Monday, December 12, 2011

Buncombe County young farmers win statewide Achievement Award

Greensboro— ­­Buncombe County young farmers Jamie and Amy Ager, of Fairview, were recognized as the winners of North Carolina Farm Bureau’s (NCFB) Achievement Award for 2011.

The Agers accepted the honor during a Dec. 4 ceremony as part of NCFB’s 76th Annual Meeting at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons.

“With the demands of the nation and world requiring a more innovative approach to agriculture, it is important for young farmers to adapt to the trends and innovations that will allow them to continue producing the safest and most affordable food supply on the planet,” said Larry Wooten, president of NCFB.

The Achievement Award recognizes farmers between 18 and 35 years of age who are involved in NCFB’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Program (YF&R) and whose farm practices are judged to be the most outstanding in production efficiency, innovation, improvement and environmental stewardship.

The Agers now move on to the national competition, where they will vie for American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award, which will be awarded during that organization’s annual meeting Jan. 8-11, 2012, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

You can also view the rest of the finalists' videos on The NC Farm Bureau's YouTube page.

Friday, December 9, 2011

ASAP's Business of Farming Conference Feb 25

Registration is now open for ASAP's Business of Farming Conference on February 25 at Warren Wilson College.

When: Saturday, February 25th, 2012, 8:30 am-5 pm Check in: 8-8:30 am

Where: Warren Wilson College: 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa, NC 28778

Cost: $30 per person or $45 for two farm partners before February 1st

$35 per person or $50 for two farm partners after February 1st

Conference registration includes your choice of workshops, meetings with restaurant and wholesale buyers, a locally sourced breakfast and lunch, and a comprehensive resource notebook.

2012 Workshops

  • Selling to Restaurants
  • Promoting Your Rural Market
  • Managing Labor on the Farm
  • Hosting Families and School Groups
  • Quickbooks™
  • Salesmanship
  • Food Safety Certification
  • Easy Website and Blog Platforms
  • I Have a Website...Now What?
  • Farm Business Planning
  • Brief consults with lawyers and others
  • and much more!

Questions?: Call ASAP at 828-236-1282.

2012 Food Trends for Super Market News

Super Market News has just released a list of trends for 2012. There are a few trends on the list that vegetable and small fruit growers maybe able to take advantage of - especially the recurring "trend" of buying locally. (What do you think? Is buying local still a trend?)

2012 Food Trends to Watch

By Phil Lempert
Dec 6, 2011

2011 brought us higher food prices at unprecedented levels, crops and livestock destroyed by global weather catastrophes, nations at war over the lack of food supplies, and more food recalls from unique points of origin. Americans love their foods – in supermarkets, on television, at restaurants and now even on their mobile phones – we are a nation obsessed with food trucks, molecular gastronomy and struggling to eat as local as we can. All of which has built a foundation for what may be one of the most exciting – and game-changing years in the food world: Welcome to Food 2012.

Trend #1: Food Prices
...The costs of fuel, feed, packaging, food safety coupled with a higher demand for export all will factor into the retail price on the shelf. Many of the savings tactics most shoppers deployed in 2007 as the recession began are still being used each time they shop for groceries – using coupons, frequent shopper cards, shopping lists, shopping at non-traditional foods stores and even trading down their choices to less expensive brands are part of the regular routine...

Trend #2: Never Shop or Eat Alone Again
The rise of food blogs has set a foundation for group food experiences. Food trucks tweet their locations and flash food raves assemble underground at midnight. And it is not about the food. It is about connection, conversation and a sense of community. It is estimated that 30% of today’s U.S. workforce is made up of independents – as a result they have a greater desire to be in a shared food experience — “let’s meet and eat” if you will...

Trend #3: The Baby Boomers Keep Right on Truckin’
The generation of 76 million who started turning 65 years old last year will control 52% of the total $706 billion spend on groceries by 2015 – making them the largest food influencers and purchasers...

Trend #4: Increased Emphasis on the ‘Farm to Fork’ Journey
Shoppers have become increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, which is why 2012 will bring an added emphasis to a different kind of food celebrity — the farmer. Last year we saw sales flourish among grocery retailers who jumped on the movement among consumers to “buy local.” In this age of transparency, interest in the farm-to-fork journey has grown considerably, inspired in part by food-safety scares and more importantly a desire to know how the food we are serving our families is being produced.

This year, we’re seeing more farmers get in on the action. A growing number of farmers are leading the conversation by using blogs and social media sites to bring the story of the American farmer to consumers. According to the American Farm Bureau’s 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers Survey, nearly 99% of farmers and ranchers aged 18 to 35 have access to and use the Internet and nearly three quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Additionally, 10% use Twitter and 12% post YouTube videos. In fact, 77% of those surveyed view this type of communication as an important part of their jobs as farmers and ranchers. In September of this year, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) launched an annual $11 million program designed to open the dialogue with consumers. Expect to see more advertising and television programs starring these real food experts (vs. actors pretending to know their food).

Trend #5: The End of the Checkout Lane
...For many shoppers high-tech adds to personalization with suggested purchases and targeted offers based on their histories in the store, which is typically delivered in a functional way. A change is about to happen where high-tech meets high-touch in a warm and friendly way that reinforces the central community nature and feel of the local supermarket. If you are hesitant to believe, just think back to the last time you saw a phone booth.

Trend #6: The Ethnic Food Revolution
Food trucks are replacing gourmet and specialty stores as the channel to experiment and discover new food experiences — especially when it comes to ethnic foods. More often than not, these ethnic food trucks are actually manned by descendants of the actual cuisines and cultures being offered; with the ability and knowledge to share the heritage and romance of the food — a benefit many shoppers have come to enjoy and expect from shopping at Farmers’ Markets for produce. They’ve opened access to these foods they feel passionate about, and they have removed intimidation and expense from the experience of consumer trial, paving the way for food companies and retailers to bring to market authentic ethnic cuisines, recipes and ingredients in a more convenient and affordable way...

Trend #7: The New Role of the Male Shopper
This time it is not about the metrosexual — it is all about “dad” and family. After surveying 1,000 professional fathers from Fortune 500 companies in four different industries, Boston College Center for Work and Family learned that, “Today’s dads associate being a good father just as much with the role of effective caregiver as the traditional role of breadwinner. These men want to be engaged parents and successful professionals, yet find conflicts as they try to achieve both objectives.” Because of the economy, more men are at home. The good news for them is that studies suggest a link between husbands who help out at home and happier relationships...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NC Now Has Its First Certified Organic Meat Processor

This may be pertinent to some of you:

N.C. Meat Processor Goes Organic

Taylorsville, North Carolina- In a boon to the local and niche meat industry in North Carolina, a Taylorsville meat processing company has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to process certified organic meats. For over 30 years, Mays Meats has provided custom and inspected meat processing services to local farmers who produce and sell niche meat products in local marketing channels. Mays Meats has been a leader in supporting the growth of the local meat industry by providing high quality inspected meat processing services (e.g., slaughter, fabrication and value-added product development). Longtime Mays Meats employee, Misty Dyson, coordinated the effort for USDA National Organic Program certification. “Our customers do a great job raising animals responsibly; having the option for processing under organic certification provides them with a level of third party verification that many consumers find valuable. Mays Meats is happy to provide this service to farmers as part of an overall effort to help them better market their meat products,” Dyson says.

Local beef producer Shelly Eagan, of Cleveland County’s Proffitt Family Farms, worked closely with Mays Meats in navigating the application process for organic certification. “Misty and I started working together on this back in February 2011. I really don’t think we could have done it without working together. Our beef has been certified organic for the 3 years but we couldn’t legally market using an organic label because we had nowhere to have the animals slaughtered under organic certification. We’re thrilled to now have that option. I think there are a lot of folks out there who are actually raising animals ‘organically’ who might consider getting certified now that they can actually make those claims on their labels.”

NC Choices Coordinator, Casey McKissick, notes, “It’s exciting to see the positive outcome of farmers and processors working together toward a common goal. It’s these types of partnerships across the supply chain that are moving the local meat industry forward in North Carolina. Mays Meats is the only commercial processor in North Carolina to provide slaughter and cut and wrap services under organic certification. This will create more market opportunities for local livestock producers and product choices for local consumers.”

Niche meats are meat products marketed based on attributes such as “organic,” “local,” “pasture-raised,” “grass-fed,” “humanely raised,” and “grown without antibiotics or added hormones.” The local and niche meat industry in North Carolina has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, bringing new economic opportunities for farmers, processors and other industries that support the local food economy.

A recent review of meat and poultry sales through natural foods retailers shows the “natural and organic sector” growing at a much stronger rate than conventional meat and poultry sales. For example, between 2008 and 2010, nationwide red meat sales increased 1.7 percent whereas natural and organic red meat sales increased by 15 percent (Mintel 2010).

According to the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), there has been a steep increase in the number of farmers in North Carolina who are securing their meat handlers’ registrations—a requirement for transporting and selling packaged, inspected meat. As of November 2011, 499 farmers held a meat handler’s registration. That number is nearly four-fold increase since 2007 (NCDA 2011).

For more information on processing services at Mays Meats see or contact Misty Dyson at 828-632-7081.

To stay informed of the latest in news, issues and educational opportunities related to the local meat industry in NC, join the NC Choices email listserv at

NC Choices is an initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) dedicated to advancing the local, niche meat industry in North Carolina through technical assistance,
educational programming, and networking opportunities.

December Fruit Growers News Now Online

The latest edition of Fruit Growers News is now on-line.

In this edition you will find some interesting articles (particularly if your a football fan!)
  1. Drew Bledsoe Scores Touchdown With Winery (Go Patriots!)
  2. E-Verify Contributes to Labor Shortages Across the Country
  3. Tree Growers Still Looking For Mechanical Harvester

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grafting for Disease Resistance and Increased Productivity

Researchers around the world have demonstrated that grafting can protect plants against a variety of soil-borne diseases in various climates and conditions. Grafting has been successfully implemented in many countries to battle diseases such as Verticillium and Fusarium wilt, corky root rot and bacterial wilt, among others. Along with maintaining high fruit quality, tomato grafting can also help overcome abiotic stressors, such as high salinity, excess moisture and soil temperature extremes, even allowing the extension of the growing season.

SARE has a new fact sheet, Tomato Grafting for Disease Resistance and Increased Productivity, that helps farmers and agricultural educators learn how to graft tomatoes to fight disease and improve the health and vigor of tomato crops.

Growers interested in experimenting with this novel approach of improving resistance to soil-borne pathogens will find:

• Helpful tips for grafting plants, including variety selection based on
resistance to particular diseases, step-by-step grafting techniques and caring
for grafted plants;

• Instructions for building a healing chamber for newly grafted plants, and for
transplanting them to the field;

• An analysis of the economic viability of grafting under different conditions.

Still a relatively uncommon practice in the United States, researchers around
the world have demonstrated that grafting can protect plants against a variety of soil-borne fungal, bacterial, viral and nematode diseases, such as Verticillium and Fusarium wilt (FW), corky root rot, root-knot nematodes, bacterial wilt, southern blight and other diseases.

Grafting is on the rise in the United States, since it has been shown to successfully manage bacterial wilt in tomatoes, even in severely infested soils.

In western North Carolina, for example, a resistant rootstock was used to reduce bacterial wilt in tomatoes: At season's end, nearly 90 percent of the control plants died while 100 percent of the grafted plants not only survived, but their yield was more than two fold that of the surviving non-grafted plants.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) GS05-046, Inducing Disease Resistance and Increased Production in Organic Heirloom Tomato Production Through Grafting, GS07-060, Potential of grafting to improve nutrient management of heirloom tomatoes on organic farms, LS06-193, Grafting Rootstocks onto Heirloom and Locally Adapted Tomato Selections to Confer Resistance to Root-knot Nematodes and other Soil Borne Diseases and to Increase Nutrient Uptake Efficiency in an Intensive Farming System for Market Gardeners, and OS09-046, Grafting Heirloom Tomatoes on Disease Resistant Rootstock in Western North Carolina.

Go to SARE's Learning Center for these and other publications.

NC Hops Update: NC Alternatives Crops Blog

Check out Dr. Jeanine Davis's latest post on the NC Hops project: Hops in North Carolin and New York

Microbial Food Safety and Organic Sanitizers Webinar

Join eOrganic for a webinar on Microbial Food Safety Issues of Organic Foods on December 6, 2011 at 12PM Eastern Time (11AM Central, 10AM Mountain, 9AM Pacific Time). Space is limited and advance registration is required. Register now at

In this webinar, Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez will discuss some of the major concerns related to contamination of organic foods with pathogenic bacteria such as those stemming from the use of manure as fertilizers and the lack of effective organic sanitizers for disinfection of processing equipment. He will discuss some of the current epidemiological and scientific evidence related to those concerns, and offer an update on his research using bacteriophages as potential organic sanitizers

Francisco Diez is a Food Microbiologist and Professor at the Department of Food Science and Nutrition of the University of Minnesota where he conducts research on control of foodborne pathogens and teaches courses on Food Safety and Microbiology. He has been investigating the safety of organic foods for more than 10 years.

Find all eOrganic upcoming and recorded webinars at

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NC Organic Initiative


Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 22, 2011) USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a national initiative being offered in North Carolina. Administered under the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative helps certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production meet their conservation goals. Technical and financial assistance will help producers plan and implement conservation practices to allow their organic operations to be environmentally sustainable.

Funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative will be available soon. Now is the time for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic productions to work with their local USDA Service Center to establish eligibility and apply so that their applications can be considered when funds become available.

EQIP is primarily used to provide financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices to address soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. An organic provision targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production:

  • Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production
  • Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period
  • Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP
  • Producers must be pursing an organic certification or in compliance with their organic certification The initiative is available for farmers who are certified organic, transitioning to certified organic, or organic exempt according to USDA’s National Organic Program regulations. Farmers can submit applications for the initiative anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin ranking eligible EQIP Organic Initiative applications on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered complete for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met. Applications that are not complete by the first ranking date will be deferred to the next ranking period, which is anticipated to occur on March 30 and June 1, 2012.

Under the EQIP Organic Initiative applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources including: experimenting with cover crops and crop rotations, installing intensive grazing infrastructure (grazing plans, internal fencing and water lines), establishing wildlife and pollinator friendly habitat, and installing seasonal high tunnels. Applicants who apply for the national initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the general EQIP program.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

High Tunnel Initiative


Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 21,2011) – Longer growing seasons, conserving natural resources and providing a greater supply of locally grown food are all advantages for the farmers who participle in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. The initiative is offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and funding availability is to be available soon for eligible applicants.

Farmers can submit applications for the initiative at anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin the application ranking process for the EQIP Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met.

The initiative will provide opportunities for farmers to establish seasonal high tunnel systems for crops and for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources. Applicants who apply for the national EQIP initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the state administered Farm Bill conservation programs.

The 2008 Farm Bill provides additional incentives for farmers, who are beginning, have limited resources, or who are socially disadvantaged. Such farmers can receive up to 90 percent of the costs associated with planning and implementing certain conservation practices and up to 30 percent of expected costs may be provided in advance.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amy's Kitchen Informational Meeting, November 28

Amy's Kitchen Informational Meeting

Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center

455 Research Drive
Mills River, NC 28759

Please join us Monday Nov. 28th from 9:00am - 11:00 am to meet with John Aselage, the Organic Purchasing Manager for Amy's Kitchen. Amy's Kitchen in the nations largest organic prepared food manufacturer and will be opening a facility in Greenville, SC. in the summer of 2012. They are very interested in sourcing local organic products to be used in the Greenville plant. John Aselage will discuss Amy's Kitchen's standards for production and processing and procedures for getting into their supply chain. Here is a link to their website:

This event is for growers (organic, transitioning, or growers interested in organic), processors, researchers, crop consultants and those interested in organic food production in the region. Parking is available on site.

Please contact Karen McSwain if you have any questions.


DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 26, take Exit #40 (the Asheville Regional Airport exit). At the top of the exit ramp turn toward the airport onto NC Hwy 280. Just past the end of the airport runway, the highway curves to the right. Turn right at the first road after the runway onto Old Fanning Bridge Road. After ~1 mile, cross the French Broad river, and ~1/2 mile later the MHCR&EC office building is on the right at the top of the hill. A map and further location details are available at

Meeting is hosted by:

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association


North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study Finds that Salmonella Can Enter Tomatoes Through Leaves at VERY High Concentrations

From Food Safety News November 11

Salmonella Can Enter Tomatoes Through Leaves
By Gretchen Goetz

Recently scientists have been exploring whether or not pathogens can enter fruits and vegetables through plant parts, and have found that bacteria can indeed be taken in through the roots. Now new research shows that the leaves of tomato plants are a possible point of entry for Salmonella.

A study from the University of Florida, released Wednesday by PloS ONE publications, revealed that after leaves of tomato plants were exposed to high concentrations of Salmonella, the bacteria traveled through the plant and contaminated some of the fruit.

Researchers found that 1.5 percent of tomatoes whose leaves had been dipped into a solution with a high concentration of Salmonella then tested positive for the bacteria.

However, these findings don't mean that 1 or 2 out of every 100 tomatoes in the field will be contaminated if their leaves come into contact with Salmonella. The concentrations of Salmonella used for the study were much greater than what plants would normally be exposed to, says Ariena van Bruggen, the study's lead author, a professor of plant pathology and member of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

This unusually high concentration of Salmonella was necessary, says van Bruggen, in order to ensure that if the bacteria did get through to the fruit, it would be detectable among the smaller sample size of a greenhouse full of tomatoes.

"If you use a normal Salmonella concentration that you would find in the field, you would have to test say 10,000 plants or so," she explained to Food Safety News.

The take-home message, she says, is that leaf-to-tomato contamination "can happen, but the chance is low."

"That should be stressed," she notes, "so that we don't create any panic."

But the fact that such means of contamination is possible is a reminder that growers need to be careful to review safety plans, for factors such as the source of their irrigation water or wild animal encroachment, because given the quantities of tomatoes produced in America, some tomatoes in a field where thousands of leaves are exposed to Salmonella could become contaminated, notes van Bruggen.

"It's just because we consume so many tomatoes, somebody could become ill at some point," she says.

And even that small risk is reason for safety precautions. The tomato industry brings in an estimated $619 million per year, and damaged consumer confidence could have a devastating effect on producers.

In 2008 when a Salmonella outbreak was incorrectly linked to domestic tomatoes, consumers stopped buying fresh tomatoes, and growers lost an estimated $100 million.
The study also came with a kernel of good news: contaminated seeds do not seem to contaminate the plants they produce.

"Somehow seed contamination doesn't survive in the next generation," says van Bruggen, who explained that her team planted contaminated seeds harvested from the plants that acquired Salmonella through their leaves and tested the fruits they produced, finding no Salmonella.

Organic Food No Guarantee Against Foodborne Illness

By Madhu Rajaraman, NEWS21

Original Link:

Eating organic may limit your exposure to pesticides. It may make you feel environmentally conscious. It can help support local farmers.

But scientists warn it won't necessarily protect you against foodborne illnesses. Organics, like conventionally farmed foods, can harbor dangerous pathogens including E. coli and salmonella.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Food Science did not find a significant difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organic and conventional produce. And a 2009 Kansas State University study did not find a difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organically and conventionally raised cattle.

Organic foods have caused their share of outbreaks of disease. Last winter, for example, sprouts from an organic farm in Illinois infected at least 140 people in 26 states and the District of Columbia with salmonella. And over a three-month period in 2011, a massive outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli linked to sprouts from an organic farm in Germany killed 50 people and sickened more than 4,300 in several countries.

Organics are a big business in the U.S. Sales of organic food and beverages totaled $26.7 billion in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association, with sales of fruits and vegetables up nearly 12 percent over 2009.

Consumers buy organic for a number of reasons, including to avoid certain pesticides, to encourage smaller farms and to support agriculture that doesn't introduce harsh substances into the environment. In a June 2011 health survey by Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio, 58 percent of respondents said they preferred organic over non-organic foods. The most popular reasons cited: to avoid toxins and support local farmers.

Despite the public's favorable perceptions, however, "the science doesn't show a difference," said David Lineback, senior fellow in food safety at the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of Maryland.

Federal organic standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture do not include explicit requirements for food safety, nor are they intended to. The primary purpose of organic farming is not to prevent foodborne illness but to practice and promote environmentally sustainable agriculture.

"We don't purport that organic is healthier than conventional food," said USDA spokeswoman Soo Kim.

"The organic standards do not directly address issues of food safety but instead production and processing and handling methods of agricultural products," Kim said in an email. But, she added, "organic certification by the USDA doesn't preclude any operation from having to meet the food safety and environmental requirements" of two other federal bodies: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Organic labeling standards are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

For crops, this means growing on land without the application of any prohibited substances (as defined in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) and without the use of genetically modified organisms, most conventional pesticides or sewage sludge, for example. Organic livestock must be raised without hormones, fed 100 percent organic feed without byproducts and given year-round access to the outdoors.

Carrie Vaughn, vegetable production manager of the recently certified organic Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Md., said she believes the food safety risks are lower on her farm because of strict standards for manure composting that come with organic certification.

USDA's organic program requires composted manure to be heated to at least 131 F for a minimum of either three or 15 days (depending on the composting system) in order to reduce pathogens.

Vaughn said the close relationship she has with her buyers and their families motivates her to be vigilant about food safety in the field. "It's terrifying for me as a grower to think that I could grow something that could kill a small child," she said. "So we're careful on the farm, and we also work directly with our customers. ... If something ever happened, it would be so easy to trace that contamination back to us."

Lineback, at JIFSAN, remains skeptical of what he calls consumers' "I-know- the-farmer" attitude. That trust, he said, is rooted not in science but in consumers' feelings about food and a distrust of corporate agriculture.

There is even debate over whether organic food is more nutritious, as proponents maintain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2010 that a study of 50 years of academic articles on the topic found that organic and conventional foods are nutritionally comparable.

So, which is better for you: organic or conventional? In the end, as Lineback noted, "it's a matter of choice and what people believe."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey

See below note from NCSU Small Fruit and Specialty Crops Entomologist, Dr. Hannah Burrack:

As many of you are aware, we had significant issues with spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in raspberries, blackberries, and other (persimmons, kiwi, etc) crops in North Carolina this year. My lab has received funding for 2012 from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These funds will allow us to conduct management (chemical, non-chemical, and post harvest) research & extension as well continue our monitoring efforts for next year.

There's more work needed on SWD than we can do in a year. In order to secure funding for the future, I am working with a group of scientists in the eastern US to submit a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative proposal to study SWD. To make sure that our proposal is addressing the right questions, we are seeking input from stakeholders affected or potentially affected by SWD, including you!

If you have experience with an concerns about SWD, please consider filling out the stakeholder survey here:

Please also feel free to share this survey with others. I'd like to receive responses back by December 1.

On a related note, I will be presenting an update on SWD status and our 2011 research findings on December 8 at 10am. You can link to the webinar here:

You can read more about SWD in North Carolina here:

Nickels for Know How Referendum: Support Ag, Extension and Teaching

A self-assessed, state-wide check-off that supports agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at NC State University will be held Wednesday, November 16, 2011 subject to approval by the Board of Agriculture.

Users of feed and fertilizer in North Carolina will vote on November 16 whether to continue the voluntary 15 cents per ton self-assessment on fertilizer and animal feed produced in our state. Since 1951, the Nickels check-off has been voted on every six years and has passed in the 13 previous referenda by an average 90% favorable vote.

Co-Chairs of the November 16 Referendum are Mr. Larry Wooten, President of the NC Farm Bureau, Mr. Jimmy Gentry, President of the NC State Grange and Mr. James I. (Jim) Smith, Chairman of the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc. and a farmer from Stem, North Carolina.

Dean Johnny C. Wynne of CALS says: “Virtually every significant advancement in agriculture in the last 60 years has received Nickels funding at some point. Without Nickels, our College would not be able to serve the citizens of North Carolina as well as we do.”

In addition, Nickels for Know-How provides support for fund raising efforts in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that generate over $20 million annually in private contributions. This is a $50 return on every $1 dollar invested. Some of the entities that Nickels provides support include the NC Cooperative Extension Service Foundation, the CALS Research Foundation, the NC 4-H Development Fund, the NC FFA Foundation, the NC Family & Consumer Sciences Foundation, the NC Dairy Foundation, the CALS Alumni and Friends Society, and the JC Raulston Arboretum Board of Directors.

Nickels funds have helped the College to raise funds for over 550 endowments valued at over $100 million that provide $900,000 in support of scholarships for 800 undergraduate students in the College. In addition, these endowments support faculty efforts, county extension programs, commodity research efforts, and other programs in CALS.

Efforts to keep rural agricultural students at NC State through the “Spend a Day at State” program, the CALS Student Ambassadors Program, CALS Teaching and Advising Awards, Workshops for High School Vocational Agriculture Teachers, On-Campus Internships and Annual Scholarship Enhancement are also funded by Nickels.

Since 1951, most of the state’s research-based agricultural advances have at some point shared Nickels funds. Some examples of those faculty-driven projects are as follows:

  • Construction of the NC State University research-based feedmill – the only facility of its kind in the US.
  • Switchgrass varieties as feedstock for bioethanol production.
  • Family & community disaster preparedness education.
  • Strengthening agricultural programming in 4-H through commodity groups.
  • International competitiveness of the NC swine industry.
  • Helping NC Farmers survive during difficult times.
  • Developing 4-H livestock programs and educational materials
  • Using vitamin E to improve pork quality.
  • Alternatives to herbicide spraying for woody vegetation.
  • Integrating swine waste mgmt. with greenhouse tomato production.
  • Off-season production of small fruits.
  • Development of a method for estimating potato yield losses.
  • Processing mortality silage into valuable poultry and swine feed products.
  • Fertility regimes for high density apple orchards in Western, NC.
  • Using animal waste for horticultural compost production.
  • Assessment of flood impacts on agricultural soils in NC.
  • Profitable peach production as part of a diversified farming operation in NC.
  • Evaluation of cover crops & conservation tillage for conventional & organic sweetpotato production in NC.
  • Development and delivery of on-farm HACCP educational safety programs.
  • New forage grazing strategies to improved conversion of grass to beef.
  • Development of niche markets for new orange and yellow watermelon cultivars.
  • Integrated strategies to minimize disease risk & enhance strawberry enterprises.
  • Development of an online course on Feed Mill management.
  • Enhancing quality and safety of North Carolina specialty meat products.
  • Building a superior striped bass.
  • Wheat transformation for drought tolerance.

These are just a few of the ways Nickels for Know-How has worked to support North Carolina farmers and agribusinesses. NC State University is grateful to the citizens who make this possible by voting on November 16, 2011 for the statewide Nickels Referendum.

Polling Places:

Haywood County

  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville
Henderson County
  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 100 Jackson Park Rd (formerly 740 Glover St.) in Jackson Park, Hendersonville
  • Valley AG Farm and Garden Supply located at 4221 Boylston Highway, Mills River
  • Crop Production Services (CPS) located at 1657 Sugarloaf Rd, Hendersonville
  • Helena located at 3590B Chimney Rock Rd (64), Hendersonville
  • Coastal AgroBusiness Inc located at 814 McMurray Rd, Flat Rock
Buncombe County
  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 94 Coxe Ave in downtown Asheville

For addition information on the Nickels for Know-How November 16 Referendum or the Nickels Program, please contact Keith Oakley at 919.515.9262 or at

Grant Applications for the WNC AgOptions 2012 Cycle!

We are so excited and pleased to announce that WNC AgOptions Grant Program applications are now available!

Grants of $3,000 and $6,000 will be awarded to individual farmers proposing diversification projects that boost economic viability of their businesses. Awards of up to $10,000 will go to three farmer-led groups working to solve processing, packaging, marketing and other distribution needs of the local agriculture system.

Applications for the two grant opportunities are available at and at the local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants must contact their local Extension Agents by November 16 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is December 1.

Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA:

To read the full Press Release go here.

If you are a farmer in Henderson, Haywood or Buncombe Counties contact me as soon as possible so we can make sure you have the best and most complete application.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1,661 Pound Pumpkin

For those of you who know me personally you know how much I love North Carolina. But you also know how much I love my great home state of little Rhody, Rhode Island (the smallest state in the union with the longest name. Technically it is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, but why get technical?). But you may not know that Rhode Islanders grow some of the world's biggest pumpkins. Check out this video courtesy of the Providence Journal to see world record pumpkin grower from Scituate, Rhode Island, Joe Jutras's 1,661 pound giant!

Also, if you think I have a strong northern accent this video will prove you wrong!

Agritourism Workshop November 8

The Madison County Cooperative Extension office is holding a program entitled Agritourism: Another Land-Based Revenue on November 8 from 6-9 pm.

About the Program:
Madison County Cooperative Extension along with The Very Small Business Center will be hosting an Agritourism workshop on November 8th from 6-9 pm. Experts from the NC Department Agriculture, local agritourism businesses, and business specialists will share useful resources as well as address challenges related to permits, regulations, planning, developing and marketing successful agritourism enterprises. To register please call the Madison County Cooperative Extension office at 649-2411 or email

For agritourism resources, visit the WNC Veggies and Small Fruits Agritourism Page

Thursday, October 20, 2011

USDA Awards $46 Million to Specialty Crops Projects

The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded 29 grants across 19 states in Specialty Crops Research to develop and share science-based tools to address the needs of the specialty crop industry.

The entire list of awards and projects can be found here.

Some of the projects include:
  • Developing an inexpensive, accurate, easy-to-use biosensor for the detection of Salmonella contamination of fresh globe fruits (tomatoes, cantaloupes and watermelons) - Auburn University
  • Developing biorenewable and biodegradable containers as a greener alternative to the petroleum-based pots used in the container specialty crop industry - Iowa State University
  • Identifying and developing improved basil varieties with resistance/tolerance to downy mildew, Fusarium wilt and chilling-injury - Rutgers University
  • Advancing the productivity and profitability of U.S. fruiting vegetable enterprises by integrating grafting technologies into tomato and melon production systems - NC State University
  • Improving the long-term viability of the fresh U.S. grown mushroom industry by marketing mushrooms as an excellent source of Vitamin D - St. Joseph's University

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Webinars: Marketing Organic Produce, Transplants, Food Safety and Hops Production

Join eOrganic and Michigan SARE for a series of 4 free webinars on marketing organic produce, organic transplants, food safety, and hops production in October and November! All webinars are open to the public, and advance registration is required.

Save the dates and register now at for the following webinars at or at the links below.

Plan for Marketing Your Organic Products, by Susan Smalley, Michigan State University: October 25, 2011 at 2PM Eastern Time. Register at

Root Media and Fertility for Organic Transplants, by John Biernbaum, Michigan State University: November 1, 2011 at 2PM Eastern Time. Register at

Tracking Your Produce—For Your Business and Health, by Colleen Collier Bess, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources: November 8, 2011 at 2PM Eastern Time. Register at

Starting Up Small-Scale Organic Hops Production, Rob Sirrine, Michigan State University and Brian Tennis, Michigan Hop Alliance: November 15, 2011 at 2PM Eastern Time. Register at

Find the updated eOrganic webinar schedule and listen to recordings of past presentations at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Changing Consumer Demand Affects Small Fruit

This article from Fruit Growers News is a great history of the small fruit industry in the U.S.

Changing Consumer Demand Affects Small Fruit

Tim Nourse, owner of Nourse Farms in western Massachusetts- one of the largest plant suppliers- discusses how the consumer changed the small fruits landscape. In addition, Dr. Eric Hanson of the Michigan State University Horticulture Department discusses how California production of small fruit changed the industry.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Does Bt Work?

Some of you may be interested in this information especially in light of the Bt resistance that has been identified: Researchers Identify Insect Resistant to Bt Pesticide.

Thanks to Gene McAvoy in Hendery County Florida for passing along this great info!

Bacillus thuringiensis, the active ingredient in the “Bt” insecticides, is a commonly occurring soil bacterium that was first discovered in 1901. Since their commercial introduction in the 1950’s, Bt products have become the most successful and widely used of the biopesticides.

Insecticidal activity of Bt derives from proteins that are produced and crystallize during bacterial sporulation (thus referred to as “Cry” toxins).

Most Bt products contain a mixture of Bt spores and toxin crystals. When a caterpillar ingests Bt, the crystals are dissolved in the alkaline gut environment. The insect’s own digestive enzymes convert the protein to an activated “delta endotoxin” which binds irreversibly to receptor molecules on the surface of cells lining the insect’s midgut, opening holes in the membrane that destroy the cellular lining of the digestive tract. The larva stops feeding (typically within hours) and may die quickly from septicemia as Bt and other spores in its food germinate, or may linger and die eventually of starvation.

Many different subspecies and strains of Bt have been described, producing different combinations of unique Cry toxins. Bt insecticides used for worm control are based on two of these subspecies which produce a few important Cry toxins.

Bt subspecies kurstaki (Btk) products such as Javelin®, Deliver®, and Dipel® contain primarily Cry1A and Cry2 toxins. These give broad spectrum activity against loopers, diamondback moth, imported cabbage worm, tomato fruitworm/corn earworm, tobacco budworm, hornworms, and other defoliating caterpillars common to vegetable production.

Xentari® and Agree® are based on Bt subspecies aizawai, which produces another toxin (Cry1C) effective against beet armyworm and other Spodoptera species, which are not very sensitive to Cry1A toxins.

Agree® contains a “hybrid” Bta, the offspring of a cross (transconjugation) between parent strains of Bta and Btk. As a result, Agree contains Cry1Ac (from Btk) in addition to Cry1C (from Bta). Other products such as Condor® represent unique combinations of Cry toxins resulting from transconjugation between different Btk strains.

Still other advanced Bt’s are products of genetic engineering to create unique Cry toxin combinations or higher levels of expression. CryMax® is such a recombinant Btk product, producing high levels of Cry1Ac in addition to Cry1C. Lepinox® is engineered for high expression of a combined Cry1Ac/Cry1F toxin particularly effective against fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), which is not highly susceptible to other Cry toxins.

All Bt products must be ingested by the target caterpillars in order to be effective, and small larvae in earlier stages of development are more susceptible than large, mature larva. This means that proper spray timing and technique are important to ensure that vulnerable plant tissues are uniformly covered by Bt spray deposits when young larvae are actively feeding. Worms that enter fruit or stems soon after egg hatch (such as squash vine borer, melon worm, and European corn borer) or are protected within mined or rolled leaves (such tomato pinworm) are susceptible to Bt if applied before they enter these protected environments.

Bt is not a systemic insecticide and tends to have shorter residual effect compared to many chemical insecticides (one of the reasons they present little risk to the environment, workers, and consumers). Reapplication may be required, especially during periods of rapid crop growth when new, untreated tissues may be exposed to infestation. Be sure to read the Bt product label for specific information regarding crops, target insects, and application instructions (such as rates, timing, and reapplication intervals).

Bt in IPM and Resistance Management

Bt insecticides are an ideal tool for the grower focused on IPM due to their selective control and low environmental risk. Bt also provides a unique mode of action (IRAC group 11) that can complement other insecticides in resistance management strategies. No evidence of cross-resistance has ever been detected between Bt and other insecticides; insects resistant to multiple classes of insecticides are still susceptible to Bt. Btk and Bta products also can be rotated to reduce risk of resistance to specific Bt’s.

At a recent symposium on “Insect Resistance in Vegetable Production” organized by the Entomological Society of America (Southeastern Branch), entomologists and IPM specialists (including Dr. Dakshina Seal of IFAS in Homestead) pointed to Bt products as the best rotational partners for delaying resistance to new insecticide chemistries such as the diamides.

Symposium participants listed the following benefits of Bt insecticides in a rotation program:

High efficacy on a wide variety of worm pests

Very low impact on beneficial insects.

Avoidance of secondary pest problems.

Not toxic to bees and predatory mites.

No preharvest interval required after application.

No restrictions on amount used.

Resistance to Bt is slower to develop than resistance to chemical insecticides.

Through proper field scouting, correct identification of the worm pest, good timing of applications, correct selection of the Bt used, and judicious application of the Bt’s in rotation with new or older conventional chemistries, growers can gain effective control while reducing the risk of resistance and maintaining beneficial insect populations.

For more information contact Dr. Brett Highland, Certis USA, at, or visit

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Small Fruits Newsletter Now Available

The latest edition of the Southern Small Fruit Consortium's Small Fruit News is now available.
You can download or view the pdf here:

In this version you will find:
  1. A Special Report on Exobasidium Fruit and Leaf Spot on Blueberries
  2. Can Raspberries Be Picked Pink for Fresh Markets?
  3. Information on the 2011 Strawberry Expo in Durham, Nov 6-8
  4. Fumigation and the Options to Grow Strawberries Without Fumigation
  5. Blackberry Flavor: Improvement is Key for Fresh Market Expansion
  6. E. coli Outbreak on Oregon Strawberries
  7. Blackberry and Raspberry Season Checklist
  8. Quarterly Strawberry Grower's Checklist
The Blackberry and Raspberry Specialists have united to form Team Rubus!
You can follow them on social media, look for:

Twitter: @NCTeamRubus
Facebook: Team Rubus

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tasti-Lee Tomato Hits the Florida Markets

New tomato coming to stores:

Tanya Arja FOX 13 News reporter

TAMPA - How to develop a "redder, juicier, sweeter tomato" has been 10 years in the making, and the man working on it thinks he has finally found a winner.

"Really, what I think makes it stand out, is its ability to produce good flavor, under a wide range of conditions," said Dr. Jay Scott, with the University of Florida Gulfcoast Research Center in Wimauma.

The tomato is called "Tasti-Lee." It has more Lycopene, an antioxidant, which makes it healthier. Plus, the color is more crimson than other tomatoes.

Inside the lab at the research center, scientists spend hours researching different tomato varieties. They pick leaves off the plants, freeze them, grind them up and then extract the DNA.

They check for genetic markers to see which plants they want to cross breed.

"The idea of getting a better tasting tomato, you go out and do a lot of work and make a lot of crosses. For instance, you might cross 20 different parent lines to make all kinds of hybrids," Scott explained.

Tasti-Lee is the cross breed of two plants. The tomato was ready four years ago, but it took time to find a seed company to produce it, farmers to harvest it and stores to sell it.

Publix now has exclusive rights to sell it in Florida, and the demand has been so high, supply is limited. But that should change in the next month, as the new harvest comes in.

Publix customer Peter Florence loves the tomato.

"Once you try it, you're just not going to go back to the others," Florence says.

He did his own taste test of the tomatoes in the store and says his food has never tasted better.

"It just has a more, old tomato-y flavor. Some of the tomatoes you buy, it's like...nothing."

Dr. Scott loves to hear that. He named the Tasti-Lee after his mother-in-law, who died five years ago.

"I know there are stories about mother-in-laws. But my mother-in-law was always very nice to me and was a tomato lover. And when she was dying, I told her I was going to name a tomato after her, so her name was Lee, so that's where the Lee came from," Scott explained.

He hopes his creation will bring more money to farmers and grocery stores. Right now, farmers in North Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina are growing the tomato.

Florida growers will start soon, as we come into tomato season here.

The Tasti-Lee's sell for about $1.99 to $2.49 a pound.

This news stories original link: New Tomato Coming to Stores

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Managing water, fertility boosts tomato yields, eliminate blossom-end rot

From the North Carolina Department of Agriculture

Southeast Farm Press


Clayton Garner Jr. has grown tomatoes for more than 20 years. For much of that time, blossom-end rot — a physiological disorder resulting from insufficient calcium — was a fact of life.

But today he has a finely tuned system of watering and fertilization that seems to be keeping the problem at bay and boosting yield as well.

Garner and his father were among the first in North Carolina to try growing crops on plastic to improve quality and manage resources. His goal is to provide his customers with delicious, red, ready-to-eat tomatoes.

To achieve it, he is always trying new varieties, fertility regimes, cultural practices, marketing and outreach strategies. He carefully selects the ones that work and makes them part of his routine. Even so, blossom-end rot persistently remained a problem.

“I was probably losing 10 percent of my crop each year,” Garner said. “I was looking for a solution.”

Dianne Farrer, a regional agronomist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, responded to Garner’s call. She visited his farm, and they talked about the problem.

“Blossom-end rot is basically a calcium deficiency, but its dynamics are somewhat complex,” Farrer said. “Even if sufficient lime has been applied and calcium is present in the soil, blossom-end rot can still occur, particularly in times of drought. A good watering regime is essential for plants to be able to take up the calcium they need.”

“Soil pH was something I had questions about,” Garner said. “My soil report said I didn’t need lime even though the pH was about 5.5 and my plants seemed to need calcium. To me, that didn’t make sense.”

As they discussed the issue, Farrer continued to emphasize the importance of steady water availability and appropriate fertilization in preventing blossom- end rot.

“Watering needs to be regulated and precise,” Farrer said. “Nutrients like nitrogen and potash should be applied in the correct amount and in a suitable form. They have an effect on calcium uptake.”

Nitrogen reduces calcium uptake

Nitrogen, especially in the ammonium form, reduces calcium uptake. When excess potassium or magnesium is present, the crop may take up these ions instead of calcium. Reduced calcium uptake due to a buildup of salts in the soil is more likely to occur with crops grown on plastic because fertilizer is applied through drip irrigation directly to a localized area.

Farrer collected leaf samples to get a snapshot of the nutrient status of Garner’s tomato crop. A few days later, the NCDA&CS Plant Analysis Report confirmed that levels of nitrogen and magnesium were high.

Even though Garner’s soil report showed levels of calcium to be adequate, Farrer advised Garner to put out a pre-plant application of gypsum (calcium sulfate) prior to his next crop to give it a boost.

“On mineral-organic soils like Garner has in his fields, gypsum works better than lime at providing needed calcium,” Farrer said. “It is quickly available and adds sulfur as well.”

Garner continued to consult regularly with Farrer while refining his strategies for watering and fertilization.

He used to water heavily, wait 10 hours and then water again. Now, he waters in smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day so moisture inputs remain steady.

Today Garner has a strategy he can use from year to year.

A pre-plant application of gypsum is routine. He broadcasts fertilizer; plants field tomatoes in plastic-covered rows; waters regularly but sparingly, until fruit are the size of dimes; and then begins to add potassium nitrate through the drip irrigation system.

During flower and fruit, he uses plant tissue analysis on a bi-weekly basis to monitor the crop’s need for boron and potassium since low levels of these nutrients can limit fruit quality and taste even when there is sufficient water and nitrogen.

Farrer said the soils in Garner’s fields have high buffering capacity and hold nutrients fairly well. “But even so, we don’t want to take the risk of something not being there when the crop needs it,” she said. “Tissue test results tell a grower whether crop nutrient needs are being met.”

Plant tissue analysis involves collecting representative plant leaves from random locations throughout a reasonably uniform field. The sample is sent to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services laboratory, where plant-nutrient content is chemically measured. The test is so sensitive that it can detect nutrient deficiencies before plants display any visible symptoms.

For this reason, tissue analysis plays a key role in optimizing the potential yield of high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables and crops grown on plastic.

“Since I changed my approach to water and fertilizer about three years ago, my yield has at least doubled,” Garner said.

“And this year was the best ever. There was virtually no blossom-end rot. I’m confident of the recommendations I get back on my agronomic reports. With that information, I know I can grow No. 1, grade-A, marketable fruit.”

Tissue testing through the NCDA&CS lab costs $5 (in state) or $25 (out of state) per sample. A few crops require additional tests that cost an extra $2. Testing is complete within two business days, and results are posted online at under the “Find Your Report (PALS)” option.

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