North Carolina has long been known as the Tobacco State. After all, we lead the nation in the production of flue-cured tobacco, producing nearly 77 percent of all flue-cured tobacco grown in the U.S. But the days when a farmer could make a comfortable living growing just a few acres of tobacco are gone. Changes in both the industry and government policy have forced growers to invest heavily to expand their operation, transition to other commodities, or get out of farming altogether.
While a lot of tobacco farmers have chosen the latter option, over the past 15 to 20 years many have transitioned into other commodities, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, Christmas trees, greenhouse/nursery stock, specialty foods, grass-fed beef and free-range poultry. A special program airing soon on UNC-TV will highlight some of these farmers and how they are selling directly to consumers through farmers markets, pick-your-own operations, roadside stands and community supported agriculture. It also will talk about farms that are conducting farm tours and other forms of agritourism.
“North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” is the first of a two-part series reported by Rick Sullivan and funded by a grant from the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. It will feature farmers from each region of the state. You’ll hear their stories and see their operations. The program will stress the availability of local farm products and the importance of “buying local,” supporting neighbors, the local economy and farmland preservation. The first half-hour program airs Thursday, April 29, at 9:30 p.m. The second program, which will focus on fall crops, will air later this year.
I hope you’ll watch these programs or set your DVR. They’ll be a great way to learn about North Carolina agriculture. Our hope is that these programs will encourage you to connect with farmers in your area. By supporting local farmers, you are helping your community and our state’s leading industry.
Another way to connect with local farmers is to visit our website, www.ncfarmfresh.com. There, you can find farmers markets, roadside stands and farmers selling directly to the public. It’s searchable by area or commodity, so please check it out.
On a final note, I’d like to thank the staff of our Marketing Division for helping with research for “North Carolina Farm Fresh” and identifying the farms profiled in the series. And I’d like to thank UNC-TV for raising awareness of such an important part of North Carolina’s heritage and economy.