News Roundup: Oct. 7-13

By on October 13, 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.

  • “North Carolina farmers are turning over a new leaf in the hemp industry,” WGHP: (Video) North Carolina farmers are turning over a new leaf, you might say. “I didn’t think I’d be farming hemp two years ago,” says Waylon Saunders, with a chuckle. Saunders farmed all the traditional stuff on his land south of Asheboro … corn, soybeans. “It’s pretty much trial and error growing hemp,” Saunders says, because there’s no one around whose grown it, after it was banned by the federal government in 1937. “That’s one reason why we done such a small test area. We didn’t want to go big, like plant 10, 15 acres like we do soybeans or more. We just wanted to do something small, get some data, do some testing and then, maybe, try to go big next year.” Bob Crumley is ready to go big, right now. He began his quest to bring back hemp after he researched what could help cancer patients, in particular, after several close friends developed the disease. And then he found a multitude of other good uses for the plant and began thinking about whether he should begin the crusade to bring it back. “We did polling before we ever started on this journey because,” says Crumley. “I wanted to find out, are we Don Quixote, here, or is this really an opportunity?” It turns out there is plenty of opportunity. Crumley believe it will soon be bigger than tobacco is and cites how much we thought of it, in the past. …
  • “Critters from across the state await you at the State Fair,” The News & Observer: (Video) The N.C. State Fair schedule is loaded with livestock competitions. Farmers from across NC prepared their animals on the fair’s opening day for a stay at the fairgrounds and a chance at a blue ribbon. …
  • “North Carolina sweet potatoes have a bright future,” The Produce News: If North Carolina is king when it comes to sweet potatoes, then Kelly Precythe has a special throne in the kingdom as he watches over a third-generation operation deep in the heart of the Tar Heel State. The president of Southern Produce Distributors, Precythe, is a lone entrepreneur when it comes to the company, which handles about 13,000 acres of mostly Covington variety annually, in Faison, NC. “This year is a really good year for production so far,” he told The Produce News recently as he was traveling south to Florida to meet with customers. “The production and the quality are better than I have ever seen at this point,” he added. Other varieties either grown or handled by Southern Produce include Bonita, Madagascar and White Flesh (good for soups), he said, which all cater to a better looking and sweeter potato than the Covington. “The foodservice industry is really taking a lot of sweet potatoes and chefs are developing all kinds of new uses,” he said.  …
  • “Students learn about fire and forestry ahead of Fire in the Pines Festival,” WECT: (Video) Students with Mary C. Williams and Bradley Creek Elementary schools learned about fire and forestry Wednesday during a field trip to Halyburton Park. Fourth and fifth grade students traveled to different stations to learn how controlled burns are beneficial for plants, animals, and ecosystems. “The forests need these fires so we’re trying to educate the public about why we are doing that,” Ranger Bill Walker with the NC Forest Service said. “Trying to get away from fire is bad too. Fire is a tool. It can be bad, just depends on what it’s burning. But as long as it’s burning what we want it to burn, it can be a good too.” The field trip was a prelude to Saturday’s Fire in the Pines Festival, which will take place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Halyburton Park. Organized by The Nature Conservancy, the City of Wilmington, and the NC Forest Service, the festival aims to create a fun-filled day for families to learn about the importance of fire to forest growth.  …
  • “Farmer training program seeks Wilson applicants,” The Wilson Times: Current and future farmers who are interested in working with N.C. Cooperative Extension agents to develop a business plan are being asked to register now for N.C. Farm School Down East interest meetings in December. N.C. Farm School Down East training is open to participants from Wilson County and will help new and experienced farmers start or diversify a farming operation with classroom training and opportunities to visit local farms in the area. Students who sign up for the full program, which includes eight classroom sessions along with tours of working farms in eastern North Carolina, will learn how to make a farming enterprise a profitable endeavor, according to program organizers. “I like these trips because you can actually see it,” N.C. Farm School graduate David Brown said in a news release. “To see how people are making it work is really helpful.” …
  • “Breeding a better banana; NC Research Campus professor seeks to answer challenge of hunger,” WBTV: (Video) Dr. Robert Reid, Research Assistant Professor with UNC Charlotte’s Bioinformatics Services Division at the North Carolina Research Campus, has been awarded a $25,000 grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the “Improvement of Banana for the Smallholder Farmers in the Great Lakes Region of Africa”. The goal of the Gates Foundation is to reduce hunger and poverty for millions of farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by increasing agricultural productivity in a sustainable way. Dr. Reid will be working with Dr. Al Brown of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to improve genomic breeding approaches for the East African Banana. The IITA, celebrating its 50th year, is a non-profit organization that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. “The goal is to improve the disease resistance for the pests that it ends up facing, ultimately that will improve the yield, if you improve the yield you improve the amount that a farmer will bring to market and improve their financial standing,” Dr. Reid told WBTV. …
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