News Roundup: Dec. 9 – 15

By on December 15, 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.

  • “INCREASED FOCUS ON SENECAVIRUS A IN SWINE,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio)Animal health officials are conducting more tests related to a relatively low-impact swine disease which symptoms mimic a major disease threat.
  • “WNC’s holiday markets great source for greens and gifts,” Asheville Citizen-Times: All through the winter, area farmers tailgate markets are full of provisions from vegetables to meats, fruits to cheese, bread to eggs, and everything in between. Through the month of December, in addition to all the great food there are even more craft and gift vendors than throughout the rest of the year, so that you can do your holiday shopping while you buy your groceries! In these weeks leading up to the holidays, we’re highlighting a range of gift ideas to be found at markets, but there are only so many we can cite — be sure to visit them yourself, and see what you can discover.
  • “A clucking shame: WNC’s small poultry producers face uncertain future,” Mountain Xpress: The chickens at Highlands Family Farm in Connelly Springs, about an hour to the northeast of Asheville, appear to be exactly where they should. A healthy assortment of plump white bodies peppers the rolling pasture, their scarlet combs complementary to the green grass underfoot. Pecking and scratching in a ceaseless search for seeds and bugs, these birds have ample opportunity to express what sustainable agriculture guru Joel Salatin calls the “chicken-ness of the chicken.” At any other time of year, farmer Daniel Wall would agree with that idyllic assessment of his operation. Speaking on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, however, he explains that those happy birds should have been somewhere else entirely: the freezers and dinner plates of his customers. “I’ve got 200 chickens still walking around that should’ve been processed three weeks ago, and I’m trying to find something to do with them,” he says. …
  • “Where Have All the Christmas Trees Gone?” US News World Report: A shortage of Christmas trees this season has led to price hikes for the annual holiday tradition. Candido M. Lopes owner of Paul Bunyan’s Christmas Tree Farm in Chicopee dusts snow from tagged Christmas trees in the field. Customers tag trees in the fall and some, like in foreground come back to decorate their trees before they get cut to take home.  Paul Bunyan’s Christmas Tree Farm in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Christmas trees are in short supply this holiday season. (Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
    If you’re having trouble finding the perfect Christmas tree this year, you’re not the only one. Several of the most popular varieties of Christmas trees are scarce across the country this holiday season and therefore more expensive, too. Consumers can blame the price hike and shortage of trees, such as the seven- and eight-foot pine, Fraser fir, noble, Douglas and spruce on the Great Recession, according to CNN. Following the recession, the economy was suffering and Christmas tree sales declined. Tree growers had an excess of trees and pulled back on planting new ones. According to the most recent federal agriculture census, total production of Christmas trees across the country decreased more than 30 percent from 2002 to 2012. …
  • “Clover Hill Farm gains conservation easement,” Shelby Star: Clover Hill Farm, a 192-acre cattle farm in northern Cleveland County, was placed under a conservation easement with Foothills Conservancy on Friday.
    The Century Farm has been owned by Myron Edwards’ family for more than 150 years. A North Carolina Century Farm designation indicates that a farm has had continuous ownership by a single family for 100 years or more. The conservation easement ensures permanent protection of the farm’s highly fertile and productive soils, preservation of wildlife habitats, open pasture, woodlands, and protection of over 1.5 miles of surface waters in the Broad River basin. “Farms are getting harder to come by,” Edwards said. “This farm has been through several years of hard times, but my family held onto it and sacrificed to keep it.”
    The Century Farm has endured years of reconstruction and lean times due to historical events such as the Civil War and the Great Depression.
    “I want to honor the ones who came before me,” Edwards said. Funding for the purchase of the conservation easement and transaction costs was provided by a $278,000 grant from the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, a $17,000 grant from Conservation Trust for North Carolina for stewardship and legal defense, and a $1,000 grant from the Dover Foundation in Shelby. …
  • “Low Prices, Bad Weather And Yoga Pants Put the Squeeze on NC Cotton Farmers,” WUNC: Low cotton prices and a couple of bad weather years have unseated North Carolina as one of the leading cotton-producing states.
    Traditionally ranked around 3rd or 4th, the state is now 8th in cotton production, according to USDA November projections. Longtime farmers like David Dunlow of Garysburg, North Carolina, are starting to wonder if it’s still worth growing cotton. …
  • “Ash seeds key to protection of trees,” New Bern Sun Journal: The emerald ash borer (Agrilus plannipennis, EAB) was first detected in the United States in 2002 near Detroit, and is believed to have been accidentally introduced from Asia in crates or other wooden shipping material. According to Robert Jetton and Andy Whittier of N.C. State University (Camcore Forestry Bulletin No. 20, 2016), this non-native insect pest has subsequently killed ash trees numbering in the hundreds of millions in the United States and Canada. Over the years, a great deal of research has focused on biological and chemical control strategies, but EAB continues to advance “at an alarming rate.” North Carolina became an EAB-quarantined state in 2015, and the insect has been confirmed in our state as far east as Wayne and Wilson counties. …
  • “Commissioner: Label would promote Iredell dairy industry,” Statesville Record and Landmark: Iredell remains the largest milk producer in the state, but McNeely, president and CEO of G&M Milling Co., is concerned about the shrinking number of local dairy farms. There are 36 dairy farms in Iredell County. That’s down from 42 last year and 53 in 2006, according to the N.C. State University Cooperative Extension. “At the pace things are going, I don’t know how many are going to be left,” McNeely said. That’s one reason why McNeely said he is exploring the possibility of having a special stamp added to containers of milk produced in Iredell County. The N.C. Department of Agriculture’s “Goodness Grows in North Carolina” campaign already stamps some North Carolina-produced products. Milk could be added to that list, McNeely said this week. …
  • “Haywood schools focus on nutrition, healthy food options,” The Mountaineer:  Over the past few months, the Haywood County Schools nutrition department has placed a special focus on student wellness, food variety, and local community support. Melanie Batchelor was hired as the school system’s nutrition supervisor dietitian in August 2017. Since taking that position, Batchelor has been building on the already well-established child nutrition program to put together a strategic plan for designing menus for the county’s thousands of students who eat at school each day. “Changes began to take shape a few years ago when Michelle Obama introduced the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act,” Batchelor said. “That made significant changes to the school lunch program for the first time in 30 years.” Following the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the Haywood County Schools nutrition department has worked to increase the variety of vegetables and fruit, add more whole grains, and decrease foods with added sugar and saturated fat. Batchelor said the newest project she is most excited about is the introduction of salads into every school three days a week. Other new items on cafeteria menus are grab-and-go wraps made with vegetable-based tortillas and filled with things like egg salad. “I think a lot of our students and parents don’t realize that the salads we serve cost the same as a traditional school lunch,” Batchelor said. “That means that if a child receives free or reduced lunch, they can just as easily get a salad if they want.” The Haywood County Schools nutrition department serves more than 2,400 breakfasts and 4,600 lunches each day. Of those thousands of meals served, 50 percent go to children who qualify for free or reduced lunch. “Many of our students consume the majority of their meals while at school,” Batchelor said. “That’s why it’s so important for me to ensure that they’re getting really healthy, well-balanced meals.” Batchelor said the grain-based foods served by the school system’s cafeterias must be at least 50 percent whole grains, but she typically plans for 75 to 80 percent whole grains. Not only have students noticed healthier food options, they have also seen more variety in the menus. This year, Batchelor has implemented a five-week menu rotation. “The cafeteria staff has told me that they have noticed a positive change in the students,” Batchelor said. “They don’t seem to be as bored with their food, and they’re excited to try new things like mandarin chicken.” Batchelor has continued the school system’s relationship with the N.C. Farm to School Program. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services developed the Farm to School Program to give schools across the state the opportunity to receive fresh produce grown by local farmers. Haywood County Schools has received strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red and green cabbage, broccoli, sweet potatoes, blueberries and more that are grown on nearby farms because of the N.C. Farm to School Program. “We are proud to be able to serve local produce like apples from KT’s Orchard in Canton,” Batchelor said. “Thanks to the Farm to School program we were also able to serve locally-sourced cauliflower — a vegetable many of our students had never tried before.” …

 

 

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