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, 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, 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 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 2, 2017 An Interview with the Interns – Daniel and Kortney

This week we interviewed Warren Leadership Fellows Daniel Radford and Kortney Smith, who spent this summer interning with North Carolina Farm Bureau learning about public policy and agricultural advocacy. Daniel is majoring in Animal Science and Agricultural Science with a minor in Agricultural Business Management at NC State University; Kortney is a rising senior at NC State studying Agricultural Education.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

Kortney: My favorite part of the internship was flying out to Washington, D.C. with Linda Andrews and Mr. Wooten for a few days. I had never been to D.C. so it was a great experience. It was really eye-opening to see the major differences between how things are handled at the state level versus on a national level and I may have been inspired just enough to possibly take my future career back there!

Daniel: My favorite part of the internship was being able to expand my network, and learning more about the legislative process. Everyone at Farm Bureau has been very welcoming and willing to help in any way that they can, and I am very thankful that they made me feel welcomed this summer. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and building these relationships.

What did you find the most challenging during your internship?

D: Since I was new to working with policy, it took some time for me to learn how the whole legislative process works. Jake and Paul spent many hours mentoring me and Kortney on how everything works at the General Assembly. On the first day, they spent time explaining how to look up bills and discussed how bills move through the General Assembly. I can definitely say that I would have been lost without them, but with their help, I understand the process a lot better than I did when I started.

K: The most challenging part of the internship was definitely learning how to navigate the General Assembly website and understand how bills were moving and what was important in each. Bill language can sometimes be very backwards and confusing, so we had to learn how to follow through all of the citations and correctly interpret what that particular provision meant. After the first few weeks though, we began to get the hang of things! We didn’t always interpret correctly, but we made drastic improvements from our first day!

What was the best advice you received?

K: Without a doubt, the best advice I received was to always ask questions. You can either sit and stay confused about something or ask questions and get a better understanding. There were so many times that I had no idea what was happening, but when I asked questions, things always made more sense and I could actually follow along and get more out of a particular experience.

D: Have an open mind and be open to new opportunities. Being open to new things has allowed me to be able to get the most out of my experience here at Farm Bureau. Walking into my internship this summer, I can definitely say that I did not know what to expect. This summer has been one I will always remember. As my internship is coming to an end, I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have been given while being a part of the Farm Bureau team.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 A Young Farmer and Rancher Story: Jamie and Ryan Clark

Earlier this year, we wrote about Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Program, and how engaging and developing the next generation of American farmers is so important. This week, we’re sharing the story of Jamie and Ryan Clark, a young farming couple from Rockingham County who fell in love with “farm life” and the young farming community.


Seven years ago, my husband Ryan and I didn’t own a farm, much less have plans to own a farm. We were like most young couples, working 50 hours a week to make a living and start our family. We were interested in agriculture, and even had a couple of cows and a small garden in our backyard. That’s when we became involved with the Young Farmers & Ranchers Program after our District Field Representative suggest we attend the NCFB State YF&R Conference. That experience gave us the motivation to grow our small backyard garden into the lifestyle that we wanted for our family.