News Roundup: April 15-21

By on April 21, 2017

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.

  • “One of farming’s tragic truths gets national news coverage,” Southeast Farm Press: Farming is more dangerous and deadly than police work or fighting fires. According to a national news story published by Politico April 14, “Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers are, five times as likely as firefighters, and 73 times as likely as Wall Street bankers.” The headline accompanying the story ‘Your farm is trying to kill you’ is exaggerated and meant to grab eyes and web clicks. (It got mine.) But despite the hyperbole, the reporter does a good job quantifying and exploring the statistics, focusing on a tragic accident that took place in 2015 at the McCroskey farm in Virginia, very much in the Southeast Farm Press coverage area. According the story, “Luther McCroskey, 75, had come home from a dental appointment and climbed into a 1979 Long tractor to clear a bit of land. After night fell, his body was found pinned under the flipped tractor on the far side of the hill — one of 401 people to die in farm-related accidents that year.” Our hearts go out the McCroskey family. We all know many people who’ve been hurt, near killed or worse on the farm. It’s a truth we know, but it gets pushed to the back of our minds. Within a few miles of our house, I could introduce you to two farmers and between them they got 13 fingers, three arms and three good hips. On the other hand, I could just as easily introduce you to two farmers completely intact, or at least physically intact. No matter how careful and tough you are, accidents are going to happen on the farm. …
  • “USDA To Weigh In On Whether Organic Farming Means Using Soil,” Forbes: For the growing number of farmers using hydroponic and aquaponic techniques to grow produce, April 19 is a big day. That’s when, at a meeting in Denver, the USDA’s National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) will decide whether such methods can continue to be eligible for the USDA-organic label. The outcome will determine whether these farmers can target the $39 billion market for organic produce.
    Hydroponic farming uses mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil, to grow plants. Aquaponic methods combine raising fish in tanks with hydroponics.
    Whether or not produce grown in this way can be deemed organic has been a point of contention among advocates of what are known as recirculating farms and those of the soil-based persuasion for a few years. The latter say the label is legitimate if produce uses dirt or earth and that the law requires soil be used. The former see soil as a complex microbial environment, tailored to feed plants efficiently. …
  • “Strawberries ripe for the pickin,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: A moderate winter has translated into early strawberries for local growers. “We picked berries on March 21, the earliest ever,” said Sarah Beal of Kildee Farm of Ramseur. “They’re beautiful today and there are plenty of them.” Whitaker Farms of Climax also has a bumper strawberry crop. According to Bridget Thrower, agritourism coordinator, strawberries are “doing great. We pick 1,000 gallons a day in season.” She said strawberries normally continue through May, depending on the weather. Whitaker Farms offers pre-picked berries or customers can pick their own. “Business has been great, especially the last three weekends,” Thrower said. Beal echoed that assessment, saying, “Looking at the blooms; we’ll have strawberries at least another four or five weeks.” She said they handled the frost in March by covering the fields. The Asheboro Farmers Market will hold its Strawberry Day on Saturday, May 6, beginning at 9 a.m. with free ice cream and strawberries while supplies last. “This has been an unusual strawberry season in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a press release. “Thanks to a warm February, many growers were picking at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Then the state had freezing temperatures in March, which put production on hold. “It takes 30 days or more for a blossom to turn into a berry. Now that we are past the last freeze, more strawberries are about ready for picking, and consumers should expect a strong crop through the end of May.” …
  • “Why’s Charlotte so far behind Raleigh and Asheville in farmers markets?” Charlotte Observer: What’s wrong with Charlotte’s farmers markets? Pick one:
    ▪ Too many markets fighting for too few farmers.
    ▪ Not enough markets where people need them most, particularly in neighborhoods that struggle with access to fresh food.
    ▪ Shoppers staying away because they can’t find what they want, can’t tell who’s really selling local food, or because the food they find costs too much.
    ▪ Nothing links the markets up, so customers and farmers can have an easier time finding food.
    “Every market in Charlotte says that attendance on Saturday mornings is down,” says Lynn Caldwell, a local-food activist who has founded several local markets, including Atherton in South End. Now the city’s trying to figure out what’s not working and find ways to fix it. …
  • “Column: Are North Carolina distillers simply ahead of the curve?” Carolina Journal: North Carolina craft spirits are gaining a loyal following among North Carolinians who understand the distilling process and appreciate quality spirits. And our distillers are trying to make inroads throughout the U.S., and internationally, with varying degrees of success. Southern Artisan Spirits in Kings Mountain, for instance, has done well on the international market and exports its gin to several European countries. But, as Peter Thornton points out, it’s’ a crowded marketplace, and the brown, aged liquors are currently riding high on the export wave. Thornton is assistant director of International Marketing at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He’s keenly aware of the challenges of selling state spirits globally, and even at home, where arcane rules and regulations inhibit growth and experimentation. No industry that’s expanding so rapidly is held back so much, he says. “We have these great products, and we should be able to export them.” He remains confident that big break will come. In time. But even now, North Carolina connoisseurs of great craft spirits, those who really get great craft spirits, are invariably leaning toward liquor made in North Carolina, as opposed to Russian vodkas or English gins or moonshines made anywhere other than the Tar Heel State. …
  • “Tull Hill Farms and Cunningham Research Farm top national list,” Kinston Free Press: Two Lenoir County farms are among the top donors to the hungry from North Carolina. The Society of St. Andrew recently named its top donors across the state, and both Tull Hill Farms, on Hugo Road, and the Cunningham Research Farm on Cunningham Road, ranked in the top 10 donors to the organization. A nonprofit organization and a faith-based organization, the Society of St. Andrews collects fresh produce that farmers are unable to sell at market or to stores and distributes it to food pantries, soup kitchens, church organizations, homeless shelters and other groups that aim to feed the hungry across the country. The organization saves and distributes 25 – 30 million pounds of fresh produce each year. “North Carolina is probably one of the strongest states in terms of giving, because of the farmers and the volunteer base,” said Bill Waller, who coordinates collection efforts between Society of St. Andrew and farmers in eastern N.C. In 2016, Waller said regional farmers donated more than 600,000 pounds of produce for the hungry. …
  • “Executive program helps farmers manage complex, large-scale operations,” Southeast Farm Press: The science, technology and business of farming in the 21st century are changing rapidly, and to compete on a global scale, farmers need to know not just how to grow a good crop but how to effectively lead complex, management-intensive operations. That’s why NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has teamed with East Carolina University’s College of Business and the Center for Innovation Management Studies in NC State’s Poole College of Management to launch a new Executive Farm Management Program. Blake Brown, CALS’ Hugh C. Kiger professor of agricultural economics and a specialist with NC State Extension, organized the program and said that the “unique collaboration … creates a strong curriculum” to help farmers build the specialized agribusiness management skills they need to successfully run large-scale commercial farms. “NC State’s Center for Innovation Management Studies adds new and innovative methods in strategic planning, while ECU’s College of Business brings strong program in human-resources management and family business succession planning,” Brown said. “CALS’ Agricultural and Resource Economics Department brings the strength of agricultural economics and a strong connection to the farm sector.” The program was funded in part by a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and with gifts from farmers Johnny Barnes of Spring Hope and Richard Anderson of Nashville. It started in February with an intensive, five-day workshop on such topics as strategic planning, financial management, human resource and labor issues, and management style. It will wrap up with another five-day workshop in November. …
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