News Roundup: July 9-15

By on July 15, 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.

  • “New program to conserve environment near military installations in the East,” WNCT: (Video) A federal initiative coming to 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina aims to get our many military bases working better together with surrounding land owners. State and local leaders announced the creation of the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape. The federally funded program is voluntary and includes a dozen military installations across the East, bridging the gap between the military and surrounding land owners. The goal is to protect military operations as well as farming and other activities happening outside the fence. Certain types of development near military bases can disrupt vital training activities, but the program also looks to preserve natural resources like farm and forest lands nearby. State Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler points out that it’s all about protecting the state’s top two industries. “We are home to so many military installations, we are a huge agriculture state. Sentinel Landscapes actually marries resources to be able to protect our military bases and our farm land and forest land,” said Troxler. …
  • “Blackberries gain traction in Henderson County,” Hendersonville Times-News: North Carolina in the summertime is home to multitudes of wild blackberries ripening on spindly, thorny bushes along shrubby fence lines and roadways, but in recent years, the berries have crept into commercial growing operations. Blackberries first started to be seriously commercially grown in Henderson County around 2010, when a number of growers joined the only grower at the time, Marvin Lively, who had been growing blackberries for almost a decade before that, according to Henderson County Extension Director Marvin Owings. Currently, the county has a little more than 100 acres in production, spread across 13 growers. …
  • “Rains producing bumper crops in Sandhills,” WRAL: (Video) Hot weather and lots of afternoon storms seem to be a good combination for farms in central North Carolina so far this summer. Corn is standing tall in fields, and tobacco plants are thick with green leaves. Tyler Adams, an agriculture agent with the North Carolina State Cooperative Extension Service, said the sandy soil in the Sandhills region is perfect for handling the amount of rain the region has seen in recent weeks. …
  • “Lumberton Agricultural Events Center expansion coming soon,” Lumberton Robesonian: Long-awaited barns and horse stalls at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center could start to go up as early as next week and an economic ripple could follow quickly. “The stalls will definitely have an impact. They are being built right next to the pavilion so they are convenient,” said Michael Smith, the agribusiness manager who oversees the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services-owned facility located just outside of Lumberton. “They will help draw more people who when they are here will spend their money in our restaurants, hotels and gas stations.” Smith said that since opening in April 2012, the pavilion has hosted one-day horse shows. In 2015, he said, there were 37 days when some kind of equine event was held, with an estimated 4,300 horses participating. Currently, there are temporary stalls on the property, but they are a distance from the pavilion and require horse owners to walk their horses across a paved parking lot to the arena. They are not built with the amenities, such as electricity, needed for overnight housing. Joseph Locklear, president of Driven Contractors LLC of Maxton, the company overseeing construction of the two 40-foot by 250-foot barns with 50 stalls each, said that vertical construction of the first building should begin the week of July 18. He said both barns could be in place by mid-August. …
  • “New era for Westbend winery draws near,” Winston-Salem Journal: On the spur of the moment, Ryan Blinkhorn summarized his family’s view of its new property, the historical Westbend Vineyards. “We want to respect the old while embracing the new,” Blinkhorn said. He immediately joked that the line sounded like a slogan. It was a quick way to explain all the work his mother, Sonia Breathwit, and his stepfather, Walt Breathwit, have put into the vineyard and winery since buying it from Lillian Kroustalis in November for $1.6 million. The Breathwits hope to reopen Westbend on Oct. 15. …
  • “Good Harvest This Year for North Carolina Blueberry Growers,” WUNC: (Audio) At the Ivanhoe Blueberry Farms in Sampson County, many of the blueberry bushes are close to eight feet tall now, with plants so close, visitors can hardly see from one row to another. The farm’s co-owner Neal Moore says his family has been in the business for four generations since the 1940s. “They started with five acres of blueberries, and now we have grown the farm, my brother and I, Willie Moore, to about 600 acres of blueberries,” Neal Moore said. Area grocery stores are full of blueberries these days, and if you look closely, the labels will show many were grown and packaged in North Carolina. It’s a $58.2 million industry in the state. The state is a top ten producer of blueberries and this year’s crop is a good one. Most of the high-bush blueberries have been harvested and a later variety will be picked into August. Almost all of the blueberries in North Carolina come from only a few counties where the salt and pepper soil reigns supreme. …
  • “NCSU timber deal means Hofmann Forest will make millions for university,” The News & Observer: The Endowment Fund of N.C. State University has signed a 50-year contract with a private timber investment company to manage 54,334 acres of Hofmann Forest near Jacksonville – a deal that will earn the fund $78 million. The contract covers the majority of the 79,000-acre forest, which was acquired by a foundation in 1934 as a research and demonstration forest that would also generate income for NCSU’s forestry program. Hofmann Forest was deeded to the university’s endowment fund in 1977 specifically to aid the College of Natural Resources. Under the deal announced earlier this month, the forest lands will remain accessible to NCSU students and faculty for research. Meanwhile, the company, Resource Management Service, agrees to manage the forest sustainably, leaving stands of trees of various ages when the 50-year contract ends. “This new agreement ensures the sustainability of the timberland for the long term,” N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. …
  • “Should tobacco farmers market lowerstalk leaf?” Southeast Farm Press: American flue-cured tobacco growers have a problem with neutral filler leaf.: too much of it has been produced already. There is a world over-supply of this type of leaf, and it can be obtained from almost any foreign producer at a lower price than in the United States. So the pressure is on from buyers who don’t want this style — generally the three or four lowest leaves on the stalk — brought to market. “We are talking about neutral leaf at best, and we have a lot of it,” one leaf dealer told Southeast Farm Press. “This problem has gone on forever.” Farmers agree on a contract amount directly with the manufacturers or their dealers. If they voluntarily reduce their yields — which is what not harvesting the lower stalk will likely do — they have nowhere to look to for compensation except their companies. “It would seem that this would be simple enough,” said the dealer. “It should be just a matter of paying farmers enough for their upperstalk leaf to make up for what they lose on the lowerstalk. But there has been a lot of disagreement about what that should be, and it is proving a real dilemma.” …
  • “Johnston County mill sticks to the grind for 250 years,” WRAL: (Video/Photos) A milling company in Johnston County has been around for more than 250 years and is known for its Cornbread Man.
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