News Roundup: Sept. 13-19

by | Sep 19, 2014

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

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