Thursday, January 31, 2013



Program Contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 252-4783,;
Or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

Grants boost farm profits, sustain businesses for future generations:
Projects include innovative hydroponic fodder system, micropropagation
lab and no-till equipment

MILLS RIVER, N.C.—Western North Carolina farmers received $148,500 in
WNC Agricultural Options grants to diversify their farm businesses in
the 2013 growing season. The 28 grant recipients celebrated Tuesday at
an event at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension
Center in Mills River. The goal of the farms' projects is to enhance

The WNC AgOptions grant program has been funded exclusively by the
N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission since 2003. "The Commission is very
pleased to fund and support the WNC AgOptions program for another
year," said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund
Commission. "We expect to see some unique projects, because mountain
farmers have shown they are resourceful, innovative and committed to
making their farms successful."

Six farm businesses received $3,000, one received $4,500, and 21
received $6,000. Many of the farmers are undertaking projects that are
unique to their counties, and some are leading the way in innovative
agriculture nationwide.

Tester Dairy Farm in Watauga County is creating a hydroponic fodder
system, which grows barley, rye and wheat from seed to sprouts in
eight days so that the farmers can feed their cattle high-protein
grasses daily. The fresh palatable feed is proven to enhance animals'
milk production, improve fertility and decrease respiratory issues.
Thomas and Margaret Tester said they are renovating the farm so that
their granddaughter Jessica Lawrence can take it over without the
worries of weather, lease agreements and costs associated with row

South Valley Nursery and Landscaping in Avery County is building a
micropropagation lab so that grant recipient Tyler Buchanan can mass
produce unique plants such as native orchids that are expensive to
propagate using traditional techniques. Tissue culture requires a
significant upfront investment, specialized training and a sterile
environment to be able to produce new plants in vitro (in a test
tube), but payoff can be significant since the demand for these rare
native plants is high.

Joe Ward in Jackson County is establishing a no-till planting system
in an area where few farmers use this method. In no-till fields, soil
erosion and runoff decrease as a network of fibrous and tap roots grow
throughout the soil profile, providing pathways for air and moisture.
This method also creates a good environment for earthworms and
beneficial bacteria, fungi and enzymes, all crucial for healthy crops.

The WNC AgOptions grants help sustain several significant farms, such
as a 65-acre Old Fort property that the ancestors of grant recipient
Alvin Lytle first acquired in the 1850's, as well as a Bethel Valley
farm that has been in the family of grant recipient Joseph Cathey for
more than 200 years. As profits increase, Reems Creek Nursery and
Landscaping will be able to boost employment beyond its current 25
employees while also continuing to preserve the rural quality of Reems
Creek Valley. With the help of the grant, Addison Vineyard, a part of
a fourth generation cattle farm in Leicester, will be on track to
reaching their goal of profitability by the eighth year of wine grape
production in 2016.

The grant projects help many of the grant recipients' achieve their
dreams of passing their farming operations to their children or
grandchildren. Rick Walker, who is building a poultry processing
facility in Cherokee County, named his farm after his four sons,
Ricky, Joseph, Daniel and Joshua, who are ages six and under. "4 Sons
Farm is the name I chose not only because I have four sons, but
because it is for my sons," Walker said. "I began farming to provide
wholesome food for our children, to teach them an ancient and
respected way of life, and to create a business legacy to hand down to

N.C. Cooperative Extension implements the WNC AgOptions program and
works directly with farmers as they complete their projects. "As we
begin our ninth grant cycle, it is very rewarding to look back at all
the successful farm operations and creative enterprises that have
grown from the initial investments," said Ross Young, Madison County
Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "The
farmers in western North Carolina are the most vital component of the
program. It is their ideas and their dedication to the success of
those ideas that make it all work."

In partnership with N.C. Cooperative Extension, the non-profit
organization WNC Communities administers WNC AgOptions grants. WNC
Communities is dedicated to providing a unique forum for leaders in
western North Carolina to carry out innovative programs to improve the
quality of life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture

"WNC Communities is delighted to serve as fiscal agent in bringing
these funds to creative and innovative farmers throughout western
North Carolina," said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities.
"We are extremely appreciative to N. C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission
for their long standing and continuing commitment to WNC AgOptions and
the farmers of this region."

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include:
representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, WNC Communities, N.C.
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division,
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in
agriculture. For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural
Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tree Seedling Sale: Buncombe County

The Buncombe Soil and Water Conservation District will hold its annual tree seedling sale starting on February 28th-March 2nd at Jesse Israel and Sons Garden Center at the WNC Farmer's Market. The sale will begin on a Thursday and run through Saturday or until we are out of seedlings. 

Date & Times:
February 28th 12:00pm–5:00pm
March 1st 9:00am – 5:00 pm
March 2nd 9:00am – 4:00 pm or until out of stock

Seedlings will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on the days of the sale. You can call the office from February 4th-21st for preorders and to check availability at 828-250-4785.

Preorders must be picked up by 5:00pm on Friday March 1st at Jesse Israel and Sons. Advance orders not picked up by 5:00 on Friday will be released for sale. Advance orders must be paid in full into the BC SWCD office by February 22nd. Check or cash only. 

Eastern White Pine seedlings are .25 cents each and the hardwood species are .75 cents each. 

Henderson County is also doing there seedling sale.  Visit  for more info.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2012 Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture administered by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is a complete count of America's farms and ranches and the people who operate them.  Taken every five years, the Census provides valuable information used at local, state, and national levels to plan for the future.  The Census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state, county, or county equivalent in the nation.  By participating in the Census, you help show the value and importance of U.S. agriculture. 

By now you should have received your 2012 Census of Agriculture in the mail.  If not, you can also complete it online at  Completed Census forms are due back to NASS by February 4, 2013.  For more information visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Packaged Foods Manufacturing Short-Course Feb 11, Raleigh

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems, NC Cooperative Extension and NC State University are excited to offer a short-course on Packaged Foods Manufacturing!

This fast-paced workshop is geared towards entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, farmers market vendors and those thinking about getting started in packaged foods but don't quite know where to begin. There are a myriad of rules and regulations to follow, including, completion of the Acidified Foods Processing and Packaging Better Process Control School. While this this short-course will not certify you to sell acidified foods, it will give you a better understanding of the process and how you can get started!

Packaged Foods Manufacturing Short-Course
Date: Monday, February 11
Time: 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.
Registration Fee: $20
Location: TBA, Raleigh, NC

Organizers: CEFS, Wake County Cooperative Extension, and NC State University

Featured Speakers: Dr. Fletcher Arritt, Food Safety and Processing Extension Specialist, NCSU,  Dr. Benjamin Chapman, Assistant Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist, and Allison Smathers, NCSU, Entrepreneurial Food Program Assistant
Thinking about selling fermented, acidified (pickled), or other packaged foods at restaurants, farmers' markets or retail vendors? There are a myriad of stringent guidelines that must be followed in order to do so, including keeping certain records or perhaps acquiring a label, getting a process authority letter and taking the multiday Acidified Foods GMP School for Pickle Manufacturers course or others offered by NCSU. 
This workshop is designed to give participants a VERY general idea of what is expected by regulators to manufacture and sell packaged food products and about the Pickling School, briefly covering such topics as: basic food safety, supervisory skills, pH levels in your products, sample submission process, labeling, kitchen certification, record keeping and more. The purpose of this course is to provide you with a VERY BRIEF outline of the processes you will need to go through in order to sell your products.

For more information or to register, please visit the CEFS website.
For more information contact Lisa Forehand at 919-513-0954 or

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fumigant Label Changes: Learn about them on January 29

Soil Fumigant Phase 2 Labels have taken effect.  These new labels have some significant changes that will impact all growers who utilize soil fumigants.  To learn more about fumigants and implementation of the labels visit the EPA's Soil Fumigant Toolbox.

On Tuesday January 29th, the NC Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with Southern States and the NC Department of Agriculture will hold a meeting on the new fumigant labels.   This meeting will begin at 8:30 am and will be held at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Office located at 94 Coxe Ave in Asheville.

Below you will find the agenda for this meeting.

8:30 am – 9:00 am
Breakfast and Introduction

9:00 am – 10:00 am
What you need to know about the changes in Fumigant Labeling for 2013
Bruce Nicely – NC Pesticide Inspector
Charlie Clark – NC Pesticide Inspector

10:00 am – 11:00 am
RUP Record Keeping and Storage
Sue Colucci
Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture

11:00 am – 11:30 am

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Listening Sessions

Share your voice. Share your vision: N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is developing a strategic plan to guide the College’s future, and we hope to hear from you. Alumni, donors, students, parents, faculty and staff members – indeed, all people with an interest in the College – are invited to attend listening sessions that are being held across the state. During these sessions, you’ll talk, and we’ll listen. Your participation will help us as we build an exciting and dynamic future for our College and for the people we serve.
Please make note of the dates below and register using the following link
Date Time Location
Thursday, January 24 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Duplin County Extension Office
165 Agriculture Drive, Kenansville, NC 28349
Thursday, January 24 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
and Extension Center
207 Research Station Road, Plymouth, NC
Wednesday, February 6 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Union County Extension
3230-D Presson Road, Monroe, NC
Thursday, February 7 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Iredell County Extension
444 Bristol Dr., Room 110, Statesville, NC
Friday, February 8 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Western North Carolina Agricultural Center
1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher, NC
Friday, February 8 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Madison County Extension
258 Carolina Lane, Marshall, NC 28753
We also encourage you to go to the CALS Strategic Planning Web Site ( to learn more about the process, monitor our progress in the coming months and to offer input.
Thanks for your past and future support of the College. We look forward to your involvement.
Rich Linton
Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Friday, January 18, 2013

Annual Tree Seedlings Sale

Annual Tree Seedlings Sale

The Henderson County Soil and Water Conservation District is now taking orders for pick-up on Saturday, March 9th.

The seedlings are bare-root, two years old, range from approximately one to three feet tall - depending on species, and are grown by the NC Forest Service.

30 cents each
or $25 for 100
White Pine

75 cents each
Red Maple
Red Oak

$1 each
Eastern Redbud
Flowering Dogwood
River Birch
Yellow Poplar

Customers can find at the website by clicking on “Tree Sale”.  Order forms can also be picked up during business hours.

There are several ways to place an order:
•email a completed order form to:
•phone in your order: (828) 697-4949
•fax a completed order form to: (828) 693-5832 or
•mail a completed order form to: Henderson Co. Soil & Water Conservation
District, 61 Triple Springs Road, Hendersonville, NC 28792

Orders must be picked up on Saturday, March 9th at the Mountain
Horticultural Crops Research Station (74 Research Drive 28759, on Old
Fanning Bridge Road near the Asheville Airport) from
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For directions to the Research station, go to

Please do not send money now; payment is due on day of sale.  Cash or check only - we cannot accept credit or debit cards.

Any proceeds benefit the SWCD’s youth education and outreach program.

Farmers Market Manager Workshops

Registration is now open for NCDA&CS's annual farmers market managers workshops.  The workshops will be held:

Feb 22 - Wilmington, NC

Mar 8 - Smithfield, NC

Mar 13 - Fletcher, NC

The program costs $20, which includes lunch and materials. Pre-registration is required.

The agenda and registration form can be accessed here:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

NC Hops Industry

Congratulations to Dr. Jeanine Davis and her staff on their article in The Southeast Farm Press, Demand, Interest in Hops Soaring In North Carolina.

Roy Roberson
January 7, 2013

Three large beer brewers are building their east coast breweries in North Carolina, combined with 60 or so craft beer brewers and a thriving number of amateur brewers and there has grown a significant demand for one of beer’s primary ingredients — hops.

The crop is not native to the Tar Heel state, but has been grown in the past and can be grown now, but just how to do that has proven to be a perplexing challenge for North Carolina State University Horticulturist Jeanine Davis.

Davis and her research team at North Carolina State’s Mountain Horticultural Research Station in Mills River, N.C., and on the main campus in Raleigh, have taken up the challenge and are making progress in getting hops planted in the western and piedmont sections of North Carolina.

With the financial help of the North Carolina Golden Leaf Foundation, North Carolina State University soil scientists Rob Austin and Scott King, established a short trellis hop yard, which is the terminology used for a planting of hops, at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh, N.C in 2010.       
The experimental hop yard includes 200 total hops plants on one-quarter of an acre. The hop yard contains 10 different U.S. hops varieties replicated four times throughout the experimental site.
The varieties were selected based on their range of alpha acid content (bitterness), yield potential, disease and pest resistance, total U.S. production, and demand by local craft breweries.

In 2011, with financial help from a Specialty Crops Block Grant through the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Davis established a quarter acre high trellis (20 feet tall) hop yard at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station. It has 10 varieties, eight of them the same as in the Raleigh yard.

Austin, King, and Davis have worked the past three years with a small community of growers with established hop yards in western North Carolina.

Sierra Nevada, a nationally known brewery with some quirkily named, but highly popular beers, recently began construction of a brewery adjacent to the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River. “We considered building a zip line across the river direct to the brewery,” Davis jokes.

When asked why they chose to move to the mountains of western North Carolina, a Sierra Nevada spokesperson says, “We were charmed by the people and environment in Asheville. We love the sense of the outdoors and connection to the land, as well as the amazing beer culture and brewing scene that’s sprung up over the past decade.”

Currently, New Belgium and Oskar Blues breweries are in the process of establishing breweries in North Carolina.

New Belgium, which markets the highly successful Fat tire brand beer, plans to break ground for it $175 million facility in the first quarter of 2013 and plans to begin brewing beer there by early 2015.
Oskar Blues will actually be the first of three breweries to begin operation from their plant in Brevard, N.C.

In addition to national craft brewers, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, a number of local craft brewers, or micro brewers have been highly successful in western North Carolina, especially in and around Asheville.

“And, making home beer has become such a big hobby that there are now competitions, much like chili cook-offs”, Davis says.

Growing hops in the cool mountain air of western North Carolina may seem like a natural, because of the similarity with areas in southern Germany, in which hops production is done on a large scale. However, in reality, most of the old world hops varieties grown in Europe aren’t well suited at all for production in the Upper Southeast.

Though Germany, in particular Bavaria, is the largest hops producer in the world, with about 35 percent of worldwide hops production, the U.S. is rapidly gaining, producing about 24 percent of global output.

In the U.S., hops production is highly concentrated in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Davis notes that hops grows best between the 35th and 55th latitude, considerably farther north than North Carolina.

Even the Pacific Northwest, at the bottom end of the ideal crops production area, growers can count on 16 or more hours of daylight during peak hops growing season. In western North Carolina, maximum daylight is about 14 hours.

This is critical because hops is a highly day-length sensitive crop. Davis points out there are now some hops varieties that are more daylight neutral and require less daylight than varieties grown in most areas of the world.

“These day-length neutral varieties, bred in South Africa, are the ones we need to use in North Carolina, she says.

“Brewers will likely ask for more commonly known aromatic hops, but any new grower should grow hops varieties suited for production in North Carolina, and then convince the brewer to use these varieties,” she adds.

“There are some indications that growing day-length sensitive varieties here in North Carolina is severely limiting our yields. In some cases, we may be losing up to 85 percent of potential yield, just because we are trying to grow the wrong varieties”.

She points out the obvious — all these new craft brewers coming into North Carolina want locally grown hops. “We know there is demand for locally grown hops, but so far I don’t know of any local growers who have found a way to grow hops on a large scale and do so profitably,” she adds.

“We’re working on it, but so far the hops industry in North Carolina is definitely in its infancy”.
Labor is definitely a limiting factor in establishing commercial size hop yards. Right now all the hops grown in North Carolina are hand harvested. It takes about an hour to hand-harvest a pound of wet hops, which sells to local micro or craft brewers for $16-$20 per pound. Dried hops sells to home brewers for $3-&5 per ounce.

To be profitable, the research indicates that commercial growers need to harvest at least one pound of wet hops per plant and sell those for about $20 per pound.

To brew a small batch of a seasonal beer with wet hops, most breweries need 25 to 30 pounds of hops. This is an attainable goal, but so far, none of the growers are reporting making a profit. 
The cost of establishing a hop yard is high, somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000 per acre, perhaps somewhat less if a grower has free access to tall, sturdy locust poles needed in the construction process.

When selecting a hops site, growers should pay special attention to three things, Davis says:
• Select fertile, well drained soils;
• Select a site with good air circulation;
• Select a site with good overall drainage.

Hops is a perennial plant that is usually grown from spring transplanted rhizome pieces. It grows and fruits best when it grows vertically, hence the need for tall, sturdy poles as part of the hops yard. As the hops yard matures, production typically goes up and production costs come down.
The over-riding key to have any chance at making a hops yard profitable is to choose varieties that are best suited to your growing conditions, the North Carolina State specialist says.
“Hops are typically grown from rhizome pieces, and it is critical to get clean, healthy rhizomes for transplanting, she adds.

The North Carolina specialist says not keeping the sprouts pruned back long enough in the spring is probably limiting production. “Waiting until April to let these sprouts grow seemed to work best for growers this year,” she says. Research continues to uncover production tips and these are passed along via myriad conventional Extension channels and not-so-conventional social media outlets.
So far, so good with the few hops growers trying it on a small scale, Davis says. “Hops are doing surprisingly well here, considering how far south we are located! They seem to be doing particularly well in the mountain areas, she says.

“Our hops mature really early here; we start harvesting in July. We aren’t sure what that means for the plants in the long-term. We have more disease, insect, and weed pressure than in the Pacific Northwest, but we expected that and we are figuring out ways to cope.

“I think our success will rely on having markets that will pay a premium for high quality, locally grown, hand-harvested hops,” she adds.

Monday, January 7, 2013

FDA: Federal food safety law carries price tag

Tom Karst
The Packer

The costs to fruit and vegetable growers for complying with the newly proposed produce safety regulation have been estimated at more than $30,000 annually for large farms and about $13,000 per year for smaller farms.

Those figures come from the Food and Drug Administration’s cost-and-benefit analysis of the produce safety rule regulation, one of two proposed Food Safety Modernization Act components released Jan. 4.

The FDA estimates the new food safety regulations on growing and packing will prevent 1.75 million foodborne illnesses annually.

The proposed rule imposes new standards on growers for worker training and hygiene, agricultural water purity, biological soil amendments, equipment, tools and buildings. Exemptions to the proposed rule were carved out for produce commodities rarely consumed raw, produce used for personal or on-farm consumption, produce that receives a “kill step” to reduce the presence of microorganisms and farms with average annual sales of $25,000 or less.

Other growers with sales less than $500,000 (and who sell mostly to consumers or nearby retailers and restaurants) can qualify for exemption or fewer mandates — as outlined in the Tester Amendment.

The FDA calculates the benefit from reduced foodborne illnesses to be $1.04 billion. The FDA estimates the cost of the legislation to domestic farms at $460 million annually and $171 million a year for foreign farms. Net benefit was calculated to be $406 million annually.

Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said it is hard to predict foodborne illness outbreaks. He said one of the benefits of the regulation is greater consumer confidence in produce safety and less damage to the industry from recalls.

Taylor said FDA plans to collaborate with the produce industry, state agriculture departments and University Extension agents to educate growers on the new requirements and to provide technical assistance and training.

Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said in a Jan. 4 news conference that the produce safety rule will allow small and large farms to organize themselves around one set of standards, rather than multiple standards from multiple buyers.

“Now there is going to be a uniform, agreed-upon approach that I think will both be driven by the best possible science and be agreed up and enforced at various levels, both local, state, industry and by FDA,” she said.

The produce safety rule was one of two rules released on the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the federal food safety law.

A second rule released Jan. 4 is the regulation designed to prevent foodborne illnesses originating from food facilities.

The proposed rules are available for public comment for the next 120 days, according to a news release from FDA. After the comment period, the FDA could take up to a year to publish final rules, Taylor said.

Industry leaders said they immediately began reviewing the lengthy proposals.

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said Jan. 4 he was glad the produce safety rule was finally out.

“The industry has been in limbo for the past year waiting for the rules to come out, so at least now we have begun the process of looking at them and over the next 120 days we will talk to membership and groups and around the country to provide some input on what we see,” he said.

The 547-page produce safety rule is so long that average growers may have difficulty reviewing the proposal, said Chris Schlect, president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council. He predicted the 4-month comment period may be extended because of the length of the proposed rules.

“The fear I have is not so much for the big operations because they have people on staff trained to deal with these kinds of things,” he said.

While the smallest farms are exempt from regulation by the food safety law, Schlect said mid-sized family operations might be driven out of business by the regulation.

Schlect said he hopes the FDA provides flexibility for low-risk commodities, including apples and pears.

Officials for PMA and United Fresh declined comment until they could review the proposals in-depth.

Produce safety rule

The produce safety rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce. This rule proposes science- and risk-based standards for fruits and vegetables, according to the release.

The produce safety rule proposes that larger farms comply within 26 months after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, according to the FDA release. “Small” and “very small” farms would have more time to comply, according to the release. All farms will have more time to comply with water quality requirements.

Food facilities rule

The 680-page proposed rule on food facilities requires makers of food to be sold in the U.S., (whether domestic or imported), to develop a formal plan for preventing foodborne illness, according to the FDA release.

The proposed rule would establish requirements for a written food safety plan, hazard analysis, food safety measures to prevent contamination, monitoring, corrective actions, verification and associated records.

The agency said it is proposing that many food manufacturers be compliant by a year after the final rules are published; small and very small businesses would be given additional time.

FDA’s implementation of the proposed regulations will require additional funding, Taylor said.

Hamburg said additional rules on imported food and accreditation standards for third-party food safety audits overseas.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reminder to All Agriculture Fumigant Users

In addition to the fumigant label changes that we were required to follow last growing season the new “Phase Two” changes will be in effect for the upcoming year.

 These changes include:
  1. Buffer Zones and Posting
  2. Emergency preparedness and response measures
  3. Training required for at least one certified applicator supervising the application (at this time the training must be completed online until further notice)

Changes to label last year are still in effect:
  1. Fumigant Management Plans (FMP’s)
  2. Good Ag Practice Requirements (GAP’s) which includes requirement for yearly respirator fit testing

Visit the EPA website-   
to view the “toolbox”  for information on all label requirements

Online training for the new required certified applicator training can be completed at:
at this site go to