News Roundup: Dec. 16-22

By on December 22, 2017

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agricultureEach 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.

  • “Thieves fooled by hemp in farmer’s field,” Southeast Farm Press: Back in September, industrial hemp made the news in eastern North Carolina when five Edgecombe County men were arrested for either stealing or attempting to steal industrial hemp plants from a farmer’s field in the county. This illustrates one of the greatest challenges for growing industrial hemp in North Carolina. To the untrained eye, industrial hemp in the field looks just like marijuana. Certainly the suspects were disappointed to discover that the plants they stole or tried to steal can’t get you stoned like marijuana. …
  • “Gillis Hill Farm celebrates 250 years of agriculture,” Fayetteville Observer: The sweet, pleasurable smell of fresh cooked pig hung in the brisk air. John Gillis II, who comes from a long lineage of Gillises, welcomed the small crowd on hand from a cayenne red Farmall tractor, the smoke from an on-site campfire drifting over their heads. These people, more than 100 in all, had assembled at Gillis Hill Farm in western Cumberland County on this Saturday afternoon in December to reminisce, to eat together and to share stories from a past when their bodies were much firmer and they had the vigor of a teenager to work on a farm in the South.
    The farm, celebrating 250 years of operation, means something to all of them. The barbecue reunion was a celebration of Gillis Hill Farm’s past and the many generations of workers who toiled in the tobacco fields and helped maintain the business since the 1940s. “There were only two things we asked of you,” the elderly John Gillis Jr. said. “Be at work on time and work hard while you were here.” After downing a hearty rural meal of pulled pork barbecue, potato salad, slaw, pork and beans and rolls, the guests shared some memories of their days laboring on the farm. …
  • “Farm School teaches ag business planning,” Greenville Daily Reflector: A program designed to increase the state’s farming operations is launching in Pitt County early next year. Jan. 12 is the deadline to register for the North Carolina Farm School Down East, a N.C. State Extension program designed to increase the number of sustainable and economically viable farms in North Carolina. This is the first time the program, which begins Feb. 8. at the Pitt County Agricultural Center, has been held in eastern North Carolina.  “When I came (to Pitt County) it was one of those things that I had seen be successful and impact the local economy and I wanted to make sure it happened here,” said Leigh Guth, Pitt County Cooperative Extension director. The program helps individuals develop business plans for the farming operations they want to launch. “It is looking for people who have land, who have access to land and who are serious about putting it into agricultural production,” Guth said. The program cost is $399 for individuals or $599 for a two-person team, Guth said. …
  • “Ag commissioner: There’s hope for hemp’s future,” Wilson Times: The North Carolina commissioner of agriculture says the experiment to develop industrial hemp in the state had a successful first year.
    Hemp production has been legalized in North Carolina, but only through the state’s industrial hemp pilot program administered by the Industrial Hemp Commission. “The Industrial Hemp Commission did an incredible job this year,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told a recent gathering of tobacco growers. According to Troxler, in the first year of operation, the state had 104 growers who were registered to grow industrial hemp.
    “We had about 1,900 acres of industrial hemp grown in North Carolina and 176,000 square feet of greenhouse space,” Troxler said. “That is significant for the first year.” “Quite frankly, I have been skeptical of industrial hemp over time for a couple of reasons,” Troxler said. “No. 1, I didn’t see the market out there, so part of the research that the commission has been involved in is developing those markets.” …
  • “Where art thou oh Christmas tree?” Southeast Farm Press: With Christmas just a few days away you may have read about a shortage of real Christmas trees this holiday season. The shortage was reported as the result of the Great Recession about a decade ago when cash-strapped consumers with tight wallets cut back on buying many things including the annual fresh and real Christmas tree. Christmas tree growers responded to the reduced demand and planted other crops to bring in family income to wait out the Scrooge-like financial downturn. Growing a real Christmas tree takes from three to 10 years depending on the area of the country – three to five years in warmer states like Mississippi where my family grew Christmas trees for about 30 years, and 7 to 10 years in the Upper Midwest. While Christmastime can be a jovial month-plus time for families, Christmas tree growers work 12 months a year to grow a tree, investing sweat equity and tender loving care to grow a ‘perfect tree,’ plus a few less-than-perfect trees that only Charlie Brown could love – typically the end result of extreme drought, hail storms, or other natural occurrences. …
  • “New Hanover looks to make fertilizer from food waste,” Wilmington Star News: The smell of the stuff serving as the first run of the county landfill’s new composting system hits you the second you step outside.
    “It’s rotten food. What do you expect?” said Joe Suleyman, director of environmental management for New Hanover County. The mix of food, animal waste and bedding straw — described by Suleyman as resembling “red diarrhea” — represents a pilot composting program the county has started taking food thrown away by the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), mixed with animal waste and straw discarded by the Tregembo Animal Park and mulch and pine shavings to turn into compost that can be used at parks, schools or farms. The idea, Suleyman said, is to reduce the amount of food that ends up in the county’s landfill. It’s a lot — food waste makes up roughly half of what ends up at the facility off U.S. 421 North.
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