News Roundup: Feb. 28 – March 6

By on March 6, 2015

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agriculture

Each 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.

  • “Sorghum: ‘Hidden gem’ for North Carolina grain producers,” Southeast Farm Press: Ron Heiniger calls grain sorghum a “hidden gem” this year as North Carolina grain producers work to step up production to meet the demands of the state’s livestock industry. Speaking at a meeting of grain producers sponsored by Murphy-Brown Feb. 4 in Raleigh, Heiniger, professor of crop science and cropping systems specialist at North Carolina State University, said achieving 100 bushel per acre yields in grain sorghum in North Carolina is “doable and possible and something we need to consider as we consider our marketing strategy for 2015.” Murphy-Brown hosted the meeting because it wants to buy more local grain to feed its hogs rather than importing grain from the Midwest. Terry Coffey, Murphy-Brown’s chief science and technology officer, told the North Carolina grain producers that the North Carolina livestock sector has a huge appetite for grain. …
  • “Harsh winter weather leaves farms with growing pains,” Durham Herald-Sun: As Durham recovers from a round of winter storms, area farmers are looking forward to a break from having to prepare greenhouses and crops for blasts of ice and snow. Growers like George O’Neal with Lil’ Farm knew what was coming and was ready for it. At Saturday’s Durham Farmers’ Market, O’Neal said he and some helpers spent Wednesday night clearing greenhouses in anticipation of the storm that dumped about half a foot of snow on the area. …
  • “NC entrepreneurs look to reinvent farming with the CropBox,” News & Observer: For more than 30 years, Williamson Greenhouses has been a pioneer in using state-of-the-art greenhouse technology to revolutionize how tobacco is grown in the Southeastern U.S. The company’s founder, Burl Williamson, developed a hydroponic growing system that allowed farmers to start their tobacco plants in greenhouses before transplanting them to the field, an approach that greatly increased crop yields and is now standard in the industry. But as the tobacco industry shrunk in recent years, Tripp Williamson, 31, who is Burl’s son and now runs the company, realized that for Williamson Greenhouses to thrive for another 30 years, it would need to use its expertise to expand into new markets. Enter the CropBox. A shipping container equipped with a hydroponic growing system and software monitoring system, the CropBox is designed to give farmers and nonfarmers the ability to grow crops all year. All they need is enough room to place a shipping container on their property. …
  • “Local growers awarded entrepreneurial grants,” Mount Airy News: Two Surry County farmers and one local growers’ association have been named winners in a grant program aimed at supporting family farms. Harvey “Darren” Slate of Mount Airy and Chad Bullington of Pinnacle were among 20 individual growers earning grants of between $5,000 and $15,000 from NC AgVentures. The competitive grants — administered by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, with funding provided through the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission — are awarded to innovative projects aimed at diversifying, expanding or implementing new entrepreneurial plans for farm operations. Farmers in 10 counties — Martin, Wilson, Pitt, Edgecombe, Nash, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Rockingham and Yadkin — were eligible. …
  • “Farming 2.0: How Forsyth Tech is Reinventing NC’s Agriculture Training,” Camel City Dispatch: It would’ve been easy to mistake Forsyth Tech’s Stokes County Center for the local feed and seed store Saturday morning. Instead of students and textbooks, there were Carhartts, overalls, flannel shirts, and ball caps. Men wore their working boots. Calloused hands told stories of cold winters and good harvests; phrases like “squeeze chutes” and “crank shafts” peppered those conversations. And, yes, class was still in session. But rather than the bright-eyed teenager or malcontent twenty-something, farmers were doing the learning. One gentleman in a red shirt raised his hand and advised peers to NEVER run away from a bull. Show-and-tell included cattle nose tongs and demonstrations on how to properly wear earplugs. There was even a live tractor rollover alongside a hay dummy getting chopped to bits. This was all part of Forsyth Tech’s first ever Farm Health and Safety Institute. The institute, designed to bring our State’s front-line agricultural experts together for a day of workshop-based experience sharing, was an opportunity for the college to raise awareness of its growing agriculture programs. It was dubbed a ‘kickoff-event’ to help get farmers in the door. …
  • “Avery farmers awarded for innovation,” Avery Journal: WNC Agricultural Options presented 29 farm businesses from western North Carolina a total of $168,000 at an event at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River on Thursday, Feb. 12. Designed to fund innovative ideas and keep farmers in business, the aim of these grants is to enable farmers to explore new markets, implement unique ideas and generate more income, all while offsetting the risks of trying new ventures. …
  • “North Carolina ag, military seek to forge partnerships,” Southeast Farm Press: Both the military and agriculture have a huge impact on the economy of North Carolina and leaders from both sectors are seeking ways the two can work together. This year’s Ag Development Forum held Feb. 5 during the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh focused on partnerships between agriculture and military and included presentations by military food buyers who offered advice on how farmers can sell what they produce to the state’s seven military installations. In North Carolina, the Marines are promoting the purchase of local food as part of an effort to manage potential encroachment near Marine Corps training areas, according to George Miller, Food and Fuel for the Forces program manager. …
  • “Surveys will help develop county farmland plan,” Shelby Star: Representatives from several agencies in Cleveland County are partnering to send out a survey Thursday to landowners whose land is in forestry or agricultural use. Results from the survey will provide a better understanding of the current state of Cleveland County agriculture. The results will be documented and analyzed in a countywide Farmland Protection Plan. “The survey is being distributed to more than 1,200 Cleveland County landowners who already have their land in farm use,” County Extension Director Greg Traywick said in an email. “Their feedback will be instrumental in helping local leaders make sound decisions to protect and preserve our most productive and valuable farmland for years to come.” …
  • “Farmers attend food hub interest meeting,” Jacksonville Daily News: In the next three to five years, Onslow County could be home to a food hub that would help local farmers aggregate their produce. About 20 farmers from surrounding counties including Carteret, Duplin and Lenoir attended an interest meeting on Tuesday to help determine the feasibility of creating a food hub in Onslow County. According to Emily Edmonds, a graduate analyst at the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the proposed food hub would function as an aggregation and distribution point for local farmers to sell their produce to wholesale markets such as grocery stores and restaurants. …
  • “Turning tobacco to truffles: A tantalizing twist in agritourism,” Mountain Xpress: Fifty years ago, the king of all crops in North Carolina was tobacco. Restaurants all had smoking sections or were entirely smoke-filled, and the standard fare was a working man’s meal. How far we have come: Today’s diner has nothing to distract a sensitive nose from savory aromas wafting off the plate, except, perhaps, for a faint whiff of hops exuding from the cellar. And creeping into menus, suggesting the glamor of New York or Paris, is the truffle — a mysterious ingredient of gastronomic legend, revered by French and Italians, Greeks and Romans as the most prized of any element in the kitchen. Musky, earthy, floral, pungent, fruity, feral, elusive, captivating — these are but a few ways to describe Tuber melanosporum. A sack of spores — the fruit of a fungus — the truffle makes its home underground in symbiosis with the roots of a host tree, generally oak or hazelnut. As a survival tactic that entices predators to aid in its quest for sexual reproduction, it emits a powerful odor when mature, and this is the aroma that causes chefs to swoon the world around. In the health-conscious, field-to-fork-driven climate that is home to an ever-expanding cornucopia of chefs, Asheville is yet again on the leading edge. The third weekend of February, agronomists and gastronomists alike convened to celebrate their raison d’ être while brainstorming savvy ways of growing the longtime European specialty in our Appalachian and otherwise-American soils. …
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