News Roundup: Sept. 10 – 16

By on September 16, 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.

  • “Black cohosh: WNC’s next cash crop?” Asheville Citizen-Times: Seems like it would be a slam dunk. Many of the pieces have been in place for years: the key ingredient, the wholesalers, the retailers, the customers. Yet no Western North Carolina business exists to take the indigenous black cohosh plant and transform it into an herbal supplement sold on U.S. shelves. Instead, the German company Schaper & Brümmer obtains black cohosh roots, some locally wild-harvested, and manufactures Remifemin, a natural remedy for menopausal symptoms that has been on the market for six decades. This hole in the area economy means the region is losing out on creating local jobs and revenue, said Joe-Ann McCoy, a globally recognized expert on black cohosh and director of Asheville’s North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository. …
  • “BeeCheck Helps Keep Beehives Safe Of Pesticides,” WUNC: (Audio) The BeeCheck mapping system is getting a lot of attention in North Carolina since an aerial pesticide spraying in South Carolina killed millions of honey bees. John Rintoul of Orange County Beekeepers manages the beehives at Carrboro High School. “They don’t care about you, they care about finding nectar, finding pollen and bringing it back,” said Rintoul. He signed up for BeeCheck as soon as heard about it from the state Agriculture Department. “I have two backyard beehives as well and it lets your neighbors know that you’ve got bees,” said Rintoul. Since the aerial spraying mishap in South Carolina, 140 beekeepers have registered their hives with BeeCheck, bringing the state total to 913, according to Patrick Jones, Deputy Director of Pesticide Programs at the NC Department of Agriculture. The mapping software alerts farmers and pesticide applicators to the location of hives. It’s free and voluntary. …
  • “$5.3 million awarded to NCDA&CS to establish produce safety program,” Bladen Journal:  The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently received a five-year, $5.3 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration to enhance produce safety. The funding will be used to ensure that North Carolina farmers and producers are ready to comply with the stricter production and harvest requirements of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. “This funding will help our Food and Drug Protection Division support farmers and producers in getting their businesses ready to meet these new requirements,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I am a firm believer in educating before regulating, and this funding will support training opportunities, on-farm readiness reviews and other education and outreach opportunities. This funding allows us to develop our inspection programs to meet the specific growing and harvesting needs of the farmers in our state.” …
  • “Apple season is here: Where to pick in WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times: If apple growing was considered a sport, Henderson County would be in the major leagues. Apples are big business in Henderson Couny, which is responsible for 65 percent of North Carolina’s entire apple production. From late August into November, the Winesap, Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji and all of their cousins are literally dropping to the ground along Highway 64, otherwise known as “Apple Alley.” Choose from a variety of U-Pick orchards just off the main drag for a day of delicious autumn joy. Fourth-generation apple growers Pat and Leslie Lancaster, owners of Grandad’s Apple’s N’ Such in Henderson County, have maintained their 80-acre orchard and farm since 1994. Entering the grounds, it is clear this isn’t a rookie operation. The large gravel parking lot is overseen by employees directing busy weekend traffic. Once parked, apple seekers are able to spread out and enjoy the grounds without congestion. …
  • “Bayer, Monsanto execs leave out RTP during talk on $66B deal,” BizJournals: Speaking hours after German chemical company Bayer disclosed its $66 billion buy of St. Louis agriculture innovator Monsanto, top executives at the firms gave little new insight of how the deal will impact the Triangle, where Bayer employs about 1,000 people. Since deal talks first emerged in May, executives have consistently said a transaction would move both Bayer’s North American commercial headquarters and its Seeds & Traits business from Research Triangle Park to St. Louis. Execs barely mentioned the Tar Heel State on a media call Wednesday, other than Bayer CEO Werner Baumann reiterating what the deal announcement had already said – that Bayer would continue to have an “important presence” here. …
  • “Watch out pumpkin, sweet potato beers are gaining ground,” The News & Observer: Pumpkin beers are the best-selling seasonal beer in the United States, but sweet potato beers are gaining ground as an autumnal alternative. The root vegetable is perhaps a more fitting choice in North Carolina, given its status as the top sweet potato-producing state in the nation since 1971. More than half of the country’s sweet potatoes come from right here in the Tar Heel state. Fullsteam Brewery’s Carver is one of the most well-known examples in the state. Brewed year-round but canned only in the fall, this year’s new label features an illustration of George Washington Carver and below it a proclamation: “200 pounds of sweet potatoes. Zero ounces of pie spice.” That’s a necessary distinction according to Sean Lilly Wilson, who opened the Durham brewery in 2010. “People’s impression of sweet potato is often driven by the spices that accompany it,” he says. “A lot of times a customer’s reference point for a sweet potato isn’t in the inherent flavor of the sweet potato itself, but in the accompanying spices.” When people think of sweet potatoes, in other words, they often imagine them candied or in casseroles. But you won’t find brown sugar or cinnamon in Fullsteam’s Carver. “We’re asking people to think of this as a lager first that just happens to be brewed with sweet potatoes,” says Wilson. …
  • “In one of NC’s bleakest food deserts, hope is on the horizon,” NC Policy Watch: A new sign went up this week at the once-abandoned shopping center on Phillips Avenue in East Greensboro. That’s rare enough in one of the city’s poorest areas and itself cause for celebration. But what the sign represents is much larger. “Renaissance Community Co-Op,” it reads in bright red and green. “Healthy, Affordable, Community Owned.” When it officially opens Nov. 5, it will be the area’s first real grocery store since 1998. “No one would come, the stores just gave up on us,” said co-op President John Jones Wednesday. “But the community wanted it. They believed and they organized and it’s happening now.” North Carolina is 9th in the nation in food insecurity according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which collects data on where people have the least access to fresh, healthy food. Greensboro and High Point are, as a metropolitan area, one of the worst in the nation for food insecurity. …
  • “People and Places with Pierce: NC’s Blacklands,” WNCT: Some of the richest soil in the world is right here in the East, but few people know the struggles early farmers went through to successfully farm on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. “Very few people, even the people in these counties, really know the real story of what has happened out here in what we call the Blacklands,” said Joe Landino, co-author of the book North Carolina’s Blacklands Treasure which tells the stories of these pioneer farmers. On the peninsula nestled between the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, what was once viewed as a wasteland is now some of the richest soil in the country. “The Blacklands are basically a high organic soil that exists in this region,” said Landino. The road to transform this wasteland to productive farmland was paved by true pioneers. Many, including the Wade Hubers, still farm the Blacklands today. “My parents moved here in 1958,” remembered Wade Hubers, owner of Matcha Pungo Farm near Ponzer. “I was 10 years old. It was very remote here when we moved in. We had to drive out 7 miles to the nearest phone. The clearing of the Blacklands back in the ‘50s and ‘60s was pretty primitive compared to what we have today. I sometimes wonder how they got it done, but they got it done with a lot of hard labor as kids. That was us.” …
  • “Farmer’s Day Celebrates 50 Years of Tradition,” Time Warner Cable News: Music, food, and vendors. Hundreds of people came out Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Farmer’s Day in Richlands. 70 year old Ronnie Taylor has attended the event since it began in 1966. He says it embraces the rich culture of farming in the community. “It’s just our heritage, talk about Farmer’s Day,” said Ronnie Taylor, Richlands resident. “I was raised on the farm and stayed on the farm until I did go into the military, so it’s kind of close to my heart, a lot of this stuff is.” And Onslow County Commissioner Jack Bright agrees. He says growing up on a farm helped him appreciate the hard work that goes into farming. “It was an eye opener for me to come here today to honor the people,” said Bright. “I know what kind of hard work it is and I know what they put into the farm.” …
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