News Roundup: Nov. 12-18

By on November 18, 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.

  • “Popcorn passion: Yadkinville farm is only grower on East Coast,” Winston-Salem Journal: Shallowford Farms Popcorn owner Caswell Booe is pictured at the company’s Huntsville plant with many of the silos where the popcorn kernels are stored. There are many niche crops grown locally that feed personal indulgences. Whether it’s hops grown for craft beer or turmeric grown for exotic flavor, there are many local farmers who are working to ensure that our palettes are pleased with fresh ingredients — including the humble snack of popcorn. Popcorn is something that many people eat on a regular basis, most often microwaved in convenient, self-enclosed packages. We often don’t think of sourcing the kernels locally or growing them in our own gardens. We’ve moved away from the old-fashioned method of popping it on the stove top. …
  • “Bluegrass player with green thumb says drought doesn’t affect Christmas tree crop,” WLOS: While smoke from local wildfires hovers above, down below, the tradition of festive terrain continues in Haywood County. This time of year is like Christmas music to Darren Nicholson’s ears. “We are being inundated with the dry weather and the smoke right now,” Darren Nicholson of Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm said, who’s a far bigger name in bluegrass than he is in agriculture. “I’m lucky enough to be out here and be among the beautiful Christmas trees.” Despite conditions that may go down in history, Darren said this year’s crop is unscathed. He claims it’s the good fortune that comes with growing trees that are almost like luxury cars. This from a man better known as a founding member of Balsam Range. “The Fraser fir is the Cadillac of Christmas trees because it is so resilient to a lot of these conditions,” Nicholson explained. “Once you cut the tree, it will drink and it’ll probably be drinking a lot.” …
  • “Some Growers Say Organic Label Will Be Watered Down If It Extends To Hydroponics,” WUNC: (Audio) The National Organic Standards Board plans to decide this week whether hydroponically grown foods, a water-based model of cultivation, can be sold under the label “certified organic.” But some organic farmers and advocates are saying no — the organic label should be rooted in soil. The decision at stake for the $40 billion-a-year industry will have impacts that reach from small farms to global corporations. Farmer Eliot Coleman is among those who oppose giving hydroponic produce the organic label. He recently joined other farmers at a rally in Thetford, Vt. They were holding signs saying “soil is the soul of organic.” “As far as we’re concerned,” Coleman says, “if it’s not grown in soil with all the wonderful features that soil puts into the plants, there’s no way you can call it organic.” Coleman’s peers call him an “elder of the organic movement.” The calluses on his hands are stained with soil. Coleman thinks that the central principle in growing organic produce is that the farmer feeds the soil, not the plant. Part of the legal qualification of organic farming — and, in Coleman’s opinion, the label consumers have come to trust — is about the healthfulness and stewardship of the land. But Mark Mordasky, who owns Whipple Hollow Hydroponic Farm, says a sustainable model is important to him, too. “We’re in a greenhouse,” Mordasky says. “We’re not doing anything with the land, good or bad. We’re not irresponsibly using land. We’re simply choosing not to use land at all. Does that make us not organic?” …
  • As Demand for Ginseng Soars, Poachers Threaten Its Survival, National Geographic: A handful of park rangers and conservationists are trying to protect the valuable and wild root from extinction. Not long after the sun first peeks over the hills, the chill air still thick with fog, Jim Corbin sets up shop out of the back of his cherry red pickup. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture agent holds court in the back of a grocery store parking lot several times a week in the small Appalachian town of Sylva. Directions to the store are easy: “It’s the only one in town,” he says. One at a time, old trucks, rusted-out white vans, and battered hatchbacks pull up. Corbin unfolds his nearly six-and-a-half-foot frame, topped with a Clemson baseball hat, and greets each person by name. Many arrive in Sylva each September seeking Corbin’s signature on a form that legally allows them to sell a sought-after commodity hiding in the dirt: American ginseng. The wild plant population has been in decline for years, but pressure from excessive harvesting and poaching to feed demand from Chinese medicine practitioners is causing numbers to plummet. Meanwhile, prices have surged above $1,000 per pound.
  • “A look at food policy and potential Trump changes,” Charlotte Observer: The Obama administration was the first to significantly raise the profile of food policy, championing laws and pushing through regulation to make food safer, more nutritious and better labeled. A look at some of those policies, and what may happen to them in a Trump administration: SCHOOL MEALS: First lady Michelle Obama made healthier school meals one of her signature issues. A Democratic Congress passed legislation expanding healthier standards for school foods in 2010, and Mrs. Obama successfully fended off Republican attempts to scale them back. Trump hasn’t weighed in on school meals, but Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, a member of his agricultural advisory committee, says there likely will be new efforts to revise the rules. FOOD SAFETY: A food safety law signed by President Barack Obama five years ago requires farmers to test irrigation water quality, regularly train workers on the best health and hygiene practices and monitor wildlife that may intrude on growing fields, among other measures. It also increases inspections in food manufacturing facilities. A fact sheet issued by the Trump campaign in September criticized the food safety rules, but that language was deleted in a second version of the memo. …
  • “Washington County farmers take major hit after recent flooding,” WITN: (Video) Agriculture in North Carolina is one of the biggest industry’s the state has, bringing in roughly $84 million in revenue every year, so when the farming community takes a hit, it can affect us all in ways we may not even notice. This year, Eastern Carolina farmers are scrambling to figure out how they will recover after some areas saw over 20 inches of rainfall in just a few weeks. “On my little farm, I lost basically the whole crop,” says Steve Barnes, one of those affected farmers. His story is, unfortunately, not uncommon in the farming community around Eastern Carolina. He is one of many that are left picking up the pieces and hoping the soil dries out soon. …
  • “Christmas tree farms offer choose, cut, stay packages,” WRAL: North Carolina is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the United States – a fact that won’t surprise many people who’ve drive around parts of western North Carolina. And those country roads are getting more traffic about now as people from across the southeast travel there to choose and cut their own Christmas tree. Farms across western North Carolina open up to the public and feature not just acres of Christmas trees, but opportunities to meet with Santa, sip some hot chocolate and take part in other seasonal activities. Many team up with local hotels and bed and breakfasts for overnight packages. …
  • “Editorial: Lets give thanks for firefighters,” Hendersonville Times-News: Unless weather conditions change drastically and soon, hundreds of firefighters from across the nation will spend Thanksgiving battling what’s being described as “California wildfires in North Carolina.” That eye-opening assessment came from Bill Swartley, branch supervisor and forest hydrologist for the N.C. Forest Service, in an update on the rapidly spreading Party Rock fire in Hickory Nut Gorge. “These are extraordinary conditions,” he told about 400 residents gathered near Lake Lure Wednesday. “We are having California wildfires in North Carolina.” Parched by months of severe drought and fed by dead wood and brittle leaves, the Party Rock blaze grew by more than 1,000 acres in 24 hours Wednesday. It had consumed close to 6,000 acres Thursday and forced evacuations of an estimated 1,000 residents. …
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