Agricultural Highlights from across North Carolina

Source: NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Source: NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Check out these local stories recently highlighted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS).

Eastern NC

(Nash County) Department aid helps restore ponds, protect watersheds
When Hurricane Matthew swept through eastern North Carolina in October of 2016, Russell Thompson’s dream of leaving a good piece of property to his son was put in jeopardy. While most of his land survived the flooding rain without too many issues, the influx of water at his pond broke the dam. For Thompson, it was a major blow. He lives in the Green Pond area of southern Nash County on land that’s been in his family since an original land grant from the King of England. Part of his property also includes the pond with the dam that was built in 1954. He used the pond for his cows, for fishing and to irrigate his fields. “It was completely drained,” Thompson said.

(Onslow) NCDA&CS aid helps Jacksonville improve water quality after Hurricane damage
This summer, Jacksonville city leaders hope to wrap up work on a major hurricane recovery project that was made possible with financial assistance from NCDA&CS. The project covers 12 sites throughout Jacksonville where Hurricane Florence left damage and debris behind. Erosion along Scales Creek threatened a running trail (at the wooden railing) in Wooten Park. At many of the sites, erosion along streams, drainage areas and other waterways washed away soil. Drainage infrastructure was damaged, and a washout left a running trail dangerously close to collapsing. Other erosion threatened homes and businesses that were left close to falling into eroded areas. During the downpours and flooding from Florence, lots of debris such as limbs, trees and other vegetation also washed into waterways and blocked the flow. Lots of additional sediment flowed into waterways too, settling into the bottom and creating sand bars in some areas.

(Pamlico) Exploring the Inner Banks: Field Trips with Got To Be NC and local chefs
The first ever Got To Be NC Chef Field Trip was a two-day immersive experience which brought together NC chefs to learn of the bounty of our Inner Banks, the Pamlico Sound specifically. A group of 15 chefs from Asheville to Oriental participated in this unique event. The Field Trip was hosted by Tidewater Grain Company. Tidewater is a Got To Be NC member and produce the first Carolina Gold Rice in North Carolina since the 1920’s. Tidewater Grain Co. started just three years ago with three acres of Carolina Gold Rice and now are up to 120 acres. The company recently purchased a rice mill and are planning to expand to 500 acres in the next three years. Coastal black rye and barley were added this year as well.

(Pitt) From Calf to Carton: Making Dairy Products at Simply Natural Creamery
In the heart of Ayden, stands a farm that many are familiar with and love for their high-quality dairy products. Although the family is a natural with dairy cattle today, their story started with a variety of other crops. Founded in 2011 by David and Neil Moye, Simply Natural Creamery originally started 30 years ago as a row crop operation, which is still a working aspect of the farm today, but when the Moye’s had children, they wanted to give them the opportunity to learn about and raise livestock. Thus the journey into dairy farming with Jersey cows began.

Piedmont NC

(Davidson) A farming dream turned reality at Seven Sisters Farm
As children we all have dreams of becoming something big when we grow up, like a rockstar, veterinarian or doctor. At the age of three, Janice Fine, owner of The Seven Sisters Farm, drew a picture that said “when I grow up I want to be a farmer” and the journey began. Janice and her husband Michael met in college at NC State University when they were both studying natural resource management. “I grew up in a family that grew produce for a living so I have known it all my life,” she said, “but Michael discovered his true passion for agriculture while working for a produce box distribution company in college where he met many farmers and industry workers.” Located in Denton, Seven Sisters Farm focuses on feeding families and satisfying their customers through a diversity of products. “Product diversity is really our goal because we are a retail farm who sells directly to our consumers and we try to have something for everyone,” Janice said.

(Edgecombe) Bold Beef at Harris-Robinette
Agriculture is almost like a spiritual awakening for some people in the sense that when it calls you simply must answer. At least that was the case for Patrick Robinette, owner and operator of Harris-Robinette Beef in Pinetops. Although Patrick was not raised in a farming family, he worked on many of his friends farms growing up and developed a passion for agriculture that led him to pursue a related degree in college. “The funny thing is that I actually started with my major in forestry,” Patrick said, “but one day I came to realize that my previous experience in and passion for cattle farming would take me further than anything else, so I immediately switched my major to Beef Cattle Management with minors in Nutrition and Genetics.”

(Mecklenburg) Passion in a bottle at Lenny Boy Brewing Company
Located in Southend Charlotte, Lenny Boy Brewing Company offers a unique experience and wide array of products for its customers. While in college at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, Townes Mozer learned how to ferment various beverages, a talent that would one day come to serve him well at Lenny Boy. However, it wasn’t beer that initially was the driving force and passion behind his company, but another, non-alcoholic, drink called kombucha. “In 2009, I took a trip to Oregon and tried kombucha for the first time. From then on I was obsessed with the drink and learning how to make it myself,” Townes said, “not only does it have a great taste, being flavored with ingredients from surrounding farmers markets, but it also has a bold but soft texture that is both refreshing and nutritious.” Before Townes officially opened the brewery in 2011, he worked at Mountain Harvest Organics in Hot Springs for 10 months to learn about the farming process and immerse himself in that experience.

(Moore) Innovation in the Industry at Farm Life Hemp
A fifth generation family farm in Carthage has its roots in agriculture and sights on innovation. When the McLeod family first started farming, they focused mainly on our state’s popular cash crops: cotton, tobacco, corn and sweet potatoes. While they continue to grow those crops today, Martin McLeod began venturing into a new venture in 2014 with the emergence of the Farm Bill and the creation of the NC Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. “I have always loved agriculture and can remember working on this farm at only five years old,” Martin said, “and while all of our crops are necessary and important, my mind has always gravitated toward innovative and non-traditional crops.” In 2017, Farm Life Hemp LLC obtained a license to grow hemp and started its journey with just 30 acres of hemp. Today, they grow over 200 acres and offer a variety of products, including oils, salves and pet products.

(Union) Loving Farm Life at Rocky River Farm
Sometimes farming is born in your blood and other times it’s instilled in your family heritage. Greg and Nikki Stephens were both born into farming families with Nikki’s family operating a dairy farm and Greg’s family operating a beef farm. Although neither of them necessarily grew up on the farm, they were familiar enough with the industry that it became a dream that brought them full circle with their family heritage in 2015. “When we moved to Monroe from Charlotte, I wanted to have more control over my food once I retired,” Greg said, “and we settled on beef farming because I am not a morning person, so getting up at the crack of dawn to milk cows was just out of the question.” Currently home to 25 Angus cows roaming on 50 acres of land, Rocky River Farms is well-known for its delicious pasture-raised, grain supplemented meat products. “Cows eat grass, it’s part of their nature and there is no greater joy than releasing my cows into a new field with beautiful green grass and seeing them run and jump at the site of all that new food,” Greg said, “so we always ensure they have enough hay and grass, but at night we feed them a supplement full of vitamins, minerals and 14 percent protein to ensure the best quality meat for our consumers.”

Western NC

(Surry) Growing crops and great musicians at Dock Southern Farms
Agriculture and music are both things that originate in the soul and one family farm is tying both passions together to create a unique experience for its customers. Dock Southern Farms, located in Dobson, was started in 1890 by Will Southern and later passed down to his son, Dock Southern, who built the barns that still stand on the farm today. “I have always loved agriculture,” said Cindy Marion, Dock’s youngest grandchild, “playing in the cow pasture as a kid and watching my grandfather on the farm established that passion, making the farm immensely precious to me today.”

(Surry) Century Farm Feature: Stony Knoll Vineyards
“Because it’s your soul.” That’s how owner, Van Coe, of Stony Knoll Vineyards responded when asked why being a Century Farm made he and his family proud. Stony Knoll Vineyards is in the foothills of the northeast Blue Ridge Mountains, nestled in between the Fisher and Yadkin rivers, in the heart of North Carolina wine country, and it has a history as rich as the wine it now produces. The land on which Stony Knoll lies first became a farm in 1896. Back then, the land was used as farmland to sustain and provide for the family who lived on it. Beginning in the 1940s, tobacco became the main crop, and in the ‘80s, the farm began to grow hay and became home to cattle. Today, the land is a neatly landscaped winery, and the family must concern themselves with both the farming of their land and the manufacturing of products.

(Watauga) Local chefs spend a day learning about the food production system at Shipley Farms Beef
Last month, Shipley Farms once again partnered with the NCDA&CS, NC Choices and the NC Cattleman’s Association and resumed its annual live event providing chefs and other end users with perspectives and insights into the local food production system. This in-person event gave restaurant leaders a chance to take a day to get outside, socialize, commiserate, regroup and prepare to move back to normalcy in the near post-COVID world. Some 55 people were on hand to enjoy an afternoon on the 100-year-old Shipley Farm. Having been around that long, Shipley Farms is recognized as a Century Farm in North Carolina.


Source: Heather Overton, NCDA&CS

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