Friday, February 25, 2011

Scale Calibration, Asheville March 9 & 16

When: March 9 & 16 from 9 am-noon

Where: Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Center, 94 Coxe Ave. Asheville, NC 28801 (map and directions)

If you use a scale at your farm or tailgate market, it needs to be calibrated by the NCDA for Legal Trade.

This is a great and free opportunity to get your scale calibrated before the selling season.

Contact Melinda Roberts for more details, 828.255.5522,

Blueberry Workshop: Bryson City March 8

What: "How to Establish and Maintain a Blueberry Planting" seminar

When: March 8, 2011. 10:30 am-2:30 pm

Where: Swain County Cooperative Extension, 60 Almond School Dr. Bryson City, NC 28713 (map and directions)

How Much: $10 payable at the door (includes lunch)

Other Details:
Bill Cline NCSU Blueberry Specialist will cover:
- Site selection and preparation
- Blueberry fertility needs
- Pests and their control
- Choosing the right cultivars
- Harvesting

This March 8 class will cover all aspects of blueberry production and will include a "hands on" pruning demonstration at a nearby site. For demonstration purposes, we ask that you bring your own pruners and/or loppers.

More Information: Contact Christie Bredenkamp at
828-488-3848 or by e-mail:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Study Vindicates Tomatoes in 2008 Salmonella Outbreak

From the United Fresh Produce Association
For more information, visit or call 202-303-3400

In a study released in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided detailed evidence linking a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008 to jalapeƱo and serrano peppers, and explained how tomatoes were mistakenly implicated in the early stages of the investigation.

United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel provides the following statement on the study:

“Members of the produce industry and consumers alike should be both relieved and encouraged to see this information confirming the source of the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008. The study in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine underscores the fact that temporal associations based on memories of what someone has eaten weeks earlier can be useful, but not definitive, in these investigations.

“It’s clear from the study that many sick individuals recalled eating a salsa product, but failed to recognize the peppers that were contained as an ingredient. By prematurely jumping to the conclusion that tomatoes were causing the outbreak, officials may have unwittingly allowed the outbreak to continue.

“We credit the CDC and Food and Drug Administration now for reporting these findings, as an important lesson to be learned in outbreak investigations.

“The fresh produce industry is 100 percent committed to doing all we can to prevent any contamination of any commodity from ever occurring. But these are natural products grown outside in nature, often eaten without cooking. In the rare case in which a problem does occur, we stand ready to work with local, state and federal officials to bring the most rapid identification, traceback and removal of a product from the marketplace.

“We are committed to bringing our very best scientific knowledge and detailed understanding of growing areas, production processes and distribution to help government officials quickly identify and remove the real cause of any problem.”

Thu, 2011-02-24 07:26

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fresh Produce Safety - Tier 1 Training

We will be holding a Fresh Produce Safety Training at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center.

The seven hour training will be broken up into 3 sessions on Mondays February 28, March 7 and March 14. The sessions will be from 1-3:30 pm.

The fee for the training is only $15/person. Checks can be made payable to “NCCES”.

To Pre-Register or for more information please call 828.697.4891.

Tier 1 will address GAPs that are directly related to field production and harvest. The training will include an introduction to common food-borne pathogens and diseases as well as recognizing points of potential contamination, proper use of biosolids as a nutrient source, effective hand-washing procedures, packing facility cleanliness and verifying water quality for field application and postharvest handling.

Anyone involved in handling fresh produce, from farmers and field hands to packing house employees and truckers will benefit from the training by learning to identify and prevent contact between sources of contamination and fresh produce. Attending this training session will result in growers moving towards compliance of pending fresh produce safety legislation. Upon completion of the seven-hour training, attendees will receive a certificate of attendance that they can post at their tailgate market booth and their name will be posted on the N.C. MarketReady website (, allowing end markets and consumers to find growers that have completed the training.

GAPs certification requires establishing a food safety plan and passing a third-party audit that assesses the strength of the food safety plan and ensures that it is properly implemented. Currently, GAPs certification is voluntary for North Carolina farmers, though new legislation is on the horizon.

Learn more at

Berry Alerts for Strawberry Growers

As some of you might know, Dr. Barclay Poling, professor and strawberry extension specialist in the Horticultural Science Department at NCSU retired at the end of 2010. Dr. Poling is known for his great extension work, including his berry management emails that helped to answer questions and give weather alerts.

In his retirement, Dr. Poling is continuing with the updates, which are very helpful for strawberry producers. If you would like to subscribe to the new Berry Alerts, please see the message below from Dr. Poling.

"Dear Growers, Agents and NCDA & CS Agronomists,

As was announced in the NC Strawberry Grower newsletter (January/February 2011 Vol. 18, No. 1, p 2), there is now a new advisory called 'berry alert' that is available through the website. This advisory is free.


Step 2. on the home page click on 'Berry Alerts - FREE' tab
Step 3. in the gray panel box you will need to provide some brief information about yourself and your operation (agents and agronomists can simply answer the name of location question by typing in their county name or a region of the state). You will also be given the option to subscribe to daily weather forecasts. The berry alerts do not follow a fixed schedule, though there will be an advisory sent out at noon tomorrow. The weather forecasts are sent out daily.

The first Berry Alert was actually sent out on Saturday, Feb. 12th, and so far everything seems to be working well. I heard from several strawberry growers today who said they had no problem in subscribing. If you encounter a problem, you can reach me at this email address:

I will not be sending out any further berry mg's this strawberry season, so please be sure to get subscribed to Berry Alert in the near future!"

Money Available for Organic Ag Production Conservation: Deadline March 4

Contact: Stuart A. Lee, 919.873.2107

Raleigh, NC - The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in North Carolina is currently signing-up farmers and growers who are transitioning to organic production, or are currently certified organic in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Organic Initiative). In North Carolina, NRCS has more than $1 million in EQIP Organic Initiative financial assistance available to help farmers meet this conservation goal.

"EQIP has always been available for organic producers to treat resource concerns on their land," said NRCS Assistant State Conservationist Greg Walker, "but the 2008 farm bill allows for dedicated funds to be set aside to assist organic producers."

Farmers must sign-up for EQIP Organic Initiative by March 4th to be eligible for funds that are currently available. Though applications for general EQIP and EQIP Organic Initiative are taken continuously throughout the year, it is important that farmers contact their local NRCS field office today and apply by the March 4th deadline for available funds. If farmers interested in EQIP Organic Initiative miss the March 4th deadline, it could be next year before financial assistance is made available again for farmers in North Carolina.

A number of conservation practices may be funded through the EQIP organic ranking category, including cover crops, crop rotations, prescribed grazing, forage harvest management, nutrient management, pest management, and seasonal high tunnels better known as hoop-houses.

Under Organic Initiative contracts, producers are paid a percentage based on an average cost of the organic conservation measures they implement. Beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers are paid 90 percent. Small scale organic producers with less than $5000 in gross agricultural income are exempt from some national criteria.

Visit with NRCS staff at your local USDA Service Center today to learn more. You can find contact information for your local USDA Service Center by visiting the NRCS North Carolina website at

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter Vegetable Conference February 16 & 17

The 43rd Annual NC Tomato Growers Association Meeting and Winter Vegetable Conference and Trade Show is Feb 16 and 17. Come join local growers, specialists, industry professionals and over 65 exhibitors at western NC's premier vegetable conference.

The meeting takes place at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville. Registration begins at 9:30 am on Wednesday and the educational program starts at 1 pm. Registration is $25 at the door. Conference program.

Special Fumigant Session:
Immediately following the conference on Thursday there will be a special session on Working with the New Fumigant Regulations. The schedule for this special session can be found on the conference program. Pre-registration for this session is required and separate from the main conference.
PRE-REGISTER by contacting Robin Tutor at 919-880-4425, or Barb Gallagher at 910-567-7159,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Appalachian State University Food Services Seeks to Source More Local Foods

Appalachian State University Food Services invites local farmers and producers to a forum on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 from 10am-12pm at the Agricultural Conference Center ( located at 252 Poplar Grove Rd. in Boone, NC.

Appalachian Food Services will provide important information for persons interested in selling to them, including: who to contact, working within the state bid process, pricing and volume of commonly used items and more.

Appalachian Food Services strongly encourages interested persons to attend with 2011 product lists and predicted seasonal availability of items that they could purchase.

For more information, please contact Heather Brandon, Food Services Specialist ( or 828-262-6127) or Margie Mansure, Extension Agent ( or 828-264-3061).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Local Food Guide Deadline Feb 15

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) is preparing for the print copy of their annual Local Food Guide. This is the 10th edition of this incredible resource.

If you would like your farm or business listed in the Local Food Guide you can sign-up online here.
The deadline to be included in the Local Food Guide is Feb 15.

100,000 copies of the Local Food Guide are distributed around western NC and the southern Appalachians. In addition, the Local Food Guide is available on-line. (You can sign up to be in the on-line version throughout the year).

If you need assistance in signing up your farm or business, contact the folks at ASAP.

Friends of Ag Breakfast Feb 15

The first Buncombe County Friends of Ag Breakfast will be held Tuesday, February 15, 2011 in the Virginia Boone Building at the WNC Ag Center. The breakfast begins at 7 am.

The event will be a time for farmers, legislators, governing officials, supporting organizations and all friends of agriculture to come together around the same table to share stories, experiences and available opportunities.

Our first speaker will be Bill Yarborough of NCDA & CS discussing the Next Generation of Farmers: Connecting Young and Old and updates on the New Livestock Market.

See the flier for the Friends of Ag Breakfast.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Melinda Roberts at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension office at (828) 255-5522 or

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Agritourism: A Great Way to Diversify

View from Cataloochee Ranch taken at the Business Side of Agritourism Workshop on Jan 26

Check out the article from AgriNews, Agritourism Experiences Teach Valuable Lessons about farms in Indiana that incorporated agritourism activities.

From Christmas trees to dairy tours, 3-D archery, disc golf, bed & breakfasts, haunted corn mazes, pumpkins and hayrides these farmers have some great experience and advice. The article discusses the 'insurance issue' and minimizing risk. Here is another article from AgriNews addressing the very issue of liability, Agritourism Liability a Big Part of Doing Business.

Thanks to all who attended the Business-Side of Agritourism Conference we held last week at Cataloochee Ranch.

If your interested in some agritourism resources, be sure to visit the Agritourism Page on the blog.

If you want to learn even more about Agritourism, the NCDA & CS will hold their 5th Annual Winter Agritourism Conference "Taking Local Beyond the Farm". The conference will take place on February 17-18 in Cathage, NC. To learn more visit

Food Safety Webinar Recording

On January 26 the NC Fresh Produce Safety Task Force presented a webinar on S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act. This was an excellent presentation by Debbie Hamrick of the NC Farm Bureau and moderated by Diane Ducharme.

The webinar was recorded and you can view it at your convenience.
You can get the recording here. Just enter your email address and name and a download of the webinar will start shortly.

Deputy Secretary of the USDA, Kathleen Merrigan, Visits NC!

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is pleased to announce that Kathleen A. Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has accepted our invitation to speak at NCA&TSU and NCSU on Wednesday, February 9.

Dr. Merrigan – named by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People of the World” in 2010 – oversees the day-to-day operation of USDA's many programs and spearheads the $149 billion USDA budget process. She has managed the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative highlighting the connection between farmers and consumers and supports local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in rural
America. She also helped to spearhead the Organic Food Production Act. Learn more at:

Dr. Merrigan will discuss efforts to support farmers and build local food economies and pinpoint professional opportunities available to graduates and researchers at the USDA. Both lectures are free and open to the public. Student participation is strongly encouraged.

Dr. Merrigan’s visit is an important component of CEFS’ ongoing Farm to Fork initiative to build N.C.’s local food economy.

Schedule for Wednesday, February 9:

10:00 a.m. in Room 100, B.C. Webb Auditorium, NCA&TSU

The auditorium is located at the corner of Benbow and East Market Street. Parking is available on the street and in the NCA&TSU parking deck behind the library on Laurel Street. View a map of the NCA&TSU campus here:

2:30 p.m. in Room 124, Dabney Hall, NCSU
Dabney Hall is located on the North Campus at
2620 Yarbrough Drive. Parking is available on Hillsborough Street and in the Dan Allen parking deck. Click here to view a map of the North campus:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grants support diverse agricultural ventures, build local agriculture system


MARSHALL — The WNC Agricultural Options program recently awarded six community groups and 47 farmers grants totaling $326,000 to assist them in farm diversification and joint marketing and distribution efforts.

This year's community grant recipients are creating cohesion, infrastructure and marketing for local products. Individual recipients are improving such diverse operations as a 75-acre kale, turnips and collards farm in Cherokee County, a new dairy in Madison County, a micro-greens venture in Watauga County, and a canned bamboo shoots business in McDowell County.

For a full list of recipients, see

Since 2003, N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has supported WNC AgOptions, a N.C. Cooperative Extension program that provides resources directly to farmers diversifying or expanding their operations. "We have been a strong supporter of the WNC AgOptions program because we know western farmers appreciate the funding and know how to put it into action," said Bill Teague, NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission Acting Chairman. "These farmers have a wide variety of innovative ideas and we expect successful outcomes from which other farmers can learn."

The program has worked in partnership with RAFI-USA's Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund since 2008. RAFI-USA was also included in the $18.4 million Family Farm Innovation Fund last summer, which provided an additional $100,000 for WNC farmers this year.

While WNC AgOptions has given 300 individual grants to farm businesses since 2004, the community grant program is still in its infancy. The WNC AgOptions steering committee established the program last summer to encourage groups of farmers to solve logistical challenges in the local agricultural system, which the committee identified as the main barrier in boosting farm income.

Community groups received varying amounts totaling $92,000. Grantees are: Avery County Farmers Tailgate Marketing Association, Jackson County Christmas Tree Association, Mountain Cattle Alliance, Mill Spring Agricultural Development Center, Watauga County Farmers Market and Southern Appalachian Family Farms.

The community group grantees, which collectively impact at least 3,500 farmers, will:

· Build a distribution center and retail center to serve farmers in at least six counties and consumers in four major metropolitan areas;

· Create energy, unity and awareness of local foods shopping, Christmas tree sales and cooperative farm marketing;

· Establish a system for small and medium-sized cattle farmers to use a portable corral unit, which will facilitate meeting Beef Quality Assurance program standards to increase profits;

· Secure a permanent site for the mountain region's oldest and largest tailgate market, opening up additional space for vendors and creative marketing and educational opportunities.

Three individual farm businesses received $9,000 grants, 25 received $6,000 and 19 received $3,000. Projects increase the economic sustainability of farm businesses as well as provide demonstration to other transitioning farmers. This year's recipients will:

· Continue their family's multiple-generation tradition of farming with such ventures as wine-grape vineyards and wineries;

· Transition a 75-acre greens operation from wholesale markets to direct sales to individuals and grocery stores with the purchase of a translicer;

· Diversify a meat and vegetable operation with the addition of a dairy for 50 head of Holstein and Jersey cattle;

· Sell goat milk under North Carolina Milk for Pet Food Use Guidelines with the addition of certified milking facilities/parlors;

· Expand or add unique poultry selections such as duck, turkey and quail to their farm operations with the purchase of processing equipment;

· Build a farm store to sell several farmers' products on a well-travelled highway in Weaverville where no stand currently exists;

· Revive foods traditional to the Cherokee Indian Reservation, including crawfish and canned wild greens;

· Improve a hydroponic farm's greenhouse heating and irrigation system, increasing the business' bottom line;

· Establish a Black Perigord and Burgundy truffle operation in inoculated Filbert and Oak trees, which are expected to eventually gross between $17,500 to $35,000 annually;

· Demonstrate a unique terraced growing system for raspberries.

The ultimate goal of WNC AgOptions is to protect mountain farmland by assisting the longevity of farm enterprises.

"The sustainability of the agricultural industry in Western North Carolina is dependent upon the innovation of farmers and their willingness to try new things," said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "This region is a leader in agriculture innovation, and I believe that the WNC AgOptions program has played a very important role in providing farmers with educational tools and financial resources they have needed to take their wonderful ideas and turn them into reality."

For more information, see the following websites: N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; Family Farm Innovation Fund:; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:


Megan Riley, Media Relations Specialist, (828) 333-4151,;

Jennifer Ferre, Project Manager, (828) 333-4277,