Agriculture

So Good Pupusas

Chefs, writers, scholars and restaurateurs will gather over the next two days for the first annual Carolina Food Summit. By building community around food, they hope to change food policy. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Shorlette Ammons, community food systems outreach coordinator at NC A&T University; Inez Ribustello, co-owner of On the Square restaurant in Tarboro; and Cecilia Polanco of So Good Pupusas about the summit and their work in rural foodways and social justice.

NC State Awarded Grant For New Plant Sciences Initiative

Aug 19, 2016
Artist rendering of the new plant sciences building
NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded a $45 million grant to NC State to help the university build a new plant sciences building. Along with other contributions, the grant gets the university closer to the $160 million cost of construction.

Photo: Jim Rose, regional president of Yadkin Bank in Raleigh, speaks before a crowd at the launch of the Connect NC campaign
Jorge Valencia

Governor Pat McCrory made his first public speech for a bond referendum on Tuesday, urging North Carolina voters to approve $2 billion in borrowing for public service investments such as building new science education and research facilities on college campuses, new facilities for the National Guard, and sewage renovations in small towns.

Kelly Holden stands in front of his truck a few days after rain and flood waters damaged some of the fruit and vegetable crops on his 250 acres of land. His family has been farming in Brunwisck County since the 1750s.
Jeff Tiberii

Farmers across eastern North Carolina are assessing crop damage following heavy rains and flooding. Some growers have lost entire fields while others will wait weeks to determine what can be harvested. As local and state officials scurry to place a value on what was lost, members of the agriculture community say they’re glad the harm wasn’t worse.

Governor Pat McCrory addressed a gaggle of local officials and media members on Tuesday in Brunswick County. He says the main focus now is determining how to best help farmers in the eastern region of the state effected by weekend storms.
Jeff Tiberii

Many farmers in eastern North Carolina continue to assess crop damage following weekend storms. Flooded fields are expected to result in depleted peanut, sweet potato and cotton harvests this fall. Governor Pat McCrory expressed concern about the agriculture industry at a Tuesday briefing.

A picture of a flooded New Jersey pumpkin patch.
Jackie / Wikipedia

The worst of the stormy weather has passed. But Brian Long of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says the trouble is still ahead for farmers.

"Unfortunately, the impacts are on some of the crops that are major for North Carolina: Peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton, tobacco, soybeans, in particular. And then you think about farmers, such as pumpkin farmers, that this is the time of year when their crop is in demand, and we're hearing some reports of pumpkins, you know, actually just floating in water in fields."

Coal-burning factories next to a marsh
Alan Cressler

Environmental scientists from the local, national and international levels will convene at North Carolina State University to discuss climate change and its impact on agriculture. A panel will discuss topics such as agricultural risk management and the economic impact of climate change to North Carolina and the southeast.

A picture of chickens.
woodley wonderworks / Wikipedia

The fall bird migration season has poultry producers concerned.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said avian flu is not dangerous to humans, but it is highly contagious among birds and can wipe out entire poultry flocks.

Image from a drone hovering in the air
NGAT at NC State

North Carolina is taking small steps toward opening up the skies for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Department of Transportation has created a position to regulate the skies for recreation and commercial drone pilots and the state is creating new test that ensures pilots know the rules before they launch their planes into the skies.

Image of Ramon, who helps out with a Know Your Rights training session.
Ramon Zepeda

Foreign-born farmworkers are vital to the American food system. But while most of the produce that ends up on American plates is handpicked, the day-to-day lives of people laboring in the fields still remains more or less invisible. Ramón Zepeda is a 28-year-old working to change visibility of farmworkers.He grew up in a small farming community in Jalisco, Mexico. Most of his family members have spent time in the fields, and he has devoted his life to working in solidarity with underrepresented workers.

NC Poultry Industry Prepares For Bird Flu

Jun 11, 2015
chickens
Katie Brady / Wikimedia Commons

State agriculture officials are ramping up efforts to protect North Carolina's poultry industry against the avian flu.

The bird flu, called H5N2, is not a danger to humans, but has devastated poultry flocks in 21 states. Since its first appearance in December 2014 in British Columbia, the virus has killed nearly 50 million birds. The disease is spread by wild water fowl as they migrate across the continent. 

North Carolina is still free of the bird flu, but Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said that may change as wild birds begin their migration south in the fall.

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed two bills this week that stirred controversy as they passed through the state legislature. 

House Bill 405- dubbed by opponents as an "ag-gag" bill- would have allowed businesses to sue employees who secretly recorded animal abuse or other illegal activity. The bill applied to farms, along with businesses like restaurants and daycare centers.

The Haw River as seen from the Bynum Bridge with 15-501 in the distance
Keith Weston / WUNC

Depending on the perspective, the announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency was instituting a new, updated and clarified Clean Water Rule is either a cause for celebration in North Carolina or a cause for fear that it will choke the state's economy

What is most likely, of course, is that the rule will come under further partisan attacks.

A picture of strawberries.
BeccaG / Flickr

North Carolina's strawberry harvest is expected to be strong, even though a cold winter damaged some plants.

Don Nicholson is a regional agronomist for the state Department of Agriculture.

"We still had those extremely cold nights, and even though the plants are dormant, they still had some damage to the crown, which translates into some growers not having much fruit right now."

Nicholson says it hasn't resulted in a marked shortage.

"The Last Barn Dance" tells the story of North Carolina dairy farmer Randy Lewis.
Ted Richardson and Jason Arthurs

    

Randy Lewis' dairy farm has been a gathering place for the people of Eli Whitney, N.C., for more than 50 years.

His family's annual barn dances are living relics of simpler times in North Carolina's agricultural industry.

But the Great Recession forced farmers to find new ways to save those traditions. Many went out of business. Lewis and a handful of others stopped falling further into debt by bottling their own milk. But it remains to be seen whether cultural traditions like the barn dance will stay alive.

Oysters On The Rise

Mar 10, 2015
North Carolina's oyster sales doubled between 2005 and 2012.
Miwok / Flickr Creative Commons

  

Oyster growers, researchers and enthusiasts gather in Raleigh today and tomorrow for the North Carolina Oyster Summit.

Food writer and oyster expert Rowan Jacobsen will give the event's keynote address on the rise of oysterculture in the southeastern U.S. and North Carolina. He wrote a book, A Geography of Oysters: the Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America (Bloomsbury USA/2007).

Photo by Barcelona-based photographer Violeta de Lama, courtesy of Wil Weldon.

More and more people around the world are choosing to get their hands dirty—digging in the dirt in their backyard or at a community garden to plant produce.

Mary-Dell Chilton is a pioneer in the field of agricultural biotechnology. As a young scientist at Washington University, she led the team of researchers that produced the first genetically-modified plant. Chilton moved to North Carolina in the early 1980s to begin her corporate career and has continued to conduct research that shapes the agricultural production of corn, cotton, and other crops.

Oxfam distribution in East Africa, 2011
wikipedia

More than one billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Some experts estimate a need for more food in the next 40 years than in the last 10,000. National Geographic contributor Joel Bourne wrote a 2009 cover story, The End of Plenty, about the crisis. He has continued his reporting on the causes of the food shortage crisis and strategies used to address it. Host Frank Stasio talks with Bourne about his work.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

A resolution may come soon in the case of the Hofmann Forest sale.

N.C. State University is trying to sell the 80,000-acre coastal forest. Opponents say the land serves many vital conservation purposes and should not be sold. 

Since a Wake County Superior Court judge threw out the case last November, opponents have launched two online petitions, flooded the Attorney General’s office with 4,000 emails, and placed hundreds of yard signs across the Triangle and eastern North Carolina.

A picture of a boy and a steer.
Green N' Growing collection / North Carolina State University Libraries

Employees from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension will travel from across the state to Raleigh today and tomorrow to celebrate the organization's 100th anniversary.

The Cooperative Extension is based out of North Carolina State University and NC A&T State University. Their personnel work in every county to connect farmers with new research and technology. But the organization, which runs 4-H, is also invested in helping families in general.

Sheri Schwab is an associate director of the Cooperative Extension at NC State.

Students on a lawn at N.C. State University
Scott Akerman via Flickr

Many studies show that students in rural counties are less likely to go to college, especially four-year or private institutions. Faced with that reality, some university leaders are reconsidering how to attract students from rural communities.

At North Carolina State University, leaders are expanding their current programs that serve and prepare high school students. Earlier this year, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences received a $3 million endowment from a Raleigh couple to help rural students win admission to the university.

Photo: Apples in a farmer's market
Amber Carnes via Flickr

North Carolina lawmakers are looking for ways they can help get fresh fruits and vegetables to corners of the state -- urban and rural -- where they’re difficult to access.

Non-profit organizations and local governments across the country have for years identified areas known as “food deserts” across the country, but the House Committee on Food Desert Zones is the first effort by state lawmakers to address the issue.

Sweet potato fields in Eastern NC.
Bob Is Traveling / Flickr Creative Commons

Many farms spread human waste on cropland to fertilize it. In this case, the waste is called "biosolids". It can carry household chemicals that affect important bacteria, and that can hurt soil health.

The government has had a hard time regulating chemicals in biosolids, because the equipment that measured bacterial gases was very expensive.

But a new report from Duke University's school of engineering shows that bacterial reactions to chemicals can be assessed by changes in color. That's a cheaper test to administer.

USDA protest
USDA photo by Anson Eaglin. / flickr

Starvation is often considered a problem distant from the American experience.

But for many United States citizens, hunger is a way of life. And many of them live right here in North Carolina.

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