From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
It's summertime, which means many kids are out of school on summer break and activities on the farm are in full swing. I have heard reports from across the state that the cool spring weather has delayed some crops a bit, but the mild weather has also been enjoyable.
I want to encourage readers as they are making summer vacation plans or trying to decide on fun summer activities for kids, to consider agricultural activities as an option. Spending part of your day at a pick-your-own field or a local farmers market is great way to teach children where their food comes from. I think helping kids make that connection will help them better appreciate the abundance of food we all enjoy and the hard work that goes into it.
Another benefit is that by buying local fruits, vegetables and meats, parents can help kids understand the difference that freshness makes. In North Carolina, we have seen strong consumer interest in "buying local," and I believe this is directly related to the freshness factor. Foods that are not being transported across the country just taste better.
We are fortunate in North Carolina that farmers grow a diverse range of commodities, which gives us great access to farm fresh products most of the year. Many farms across the state now offer agritourism features on the farm, which also makes for many fun memories.
Each agritourism farm is different, and I am constantly impressed by the many creative activities these farms offer visitors. You can find everything from petting farms, hayrides, corn mazes, slides, miniature trains, fishing, bird watching, gem mining, scavenger hunts, special dinners featuring products from the farm, pumpkin patches and more.
In addition to field trip activities, many farms offer their facilities to host birthday parties, receptions or other special events. If you are planning a special event and want a unique location for it, an agritourism farm might fit the bill.
You can find information on local markets and agritourism adventures online at www.ncfarmfresh.com/ and www.ncagr.gov/markets/agritourism. Click on the Find an Agritourism Farm link for listings by county.
We have a lot of great things going on in agriculture in North Carolina, from growing delicious food to offering great outdoor adventures on the farm. Make this a summer of discovery!