TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 The Importance of Agriculture

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

New task force promotes agriculture and rural prosperity

At North Carolina Farm Bureau, we advocate for farmers in the halls of Congress and the offices of the N.C. General Assembly, but we’re nonpartisan. Our focus is with our family farmers and their rural neighbors. They established this organization, and it belongs to them.

On April 25, President Donald J. Trump did something good for farmers and agriculture. He issued an executive order entitled “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America.” Much of it reads like a battle plan farmers might use if storming their enemies’ furrows.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 You Decide: Can Urban and Rural Areas Get Along?

Written by Dr. Mike Walden and originally published at NCSU CALS News.

My wife and I have one foot in rural regions and the other in big cities. We were both born and raised in small towns – I in an unincorporated town (meaning it wasn’t big enough to qualify as an official municipality) in Ohio and she in a recognized town (but still tiny) in upstate New York. I have a vague memory of my mother pulling me in a little wagon to the country store for groceries. On the way home, the groceries were in the wagon and I would walk!

But we’ve spent almost the last forty years of our lives living in Raleigh since I joined the faculty at N.C. State in 1978. Although it may not have been when we moved here, Raleigh today is certainly a big city. Indeed, it is recognized as one of the most dynamic big cities in the country.

My wife and I love both cities and the country. That’s one reason North Carolina is so great – it has both busy urban areas as well as tranquil rural regions.

But often the urban and rural areas don’t seem to get along. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, urban areas tended to vote for Secretary Clinton while rural regions favored President Trump. We saw the same urban/rural split in the North Carolina gubernatorial and General Assembly elections.

The urban-rural divide in North Carolina also extends to public policy. Here are two examples. Local public schools are partially supported by local property tax revenues. Since property values per resident are often higher in urban counties than in rural counties, there’s been a long-running debate whether this wealth disparity gives urban counties an unfair advantage in funding public schools.

The second example is sales taxes. Part of the sales tax revenues collected by the state are returned to the counties, but there’s an issue over how to do this. Should the distribution to counties be based on where the sales occurred or where the buyers live? North Carolina has a formula using both factors, but there’s frequently a debate about the relative importance of each in the formula. Indeed, legislation was introduced this year in the General Assembly to change the formula.

Has the urban-rural feud gotten worse? Some say three powerful forces – globalization, the elevation of education’s importance and population trends – have moved urban and rural areas farther apart in recent decades.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 Why Do We Need a Farm Act?

Stick with us here. Most people probably understand the wisdom, or can at least appreciate the purpose, of maintaining your home. Over time your home gets cluttered, things break, and some of those deep, dark corners you never visit have to be dealt with. It’s not always a fun job, but doing it can make your home a more enjoyable place to live.

North Carolina’s statutes, just like a home, require ongoing maintenance. So it’s necessary, on occasion, for the Legislature to take a look at our statutes and clean up some of the confusing, unhelpful, and out-of-date provisions.

That’s where the annual Farm Act comes into play. Each year since 2013 state legislators have passed a Farm Act to make necessary changes to the law to better serve North Carolina’s farmers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 Elk in NC: The Good, The Bad, and The Solution

By North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten

The old saying goes that ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ There is plenty of truth to that, and as one of the largest land-owning groups in the state, farmers understand this maxim better than most.

This bit of wisdom is at the heart, both literally and figuratively, of a dispute that has been bubbling over in western North Carolina communities for several years now, and is beginning to come to a head. It centers on the reintroduction and management of elk on federal land in the Appalachian Mountains.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 Calling All Teachers: Go Local This Summer!

Being a North Carolina Farm Bureau member has a lot of perks – discounts, scholarship opportunities, leadership development programs, and even the occasional educational trip. But there’s one program that you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the benefits, and that’s North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. (We talked about the program in detail last summer, so be sure to check out that post.)

Since the program’s beginning 32 years ago, we have endeavored to provide professional development workshops throughout the state for K-8 teachers. But over the years we’ve tried to shift our workshops away from a lecture format towards more of a hands-on, in-the-field learning experience. After all, if you have to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs), wouldn’t you rather do it live on the farm instead of sitting in a classroom all day listening to hours and hours of lectured material?

Enter our Going Local Workshop series. Every summer, these workshops are held directly on the farm and are a great way for teachers to gather materials, lesson plans, and current teaching methods to help show students where our food and fiber comes from locally.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 From Dial-Up to Snapchat: Building Ag Communities Online

I can remember like it was yesterday. Once farm chores and homework were completed, there was the opportunity to fire up the computer. And wait for it connect to the internet via dial up. There was no mute button for the wheerrrrrr wweeee DINNNGGG DDDIINNNNGGG DINNNNGGG of the dial up connecting. For a high schooler in the 90s in rural America, the internet was a fascinating place of email, chat rooms, and AOL Instant Messenger. Only one remains popular, and the others have been replaced with text messaging, Snapchat and Facebook.

We lived in mostly isolated parts of northwest North Carolina; my parents are divorced and both lived on a dirt road. My dad’s was a dead end road, with no neighbors on the road. The closest neighbor at my mom’s was a mile away. Needless to say, there were very few play dates and group activities with other rural youth, with the exception of school and church. And even then, it wasn’t uncommon to still feel somewhat isolated as the other kids at school and church had very little interest in the cattle we hauled across the country or the pigs we were taking to the State Fair.

Enter the internet, and with it the ability to connect with kids who WERE interested in the same things as me! I met tons of people my age from across the state and nation through FFA and National Junior Angus Association, and the internet gave us the platform to grow our small community. With the reliability of dial up, we were usually only able to chat for 5-10 minutes before a call beeped in or someone else needed the internet for legitimate reasons, like homework, but it was still exciting to talk to other kids who shared my interests.

While the availability and reliability of internet in rural areas has changed, the isolation in many of our rural areas has not. Many farm youth and adults are still utilizing the internet for the same reasons I did 20 years ago.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 From Dust Came Soil Conservation

Written by Michelle Lovejoy, Executive Director of the North Carolina Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation

“I saw drought devastation in nine states. I talked with families who had lost their wheat crop, lost their corn crop, lost their livestock, lost the water in their well, lost their garden and come through to the end of the summer without one dollar of cash resources, facing a winter without feed or food — facing a planting season without seed to put in the ground.” – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In this quote, FDR is describing his 1936 trip to the Dust Bowl: a 150,000-square-mile area, including the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and bordering sections of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico that was struck by what some scientists believe to be the most severe drought in 300 years. The massive problem started when the drought killed crops that kept the soil in place. Then intense winds raised gigantic dust clouds that would completely cover homes, suffocate livestock and caused pneumonia in many children. It was so strong and unyielding that it even blew dust all the way to Washington, D.C.

But how does North Carolina tie into the Dust Bowl?

North Carolina (Wadesboro) is home to the Father of Soil Conservation, Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett. After accepting a job with the USDA Bureau of Soils in 1903, Bennett went on to spend the next three decades studying soils across the US and abroad, and he became convinced that soil erosion was “the biggest problem confronting the farmers of the Nation over a tremendous part of its agricultural lands.” Soil conservation became his life’s work.

Dr. Bennett was a smart man and a great communicator. He knew that he needed to drive the point home to Congress so they would understand soil erosion as the “National Menace”. The story goes that in 1935, he started tracking a large dust storm traveling from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. He began his plea to Congress and had a runner staged to bring updates of the storm’s movement. At the pivotal point, he stepped down from the podium and threw open the window. As the soil flew in he said, “Gentlemen, that is Oklahoma,” – and with that, the Soil Conservation Act was passed.

Why did he recommend soil and water conservation districts?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Industry Spotlight: NC Strawberries!

There’s nothing quite like the taste and smell of fresh strawberries to usher in warm weather and blue skies in North Carolina. And we’re right smack in the middle of the strawberry harvest, which typically runs from mid-April through late May, so there’s no better time to head to a local farmers market, roadside stand, or pick-you-own site to scoop up a few buckets. In fact, the NC Strawberry Association has partnered with the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NCDA&CS Farmers Markets, and the NC Dairy Promotions Committee to host Strawberry Days at the farmers market. Here are the details:

  • State Farmers Market (Raleigh): Thursday, May 4th from 11am – 1pm
  • Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market (Colfax): Friday, May 5th from 11am – 1pm
  • Charlotte Regional Farmers Market (Charlotte): Friday, May 12th from 11am – 1pm

North Carolina is one of the nation’s largest strawberry producers, and unlike other top states, most strawberries grown here are sold here — fresh, flavorful, and juicy. So in honor of one of the most delicious times of year, today we’re going to pay tribute to the North Carolina strawberry industry.