TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 From ‘Phone Calls’ to a Photo on the Wall: A Brief History of Mike Smith and the NC State Fair Special Livestock Show

When Mike Smith enters a livestock barn in North Carolina, whether a county fair or the NC State Fair, you would think he was a local celebrity. Truth be told, to many of those who participate in NC livestock events, Mike IS a local celebrity. There’s no shortage of families that offer seating, snacks, and most importantly, hugs to a kindhearted man that has become extended family to those in the barn.

On Sunday, October 15, 2017, Mike’s celebrity status reached an all-time high, with his induction into the NC State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame. While most of the Hall of Fame inductees are lifetime breeders or financial sponsors, Mike, along with Mrs. Carol Turner, were selected for their roles in establishing a NC State Fair Competition that, for many years, was unique to our state – the NC State Fair Special Awards Livestock Show.

Mike is unlike any Hall of Fame Inductee before him; he was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder classified as a disability in the United States. But what some see as a disability, Mike never saw as a hurdle, and neither do those who love him. He has an amazing mind for numbers, loves children, and has always enjoyed being around livestock and fairs

In the late 1980s, Mike began traveling with his nieces as they competed in livestock events. While at those events, Mike’s job was to pick up manure from behind the cattle! When you heard Mike yell “PHONE CALL,” you knew it was code for ‘an animal left behind a pile of manure to be picked up.’ And you didn’t dare try to do it yourself – it was Mike’s job, and he was good at it!

In the mid-90s, Mike began to ask why he wasn’t able to show when he traveled with, assisted, and watched his nieces enter the ring time after time. So, several county fairs would allow Mike to walk an animal through the ring before the shows started. But the NC State Fair was different – it was big, it was busy, and it didn’t have time to let one person walk through the ring.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 The State Fair I Know

When someone asks, “if you could, would you go back to high school?”, most of the time my answer would be a resounding no. Personally, high school was an awkward time. I wanted to talk livestock, not watch the Friday night football game. I spent weekends at county, regional, and state fairs instead of at slumber parties. The ONLY reason I would consider going back would be because that is the age of eligibility for youth livestock programs. Not to mention, that age would mean participation at my favorite place on earth – the NC State Fair.

The 2017 North Carolina State Fair kicks off tomorrow, and by the time it wraps up on October 22nd more than a million people will wander the fairgrounds playing games, riding rides, and eating all sorts of food. This year marks the 150th state fair, and it’s safe to say those first fairgoers back in 1853 might feel like they’re attending a completely different event.

Like them, the State Fair I know isn’t filled with flashing lights, whirling rides, and a plethora of deep fried foods. The fair I know revolves around livestock – hogs, sheep, cattle, goats, poultry, OH MY! The first weekend of the State Fair focuses on youth market animals (meat breeds), exhibited by youth under 21.

For the youth from across the state, the State Fair is the culmination of the year’s work. The county and regional fairs in the spring, summer, and fall are all leading up to the State Fair. It’s like training for a big marathon – there are smaller races throughout the year to build stamina, discipline, and muscle. The smaller race placings are icing on the cake, but the goal is the big one. And folks, the State Fair is the big one.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 5 Questions with Representative Jimmy Dixon

Jimmy Dixon was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term representing Duplin and Wayne counties. He chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is Vice-Chairman of Appropriations, and serves on numerous other committees as well. A few years after graduating from Wake Forest University in 1969, working for Procter & Gamble and teaching school, Rep. Dixon returned to his roots in 1973 and started a farming career raising poultry and vegetables for forty one years until his ‘semi-retirement’ in 2014.

His poultry operation grew over the years to raising about 700,000 heavy tom turkeys each year. His main crop production was string beans, cucumbers, and peppers.

He and his wife, Bobby Jean, have five children and six grandchildren.

Question #1: There are only five North Carolina legislators (about 2% of the General Assembly) who list farming as their occupation. As a farmer, what perspective do you bring to the General Assembly? Conversely, is there anything you’ve learned as a legislator that has given you new perspective on the farm?

As a farmer in the General Assembly, I understand that there are many good reasons that we have remained a free nation for these many decades. However, all those reasons combined may not equal the fact that we have been able to feed ourselves and produce an extra amount of safe economical food and fiber to help feed a hungry world.We must never lose the ability to feed ourselves!I have learned as a legislator that the great challenges facing farmers are, in part, twofold. First, government can change the rules in the middle of the game and increase regulations that strangle efforts to be productive. Secondly, special interest groups have leveraged influence within Corporate Board Rooms across the nation that facilitate retail boycott to promote undue regulations and change practices harmful to many safe and well established farming production methods.

Question #2: Has there been one agriculture-related policy provision that you have felt most passionate about, or that you feel would have the most positive impact on farmers?

I think two of the most important legislative actions taken since I have been in the General Assembly are the passage of H405 Property Protection Act passed in 2015 and H467 Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies passed in 2017.I have probably been more passionate about these two bills than any other bills we have passed because of their far reaching positive effect on our ability to unshackle farmers from misguided special interest groups who rely on the sensational and abnormal portrayal of some of our farming practices.

Question #3: What agriculture-related issues are you working on in preparation for the 2018 short session?
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Farmers Are Multi-Skilled For a Single Purpose

The following article was written by Jessica Walker Boehm and appears in the Fall 2017 issue of North Carolina Field and Family.

Ask a farmer what he or she does on a daily basis, and you’re bound to get a wide variety of answers – there’s planting crops, evaluating soil, predicting weather patterns, caring for livestock, repairing and maintaining equipment, keeping detailed financial records, and much more.

As a result, it’s easy to conclude that farmers routinely multitask their abilities and develop new skills to get the daily job done efficiently and safely. Often, they switch from one role to the next without skipping a beat, constantly working to master new methods and skills that might better serve their farms and livestock.

multi-skilled farmers

“Before I worked in agriculture, I thought you just put a seed in the ground and watched it grow, then had something to harvest at the end of the season,” says Russell Hedrick, a first-generation farmer who owns JRH Grain Farms in Hickory. “I had no idea about the technology you can employ to ensure you grow a better crop, and I didn’t realize how much I would learn once I was immersed in this occupation.”

MORE THAN A FARMER

Just of few of the skills farmers master to accomplish their jobs:

  • accountant
  • advocate
  • conservationist
  • educator
  • entrepreneur
  • feed consultant
  • marketer
  • mechanic
  • meteorologist
  • public speaker
  • researcher
  • soil scientist
  • technology expert
  • veterinarian
  • welder

Established in 2012, JRH Grain Farms is a 1,000-acre, no-till operation that includes corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, oats and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), as well as pasture-raised beef cattle, Katahdin sheep and Berkshire pigs.

JRH Grain Farms also has a seed- cleaning facility that serves various local farms, and Hedrick says his farm is the only one in the state that produces bourbon. Additionally, Hedrick makes legal moonshine and stone-ground grits and cornmeal.

His operation has evolved over the years as he has continued to learn about soil science and technology. For example, he now uses sensors buried 48 inches in the ground to monitor soil moisture and temperature, as well as rooting depth and electrical conductivity, helping him to conserve water.

Hedrick has also worked with scientists and researchers across the U.S. to reduce his farm’s soil fertility needs by approximately 70 percent, which further contributes to his conservation efforts and results in significant cost savings. In addition, he has created a cover crop by blending five different plants that helps limit soil erosion, suppress winter weeds, scavenge excess nutrients from the preceding crop and improve the soil’s biological health.

multi-skilled farmers

Russell Hedrick of JRH Grain Farms

He sharpens his educator skills regularly, sharing his knowledge with other farmers who might also bene t from it. Hedrick hosts a Field Day each year that features guest speakers like Ray Archuleta, a famed North Carolina conservation agronomist, where farmers have the opportunity to learn how they can enhance their operations and improve their soil without damaging the environment.

In addition, Hedrick is a businessman, marketing his products directly to consumers using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and he promotes agriculture by working with organizations like Catawba County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers team and the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

“I try to advocate for agriculture any way I can,” Hedrick says. “Here in Catawba County, we have Farm to Fork Week every June, and the last two years my farm has hosted a daylong event. Members of the community have come out and looked at our equipment and our operation, and this year we hosted kids of all ages.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Kornegay Family Farms v. Cross Creek Seed Co.: What’s the Cost of Selling Bad Seed?

A month ago, farmers scored an important victory when the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Kornegay Family Farms v. Cross Creek Seed Co. It hasn’t gotten much media attention, but Kornegay is a significant case for North Carolina’s farm families, so let’s take a moment to break it down — in both legal terms and layman’s terms.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 The Importance of Infrastructure

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Fall 2017 issue of NC Field and Family.

Initiatives for rural transportation, energy and broadband internet will benefit the state economy

North Carolina’s rural transportation, energy and broadband internet infrastructures are as important to economic development as seed, sun and water are to crops. Economic development is vital for the future of our farmers, rural communities and the population of the entire state.

There is no single “cure-all” for the ailing economies of many rural counties, but these areas have the potential to contribute an additional 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion to the state’s annual income over a decade, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the NC General Assembly.

Because of this potential, the North Carolina Food Manufacturing Task Force was established April 9, 2015. The Task Force seeks to boost the rural economy with a world-class food processing industry.

The quality of roads and bridges tops the list of infrastructure needs that have a direct impact on the economic viability and quality of life in our rural communities. TRIP, a national transportation research group, recently reported, “North Carolina’s rural roads have high rates of fatalities, bridges show deficiencies; the state’s rural transportation system is in need of modernization to better support economic growth and connectivity.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report stated that 10 percent of all Americans lack access to high-speed broadband service, while 39 percent of rural Americans lack access. By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access.

Affordable electricity and access to natural gas are also crucial for economic development. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will provide natural gas to the rural utilities that need it to serve their communities, and is estimated to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses while contributing an estimated $28 million in annual property taxes to local governments.

Agriculture is a crucial component of future economic development in rural North Carolina through the creation of value-added processing jobs and economically symbiotic small business.

Diverse agriculture, combined with an improved infrastructure, can result in the state emerging as a global food leader. State and federal funding, along with private investment, is required to make infrastructure investments that ensure our rural communities have roads that are well-maintained, energy that is affordable and broadband internet that is accessible.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 More Students Find Their Path To CALS

Written by Dr. John Dole, Associate Dean and Director of Academic ProgramsCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

It’s the start of a new academic year, and thanks to your support, more students have found their Path to CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) than in recent years – 839 students to be exact.

This year CALS received 2,116 applications – a 10 percent year-over-year increase – with 452 incoming freshman, an increase of 110 students from last fall. Roughly 54 percent of all applicants were accepted, with 46 percent of these students coming from rural North Carolina.

For many students – especially those from rural and farming communities – gaining access or acceptance to a CALS 4-year degree can be difficult. Student access is a top priority for the university and CALS.

That’s why we are growing existing programs and implementing new systems to provide different paths to campus for a variety of students. We wanted to share a few updates on our progress.

READ: Finding Your Path to CALS

Nominate A Student
This new online student identification process allows teachers, advisors, Extension agents, and others to tell us about students they think would be great for CALS. Most of the 102 nominated students who applied to CALS this year were from rural counties, and most were nominated for under-enrolled degree programs.

Of the 102 nominated applicants, 41 were admitted for the fall, 11 were admitted via Spring Connection, 19 transferred into the college, 5 were admitted to STEAM (the Student Enrollment Advising and Mentoring program), 1 was waitlisted, 4 were denied and 21 were deferred.

We are always looking for successful students. If you know of a great student, tell us who they are so we can contact them. While we cannot guarantee admission to CALS, we can help every student put their best foot forward.

The Nominate a Student website is open again for this application season: go.ncsu.edu/nominate

Spring Connection
Working with the university, we helped create a new spring semester admission option for freshman – Spring Connection. Students were largely accepted into under-enrolled degree programs in the crop and soil sciences, horticulture, plant biology, poultry science and others, with classes starting in the spring. Students can use the fall semester to gain work experience through an internship or attend classes at a local community college.

NC State invited 1,200 students to participate in Spring Connection, and 93 were prospective CALS students. Of the 93, 50 have enrolled (54 percent), and we have confirmed the fall plans for these students – 43 are planning to attend community colleges and 3 other universities 4 are planning to work.

Agricultural Institute – 2-Year Degrees
Not all students need or want a 4-year degree. NC State’s highly acclaimed Agricultural Institute (AGI) provides career-ready students a hands-on technical education through a variety of 2-year associates degrees.

AGI offers six concentrations ranging from agribusiness management to landscape technology, with unique enrichment opportunities outside the classroom that provide valuable real-world experience.

Whether a student needs to hone his or her skills to jump into the agricultural workforce, prepare to start their own business or get back to the family farm, AGI helps students hit the ground running.

This past year, AGI accepted 155 students.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 It’s Time for Regulatory Reform

With Congress back in their districts for August Recess, we thought it’d be a good time to talk about some federal issues that are a high priority for Farm Bureau. Wrapping up this week: regulatory reform.

All Americans have an interest in a regulatory process that is transparent and fact-based, respects the will of Congress, and observes the separation of powers in the Constitution. Federal regulations have a direct impact on farmers and, over the years, the breadth and extent of that regulatory landscape have increased. Farm Bureau has taken a stand against regulatory overreach and is working to reform the federal regulatory process and preserve farmers’ and ranchers’ land-use and water rights.

Regulatory Overload

Today, farmers and ranchers are faced with a flurry of requirements through the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act, immigration and labor regulations, and interpretation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act—to name just a few.

Often, these requirements are the result of federal regulations; sometimes they emanate from court decisions. But no matter how they are established, the result often can be controversial. Stakeholders disagree on the language in the rule, and affected parties disagree on the science, the data or the models underpinning one or the other.

Farm Bureau strongly believes that all Americans, including farmers and ranchers, need a regulatory system that is fair, transparent, adheres to the will of Congress, takes economic impacts into account and respects our freedoms.