News Roundup: July 3-10

By on July 10, 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.

  • “Farm use of drones to take off as feds loosen restrictions,” Winston-Salem Journal: Mike Geske wants a drone. Watching a flying demonstration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Missouri farmer envisions using an unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor the irrigation pipes on his farm — a job he now pays three men to do. “The savings on labor and fuel would just be phenomenal,” Geske says, watching as a small white drone hovers over a nearby corn field and transmits detailed pictures of the growing stalks to an iPad. …
  • “Century Farms celebrate North Carolina’s agricultural heritage,” Carolina Country: Pride in their farms and in the state’s farm history has led nearly 2,000 families to earn the designation of North Carolina Century Farm for farms owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years. “Agriculture is North Carolina’s leading industry, with an economic impact of $78 billion,” says Brian Long of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. “And family farms are the backbone of North Carolina agriculture. Of the more than 50,000 farms in the state, about 90 percent are family-owned. We owe a lot to the family farm.” Brian Long tells us that the Century Farm designation began in 1970 at the North Carolina State Fair. To highlight the fair’s theme, “Salute to Agriculture,” fair officials sought families who have owned or operated a farm in North Carolina for 100 years or more. Every few years at the state fair, the NCDA&CS holds a reunion for all Century Farm families. The next reunion is planned for 2016. …
  • “Networking, social media matter for small farms,” Triad Business Journal: After 20 years in the goat cheese business, Steve Tate has witnessed plenty of change as his Climax, N.C.-based dairy has grown in step with the local food movement. These days, Tate produces 100,000 pounds of cheese a year, 10 times the amount he produced when Goat Lady Dairy first opened. A piston stuffer fills circular cups with curd, mechanizing a process that used to be done by hand. Customers who once sampled the cheese at farmers markets can now ogle creamy rounds of Sandy Creek cheese on Goat Lady’s Instagram account. I talked to Tate for Friday’s cover story on the farm-to-table movement. His perspective comes from 20 years in the business. To get local food into restaurants, Tate recommends networking. And more networking. …
  • “NC pork industry: Don’t kill state’s renewable energy mandate,” News & Observer: North Carolina’s pork producers are urging state lawmakers not to tinker with a 2007 renewable energy law that requires electric utilities to tap hog manure as a fuel source to generate electricity. Pork industry officials say they are getting close to turning swine waste into an economically viable fuel and repeated attempts to undo the law will scare off investors from financing these projects. “We don’t want to see anything about the law get changed,” said Angie Maier, director of policy development at the N.C. Pork Council. “It makes the law look unstable.” …
  • “NCSU researchers monitor honeybee health,” WRAL: How important are bees to the food supply? Deniz Chen, a researcher at North Carolina State University, says they are crucial. “There’s a whole host of insects which pollinate,” Chen said. “Bees, specifically, have evolved.” When it comes to efficient pollination, nothing beats the honeybee. A single hive can hold up to 100,000 bees. “It’s a massive pollination machine,” Chen said. …
  • “Craft distilleries go beyond moonshine in NC,” Charlotte Observer: In May, Chris Mendler, Matt Grossman and John Benefiel delivered the first batch of their Raleigh Rum Co. rum to the state warehouse for sale. That was 600 bottles of the white rum with a pirate skull label. Mendler thought they’d probably need to make more in a month or so. It sold out in 2 1/2 weeks. The second batch lasted five days. “We’re already having trouble meeting the demand,” Mendler said. “We’ve ordered another still so we can double our production.” After the boom in craft breweries, it looks like North Carolinans are more than ready for craft distilling. The legal kind, that is. …
  • “Innovations in Food Waste Reduction,” Southern Farm Network: A report from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health finds most Americans think food waste is a problem, and 75% think they waste less food than the national average, but the real numbers suggest otherwise. In our summer series on food waste, we’ll look at the problem from the soil to the plate. Nick Augostini, Assistant Marketing Director of Horticulture, Field Crops and Seafood with North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Division, says reducing waste at the farm level is becoming more of a focus: “It’s really starting to take hold the last 5-8 years.” Johns Hopkins’ Roni Neff says the report estimates waste runs in the $160-billion dollar-a-year range overall…
  • “Late Freeze Affects Amount of Available Peaches,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) Get your local peaches while you can, they’re running out fast! A late freeze this year meant a smaller harvest for farmers in Moore County. Ken Chappell owns his own farm and runs a peach stand. He says he’s harvested only a third of his normal million-plus peach crop. The freeze came at particularly crucial time in the growing process, right when the buds are starting to bloom. Chappell tried to save what he could. “I have two wind machines, that stir up the air and try and keep the cold air from sinking and there’s more peaches under the wind machines, so they helped a lot,” said Chappell. Just down the road, another farmer told us they only hauled in about 60% of their normal harvest.
  • “Polk County athletes start a trout business,” Hendersonville Times-News: Sitting on the bank of the Green River with fishing rods in hand, Tyler Harris and Austin Wilson decided they were going to use the hobby they love to earn a little extra cash. The two Polk County High students began to map out what they hoped would be a successful trout business. The two freshmen — now rising sophomores — began to research the science of raising trout to sell. …
  • “Research station looks to purchase corn from local farmers,” Salisbury Post: The Piedmont Research Station may partially fill a revenue hole in some local farmers’ budgets, created by a drought that’s lowered projections for corn yields across Rowan County. During a drought-focused meeting on Wednesday, the research station announced it would purchase up to 800 tons of corn from local farmers as a result of sharply lower rainfall totals in 2015. The announcement came at the end of a meeting where state officials offered advice to a crowd of farmers about saving drought-stressed corn. …
  • “WNC’s wine and cheese industries come of age,” Mountain Xpress: Tucked away in the valleys or sprawled across the hillsides, mom-and-pop entrepreneurs raise cattle or goats, grow grapes, make wine and craft artisan cheese following traditions that are centuries-old but have largely taken root in Western North Carolina in just the past decade. They’re a new crop of entrepreneurs pursuing second careers, seeking meaningful post-retirement work or simply fine-tuning what they love to do most. And the crop is growing: The number of WNC Wine Trail participants has doubled since the tours started five years ago. And the WNC Cheese Trail, launched in 2012 by a handful of area cheesemakers, now features 12 member creameries, most of which offer tours and activities for visitors. Xpress talked to local wine and cheese leaders to learn more. …
  • “Does the farmers market need more technology?” Medium.com: Compared to a modern-day grocery store, walking through a local farmers market can feel like an experience from a different era. Produce arranged in makeshift booths, hand-drawn signs, cash. Unlike so many things today, the farmers market appears to operate without the aid of technology. Why is that? Is technology simply not necessary? Or, are there ways in which technology could improve the experience at a farmers market? Motivated by these questions and our own curiosity, a few of us at Viget set out to investigate the farmers market experience from both a customer and a vendor perspective. Initially, we discussed many of our own personal frustrations. We wanted to shop at farmers markets more often but it felt inconvenient. In fact, buying produce in general felt shrouded in mystery. Were we getting a fair price? Where did that tomato come from and how was it grown? Would it even taste good? …
  • “Farmer Dave Delivers Fresh Food To Duke Sanford Every Tuesday,” Duke Today: Tall shade trees line the rocky dirt road that leads to the entrance of Dig It Farm in Bahama, NC. On a recent late morning, even from a distance, the sound of a tractor was deafening. A farmer wearing a wide straw hat was mowing the tall weeds interrupting the growth of his garden. He looked back and gave a warm grin and from that moment it was apparent: “Farmer Dave” is no ordinary farmer. “Farmer Dave” is David Barrett. He delivers fresh fruit and vegetables each week for much of the year to Sanford School faculty and staff who have signed up for his community supported agriculture venture (CSA). Barrett is a young man, and though he was a city kid, making this new farm profitable has become his passion. “Growing up I never thought I would be a farmer. I always wanted to play baseball but as you can see that didn’t quite work out,” he said, laughing. …
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