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