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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2021

CONTACT: Heather Overton, assistant director
NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division
919-707-3006 or heather.overton@ncagr.gov

Regional interest news roundup from NCDA&CS

            RALEIGH – Below is a summary of local interest stories that have recently been highlighted on the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ In the Field Blog and social media sites. Please feel free to use any of this content or contact us if you have any additional questions.    

Eastern:

(Brunswick County) New county partnership helps pesticide disposal program
The NCDA&CS Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program (PDAP) hardly collected any pesticides in the first half of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the 2020 annual collection total was the seventh-most in the program’s 41-year history. That’s because, in the second half of the year, the program set a record for most pounds of pesticides collected in a six-month period. “Demand is there, and this stuff doesn’t just disappear, just because we’re not collecting,” said Derrick Bell, who heads the PDAP. “People wait, and then we get inundated with volume like we did last fall. Anyone with pesticides to dispose of can drop them off at a specific site that PDAP set up that day. Those collection days continue, but Bell says as the collection volume has increased so has the cost of running the program. So, he’s taken advantage of opportunities to partner with local counties that have established permanent household hazardous waste collection programs. Brunswick County is the latest example. …

(Carteret) A local life of produce on the coast
Life has a funny way of bringing us back home to the things that we love. At least that’s the case for Bert Hadden and Justin Guthrie, owners of The Farm at Bogue. “Our grandfather owned this land and we worked here with him growing up, but when he passed away in 2011 the land went unused for several years until we came back in 2018,” Bert said, “we always enjoyed being on the farm growing up and have a lot of fond memories here so it’s not surprising that we ended up farming years later.” The Farm at Bogue is more famous for its varieties of lettuce and melons, but the two also grow a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, kale, basil, arugula, peppers and okra. One of the unique crops that they grow is a purple cayenne pepper called Buena Mulata. “Everyone loves the Mulata pepper for its visual appeal because it’s very pretty,” Bert said, “but it also has a mild heat and great flavor.” …

(Duplin) NC poised to be a leader in bioenergy 
In 2018, North Carolina produced its first natural gas. This gas came from pig farms. Eastern North Carolina is dotted with pig farms, with the state ranking second in the United States in the production of hogs. It is no surprise that the first biogas operation is located in the heart of these swine operations, Duplin County. Currently five farms have covered digesters, which are synthetically lined lagoons with thermally welded covers placed on top that can expand or contract with the amount of gas being produced. The digesters create an oxygen-free home that is the best environment for the specific bacteria that consumes the manure in the covered lagoon and then expire biogas. This captured gas is about 65 percent methane, a major constituent of natural gas. The biogas is then piped to a local, central upgrade station where it is refined and injected into the natural gas pipeline before being sent to homes and businesses as energy. …

Piedmont:

(Guilford) Years of farming strawberries at Ingram Family Farm
Farming is often a family adventure that evolves and expands with each passing generation. Located in High Point, Ingram’s Strawberry Farm has been under family operation for over 100 years and has grown from growing tobacco to a variety of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, squash, cantaloupes and pumpkins. “We are a part of the Century Farm Program because my husband’s family has farmed this land since 1856,” Rhonda Ingram said, “and we have since evolved to become one of the biggest strawberry growers in Guilford County.” Rhonda’s brother-in-law, Chris, spent many years working as an extension agent in Wilson county, where he discovered the profitability of the strawberry industry. “In 1995, when Chris saw what farmers were doing with strawberries in the Wilson area, he did what any good extension agent would do and encouraged us to start growing them,” Rhonda said, “since that first year of growing Chandler strawberries, we have found tremendous success with them and the vegetables as well once we started them in 2007.” ...

(Moore) A Karefree Farm Life
A tie to family land can be strong and it was enough motivation for Karen and Jeff Frye to continue their families farming legacy in Carthage. Current owners of Karefree Produce Farm, Karen and Jeff both grew up on a farm and learned the importance of agriculture from a young age. “After college, I decided to work in the food and beverage industry for a few years, where I realized the importance of eating locally grown foods,” Karen said, “Jeff always loved farming and wanted to keep his granddaddy’s dream of the farm alive, so in 2009 we established the Karefree Farm that you know today.” Although the farm is widely known for its delicious Camarosa strawberries, the farm also grows a variety of other fruits and vegetables such as squash, okra, muscadine grapes, figs and turnips. A typical day on the farm starts at 6 a.m. by picking up the crews and taking them to the fields that need harvesting that day. “Our days vary based on season, but there are tasks that we can count on doing pretty much year-round, such as running the market on site, interacting with customers and baking in the kitchen,” she said. …

(Wake) Drones will help NCDA&CS investigate damage to crops
On a recent spring day, the buzz of drones filled the air over one of N.C. State University’s field labs about five miles south of campus. Beside the big open fields, stood staff from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, heads tilted up. An overcast sky helped them stare up to follow each drone as it took off for a flight one-by-one. The small group of staff came from the department’s Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division – specifically the Pesticides Section. They were there to see a sampling of three drones to figure out which one they may want to begin using to investigate pesticide damage in farmers’ fields. Dr. Gary Roberson, an NCSU professor and extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering was leading the test flights, along with two other NCSU researchers Jay Campbell and Justin Macialek.

(Wake) Driving Ag Education at Good Hope Farm
The Town of Cary is keeping the town’s farming legacy alive through community involvement and agricultural education at Good Hope Farm. Located in the historic Carpenter community, the land where Good Hope Farms sits has been farmed for over 100 years. “Carpenter village grew with the popularity of Brightleaf Tobacco, and is now a national historic district due to its importance as a watering station for trains heading to the Durham tobacco market,” said Erin Crouse with The Conservation Fund, “families like the Howards, who farmed tobacco on this land for 65 years, were a huge factor in building this community.” Purchased in 2008, the Town of Cary acquired the farm in order to preserve the farming history of 1910 historic homestead on-site. In 2015, the town began working with a coalition of four nonprofit partners to develop the project now known as Good Hope Farm. “Our shared vision for Good Hope Farm supports environmental conservation, historic preservation and economic development while providing community engagement and farmland access to new and beginning farmers,” said Sarah Justice with the Town of Cary. ...

Western

(Haywood & Alleghany) Research could help N.C. farmers grow cigar wrapper tobacco for premium prices
Growing tobacco in North Carolina is nothing new, but tobacco that can sell for nearly $6 per pound certainly is. The recent norm for the state’s traditional flue cured or burley varieties is close to $2 per pound. However, some work at the state’s agricultural research stations means the jaw-dropping $6 figure may become more than just fantasy for some North Carolina farmers. Dr. Matthew Vann, a NCSU professor and tobacco extension specialist, is leading a research project that explores the possibility of growing expensive cigar wrapper tobacco in the state. “We know there’s an increased demand in this type of tobacco, and we think demand may be outstripping the traditional production area,” Vann said. That traditional growing area is the Connecticut River Valley (parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts) and south central Pennsylvania. In more recent years, growers in Kentucky and Tennessee have also grown the tobacco – using their experience in growing similar tobacco for snuff and chewing tobacco. With the price it garners and the need for more producers, it’s easy to understand why. …

(Transylvania) Two volunteers make headway at Headwaters, cleaning up trash and inspiring others to do the same
…As easily as garbage becomes litter, commitment becomes action and action becomes solutions. If what is put down is picked up and disposed of properly, restoration can begin. Thanks to Carol Vickery and Paula Swartz, restorative headway is being made at Headwaters State Forest. Located about 10 miles south of Brevard in southern Transylvania County, Headwaters State Forest is a uniquely special forest wonderland combining natural resource conservation with dispersed recreational adventure. Primitive, wild, a working forest. And, as its namesake implies, Headwaters State Forest encompasses the headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River, with 20 waterfalls, more than 50 miles of high-quality trout streams, and rare Appalachian mountain bogs, solidifying its importance to provide clean drinking water for local communities. Just as critical headwaters flow through the forest, garbage will too if we let it. Carol and Paula won’t. ...

Statewide interest:

N.C. Farm to School program brings strawberry season to students
This week NCDA&CS will deliver four tractor-trailer loads of North Carolina-grown strawberries to schools across the state. The deliveries happen thanks to the N.C. Farm to School program – a collaborative effort between the department’s Food Distribution and Marketing divisions. The program offers 26 North Carolina-grown foods to the state’s schools – from strawberries, apples, peaches and blueberries, to tomatoes, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. North Carolina strawberries are in season now and being served in participating school systems across the state as part of the Farm to School Program. …

Come across a bee swarm? No need to panic.
A swarm of bees nesting in a tree. Spring is upon us and the bees are buzzing – sometimes in places we don’t expect. Encountering an unexpected swarm of bees can be a scary experience, but it doesn’t have to be a dangerous one. Simply by giving the bees the space they need and knowing who to call, you can avoid needless harm to both people and bees when discovering a swarm. Bees swarm as part of their normal reproductive cycle, which is at its peak during April and May, said NCDA&CS Apiary Inspection Supervisor Don Hopkins. “In order for a colony to reproduce, it needs to have a reproductive queen raise more reproductive daughters.,” he said. “When the colony gets too crowded, the queen will leave the hive with most of her daughters to start a new colony, and that’s when you get a swarm.”

April brings the start of nursery inspection season
Spring is upon us, and with it comes the start of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ nursery inspection season. Inspections began formally on April 1 and are carried out by the Plant Industry Division’s Plant Protection section. Inspections are fundamentally about keeping North Carolina safe from invasive species, and the nursery program’s goal is to facilitate the movement of nursery stock while preventing the introduction and spread of insects, plant diseases and invasive weeds through the movement of plant material. Responsibility for this falls on the nursery inspectors who cover 19 regions across North Carolina. April Bauder is the Central Region Field Certification Specialist, responsible for inspecting nurseries in Durham, Orange, Person and Wake counties. She said that inspections both help nurseries sell their products nationally and internationally while also protecting North Carolina and other states from dangerous plant pests. “We have two types of nurseries licenses for businesses that grow nursery stock; registered and certified. Registered nurseries are less than one acre and only sell within North Carolina, while certified nurseries are larger than an acre and ship outside the state.” she said. “Especially with the certified nurseries, it’s important to know the regulations of the states you’re selling to, and we work with growers to make sure they’re following those guidelines.”

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NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Andrea Ashby, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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