A new method for calibrating air blast pesticide sprayers is tested on a peach farm in Montgomery County. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

Montgomery County Extension agent Roger Galloway prides himself on staying abreast of the latest technology. He recognizes its value in his work and the vast potential it has to benefit farmers in his community. Galloway is inventive, resourceful and eager to try new things that will benefit farmers. That’s why his latest innovation – a high-tech method to improve calibration of air blast pesticide sprayers – could be a boon to growers in Montgomery County, and if he gets his wish, across the state.

Air blast sprayers are used primarily for tree crops like peaches, plums and apples, but they’re also used to protect grapes, blueberries and some vegetable crops from harmful pests and diseases. Pulled behind a tractor, the sprayer is a large cylindrical tank with a fan on the end that has 16 to 24 nozzles. A pump is used to supply spray solution to the nozzles at high pressure. Then, the fan uses high velocity air to push the spray from the nozzles into the trees, coating them from top to bottom.

Calibrating the sprayers at least twice a year is critical, Galloway says, because it alerts farmers to faulty equipment that may be causing over- or under-use of pesticides. The typical method for calibrating an air blast sprayer can consume several hours for each sprayer, costing farmers valuable time and labor. To calibrate the sprayers, farmers collect liquid from each nozzle and measure it in buckets, a precision task that is difficult to pull off without getting soaked. Growers must then enter the measurements for each nozzle’s output into mathematical formulas and hand-calculate the results.

To make it easier for farmers to calibrate their sprayers, Galloway has developed an innovative new method that cuts the time in half. And, it incorporates computer technology that does the math for them.

Galloway teamed with horticultural science Extension specialist Dr. Wayne Buhler and Dr. Gary Roberson, Extension specialist and associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering, to make his idea a reality. Together, they developed a system for calibration that employs a digital scale, hand-held computer and wireless printer – portable technology that produces results more accurately and much more quickly than the manual method.

“The beauty of this system is that is speeds up something farmers don’t want to have to spend a lot of time on … even a half-day is a big loss,” Galloway said. “We want to make this process as easy as possible for farmers. And, I think it’s kind of nifty to stand here with the iPAQ (handheld computer) and print a document 30 feet away, without any wires connecting the two.”

Buhler, who provides extensive expertise in pesticide use, as well as critical funding for the project, points out the financial – and environmental – benefits of the new system.

“Using less pesticide is advantageous to the grower in more ways than one,” Buhler said. “Chemicals are often the most expensive part of their operation … and this also makes it possible for them to put fewer pesticides into the environment.”

Galloway, Buhler and Roberson demonstrated the system in November, just after the last peach harvest at Garrett Johnson’s family farm in Candor, N.C. Accurate sprayer calibration is especially critical to Johnson’s peach operation, which picks seven days a week, never refrigerating their product, to deliver the freshest produce possible to consumers.

First, they attached short hoses to each of the nozzles on the sprayer. The hoses funneled the liquid into plastic buckets in 30-second or one-minute timed intervals. Then, each bucket was weighed on a portable digital scale. The three worked together efficiently, in an assembly line that Galloway jokingly referred to as the “bucket brigade.” Galloway then plugged the data into a hand-held computer containing a scaled-down version of Microsoft Excel that is pre-loaded with the appropriate formulas. The program automatically calculated the results, and using “Bluetooth” (radio frequency) technology, transmitted the information to a nearby wireless printer.
The entire operation takes place out in the field, and in a matter of minutes, the grower has a detailed and easy-to-read report of the calibration.

photo of Roger Galloway
Galloway loads data into a hand-held computer that sends a report to a nearby wireless printer.

Galloway also had placed bright yellow water-sensitive cards in the upper canopy of the trees before spraying. Dappled in blue afterward, the cards indicate how much – or how little – solution had covered the tree.

“The object is to have the pesticide on target,” Galloway said. “The more off target the sprayer is, the greater the ramifications for the environment … and for the quality and safety of the fruit.”

Roberson, an expert in precision technologies, teaches a variety of calibration trainings and has a deep personal and professional interest in finding better and more productive ways to use farm equipment. He handled the hardware side of this project and described the advantage of the new system as a “long-term cost-benefit relationship” for growers.

“The payback (for using this new calibration system) is an operation that is more environmentally responsible, more efficient in chemical use and produces a better overall product,” Roberson said.

The system also has the potential to be a valuable teaching tool for farmers, Galloway said, because the report features all of the raw data and formulas, enabling them to go back and examine the specific factors more carefully – and to better understand how the results came about.

True to his resourceful nature and commitment to serving his growers, Galloway already has solutions in mind to tackle the project’s only downside: the technology may not be attainable by many growers. He proposes that farmers invest in the technology together and share the equipment through cooperatives, or Extension agents could maintain the equipment and make it available to their growers. Galloway also suggests the idea of giving pesticide-training credits to growers who adopt the new technology.

Always thinking ahead to the future, Galloway already has explored newer and more advanced technologies that will improve the calibration process. But, he added, the most important factor isn’t technology or equipment. It is the core of Galloway’s work and the heart of Cooperative Extension: relationships.

“This is the way Extension works best,” Galloway said. “Good communication between the specialist and the agent … sharing expertise and working together … helps growers solve problems.”

- S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 08:00 AM

November 16, 2005

Narrow-row cotton harvester shows promise for higher yields

cotton harvester photo
The harvester is put to the test at Central Crops Research Station in Clayton, N.C. (Photos by Daniel Kim)

A new cotton harvester being tested by researchers in the Department of Crop Science may help the state's farmers produce high-quality, higher-yielding cotton – and save money. Dr. Keith Edmisten, professor of crop science and Cooperative Extension cotton specialist, along with Dr. Alan York, William Neal Reynolds professor of crop science and Cooperative Extension weed specialist, are leading a team of graduate students on a three-year project to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using a 15-inch row cotton picker. So far, the results are promising.

Cotton has traditionally been grown on wide rows, typically 36 to 40 inches, Edmisten said, originally to allow the passage of mules for tillage. Wide-row planting stuck around long after tractors replaced mules because tillage was still required for adequate weed control in cotton, he explained. In the mid-1990s, advances in herbicide technology enabled broadcast over-the-top spraying that eliminated the need for wide rows. Edmisten recognized the potential of narrow-row planting and started to experiment.

He began by using a finger stripper on narrow rows, a type of harvester that literally strips every bit of the plant, except for the stem and fruiting branches. Yields increased, but the quality of the cotton was low because the stripper picked up all sorts of “trash,” like bark and leaves, which were difficult for the cotton ginners to separate from the fiber. Edmisten knew he was on to something good, so he approached the John Deere Company and showed them his yield data. The company’s engineers had been developing a picking unit that was able to spindle-pick cotton on 15-inch rows and eliminate the trash that was associated with “stripping” it. They sent Edmisten the equipment for research.

“Agronomically, going to narrow-row spacing makes a lot of sense,” said crop science doctoral student Davie Wilson, one of the project’s lead researchers. “Narrow-row spaces allow the capture of more sunlight by the plant canopy on a per-acre basis, which is very beneficial for maximizing the yield potential of cotton.”

Edmisten added, “The new equipment that John Deere introduced last year offered us a practical way to produce high-quality cotton and maximize light interception by the canopy.”

Assembling the equipment was no easy task. The commercial picker produced by John Deere is a huge machine, far too large and bulky for operation in small plot research. So, the company sent a scaled-down version of the harvester’s heads, requiring that Edmisten’s team find a way to put them to use. The group, which includes crop science technician James Lanier, as well as Wilson and fellow graduate students Guy Collins and Gary Hamm, sourced an old two-row cotton picker and worked steadfastly for about six weeks to mount the new heads.

“Basically, we hand-built everything,” Lanier said. “John Deere thought we were crazy [to mount the new heads on the old-model picker] … said it was impossible and couldn’t be done. Now, they’re calling us with questions. It’s a great back-and-forth partnership.”

cotton harvester photo

The new picking unit employs the same technology used in a wide-row system, but enables harvesting on a narrower row. Like the comb on barbers’ shears, the harvester slices through several rows at a time, lopping off every other row, and pressing each cut row against its neighboring row of still-standing cotton plants. Small rotating spindles with tiny barbs grab the lint from the stalks, a much more precise technology than the stripper.

The advantages of narrow-row cotton are becoming apparent after the first two years of trials, which showed an average 9.1 percent yield increase, or a difference of 127 pounds of lint per acre, in favor of the narrow-row system. Edmisten, York and their team are exploring a number of factors that will be important to farmers, including weed control tactics, nitrogen fertilization, planting dates and variety selection – and they’re building a solid case for the benefits of switching to narrow-row cotton production.

“We found that we can plant later in the growing season and still get just as good a yield,” Wilson said. Cotton is typically grown from early May to early November, Edmisten explained, and his team’s research is showing that it may be possible to shave a few weeks off the growth period and double-crop cotton with small grains like wheat or barley, providing growers a net income from two crops in a growing season instead of one. Their findings also show that narrow rows extend the window for planting cotton, so that farmers who experience bad weather conditions during the typical planting season could wait a few weeks to plant without suffering a blow.

The team’s weed management research shows that 15-inch row cotton may require one less herbicide application, resulting in time and fuel savings. And, because the narrow rows produce thick canopies, weeds aren’t able to grow as well, which also represents cost savings – and environmental benefits – for farmers.

“The savings on herbicides and fuel are the biggest attractions of narrow-row cotton,” Edmisten said. “There is less pesticide load going into the environment, and farmers generally will spend less money on a per-acre basis.”

While these benefits are significant, York said, the study’s yield data will be the real “clincher” for farmers who are considering investing in narrow-row equipment. A brand new 15-inch picker runs in the neighborhood of $400,000, he says, and increased yields offer the greatest potential to offset the cost of switching equipment.

“A spindle picker that handles 15-inch rows costs about $36,000 more than a picker that handles 30- to 36-inch rows. A 10 percent yield increase will pay for that in a year,” York explained. “And, if a grower needed to replace a picker anyway, then going to a 15-inch row system is feasible.” But, he added, for farmers who have regular pickers in good mechanical condition, investing in a new 15-inch picker would require proof of substantial benefits.

Encouraged by data from their first two years of trials that shows significant increases in yield, as well as myriad other benefits of narrow-row cotton, the research team is forging ahead in its work.

“We still have a lot of questions left to consider,” Edmisten said. “Fuel cost is an especially big concern for farmers right now.”

“With shrinking profit margins in the cotton business, growers really have to streamline what they’re doing just to keep their heads above water,” Wilson added. “This [technology] has opened up a whole new world.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:27 PM

November 15, 2005

Carteret Catch: New marketing project promotes local seafood

It is a bone-chilling morning in the historic fishing port of Gloucester, Mass. As North Carolina seafood dealer Bradley Styron gets out of a truck, he steps through fresh piles of snow. (Article features work by John O'Sullivan, N.C. A&T State University farm management and marketing specialist.) Read more from N.C. Sea Grant's Coastwatch

Posted by Natalie at 01:40 PM

November 14, 2005

Columbus County second graders are nuts about pecans

Kids watch pecan demonstration
Pecan grower Rossie Ward demonstrates a neat way to pick up pecans without bending over. (Daniel Kim photos)

Horticulture Specialist Mike Parker held the attention of Columbus County second graders as he explained how pecans are grown and harvested. But for some of the students, it wasn’t so much what he said as how he said it.

“PEE-cans!” they shouted, correcting Parker’s pronunciation of “pi-KAHNS.” Parker, who’s not from around here, also threw them a curve by pronouncing “roots” as “rutts.”

In spite of those few slips of the tongue, the third annual pecan education event for second graders in Columbus County was a big hit. The county is the state’s leading pecan producer (that’s PEE-can), and many students reported having a tree in their yards.

Many counties host education events that focus on agriculture. What makes this one unusual is its focus on one commodity that is important to the local economy. Partners in the effort include North Carolina Cooperative Extension campus and county faculty, the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Museum of Forestry in Whiteville, a satellite of Raleigh’s N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Parker says the event gives the children an appreciation for agriculture in general and what it takes to grow pecans. “It’s part of their history, part of their heritage,” he says.

The two-day event, held at the Museum of Forestry, involves 1,100 second graders. Over two days, more than 50 classes attended the event. Classes rotate through five educational stations related to pecans. This year, the Museum of Natural Sciences provided a sixth education station from its popular fall “Bugfest” event.

Mike Parker talks pecans
N.C. State Horticulture Specialist Mike Parker tells a class about the pests that can invade pecans. Kids teased Parker about his pronunciation of 'pi-KAHNS.'

Parker and Extension Associate Allan Thornton, based in Sampson County, conducted a 30-minute overview of pecan production. Betty Thompson and Carolyn McCain, Columbus County family and consumer sciences agents, used pecans to talk with students about healthy snacks versus unhealthy, or “sometimes” snacks. Nuts, like pecans, can be a part of a healthy snack, Thompson said.

Thompson showed students how to make their own healthy snack at home with nuts, cereal, crackers and dried fruit. The Pecan Growers’ even provided funds so each student could taste a sample of a snack prepared with those ingredients.

Betty Ezzell of the Pecan Growers Association provided additional information on uses for pecan shells in filtration and crafts. She also described how wood from pecan trees is used for making furniture and crafts. She showed them a variety of small nutcrackers used to crack pecans at home.

Students also learned how pecans are cracked and shelled by commercial processors. At one of two outside stations, Columbus County pecan grower and processor Rossie Ward, demonstrated a high-speed machine that cracks and shells pecans one at a time. Ward processes 15,000 pounds of pecans for local growers. His business also sells a honey-roasted pecan, popular in retail outlets.

Don Ezzell, executive director of the Pecan Growers Association, demonstrated several tools for harvesting pecans without bending over, including a wire box on a pole that collects pecans as you press down on them. At Ezzell’s station, students also saw how a mechanical tree shaker clamps onto a tree and vibrates mature nuts right off the branches. Those that are not ready to fall will hang on a little longer, he said.

Bill Bunn of Bailey, president of the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, says that Columbus County growers produce about 100,000 pounds of pecans each year, more than any other county in the state. The popular education event falls two days before Whiteville’s Pecan Festival, held downtown.

Museum Director Harry Warren commented on how nice the weather has been for the event each year. “It’s clear that God’s favorite nut is a pecan,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:32 PM

November 08, 2005

College hosts State Fair exhibit

Photo of State Fair exhibit
A visitor looks over items in the college's display at the State Fair. (Becky Kirkland photo)

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was part of the "Our Land, Our Legacy" exhibit at the N.C. State Fair in October. The exhibit focused on how the college helps maintain profitable family farms through research, teaching and extension programs. The display included a number of value-added agricultural products from around the state that had connections to the college.

Posted by Natalie at 02:04 PM

November 07, 2005

Wayne County agricultural districts protect land

Don't be surprised to see a new type of sign popping up along Wayne County roads. Farmers may now apply for membership in voluntary agricultural districts, which would be marked by signs. (Goldsboro News-Argus) Read more

Posted by Natalie at 09:18 AM

November 01, 2005

Prawn harvest nets excitement

A freshwater Malaysian prawn from DW&J Shrimp Co. in Johnston County (Becky Kirkland photos)

Mike Frinsko, area aquaculture agent from Jones County, was on hand in September and October as the DW&J Shrimp Co. of Johnston harvested its fresh-water Malaysian prawns. The farm was featured in an article in August.

The farm held three harvest days this fall. Before dawn, they began draining ponds. As water got low, prawns began shooting out into a concrete catch basin, where they were netted, weighed and placed in tanks to be transported to a sales and processing area. As the shrimp were purchased, they were passed along to a processing line where heads were removed. Heads on, the prawns sold for $8 a pound.

The prawns are different from marine shrimp. In addition to being larger, the meat is more the consistency of lobster.

shrimp1.jpg Prawns are dumped into tank. Shrimp processing line
From top, Johnny Barbee nets the prawns as they flow into a catch basin from the pond where they were raised.

Once they are weighed, the prawns are put into tanks to be transported to the processing area.

Locals stop by to buy the fresh prawns on harvest day. Heads are removed on this processing line.

Posted by Natalie at 08:00 AM

October 31, 2005

Soybean disease found in North Carolina

A plant disease that has heavily damaged soybean crops in other parts of the world has made its way for the first time to North Carolina, although it is too late in the growing season for the disease to damage soybeans this year, said an expert at North Carolina State University.

As a result of monitoring activities conducted by N.C. State University, Asiatic soybean rust was identified on soybean leaf samples collected from Brunswick, Columbus and Robeson counties on Oct. 25 and on soybean leaf samples collected in Beaufort and Craven counties on Oct. 26.

Dr. Steve Koenning, research assistant professor of plant pathology and North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialist at N.C. State, made a tentative diagnosis of Asiatic soybean rust. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of soybean rust.

Soybean rust is native to Asia but has spread to other parts of the world in recent years. Koenning said the disease was found in Africa in 2000 and in South America in 2001 and 2002. The disease, which is spread by wind-blown spores, has caused considerable damage to Brazilian soybean crops.

Koenning said the disease was found in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina in 2004. This is the first report of the disease in North Carolina, although already in 2005 it has been found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Soybean rust will not impact North Carolina soybean production in the 2005 growing season because more than 80 percent of the crop is mature, Koenning said. The impact on the state's remaining soybeans will be minimal because of the late entry of the disease pathogen into the state. Koenning said soybean rust does not infect seed and will not contribute to seed rots.

The soybean rust pathogen is primarily tropical in distribution and will not survive the winter in North Carolina; however, models indicate the fungus would be able to survive over the winter in Southern Florida and Texas. Because wind-blown spores must move to North Carolina from southern regions of the U.S., Caribbean or Central America each year, the impact of the disease in North Carolina will be determined each year by how early in the growing season the disease arrives and environmental conditions at that time. If rust spores do not arrive until September, any yield impact would be minimal, whereas the arrival of rust spores in June could reduce yields considerably.

The disease can be managed with fungicides, but applying fungicides is costly. Koenning said the two to three fungicide applications that would probably be necessary to manage the disease would add $30 to $60 per acre to a farmer's production costs.

Working with the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Koenning and other N.C. State faculty members have launched a wide-ranging effort to help the state's farmers fight the disease.

That effort includes a network of monitoring plots for early detection of the disease. It was this effort that detected the disease. And at least 5,000 farmers and others involved in agriculture have attended training sessions designed to teach them to identify and manage soybean rust. A communications network was established to keep N.C. Cooperative Extension agents, NCDA&CS agronomists and agricultural consultants informed about the progress of soybean rust and other soybean diseases in North Carolina and the U.S. in 2005.

N.C. State scientists are also working to breed new soybean varieties that are resistant to the disease and to model spore movement. In addition, Koenning was instrumental in obtaining permission from the N.C. Pesticide Board for farmers to use additional fungicides to manage the disease.

--Dave Caldwell

Posted by Natalie at 02:03 PM

October 27, 2005

4-H agent raises champion state pumpkins

Simmons with prize pumpkin
4-H Agent Wallace Simmons poses at the N.C. State Fair with his champion pumpkin, weighing in at 854 lbs. (Mark Dearmon photo)

The pumpkin patch at Wallace Simmons’ Canton home only has a few pumpkins, but he keeps it that way on purpose. Simmons’ pumpkins weigh from about 500 to 850 lbs., and he has grown North Carolina’s largest pumpkin for the past five years.

A 4-H agent from Haywood County, Simmons won first place at the State Fair this year with a whopping 854-pound pumpkin. It is still not the largest ever grown in the state – that one weighed 860 lbs., and Simmons grew it as well.

Even North Carolina’s largest pumpkins don’t stand a chance in international competition. The longer daylight and cooler nights of more northern climates provide the best growing conditions. This year’s world champion, grown in Pennsylvania, tipped the scales at 1,469 lbs., enough to feed pumpkin pie to a small rural town.

Raising a giant pumpkin is no small feat, especially for a 4-H agent with a busy summer schedule of camp, 4-H Congress and activity days. When he’s away, Simmons relies on his family to care for the burgeoning pumpkins. “It’s hard to get them this big without rotting. You have to treat them like a baby the whole summer,” Simmons said.

Simmons got started growing big pumpkins when he offered to bring one from Haywood County to the State Fair for a local grower. After the fair, he dumped the pumpkin in his compost pile, which yielded a 375-pound volunteer pumpkin the next year. Simmons was hooked. At that time, the state record for pumpkins was about 600 lbs., a record that Simmons has since smashed.

Simmons says there are three key factors to growing a large pumpkin: good seed, good soil and good luck. Water management is also important, and Simmons says his water bill during pumpkin season will increase by $20 to $120 per month.

“You have to manage the water carefully or your pumpkin will split. Then your pumpkin will be gone for the year,” he said.

Canton was struck in fall 2004 by two major hurricanes that dumped 12.5 inches of rain. The roots of Simmons’ pumpkin vines drowned, and the largest pumpkin stopped growing at 852 pounds.

Simmons starts seeds in a greenhouse in May and transplants them at the perimeter of his yard after the treat of frost is past. As he identifies the most promising pumpkins on each vine, he removes others to allow all the plant’s energy and nutrition to flow to the giant-pumpkins-to-be.

Once the pumpkins get large, Simmons keeps them covered because the sun can harden the skim and may cause cracking before the pumpkin reaches it’s full size. Other threats to pumpkin health are insect and rodent damage, disease and vine damage.

Moving the 850-pound pumpkins takes power. With a lifting tarp, eight to 10 people can lift one. Simmons uses a modified engine hoister to lift his pumpkins on a pallet into the back of his pickup truck.

After the State Fair, Simmons delivers his prize pumpkin to a buyer in Winston-Salem who carves it into a giant jack-o-lantern for a Halloween party. The buyer cleans and saves the pumpkin seeds so Simmons will have a start for next year

Simmons shares his skill with other would-be large pumpkin growers, sharing lessons on seed germination with Haywood school children. He will send seed free to those who request it and provide a stamped, addressed bubble pack for shipping.

And he shares the experience with his 4-H’ers. “I tell my 4-H’ers to do their very best in everything they do, just as I give this (raising pumpkins) my very best,” he says.

--Natalie Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:05 PM

August 31, 2005

Sheep, goat roundup draws 150


About 150 North Carolina goat and sheep producers, many of them new to the industry, participated recently in the two-day North Carolina Goat and Sheep Producers Roundup. The roundup, sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, was held at the Wake Commons Conference Center and Oakview Farm in Raleigh. The event, the first of its kind, will be repeated in two years, according to organizer Martha Mobley, agricultural agent from Franklin County. The roundup included workshops on a variety of topics, including hoof trimming, disease and parasite management, predator control and marketing. Goat production has increased greatly in recent years as immigrants to the state bring an appetite for the meat. From 2000 to 2004, the number of goats sold for meat in North Carolina increased from 180,000 to 232,000, according to N.C. State meat goat specialist Jean-Marie Luginbuhl. (Photo by Becky Kirkland)

Posted by Natalie at 10:02 AM

August 30, 2005

Extension professionals receive honors

Photo of James Parsons, Steve Troxler
James Parsons, left, receives a “Got to be NC Agriculture” truck from state Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler at the N.C. Poultry Federation's annual meeting.

A number of Cooperative Extension employees have recently received state and national honors.

James Parsons, area specialized poultry agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, received the North Carolina Poultry Federation’s 2005 Distinguished Service Award during the Poultry Federation’s 38th Annual Meeting held in Greensboro.

Parsons was recognized and honored for his dedicated service to North Carolina’s poultry industry and for his work with poultry integrators and producers in the counties he serves -- Duplin, Sampson, Wayne and Onslow. These counties are among the largest poultry-producing counties in North Carolina, with a gross farm income from poultry exceeding $500 million.

Throughout his career, Parsons has been active in working with integrators and growers in the areas of water quality and waste management, and he is also active in keeping integrators and growers informed about current and changing environmental regulations.

National Award Winners
Sue Counts, Watauga County Extension director, received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

National Association of County Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service Award winners from North Carolina are Craig Adkins, Caldwell County; Ray Harris, Carteret County; William Little, Wilson County; Richard Rhodes, Bertie County; and David Morrison, Scotland County. National Communication Award winners are Linda Blue, Bumcombe County, in the categories of video and publication; and Karen Neill, Guilford County, in the home page category

Posted by Natalie at 10:07 AM

August 29, 2005

Prawns offer new market for Johnston partners

Photo of partners at prawn pond
Gene Wiseman, center, examines water samples from a prawn pond. With him are partner Doug Barbee, left, and Mike Frinsko. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

In Johnston County, the partners of DJ&W Shrimp Farm have transitioned from growing tobacco to growing giant Malaysian prawns, with help from Cooperative Extension agent Mike Frinsko.

On a Johnston County farm where tobacco has grown for 30 years, there was no tobacco crop this year. Instead, the owners – father-and-son team Doug and Johnny Barbee and their partner Gene Wiseman – turned their full attention to a new enterprise: freshwater prawns.

The giant Malaysian prawns or large shrimp are grown out in freshwater ponds on land that once supported tobacco, the state’s cash crop. When the prawns are full grown in the fall, the ponds are drained and the prawns harvested.

It took a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit to bring the business to life, as well as expertise provided by Mike Frinsko, area specialized aquaculture agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Based in Trenton, Frinsko provides technical assistance to aquaculture businesses throughout southeastern North Carolina.

Wiseman first got interested in raising prawns when his wife called him one day to see a news story about an Illinois grower raising the giant prawns miles from the ocean and netting about $8 a pound.

Wiseman’s curiosity led him to his rural neighbors, the Barbees, who had considered aquaculture in the past, and still had an interest in it. The partners began their research, talking with various experts from across the country, visiting a Mississippi producer raising prawns and, of course, tasting the product for themselves.

Then, nearly three years ago, Wiseman contacted Frinsko for his technical assistance and training. With Frinsko’s help, DJ&W Shrimp Farm built its first commercial production pond and began what is now their diversification into aquaculture. The Barbees are responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the farm, while Wiseman is involved in marketing the product.

Photo of prawn
This juvenile prawn will grow to be eight- to 10-inches long at harvest.

Initially, the partners bought juvenile prawns from a Mississippi supplier, stocked them in the ponds and then grew them to market size. For the past two years, they successfully harvested mature prawns after a 112-day summer growing season, but this year they hope to extend the season to 140 days, producing many prawns in the eight-to-10-per-pound size.

The operation now boasts three 2-acre, ponds, following critical specifications from Frinsko, adapted from extension colleagues at Mississippi State University. And this year for the first time, the farm is raising its own juvenile shrimp in 12-foot diameter tanks located in a former tobacco greenhouse.

“We are excited and very enthusiastic about the accomplishments here,” Frinsko said. “This is an opportunity for diversification, but it’s not a silver bullet for everyone. Depending on a farmer’s land, water resources and temperament, it may or may not be a good fit. That’s not to mention the effort needed for market development.”

Johnny Barbee says the time he once spent in tobacco fields is now devoted to the prawns, and he has learned much about raising the crustaceans. For example, at the beginning of the production season, the ponds have to be limed and fertilized. Liming ensures that the water acidity stays in balance, while fertilizing with cotton seed meal produces small, but nutritious, natural planktonic foods, essential for the prawns’ early growth.

The nursery, located in the former tobacco greenhouse, has provided another set of challenges. The post-larval prawns arrive weighing about .009 grams each. Johnny and Doug Barbee watched over the 150,000 juvenile prawns from April to May, ensuring their development to the .3 gram juvenile size, ready for stocking in the ponds

Photo of Johnny Barbee testing water
Johnny Barbee says that water chemistry is key to success with prawns.

As the summer progresses, daily monitoring of oxygen becomes critical, as well managing the algae blooms. Algal blooms produce oxygen during the day through photosynthesis, but may outstrip the nighttime supply if they are overabundant. Johnny has learned to keep all this in balance, ensuring a healthy environment for his crop. In August, for example, he runs aerators more often to keep the water mixed, eliminating low oxygen zones near the pond bottom where the prawns live.

During harvest, the ponds are drained and the food-sized prawns follow the water outflow where they are essentially self-harvested and collected in a concrete harvest tank adjacent to the pond. They are netted live and quickly removed for sale and processing on the farm.

“Gene Wiseman, who markets the prawns, is very entrepreneurial. He is creative and has a bold vision for DJ&W based on his past successes in marketing and business,” Frinsko said. When the prawns are harvested, many are sold – both live and on ice -- directly to waiting fans. The remaining prawns are frozen for market and sold later during the fall. Last year’s production was sold out by Thanksgiving.

Wiseman has brought samples for several years to “Aqua Days” at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. There he found Asian clients who were familiar with the product and anxious for a chance to purchase them live. Their enthusiasm has been so great, that on the first harvest day last year, a group arrived at the farm to purchase prawns and take them home in tanks.

The market for prawns is somewhat different than that for saltwater shrimp, which are often smaller, says Wiseman, who is also on the board of directors for the National Freshwater Shrimp Growers Association. He describes the prawns as being more appropriate for the “white tablecloth market.” Several restaurant chefs have told Wiseman they are impressed with the prawns’ flavor, even after freezing.

“With Extension’s help, DW&J Shrimp’s attention to detail has paid off,” Frinsko said. “The partners have continued to innovate, being open minded and unafraid to ask questions which, in turn improves their operation. By adding the nursery system this year, they have set themselves up as a potential area provider of juvenile prawns for other interested producers.

“This is a classic example of the extension mission at work – bringing research-based knowledge to the public,” he said.

The partners plan to expand next year, adding six to eight more ponds in the former tobacco fields, as well as other attractions to draw tourists to the farm. Earlier in the summer, a busload of Baptist stopped in to tour the operation.

Wiseman and the Barbees hope this will be the year they turn a profit when the prawns are harvested. For information on the operation, visit the operation’s Web site: http://summitstudios.com/djw/index.htm .

Posted by Natalie at 08:36 AM

August 26, 2005

Battle for burley

Photo of Smith and Boyette with burley
David Smith, left, and Mike Boyette stand before a rack of burley tobacco. The two believe burley tobacco can be grown in Eastern North Carolina (Dave Caldwell photo)

As flue-cured tobacco growers absorbed repeated quota cuts in recent years and tobacco acreage plummeted, agricultural researchers, North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialists and agents and growers looked for alternatives to tobacco, crops that would be just as lucrative on relatively small acreages.

Well, it appears they may have found one. It’s tobacco, burley tobacco, that is.

Up until this year, burley was grown primarily in Western North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Unlike flue-cured tobacco, which is cured in heated barns, burley is air-cured, hung in unheated barns and allowed to cure over a period of weeks rather than days.

With the tobacco buyout and the disappearance of quotas and price supports, the price of both flue-cured and burley tobacco is expected to drop. Most growers appear to feel that if they’re going to continue to grow tobacco, they’re going to have to grow more.

Yet for many burley growers, getting bigger isn’t an option, says Dr. David Smith, Philip Morris Professor of Crop Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Burley is typically grown on very small acreages, often less than an acre. Many burley growers apparently have decided to take their buyout money and stop growing tobacco. This has left tobacco companies scrambling to find the burley they need. Smith says a typical cigarette blend is 35 percent each burley and flue-cured tobacco and the rest Oriental tobacco.

As it has become apparent that a market for burley may be available, farmers in different parts of the country are moving to try to fill that void. Smith says farmers in places like Mississippi, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania are growing burley this year.

And with a $264,800 grant from Golden LEAF, one of the agencies set up to fund economic development as tobacco production declined, Smith is part of an effort to help growers in Piedmont and Eastern North Carolina grab as much of the burley market as possible.

Burley and flue-cured tobacco are distinctly different crops, Smith points out, particularly when it comes to curing.

“Curing (burley) is a slow process,” says Smith. “You want it to cure slowly, to go from green to yellow to brown. If the temperature or humidity is too high, it rots. If it’s too dry, it doesn’t turn brown.

“The question is, can we cure it consistently (in the Piedmont and Eastern North Carolina) from year to year?”

A particularly dry fall could be problematic, Smith points out, as could a hurricane. Yet Smith adds that an estimated 250 North Carolina growers who haven’t produced burley before are doing so this year.

Smith and Dr. Loren Fisher, Crop Science Extension Specialist, are growing trial plots of burley at agricultural research stations at Reidsville, Rocky Mount, Whiteville and Kinston, looking at factors such as planting and harvest date, sucker control and fertilization. They’re also conducting on-farm tests in Rockingham and Wake counties.

Photo of burley harvesting
To harvest burley tobacco, a machine pulled behind a tractor cuts and notches the plants. Then plants are loaded onto a trailer with a rack on it that is pulled through the fields. (Photo courtesy of Mike Boyette)

Harvest date will be particularly important, Smith points out. A September harvest, when the temperature and humidity begin to change to allow optimum curing, appears best.

Disease may also be a problem. None of the burley varieties grown in the United States is resistant to Granville wilt, but it’s not a problem in burley growing areas. It may, however, be a problem in Piedmont and Eastern North Carolina. Smith says several Brazilian varieties have Granville wilt resistance but are susceptible to black shank.

Allen Broadwell, a research technician in Plant Pathology at N.C. State, is experimenting with fumigating the soil to manage disease, while Dr. David Shew, professor of Plant Pathology, is screening burley varieties for Granville wilt resistance. Blue mold could also be a problem – burley is more susceptible than flue-cured tobacco – and some of the Golden LEAF funding is going to enhance the blue mold forecasting system already in place in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State.

Growing burley, at least the way most growers now produce it, is much more labor intensive than growing flue-cured tobacco, and that’s where Dr. Mike Boyette, Philip Morris Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, comes into the picture.

Boyette is working on mechanizing burley harvesting and curing, which is now done by hand. Burley growers now cut the stalk of the plant by hand, then spear the stalk, with leaves still attached, on a 4-foot-long stake with a sharpened point. These stakes are then hung in barns or other structures, and the burley allowed to cure.

“If burley is going to come to Eastern North Carolina, it cannot be put on a stick,” says Boyette. “People aren’t going to work like that.”

Boyette is working to adapt technologies developed at the University of Kentucky, where engineers have made considerable progress toward mechanization. He envisions a system that makes use of a machine he calls a notcher/cutter to harvest burley and racks that allow curing in the field.

A notcher/cutter will cut a tobacco plant at the bottom of the stalk and slice an angled notch in the stalk near the bottom of the plant. Both cuts are made at roughly the same time as the machine moves through a field. The plants are then hung upside down from the angled notch on wire mesh that is stretched across what Boyette calls a curing rack.

The racks are made so that they can be stacked against each other in the field as they fill with burley stalks. The grower then covers the racks with plastic sheeting, and the tobacco cures in the field. Boyette is using a $172,000 grant from Philip Morris USA along with Golden LEAF funding to build notcher/cutters, curing racks and other equipment to move burley from place to place in a field. He’s experimenting with the system this fall.

The gold standard for mechanized burley harvesting is a machine at the University of Kentucky that engineers there call “Big Red.” Big Red is self propelled and cuts, notches and hangs burley stalks without the aid of human hands. Using Big Red, one person can harvest a field of burley, leaving the stalks hanging on racks ready to cure.

There’s only one Big Red, however, and it’s in Kentucky, and Boyette says there’s not time this year to build another one. This year, those growers outside Western North Carolina who are growing burley, will have to do the best they can.

This year will be a learning experience, both for North Carolina tobacco growers and for agricultural researchers.

Says Smith, “There’s a lot riding on this. If it works, we could have 50,000 acres of burley over a period of time.”

--Dave Caldwell

Posted by Natalie at 03:59 PM

August 24, 2005

Workshop explores organic grain and oilseed production

Photo of workshop participants
Workshop participants examine different varieties of soybeans (Photos by Daniel Kim)

Nearly 50 farmers, Extension specialists, seed producers and others with ties to agriculture gathered in the fields of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro last month to learn about organic farming.

The North Carolina Organic Grain Project, created by N.C. State University in 2004 with a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, hosted a workshop on July 21 to equip farmers with the skills and agronomic support they need to produce organic grain and oilseed crops.

Molly Hamilton, project coordinator and Extension assistant, designed the workshop to inspire farmers to explore and adopt organic crop rotations. According to Hamilton, demand for organic grains for livestock feed and food-grade milling is on the rise, but most North Carolina farmers lack adequate information on organic grain and oilseed production, marketing and certification.

“We want to help farmers meet this demand, but first the education and infrastructure must be in place to enable them to do so,” Hamilton said.

Sponsored by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the workshop featured tours of organic and transitional crops such as corn and hay, cover crops and alternative grain crops, and a soybean variety trial. After serving up box lunches and cold drinks, the research farm’s staff led demonstrations of mechanical weed equipment, describing the pros and cons of each device.

Beth McArthur, who just inherited a 50-acre farm in Laurinburg, came to the workshop to learn more about growing cover crops. Her wheat will be certified organic next year, but she’s struggling to find cover crops that work well.

“I’m not a farmer, so I have to depend on neighbor farmers to do most of the work for me,” McArthur says. “It’s difficult for me – without a background in farming – to give them direction, so I rely on the help of Cooperative Extension.”

For Roseboro dairy farmer Yogi Naida, the story is similar. Her goal is organic cheese production, but she finds it difficult to obtain reasonably-priced organic livestock feed, so she’s considering growing her own. “I just bought a 242-acre piece of land, and I’d like to use it for organic grain or seed production,” she said. “I came today to learn more about how to grow these crops.”

Workshop attendance was higher than Hamilton expected, and the crowd included farmers, landowners, Extension agents and specialists, organic grain buyers, N.C. State faculty and students, employees from the Caswell Research Station and folks from Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Air-conditioned bus rides between tours and coolers of ice-cold water provided welcome relief from the scorching July heat.

Charles Bass Jr., agriculture cost share specialist for the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, and also a 1981 graduate of the N.C. State Agricultural Institute, came to the workshop to gather information for tobacco farmers in his county who are considering growing different crops as a result of the buyout.

He believes organic farming is catching on in North Carolina. “I’m interested in taking information back to the farmers on alternative cover crops for winter time,” he said. “We want to make sure there is something green and growing on our land at all times.”

Photo of sunflowers
Sunflowers are grown at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems as a potential cover crop for organic farming.

After the outdoor segment of the workshop, the crowd moved inside for a talk on organic grain budgets by Dr. Gary Bullen of the N.C. State Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Bullen outlined a sample budget for organic grain farming and invited feedback from farmers on their experiences and budget concerns.

The day concluded with a networking session among farmers, extension specialists and organic grain buyers.

“I hope people took from this workshop ideas of how to improve the sustainability of their farms – or to provide information to farmers they work with,” Hamilton said. “I also hope that participants were inspired to consider organic production on their own farms.”

The North Carolina Organic Grain Project plans to offer similar workshops throughout the year, covering topics such as pest management, grain quality for food-grade and organic grain marketing. Tours of organic grain and oilseed farms are slated for early fall.

--Suzanne Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 02:53 PM

July 28, 2005

Fresh market tomato field day is Aug. 4

A Fresh Market Tomato Field Day, at which agricultural scientists from North Carolina State University will discuss the latest research involving fresh market tomatoes, is scheduled for Aug. 4 at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Fletcher.

The field day begins at 12:30 p.m. It will feature presentations by researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State on a variety of topics related to growing fresh market tomatoes.

Among topics to be discussed are disease control, pest management, methyl bromide alternatives, weed control and the replicated tomato variety yield trials. The field day will also feature presentations on other vegetable crops, including pumpkin, cabbage and bell pepper.

The field day, which is free and open to the public, will conclude with a meal at 6 p.m. The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station is on Old Fanning Bridge Road (accessible from Highway 280 or Highway 191) west of Fletcher in Henderson County. More information is available from Denny Thompson, station superintendent, at (828) 684-7197.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is among the event sponsors.

- Suzanne Stanard

Posted by deeshore at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Three waste technologies may be alternatives for swine industry

Dr. Mike Williams

Three additional alternative methods of treating the waste from swine farms have made what might be called the first cut toward being declared “environmentally superior” to the method now used by most North Carolina hog farms to treat waste.

Dr. Mike Williams, director of the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center at North Carolina State University, added three technologies to the two that were determined last year to have met what Williams called “environmental performance criteria” necessary to be considered environmentally superior. Williams made his selections in an annual report delivered to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office Monday, July 25.

Williams directs an effort to identify swine waste management technologies that are considered environmentally superior to the lagoon and spray field system now used on almost all North Carolina hog farms.

None of the five technologies singled out thus far has been declared environmentally superior. In order for that to happen, they must be judged economically and operationally feasible. Williams said that won’t happen until later this year, when he releases a final report on the five-year, $17.3 million effort.

The effort is funded by pork producers Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms under agreements the two companies reached with the North Carolina Attorney General in 2000. Since then, experts from NC State University and elsewhere have been evaluating alternative swine waste management technologies.

While the Smithfield agreement spells out environmental criteria the technologies must meet, it also stipulates the technologies must be economically feasible. Williams said the economic feasibility analysis is not complete, and until the economic work is finished, his determinations should be considered conditional.

The three technologies that Williams determined meet environmental standards all treat only the solid portion of the waste stream from a hog farm. So if any of the three is to find its way to North Carolina farms, it would have to be combined with a technology that treats the liquid part of the waste stream.

Two of the technologies that meet environmental standards treat solid waste by burning it, while the third is a composting system.

One of the two technologies that burn waste does so in a chamber called a gasifier. Gasification involves burning a substance in a low-oxygen environment, which converts complex organic compounds in the substance to gases. It is possible to collect gases such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen and make ethanol.

The second burning technology goes by the acronym BEST, for Biomass Energy Sustainable Technology, and includes two methods of separating the solid and liquid portions of the waste stream. Solids are then burned in a fluidized bed combustion system. In this system, the temperature is above 1,300 degrees.

Both combustion systems produce ash, which contains nutrients and has value as a fertilizer.

The composting system was developed by Super Soil Systems USA. Waste is mixed with bulking materials such as cotton gin residue and wood chips, while a machine called a Compost-A-Matic is then used to mix the material daily.

Another Super Soil Systems technology that separates solids from the waste stream, then treats the remaining liquid waste in a series of large metal tanks was given conditional approval last year. Thus far, this technology is the only one that treats the liquid waste stream to receive conditional approval.

In order to meet environmental standards, technologies must:
* eliminate the movement of animal waste to surface waters and groundwater through direct discharge, seepage or runoff;
* substantially eliminated atmospheric emissions of ammonia;
* substantially eliminate the emission of odor that is detectable beyond the boundaries of the farm;
* substantially eliminate the release of disease-transmitting vectors and airborne pathogens; and
* substantially eliminate nutrient and heavy metal contamination of soil and groundwater.
As did last year’s report, this year’s includes assessments of eight technologies. Williams said that while five of the 16 technologies now meet the environmental performance criteria, several others could with relatively minor changes. He added that it may also be possible to combine elements, or processes, from different technologies to produce systems that will meet the environmentally superior standard.

Smithfield Foods is providing $15 million to evaluate technologies, while the attorney general allocated $2.3 million from the Premium Standard Farms agreement, for a total of $17.3 million.

In 2002 the attorney general entered a third agreement with Frontline Farmers, an organization made up swine farmers. While Frontline Farmers is not providing funding, the organization’s membership agreed to work with the attorney general and NC State University to develop and implement environmentally superior technologies.

The technologies that have been evaluated were selected by Williams working with panels made up of representatives from government, the swine industry and environmental groups as well as economists and waste management experts. In many cases, technologies have been evaluated on hog farms at full scale.

- Dave Caldwell

Note: The report delivered to the Attorney General’s office is more that 1,000 pages. It will be available later this week on line at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/waste_mgt/smithfield_projects/phase2report05/phase2report.htm.

Posted by deeshore at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Beef quality workshop focuses on vaccines

Photo of workshop participants enjoying dinner
More than 75 cattlemen enjoyed their dinner at Sky King Ranch in Sanford, sponsored and catered by several livestock associations.

Cattlemen from Moore, Lee, Harnett, Robeson and Chatham counties participated last month in a Beef Quality Assurance program on “Injection Site Blemishes” at Tom Zone’s Sky King Ranch near Sanford. North Carolina Cooperative Extension partnered with county livestock associations and Fort Dodge Animal Health to conduct the workshop.

Food animals require regular vaccinations, but 11 percent of the carcasses marketed today have at least one injection site blemish. The beef industry loses about $7 - $10 for each fed heifer or steer marketed due to injection site lesions. These visible lesions are not just unsightly, but also pose significant tenderness problems associated with lesion-afflicted lean tissue.

During the workshop, 79 cattleman and Extension agents participated in viewing and touching beef that had been damaged by an injection that was done improperly. Multiple-use needles, dirty, bent, broken or dull needles may lead to injuries or infection at the site of injection.

The workshop was organized by Tyrone Fisher, area specialized livestock agent for Cumberland, Harnett and Lee counties, Sam Croce, Chatham County livestock agent, and Randy Wood, livestock agent for Moore and Montgomery counties. Fisher says that cattleman could see significant savings by following recommendations from the workshop.

Posted by Natalie at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

State soil testing lab improves efficiency

The Soil Testing Section of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services analyzed 314,000 samples for state residents in fiscal year 2005. This is the second largest volume in the lab's 60-year history and the third time that sample numbers have exceeded 300,000 in the last six years. What made last year particularly notable, however, was that samples were processed and reports generated in six weeks or less. In fact, throughout most of the busy season, turnaround time remained at four weeks or less. (NCDA&CS news release)

Continue reading 'State soil testing lab improves efficiency'

Posted by Natalie at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

Mushroom growers' meeting is Aug. 11

An organizational meeting of the North Carolina Growers Mushroom Association will be held Aug. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Guilford County Agriculture Center in Greensboro. The meeting will provide growers a chance to formalize an association so they can work together to market their mushrooms.

The meeting will include a soup, salad and sandwich bar. Participants must register by Aug. 5 by contacting Linda McCain, lmccain@ncat.edu or 336.334.7957, ext. 2107.

A flier with meeting details is available at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html. For more information, contact Theresa Nartea at tjnartea@ncat.edu, or 336.334.7956, ext. 2109.

Posted by Natalie at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

Operation Brighter Day nets 4,600 assistance applications

RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley has announced that more than 4,600 applications for individual assistance were filed as part of the Operation Brighter Day hurricane recovery program. The program began taking applications on April 22 and concluded on June 17.

Hurricane victims were encouraged to submit one application to cover all available individual assistance programs at Recovery Application Centers (RACs), which were located in North Carolina Cooperative Extension centers in each of the 50 disaster-declared counties covered by the Hurricane Recovery Act of 2005.

“We worked hard to reach storm victims and let them know that we were prepared to help with uninsured losses,” Easley said. “We will work to review applications as quickly as possible and get qualified applicants the funds they need to recover.”

A total of 4,627 applications were filed at RACs or by calling the Governor’s Hurricane Recovery Bilingual Hotline. The hotline closed June 30, and RACs are no longer taking applications.

Since April 22, a total of 2,221 requests were filed for housing damage, 1,372 for damage to private driveways and bridges, and 1,040 for agricultural loss.

Applications will be reviewed and claims verified during the next several weeks. The receipt of aid dollars for those who qualify should begin in mid- to late-August and probably not be complete for 18 months to two years.

For a county-by-county breakdown of the number and type of applications filed, visit www.OperationBrighterDay.org, look under "Press Releases" and select "Weekly Individual Assistance Report by Program" for June 24.

--Press release courtesy of the North Carolina Governor's Office

Posted by Natalie at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2005

Helping North Carolinians with the tobacco buyout

tobacco buyout workshop photo
Steve Watt, Ted Feitshans and Arnie Oltmans were among the faculty members who presented workshops on the tobacco buyout. (Photo by Dave Caldwell)

For North Carolinians with any connection to tobacco, the world changed Oct. 22, 2004, when President George W. Bush signed legislation creating the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, better known as the tobacco buyout.

The legislation eliminated a federal tobacco program that had been in existence since the 1930s. Beginning with the 2005 crop year, there would be no restrictions on tobacco production, and price supports and quotas would no longer exist. And tobacco growers and quota holders would be paid for tobacco quota grown or owned.

It may not have been immediately apparent last fall how much change the buyout would bring, but now, well into the 2005 crop year, it is apparent that the world of tobacco will never be the same.

Primarily through North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is working to help North Carolinians adapt to and prosper in the new world the buyout is bringing.

Beginning this year, approximately $3.9 billion will pour into North Carolina over a 10-year period, says Dr. Blake Brown, Hugh C. Kiger Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The money, raised through quarterly assessments on tobacco product manufacturers and importers, will come to tobacco growers and tobacco quota owners. Approximately 75,000 North Carolinians will receive payments, which will be made in 10 equal, annual installments. Nationwide, the buyout will pay tobacco growers and quota holders approximately $9.6 billion over 10 years.

“This is a lot of money coming into our state,” says Brown. Indeed, he believes the amount to be unprecedented.

Brown, a tobacco policy expert who jokes that the buyout has eliminated his job, was instrumental in organizing a series of informational events designed to help North Carolinians receiving buyout checks.

First, on March 11, Brown organized a workshop designed for Extension agents covering wise investing, tax implications, legal issues and charitable giving. The half-day workshop was televised and broadcast from the Department of Communication Services on the North Carolina State University campus and made available to agents at locations across the state.

Dr. Celvia Stovall, Extension specialist in Family and Consumer Sciences, covered avoiding con artists out to bilk buyout recipients of their money, while Dr. Arnie Oltmans, a tax expert in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, talked about tax implications for buyout recipients. Ted Feitshans, an attorney and Extension Specialist in Agricultural and Resource Economics, covered the legal implications of the buyout, and Dr. Mike Walden, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension economist, talked about investing. Steve Watt, Director of Gift Planning in the CALS Foundations Office, talked about charitable giving opportunities.

Brown, Oltmans, Feithsans and Watt then took to the road with a series of workshops designed for tax preparers and other financial consultants, the people who will advise buyout recipients. Workshops were held May 5 in Winston-Salem, May 6 in Fletcher at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center just outside Asheville, May 10 in Lumberton and May 11 in Wilson. With the exception Fletcher, the events drew standing room only crowds. A Web site with buyout information was also developed: http://www.tobaccobuyout.cals.ncsu.edu.

The workshops were an effort to reach an audience that was a manageable size. Providing information to all 75,000 buyout recipients was seen as an impossible task, Brown says, but it was possible to reach the people who are likely to advise recipients.

Yet in the end, Brown was able to reach all North Carolina buyout recipients. The information provided in the workshops was distilled into a pamphlet, and Brown engineering a partnership with the North Carolina offices of Secretary of State, Treasurer and Attorney General and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to send the pamphlet in early June to every buyout recipient.

Agricultural and Resource Economics faculty also conducted 11 regional tobacco grower meetings between December and February that addressed the buyout and provided growers with business tools to help them decide whether to keep growing tobacco and last November in Raleigh held a two-day training session on the buyout and related issues for extension agents with tobacco responsibilities.

As Oltmans said repeatedly in his tax presentations, virtually every recipient’s financial situation will be different and may require a different approach, which is why recipients should seek sound financial advise. Yet thanks to Extension, buyout recipients now are acquainted with the issues and know what questions to ask.

--Dave Caldwell

Posted by Natalie at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2005

Tobacco quota holders must act quickly to defer taxes

North Carolinians who own tobacco quota and are due to receive tobacco buyout payments may defer payment of taxes they'll owe on their buyout payments by exchanging the payments for property, according to a North Carolina Cooperative Extension tax expert.

But buyout recipients who wish to take advantage of this opportunity must act quickly, said Guido van der Hoeven, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C .State University.

The Internal Revenue Service allows tobacco quota holders who receive buyout payments to take advantage of what are called like-kind exchanges, said van der Hoeven. A quota holder may exchange the buyout payment he or she is due to receive for commercial or investment real property. Examples of eligible property include farmland, timber land, rental real estate or an interest in a Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, where the REIT issues a common tenancy deed for the investment.

Van der Hoeven explained that a quota holder who enters into a like-kind exchange will be able to defer the taxes they would otherwise have to pay on the buyout payments. Quota holders must pay capital gains taxes on the money they receive for their quota.

Beginning this year, the tobacco buyout will pay approximately $3.9 billion to roughly 75,000 North Carolina tobacco quota holders and growers. Buyout payments will be made in equal annual installments over a 10-year period. The money will come to tobacco growers and tobacco quota owners as the tobacco price support system that dates to the depression comes to an end.

Tobacco growers will receive $3 per pound of quota grown, while quota owners will receive $7 per pound of quota owned. Quota is sometimes described as a license to grow tobacco.

Only quota owners are eligible to enter into like-kind exchanges. Van der Hoeven said a recent IRS notice sets what is called the transfer date for flue-cured tobacco quota. The transfer date is the earlier of either June 30, 2005 or when the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is distributing buyout payments, accepts a contract to buy out the quota owned by a taxpayer. Similarly, all other tobacco quota holders have a transfer date of the earlier of Sept. 30, 2005 or when USDA accepts a contract to buy out quota from the taxpayer.

The transfer date is important, said van der Hoeven. He explained that the IRS spells out financial and logistical steps that must be taken within specified time frames if a buyout recipient is to enter into a like-kind exchange successfully. These steps must be taken within time frames that begin with the transfer date.

The funds received for the tobacco quota holding taxpayer must not be constructively received by the taxpayer. Funds from the buyout must go to a qualified intermediary and held for the purpose of the like-kind exchange. (Assignment of funds to the qualified intermediary can be made using the CCC-95 form. This form should be executed and filed with the Farm Service Administration as soon as possible to prevent actual or constructive receipt of the first buyout payment.)

Replacement property must be identified within 45 days of the transfer date. This information must be given to a qualified intermediary in writing. The exchange property (tobacco quota) is given up for the new identified property (commercial or investment real estate). Using June 30 as the transfer date for a flue-cured quota owner, the replacement property must be identified by Aug. 14, 2005.

The completion or closing of the property must occur within 180 days of the transfer date. Again, using June 30 as the transfer date, the taxpayer must, through a qualified intermediary, close on the replacement property by Dec. 28, 2005.

If these crucial steps are not followed, the like-kind exchange fails, and taxpayers must pay tax on their gains. Van der Hoeven said taxpayers, especially flue-cured quota holders, must act quickly if they want to defer the tax consequence through the use of a like-kind exchange.

Van der Hoeven stressed that like-kind exchanges are not do-it-yourself transactions. He strongly recommended that quota holders who wish to take advantage of a like-kind exchange contact a financial professional for help with the transaction.

Further guidance on like-king exchanges is expected in Internal Revenue Service Bulletin 2005-27, to be issued July 5.

- Dave Caldwell

Posted by deeshore at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

Extension publications update

New publications on forestry, soil science, apiculture and poultry science are available on the Web.

The following Woodland Owner Notes have been revised and printed:
--Financial Incentives for Forest Management, WON-4. To order copies of this free publication, contact robert_bardon@ncsu.edu. This publication is not available through Communication Services.

--Nutrition Management for Longleaf Pinestraw, WON-30. To order copies of this free publication, contact david_blevins@ncsu.edu. This publication is not available through Communication Services.

--Developing Wildlife-Friendly Pine Plantations, WON-38. To order copies of this free publication, contact chris_moorman@ncsu.edu. This publication is not available through Communication Services.

First…See a Forester, AG-619, has been revised and printed. To order copies of this free publication, contact robert_bardon@ncsu.edu. It is also online at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/pdf/ag/ag186.pdf. This publication is not available through Communication Services.

SoilFacts: Using Baffles to Improve Sediment Basins, AG-439-59, is available on the Web. Visit the Soil Science Department homepage at http://www.soil.ncus.edu and follow the publications links. This is a Web-only publication; it is not available through Communication Services.

To find the following bee publications on the Web, go to the apiculture program home page at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/entomology/apiculture, click on "Extension," then click on "Beekeeping Notes."
Honey Bee Dance Language, AG-646
Different Types of Honey Bees, AG-654
A Comparison of Russian and Italian Honey Bees, AG-655

The Department of Poultry Science has revised its Web site, and AG-651, Poultry Farm Biosecurity Field Manual by Abel Gernat, is now online at:
This publication is written in English and Spanish. You will find links to this and other poultry science publications at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/poulsci/

Posted by Natalie at 03:31 PM

June 20, 2005

Berry sweet: Extension program helps Madison couple diversify


Burley tobacco has been king of the cash crops in North Carolina's mountains. But, with help from Cooperative Extension and its partners, one Madison County couple is having success with blueberries and raspberries as an alternative crop. Read more in the Asheville Citizen-Times article.

Posted by deeshore at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

N.C.'s first goat and sheep producers roundup set for Aug. 23 and 24

North Carolina's first educational roundup for sheep and goat producers will take place Aug. 23 and 24 in Raleigh.

The event, to be held at the Wake Commons Conference Center and historic Oakwood Farm, is designed to give goat and sheep producers in the Southeast an opportunity to learn more about issues related to the dairy and meat goat and sheep industry.

Aug. 15 is the pre-registration deadline. The pre-registration cost is $75 for the first family member and $50 for each additional member. This fee includes two lunches and one dinner meal along with a copy of the proceedings.

Registration is limited to the first 275 participants. For event information and to register online, go to www.ces.ncsu.edu/roundupI

Or register by sending a check payable to:

North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Attn.: Goat & Sheep Roundup I
103 South Bickett Blvd.
Louisburg, NC 27549

For information about trade show display spaces, contact Sam Groce at (919) 542-8202 or email, sam_groce@ncsu.edu

This event is sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation.

Posted by deeshore at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

Tobacco buyout site wins national award

North Carolina State University's tobacco buyout web site won a first place for web page development from the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association (NAADA). The site is designed to help quota holders, growers, financial and legal advisors, and financial institutions understand the $9.6 billion tobacco buyout and its impact.

The site was developed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Advancement unit, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Department of Communication Services.

Among the contributors to the site are Steve Watt, the College's director of gift planning; Dana Babbs, graphic designer; and Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics faculty members Blake Brown, Mike Walden, Arnie Oltmans, Ted Feitshans and Guido van der Hoeven.

Posted by deeshore at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

BTEC will train thousands

Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center: Architect's Rendering

Gov. Mike Easley told a crowd of about 125 people gathered on Centennial Campus for the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) recent groundbreaking that “BTEC is something that when I bring it up in the presence of CEOs…you can read their body language. They understand that we get it.” Learn more in this NC State University Bulletin article.

Posted by deeshore at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Organic grain, oilseed workshop is July 21

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, North Carolina, will hold an organic grain and oilseed workshop 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 21.

Demand for organically produced meat, dairy products and eggs is driving the market for organic grains. In addition, North Carolina mills need more than 100,000 bushels of organic wheat and corn. This workshop will allow producers to:

· See organic grain production plots and plots in transition to organic production;
· Inspect and compare soybean varieties for food-grade markets and for livestock feed;
· See summer cover crops and alternative grain crops;
· Watch a demonstration of mechanical weed control; and
· Visit with crop specialists and organic grain buyers.

The workshop is free of charge, but pre-registration is required by 5 p.m. July 15. To register, contact Molly Hamilton, extension assistant, 828.628.2675 or molly_hamilton@ncsu.edu.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems represents a new model that combines research, extension and education, as well as broad stakeholder involvement. The center is a partnership among North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, non-governmental organizations and other state and federal agencies.

--N. Hampton

Posted by deeshore at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)