News Roundup: April 23-29

By on April 29, 2016

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.

  • “Area farmers report a bumper crop,” Burlington Times-News: A mild winter has made strawberries ripe for the picking. Local strawberry farms are reporting a bumper crop this year, with most opening last week, a good and early start for strawberry season which ends by June. Larry McCauley, owner of Homewood Farms in Burlington, said that his two-acre field was full of strawberry pickers by April 17. So full, in fact, that the farm couldn’t reopen until last Wednesday, because all the red ripe juicy strawberries had been picked, and other ones need time to ripen. McCauley owns one of two strawberry picking farms in Alamance County. The other is Iseley Farms and there is also another in Efland in Orange County. …
  • “This Could Be a Year When Crops Are Planted on Time,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The wheat crop in the North Carolina Blacklands held promise in February, but has been in a steady decline since the weather started warming up. Rod Gurganus, Director of Beaufort County Extension, says what once held promise is now riddled with disease: “Our wheat crop, as late is was planted last year, and as much bad weather that it had coming at it, it actually looked pretty good there going into mid-February and I was really encouraged by what we were going to have, but it was just going to be less of it. But, since then, beginning in March, the wheat started looking funny in spots, and we took some samples, and we did a lot of investigative work, and the results of that is pythium and rhizoctonia root rots and stem rots. These are all due to the wet weather that we had, water standing on the fields all winter long, and we’re now seeing the results of that injury.” …
  • “From beer to beef : Farmers make use of spent brewery grain,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Craft beer drinkers may not realize it while sipping their ales and lagers, but virtually all grain used in making their brews gets an afterlife – much of it as feed for beef and dairy cows. Some finds its way into baked goods. Or it can be used in compost, fertilizer, and there’s been experimenting on use an energy source. One local brewery donates its grain to a farm, then buys back the beef and serves it as hamburgers. The grain is alcohol-free when collected for farms. A lot of used grain is sold to farms, but some breweries give it away. The nonprofit WNC Brewers Grain Alliance formed to buy used grain and get it to farmers. The group is currently working with West Asheville’s New Belgium brewery, which is slowly building production at its site along the French Broad River. …
  • “After The Battle, The Harvest: Programs Help Vets Move Into Farming,” NPR: Tor Peery grew up in a farming community in upstate New York, baling hay in the summers. He never thought he’d want to go back to that life. Three deployments with the U.S. Marine Corps — including a tough tour in Helmand, Afghanistan — changed his mind. “So many years I’ve been in the world of destruction,” he says. “Being infantry and in the Marine Corps, I’ve destroyed so many things. I just want to create now.” Now Peery is learning the craft and business of farming at the Arcadia Center For Sustainable Food And Agriculture. He’s a “reservist,” which means he shows up one weekend a month, plus two weeks during the growing season. Arcadia also has one full-time, year-long fellowship. This spring, Arcadia volunteers, along with vets from the group The Mission Continues, built a 60-foot hoop-house in one day, barn-raising style. …
  • “Long dry stretches and wind creating challenging conditions for area farmers,” WNCT: (Video) “This spring, it seems like the weather has been from one extreme to the other,” said Mike Skinner, operator and manager of Strawberries on 903 in Winterville. “We’ve had lots of rain then an 8 or 9-day dry spell with no rain. We were fortunate to get some rain this past weekend.” It’s been a tough spring for farmers across the East. A wet winter delayed them from getting their fields ready in the first place. And now there’s not enough rain to go around. “The seed or the plants you put in the ground that’s so dependent on water to get them off to a good start and get a good root system,” said Skinner. “And you don’t want a new seedling or a new transplant to struggle early on.” Unusually windy conditions this spring have battered young crops and wicked away the moisture left behind from what little rain has fallen. Fortunately for Skinner, all of his crops are irrigated. But he explained that many farmers don’t have that option, “Even irrigating a fruit and vegetable crop is an expensive proposition. It takes a lot more management also when you start irrigating. So we’re prepared but some farmers are not quite as prepared.” …
  • “Vivian Howard of ‘A Chef’s Life’ takes home a James Beard broadcast award,” News & Observer: After being shut out the previous two years, Kinston chef Vivian Howard finally took home a James Beard medal Tuesday night. Howard, star of “A Chef’s Life” on PBS, won Outstanding Television Personality in the annual James Beard Foundation awards. She beat out Pati Jinich of “Pati’s Mexican Table” on PBS and Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel. “I’m thrilled and validated by the fact that the James Beard Foundation has recognized our show in this major way,” Howard said Tuesday night at the awards’ ceremony in New York City. Howard’s show celebrates Eastern North Carolina food traditions. The show also shares the struggles of Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, running a fine dining restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, and a casual eatery, Boiler Room Oyster Bar, in a rural town, as well as raising a family. …
  • “N.C. State wants to open $160 million plant science complex by 2020,” Southeast Farm Press: If all goes as planned, a new 200,000 square foot plant sciences research complex will be up and running on the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus by 2020. The North Carolina plant sciences initiative received a big boost on March 15 when North Carolina voters approved a $2 billion bond package that includes $85 million for the building. Funding for the rest of the $160.2 million complex is coming from a fund raising campaign. Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State, says $99 million has already been raised, which includes the $85 million bond package and $14 million raised by the university. Linton credits the support of the North Carolina Farm Bureau and many of the state’s commodity groups for contributing to the fund raising effort. The university is now reaching out to private donors and agribusiness to raise the rest of the money. “For the rest of the $61.2 million, it is our hope that we can raise those dollars within the next year or two at the most. Once we raise the funds that we need, the building project in total will probably take four to five years to complete,” Linton said. “In a perfect world, if everything were to line up, you’re looking at a 2020 opening. If things don’t line up perfectly, you’re probably looking at an opening in the 2020 to 2022 time frame,” Linton explained. …
  • “CoastLine: Hog Farming in NC – Farm Families and Environmental Justice,” WHQR: (Audio) North Carolina is the second largest pork producer in the United States. Hog farming in the state is largely concentrated in the southeastern region – which includes Duplin, Wayne, and Pender counties and part of Sampson County. According to the 2012 U.S. Agriculture Census, North Carolina sold nearly $3 billion in pork products that year; of that, Duplin County was responsible for north of $600 million and Sampson County came in second in pork sales with more than $500 million. Looking beyond sales to the industry as a whole, the North Carolina Pork Council puts the economic impact at $11 billion. But it’s a complicated industry. And it’s currently the focus of a complaint filed with the Environmental Protection Agency against the state agency that regulates hog farming — what is now North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.
    Guests: Ed Emory, President, North Carolina Farm Families, Elizabeth Haddix, Senior Staff Attorney, UNC Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. …
  • “Weather stations installed to help Henderson County apple farmers,WLOS: What mother nature will do next is what Henderson County apple farmers hope to better predict with new technology. North Carolina is the ninth state to get weather stations connected by the Network for Environment and Weather Applications, also known as NEWA. The weather stations are $2000 each, but apple farmers expect to save money with the data they provide in the long run. Those devices provide farmers with real-time weather data at their fingertips through an app. “Say I need to spray or something. I can pull it up on my phone and say, ‘Well, wind is still blowing at the house,'” Mike Pack, who owns M&M Berry Farm, said. “I can keep on doing what I’m doing at that time. And just as soon as the wind lays, I can come and do what I need.” …
  • “Research Station studying wheat, tilling and barley,” Salisbury Post: Last week the Piedmont Research Station hosted the Small Grains Field Day. Farmers, Extension agents and sales people from across the Piedmont came to Rowan County to hear about the latest research in growing wheat for North Carolina. While there are several other crops that make up small grains, Wheat was the grain of the day. The type of wheat grown in our area is a soft winter wheat that will usually end up in livestock feed. Hard winter wheat is what is milled and used in bread and other baked goods. Most hard winter wheat is grown in the Midwest. The Piedmont Research Station participates in an Official Variety Trail or OVT every year. Researchers from North Carolina State University are looking for varieties of hard winter wheat that are resistant to the plethora of diseases that come with our roller coaster weather in the Piedmont. …
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