From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
We are not even halfway into 2013 and already this has been a busy year.
In January, we held a successful Ag Forum at the fairgrounds. We had a great turnout and an interesting program, including an economic and policy outlook for agriculture and presentations by a couple of successful food businesses that are benefitting from the "buy-local" movement.
In April, the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability held its annual meeting at Camp Lejeune. This group shares my goal of protecting working lands, whether that is farmland, forestland or fisheries. In particular, SERPPAS' focus is on those lands near military installations, which are also important assets to our state. As state co-chair, I am encouraged by the collaboration on these issues and see our involvement as a win for farmland preservation and agriculture.
In May, we held the fifth annual Got to Be NC Festival at the fairgrounds. This celebration of agriculture, farm machinery and North Carolina food and beverages continues to grow each year.
I am proud to host this event. The N.C. Food, Wine and Beer Expo featured more than 75 food and beverage businesses. Festival goers were able to sample and purchase many of the delicious food products made here in North Carolina. That exposure will hopefully help these businesses develop new customers.
The tractors and farm equipment continue to be popular at the festival. We ended up with around 1,000 pieces of farm equipment and tractors on display.
Those are just a few of the activities we have been heavily involved in this year. In addition, I have been fortunate to make numerous presentations to various legislative committees at the N.C. General Assembly. This is especially important since there are so many new members now serving in the legislature. I take every opportunity I can to share with them the important role agriculture plays in our economy and in providing jobs. I believe it is a message that has been well received.
There are a lot of upcoming activities at our state-operated farmers markets. We have a listing of scheduled events on page 3. And It is hard to believe that in a few short months, we will be hosting the N.C. Mountain State Fair Sept. 6-15 in Fletcher, followed by the N.C. State Fair. Oct. 17-27 in Raleigh. Go ahead and mark your calendars now.
I am reminded almost daily that time moves very quickly. When we are young we spend our time waiting to be older, and as we age, we wish we could slow time down. Retirements within the department have seemed to be steady reminders of the speed of time.
We have lost a number of longtime employees with a wealth of institutional knowledge to retirement. This department is like a family, so a retirement is always greeted with mixed emotions.
We celebrate the opportunity that retirement presents for people to spend more time with their families, to accomplish personal goals that they may have been putting on hold or to cross items off their "bucket lists." At the same time we feel a personal loss in not being able to work alongside a valued co-worker.
For many commodity groups and individuals involved in agriculture, these retirements bring a change in leadership.
Among them: Vernon Cox now serves as the director of our Plant Industry Division, following the retirement of longtime director Gene Cross.
Alan Wade is serving as the director of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Service, following the retirement of Don Delozier. And speaking of institutional knowledge, Delozier retired with a combined 46 years of state and federal service.
Greg Pate is now the state forester, after the retirement of Wib Owen. Scott Bissette assumed Owen's responsibilities as an assistant commissioner.
Joe Reardon, our former Food and Drug Protection Division Director who left to work for the Food and Drug Administration, has returned to serve as the assistant commissioner over regulatory programs. Reardon replaces Howard Isley, who retired in February.
Sylvia Crumpler is our new Human Resources Division director after the retirement of Ben Harward. Crumpler comes to us from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Our longtime attorney and assistant commissioner David McLeod has also decided to close the legal books after 35-plus years of service. Tina Hlabse, formerly with the Justice Department, has come on board.
I know we have strong leaders in place and I look forward to working with them.