TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 NCFB’s 82nd Annual Convention

In a few days, North Carolina Farm Bureau members and voting delegates will travel to Greensboro, NC for the organization’s 82nd Annual Convention. The event is a celebration of the year’s work: growing the membership, advocating for farmers and rural families, telling the story of North Carolina agriculture, and investing in the future of our state. But the convention is also the culmination of the year’s policy development process — a process that, for more than 80 years, has exemplified the true grassroots spirit of Farm Bureau.

We’ve discussed Policy Review Day in the past, and have talked about how that event kicks off the policy development process.

During the fall, those policy resolutions go back to all 100 counties and are reviewed, debated, and in some cases modified. This involves countless hours of input from thousands of farmers across the state. All of those county recommendations came together earlier this week and were reviewed again by a 100-person committee comprised of farmers.

At Annual Convention, those resolutions will again be discussed by a voting delegate body of more than 600 farmer members. The process is thorough, comprehensive, and is a wonderful example of how North Carolina Farm Bureau has remained true to its grassroots foundations.

As always, we look forward to next week’s Annual Convention, and we are proud of what it means for this organization and North Carolina agriculture.

READ: Eighty Years of Service for North Carolina Farm Bureau

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 Announcing the North Carolina Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists

Agriculture is the foundation of North Carolina’s rural economies, and plays a key role in strengthening and supporting our state’s rural communities. But another vital component of rural economic development is rural entrepreneurship – the innovators and creators who build upon the entrepreneurial spirit of agriculture by adding value, developing solutions, and investing in the communities they love.

North Carolina’s growing population is a fertile market for farm direct agricultural consumption. Farmers engaging in on-farm entrepreneurship benefit the state and their neighbors through stewardship of natural resources, creating local economic value, fostering a sense of community and preserving North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Among the types of businesses North Carolina’s rural and farm community develop are experiential businesses such as agritourism, product-based businesses such as farm made foods, value-added products, and crafts and service businesses targeted to the public or other farmers.

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud to recognize our state’s agriculture and food innovation. This year, for the first time, North Carolina Farm Bureau members will select the North Carolina Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year. From a strong field of 44 applicants, three finalists have been selected based on their impact in rural North Carolina, their impact to the agricultural community, and for the innovation and creativity of their business ideas. The finalists will attend NCFB’s Annual Convention and pitch their businesses to NCFB volunteer leaders, who will vote to decide this year’s winner. The three finalists are:

Devine Farms is an important member of the Catawba County agriculture community. When judges reviewed their application they were impressed with how the Devines have worked with their community to partner with local schools, businesses and non-profits. Judges were particularly impressed with Devine Farms’ purpose to educate individuals about “agriculture, history and how food is produced.” The judges noted, “Their focus on agritourism is a model for other farms attempting to do similar projects.”

 

Fonta Flora Brewery is a fixture in the revival of downtown Morganton. The judges reviewing their application were impressed with their positive impact on jobs in the community. They were also impressed with their dedication to sourcing local ingredients from local farms. Judges also noted that the purchase of a local farm will enable the brewery to produce some of their own ingredients and will further increase the economic impact of the brewery through additional jobs.

 

Four Prongs Tea and Herb located in Watauga County is a value added medicinal herb business. Ginseng is a heritage herb product from Western North Carolina. While the market for ginseng roots is well established, the tops have been considered a waste product—no one uses them, that is until now by Four Prongs Tea and Herb. Judges reviewing their application were impressed by the knowledge base of company founders and the potential to add sales of tea made from ginseng leaves to an already established market for ginseng roots. Judges noted that “Their idea capitalizes on a sustainable niche.”

 

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud of all this year’s applicants and we wish the best of luck to Devine Farms, Fonta Flora Brewery, and Four Prongs Tea and Herb as they compete for this year’s award. We’re excited to see what you’ll think of next!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 2017 Legislative Long Session Recap

The NC General Assembly adjourned (again) a couple weeks ago, and with November officially upon us it’s probably as good a time as any to put a bow on this year’s legislative session. Overall, it was a good session for North Carolina agriculture, with the General Assembly enacting several important measures to help farmers. Today, we want to give you a quick overview of a few key legislative actions.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 5 Questions with Senator Brent Jackson

Brent Jackson was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term representing Duplin, Johnston, and Sampson counties. He is the co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee and serves on numerous other committees as well.

Jackson and his wife Debbie are first generation farmers, starting Jackson Farming Company in Sampson County in 1981. They currently grow watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews, strawberries, pumpkins, corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, flue-cured tobacco, occasionally cotton, and various other crops.

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?

There are a wide variety of backgrounds amongst my fellow legislators, and I believe that everyone’s individual and unique experiences are a source of value. As a farmer, I have tried to ensure that my colleagues know where their food comes from and the work that goes into putting food on the shelves. I have also made it a point to stress the goodness of American agriculture and the wonderful and exciting career opportunities that exist, especially for young people.

Question #2: In your opinion, what is the most significant state-level issue facing farmers in North Carolina? And what is one issue that may not be on the front-burner for farmers that you think they need to pay more attention to? Why?

I think there are several main issues that we will have to continue to work on at the state level. The first is labor, although mainly a federal issue and President Trump and Congress are working on a solution. However, it is important that from a state level, we are careful not to pass laws making it more difficult for farmers to use a legal workforce. Without a reliable and legal workforce, crops cannot be harvested.

We must also make sure that our regulatory framework is set up to foster growth in the industry and recognize that one-size-fits-all regulations rarely work in farming. Water rights will continue to be an issue that we must remain vigilant on. It will be important for farmers to make their voices heard as the EPA goes about reviewing and rewriting the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

Farming is a way of life in rural North Carolina, and we must do a good job working with our urban citizens to ensure that rural and urban North Carolina works in harmony.

Another issue that we must tackle to ensure the future of farming is the average of the farmer, which in North Carolina is in the mid-50s. Too many of our children in rural communities are moving off the farm and to the cities. It is crucial that we make sure we inspire the next generation of farmers and expose our children to the career options that the ag industry offers. We must also make sure that we help first-generation farmers overcome the barriers to entry, especially given the price of equipment and land.

Question #3: Obviously, you’re very involved in agriculture policy at the legislature. What is another policy area you spend a lot of time working on?
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.”