Farming

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 of FRANK Gallery Karen Youth Art Group
Karen Youth Art Group

North Carolina is home to a growing Karen community, an ethnic minority from Burma that has been forced out of their country due to war. Many of these refugees call the Triangle home, and for the past six years, they have been incorporating their traditional farming techniques in growing both local and Asian produce at the Transplanting Traditions Farm, a five-acre plot of land in Chapel Hill.

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.

America's heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years.

Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there's new crop of farmers to thank for it.

Fulfilling Work, Noble Work

Briana Brough

As the demand for local food and farm-to-table restaurants rises, the American agriculture and food production industries are expanding. 

Pigs on a Farm
Eric Mennel / WUNC

Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt.

Mike Oniffrey

Randy Lewis almost lost the family dairy farm in 2009. The price of milk had bottomed out, and costs for feed, fertilizer and fuel had gone sky-high.

"It was either find some other way to make money or sell the cows and quit," he says.

But Randy had an idea that might just save the farm. He's bottling milk right on-site. Of the 150 dairy farmers in the state, only five bottle their own milk. And Randy's figured out how to do it without shelling out a lot of money.

Watch the story here:

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.

Photo: A tree farm in Rutherwood, N.C.
BlueRidgeKitties / Flickr

When Jessie Davis started tagging trees for sale in his 500-acre farm in western North Carolina this fall, he noticed his Frasier firs were taller and brighter than they were in previous years. He knew the reason was simple: this was a rainy year.

waste management system for a 900State of the art lagoon  head hog farm in Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga / Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The struggle over hog waste lagoons in North Carolina is decades long. Historically, the lagoons have caused several fish kills and contaminated the public water supply. 

courtesy of Kevin Hauser

Horne Creek Living Historical Farm, a 1900s-era working farm in Pinnacle, North Carolina, is prized for its heirloom apples. The farm runs the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard, which is stocked with 400 varieties propagated by cuttings from trees all over the south.  Now, apple trees cultivated with grafts from Southern Heritage trees are under the care of farmers in Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda, thanks to a project called Apples for Africa.

N.C. State researchers are using North Carolina's tomato plants as a case study to understand how Salmonella affects crops.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Researchers at North Carolina State University are searching for Salmonella in North Carolina's tomato crops.  The bacteria causes salmonellosis, a disease that can range from uncomfortable to deadly, and tomatoes in Florida and Virginia have been the sources of outbreaks. Despite North Carolina's close proximity and similar climate, local tomatoes have been safe from the pathogen. A team of scientists from N.C. State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is investigating why.

The Farmery at American Tobacco
Leoneda Inge

There’s a movement in the Triangle to reinvent the grocery store.  A prototype of this new urban market is open for business at American Tobacco in Durham.  It’s called The Farmery

The urban market is made out of a converted 20 foot by eight foot shipping container with living wall planters hanging outside.  The concept of The Farmery is to grow and sell at the same site.

“Almost every person that walks by asks us a question, when, where, why, how, what’s this for?” 

Some of the farmers at Transplanting Traditions.
Transplanting Traditions Community Farm

On 4 acres just outside Chapel Hill, nearly 150 Karen refugees till the soil as they did back home in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Transplanting Traditions Community Farm is educating locals about Burmese vegetables and cuisine, and teaching the refugees about American produce, with the eventual goal of setting them up as full-time farmers.

Honey Bees
Clinton & Charles Robertson

The past year has been a bad one for America's honeybees, with commercial beekeepers reporting hive losses of up to 50 percent. Some blame the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder; others blame pesticides; and many scientists say we just don't know. 

Strickland Farms tobacco and house
Leoneda Inge

Farmers in North Carolina and around the country are keeping their eyes on Washington, where Congress is crafting a new Farm Bill

The Senate's version cuts more than $2 billion in agricultural spending per year, but includes about $100 billion in subsides over the next five years.  President Obama has asked Senators to find more ways to save money, including cuts to a farm insurance program.

Greene County Corn
Greene County Extension

The cold, damp weather so far this spring is causing problems for North Carolina farmers trying to get crops into the ground.  Farmers say they can deal with the rain because of the most recent drought, but the cold is a problem.

Roy Thagard is a Field Crop Agent at the Greene County Cooperative Extension Office.  He says farmers haven’t been able to get the soil weeded and prepared for planting corn and tobacco.  Thagard says the soil needs to be 55 to 60 degrees for plants to germinate or sprout.

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 Carolinians.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 636,000 households in the state have been labeled “food insecure” within the past year. This means that over 17 percent of our families lack consistent access to nutritious food. Families hit hardest by food insecurity are Black, Latino and homes led by single mothers.

North Carolina has a significant number of local, niche and pasture based meat producers and consumers, but it lacks enough processors to make the farm to market meat supply chain run as smoothly as possible. On December 3rd and 4th, people involved in all aspects of the meat business in North Carolina will gather in Bermuda Run to work on streamlining the process during the Carolina Meat Conference.

North Carolina's top apple-producing county is experiencing its worst crop in decades. That's according to growers and agriculture officials who say this year's unusual weather has devastated many of Henderson County's orchards.

Adam Pryor is a farmer and President of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association. He says the crop was hit hard in April by an overnight frost, after unusually warm weather had caused the trees to start blooming.

HSUS
HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States is serving notice to 51 different hog facilities that it will sue over the amount of toxic air pollution they produce.

Leoneda Inge:  Six of the farms are in Edgecombe County and they are all owned by Hanor of Wisconsin.  Peter Brandt is the senior attorney for Farm Animals at the Humane Society.   He says the high level of ammonia produced by these hog farms shows a disregard for the environment, communities and federal law.

“One Man…Two Titanium Legs…100 Chickens.” That’s the tag line for a forthcoming documentary called “The Farmer Veteran Project” produced by Vittles Films. The movie centers around the story of Alex Sutton, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who was seriously injured on his final tour of duty.

North Carolina's farm economy is one of the biggest industries in the state. That's one of the reasons for a forum today on trends that affect the agriculture economy. State officials say farm safety, exports and drought will be some of the topics. Brian Long is with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He says there's another problem that doesn't get as much attention.

State Agriculture leaders have come up with a “wish list” for the legislature.  They say the measures will help farmers weather future disasters.

Farmers – mainly in eastern North Carolina – are continuing to feel the wrath of Hurricane Irene.  Early estimates put damage to Agriculture at 325-million dollars.  The state Ag Board met at the fairgrounds yesterday to discuss how to help.  Ag department spokesman Brain Long says one idea is for there to be “bridge” loans available for farmers devastated by a disaster.

A bison on RG Hammonds' farm in Lumberton roams close to his golf cart
Leoneda Inge

There’s a section of eastern North Carolina where the Lumbee Indians call home.  The Lumbee have a long history of farming and ranching.  But just like African American and women farmers, they were discriminated against by the federal government.   And just like those groups – Native Americans filed a class-action lawsuit – and won. This week – lawyers are back in Pembroke, North Carolina helping the Lumbees file their claims for long-awaited compensation. 

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