News Roundup: July 22-28

By on July 28, 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.

  • “Bradley Johnston brings boutique dairy farming to Mills River,” Mountain Xpress: If you’re in Mills River and want to talk dairy farming, you go see S.O.B. But don’t be alarmed: Sweet Ol’ Bradley is the locals’ name for Bradley Johnston, a third-generation farmer who knows the industry inside and out. After all, he’s been milking cows for more than 40 years, and his family’s been at it for over a century. “We’ve been around here two or three days,” he jokes. Johnston’s grandfather originally cultivated land that’s now part of Biltmore Estate. After being bought out by George Vanderbilt, the patriarch moved his farm and family to the Avery’s Creek community and then, around 1917, began selling fresh milk to the public. Johnston’s father followed in his father’s footsteps, taking over the farm when the elder retired. And from a young age, Johnston himself chose to follow the same hoof-trodden path. Or rather, it chose him, along with two of his brothers. Farming, says Johnston, “gets in your blood, and you really just don’t get it out. Our earliest remembrance was helping our dad farm. It’s all we ever wanted to do.” …
  • “McConnell Farms thriving into 21st century,” Hendersonville Times-News: While walking through the bruised grounds of Tara plantation in the film version of “Gone with the Wind,” Rhett Butler famously remarked to Scarlett O’Hara, “You get your strength from this red earth of Tara. You’re part of it, and it’s part of you.” This is a good way to describe the current generation of McConnell Farms’ similar rooted connection to their land in Dana, though unlike Tara, the McConnells’ operation is thriving into the 21st century, with new crops being added and a new cider juice bar opening soon. Danny McConnell represents the third generation to farm the fertile land of this historic Henderson County farm. “The last 40 to 50 years, changes in farming have been amazing,” said Danny. “When my father was farming, he was a one-man show. You can’t do that now.” Danny’s sister, Rita McConnell Hood, grew up with him in the white farmhouse on Old Dana Road now shared by Danny and his wife Kathryn. “Today, if you have a family farm you are blessed,” Rita said. “Nobody starts one now. It’s just too difficult.” Gathered in the farmhouse around mother Claire’s familiar kitchen table — the site of ongoing weekly family dinners — Danny and Kathryn sat with Rita with her husband, Tim, and reflected on the history of the farm. “Our father was always progressive,” Danny said of their father, Reid McConnell, who passed away in 2013. “He let me go through some crazy ideas: he was a forward thinker. You can’t be a pessimist and be a successful farmer.” They readily acknowledge how farming life has evolved; simply knowing how to grow something doesn’t cut it for the 21st century farmer. Today, experience in finance, marketing and the ability to maneuver the sea of ever-changing environmental and food safety regulations are essential, as is finding new market avenues. …
  • “New life for berry farm,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Driving south down N.C. 16 winding into Moravian Falls on a steamy Saturday morning, the grassy hillsides and lazy, cow-flocked fields appear to crouch low under the heavy haze of a July sun. Up ahead on the left, a small, weathered yard sign advertising “Blueberries for Sale” marks the entrance to a well-worn gravel road, dappled with shade from leaning trees. Several cars—in both lanes—slow to stop, turn down the road, then disappear around the bend. The temperature holds at 90 and there is no breeze to be found. But for berry enthusiasts, young and old, getting their hands on a gallon or two of the lusciously-sweet, navy super-fruit, the time is ripe for the picking, no matter what the weather. For the past five seasons, 24-year-old Cody Brodfuhrer and his family have been pouring their hearts and hard work into the Brushy Mountain Berry Farm about five miles south of Moravian Falls near the Alexander County line. This 39-acre agricultural oasis, complete with its own waterfall, is a sanctuary for the family’s hopes, dreams and a vision of revitalizing the land and its crops through innovative organic practices. …
  • “Breeding better blueberries for North Carolina,” Southeast Farm Press: It’s blueberry season in North Carolina, a time when the market for the fresh, locally grown fruit surges. At North Carolina State University, Hamid Ashrafi is busy breeding better blueberries for that market. When Ashrafi joined NC State’s Horticultural Science Department two years ago, he brought advanced skills in molecular marker-assisted breeding to one of the nation’s most important public blueberry breeding programs. NC State breeders have developed and introduced more than 40 blueberry varieties — including some of North Carolina farmers’ favorites — since the program was started in the 1940s. Back then, the breeding program’s focus was disease resistance, and that’s still important. But over the years, the program evolved to focus on some other traits that consumers and farmers want – higher yields, better taste and the firmness and crispiness levels needed to withstand the rigors of mechanical harvesting. …
  • “NC agricultural tour goes where buffalo roam in Rowan,” Salisbury Post: Fading D Farm has gotten quite a bit of acclaim since it opened three years ago. The farm – located at 295 Fading D Farm Road in Salisbury – has been featured in the Charlotte Observer and Salisbury the Magazine. It also won several cheese prizes at the 2016 NC State Fair. Now the creamery has been featured as the opening stop on a North Carolina Department of Agriculture tour meant to showcase Western North Carolina agriculture. Fading D Farm is one of the few farms in the country the raises water buffalo – rather than cows – to make their cheeses and meats. Heather Barnes, the marketing specialist for the NC Department of Agriculture who organized the tour, said that most of the group’s stops would be in areas around Black Mountain and Asheville. “And as we were developing our stops someone suggested the North Carolina Cheese Trail, that we might want to make one of those stops,” Barnes said. “And so we pulled up the map for that and most of them were kind of out of where we were going to be. And then I saw this one and I was like, ‘Let me see what this is.’” …
  • “Reynolds American now entirely owned by British American Tobacco,” Winston-Salem Journal: Reynolds American Inc. is officially a U.S. subsidiary of the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco manufacturer. British American Tobacco Plc announced Tuesday it has completed the purchase of the 57.8 percent of Reynolds it did not already own. The sale was reflected in a news release, a U.S. regulatory filing showing 100 percent ownership, and a change on Reynolds’ website reflecting it is the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of BAT after 142 years of corporate independence. It also represented the last day for Susan Cameron as Reynolds’ non-executive chairwoman. Cameron played the lead role in not only Reynolds merging with BAT but also its $29.25 billion purchase in June 2015 of Lorillard Inc,, essentially to acquire top-selling menthol cigarette Newport. …
  • “Raleigh’s Farmer’s Market celebrates Watermelon Day,” WTVD: Watermelon is a summertime favorite for many, and on Thursday many enjoyed a slice for free in celebration of Watermelon Day at the State Farmers’ Market in Raleigh. The event kicked off at 11 a.m. and included a take-home watermelon recipes, free slices, and a largest watermelon contest. Adding to the fun, North Carolina’s own Watermelon Queen, Emma Cannon of Wendell, made an appearance for meet-and-greets. Wendell is a graduate of N.C. State University with a degree in agricultural science.
  • “This Is the Year of the Corn … Really,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) We’ve been chatting with NC State Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger this week on this year’s corn crop as harvest draws near. Today, Heiniger says forget last year, THIS is the year of the corn in North Carolina: “I have had calls from growers who have counted kernals, mostly corn under irrigation…I have seen conventional corn without irrigation in a similar situation, and say there’s easily fields that are going to go for 350 bu/a. which is unheard of. I would venture to guess we certainly will see a number of 300 bu/a yields, unlike last year, at this stage we were struggling to find a good 300 bu/a corn, we had good corn, this we’ve got a lot of these top end fields; 60 plus kernel ears, 18-20 plus rows around, doesn’t take many of those and you have a 300 bu/a crop. So I would venture to guess we’ll see some corn approach 400 bu/a. I think our statewide average yield … I mean we’ve got good corn in Duplin County and Lumberton area, there are very vey spots that don’t have good corn. This year you have to hunt hard to find any place where the corn isn’t in good shape. So, our statewide average, we could easily to get in the 155 to 160 bu/a range. We may beat the nationwide average this year.” …
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