News Roundup: April 2 – 8

By on April 8, 2016

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

  • “Working for change in the meat industry,” The Technician: Sarah Blacklin, program director of NC Choices, was recently recognized in a national search for 100 Fresh Perspectives shaping the rural United States and agriculture. Blacklin was recognized for her role in creating Working Women in the Meat Business, a program involving trainings and conferences intended to help women overcome barriers in their careers with the meat business.  …
  • “Tar Heel: Farmer Robert Elliott will teach his craft to fellow veterans,” The News & Observer: Robert Elliott sits on the porch of the stately colonial home where he grew up, a cacophony rising from roosters occasionally interrupting him as he tells the story of his evolution from Marine to free-range farmer to veterans’ advocate. Chickens, turkeys and ducks mill about the yard, now and then making it up to the porch. Out back, pigs frolic and more chickens roost in the wood shack where Elliott says his grandfather used to make moonshine. Nearby, neatly stacked logs grow shiitake mushrooms. Elliott, 36, started Cypress Hall Farms on part of his family’s land three years ago, creating a niche business selling free-range meat to local customers. But along the way, he became a contact person for other veterans interested in farming. He has worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, and recently created a statewide network that helps veterans who are farmers connect and support one another. Soon, he plans to convert Cypress Hall Farms into the Veteran Farm of North Carolina, helping veterans transition to careers in agriculture. …
  • “Johnston County sweet potato farmer files lawsuit over pet food idea,” Triangle Business Journal: What started as a simple idea aimed at improving the quality of pet food made in China with North Carolina sweet potatoes has become a lawsuit filed March 23 by a farmer against a Virginia agriculture giant. Johnston County farmer Frank Lee filed suit against Universal Corporation, alleging that the tobacco company stole his ideas and turned them into a company. He’s asking for a jury trial, as well as damages from future revenues of a company he alleges was founded on his know-how. It’s a complicated story that, according to a complaint filed by Shanahan Law Group last month, starts with a 2011 trip to China. Chinese pet food manufacturers were having difficulties with locally sourced ingredients, Lee observed. He believed the “poor quality” of Chinese sweet potatoes contributed to the contamination of pet food across the globe and became convinced that N.C. sweet potatoes, governed by USDA standards, could be substituted for Chinese products – improving quality and reducing field waste in the state, where “a significant portion of the North Carolina sweet potato crop every year was not used.” …
  • “Farmers watch, prepare for freeze,” Hendersonville Times-News: After hearing the freeze warning issued for Sunday morning, farmer Danny McConnell worked from early Saturday into that afternoon to protect his strawberry crop. McConnell also has cherry, plum, pear and apple trees, though there’s not much to do but hope for the best for the trees. On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for overnight Sunday, from 2-10 a.m., and warned of damage to budding trees. With a forecast low of 30 degrees, the risk of frost damage to delicate blossoms was not as strong as it could be, but there was still concern among farmers. “The critical temperature is 28 degrees,” said Marvin Owings Jr., Henderson County N.C. Cooperative Extension director. “With a breeze, there’s less worry about frost.” …
  • “Food center in Ayden could create hundreds of jobs,” WNCT: Big economic development is in the works for a small town in Pitt County. Ayden is pursuing a grant to construct the N.C. Food Commercialization Center, which would spark economic growth throughout the East. The town is applying for a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create what’s being called a regional food hub. The center is an innovative idea to connect entrepreneurs and local farmers to the marketplace. Locally grown farm food would be produced, marketed, and distributed out of the center in Ayden. …
  • “Peach Growers Worry About Upcoming Freeze as Harvest Approaches,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) This week’s forecast has some North Carolina peach growers worried about their harvest. Freezing weather could threaten the peach crop in orchards across the state just weeks before picking time. Time Warner Cable News reporter Kathryn DiGisi stopped by Kalawi Orchard in the Sandhills and has more. …
  • “A different kind of TV dinner: Farm-to-fork food for your freezer,” Charlotte Observer: A Salisbury steak, slathered in gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and maybe some apple cobbler, each in its own little compartment of the plastic tray. That’s probably what you think of when you think TV dinner. What Zone 7 Foods offers is a little bit different. There’s still the plastic, oven- and microwave-safe tray with little compartments, but it’s filled with local, farm-to-fork and organic foods. …
  • “Dan Gridley’s beer farm” Southeast Farm Press: Dan Gridley calls his 90 acre operation near Pittsboro, N.C. a “beer farm” because he grows the ingredients that are used to make the tasty brew. “We are a diversified farm. We just grow beer,” Gridley said at the South Atlantic Hops Conference in Richmond March 5. “We grow barley; we grow wheat; we grow rye; we grow sorghum, and six different varieties of hops. Our goal is to be a farm brewery and we are getting closer to that.” Gridley and his wife started Farm Boy Farms in 2011 to provide local ingredients to the growing craft beer and home brew industry in North Carolina. Gridley is a native New Yorker, spent time in Boston and Honolulu and has lived in Raleigh for 10 years. He inherited his 90-acre farm by marrying his wife. His goal was to use the 90 acres to produce high quality locally sourced ingredients for North Carolina’s microbreweries. In 2009, Gridley reached out to North Carolina State University to learn what grain and hop varieties can be grown in North Carolina for beer production. “We grew as the market grew. When we started in 2009, there were 32 microbreweries. Now there are more than 160 and that number continues to grow.” …
  • “The Very People Worried About Food Cost and Availability Behind Blocking GMO Labeling Bill,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The Senate has stalled with the GMO labeling situation, and Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina is mystified as to why the legislation can’t move forward: “We tried to get support from some of the democratic members, and failed to get to the 60 votes, so we’ve put it back on the calendar, and continue to work on it. It’s amazing to me, how the very people who come to the senate floor, talk about the rising cost of food, and talk about some of the most challenged among us, and then they turn around and block a policy that will avoid a close to $1,200 a year increase in food costs, and for no real gain. And the other fallacy in all this is with all the exceptions and exemptions, it’s not going to better inform the consumer. So, we get a more complicated environment for giving people the information they rightly deserve, and ti costs more. We’ll continue to fight for it. We’d like to do it sooner, because the industry now is going to have to incur costs to be ready to co ply with the Vermont law, and those are just going to be wasted dollars at the expense of food prices, and ultimately the taxpayer and working families.” Speaking of food companies they have actually stepped ahead of the senate, and many of the biggest players in the industry are going ahead and labeling their products now. “Well, that’s right. What they’re trying to do is come up with a consistent way of trying to inform the consumer about the content of their products, and you do that, again with a consistent approach.” …

 

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