Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grant Opportunity for Farmers Wanting to Do Value-Added Agriculture

This information is an excerpt from the Triad Business Journal with a link to the complete article:
"The N.C. Value-Added Cost Share program is accepting applications for the spring funding cycle. The program is administered by N.C. MarketReady, part of the educational outreach efforts of Greensboro’s N.C. A&T State University and Raleigh’s N.C. State University. It is supported by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to support the development of value-added agricultural operations, an emerging sector of the state’s agriculture. A value-added product is a raw agricultural commodity that has been changed in some manner so that it no longer can be returned to its original state, resulting in increased market value and allowing the producer to receive a higher price. Chopped lettuce, fruit jams and stone-ground corn meal are a few examples. It can also include production methods, such as organic, or generating farm-based renewable energy. The Value-Added Cost Share program works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce costs associated with professional services and equipment purchases not funded by USDA grants. Equipment cost-share awards will vary from 25 percent to 50 percent of the total cost of equipment, up to a maximum of $25,000. Applications for spring 2010 are available online at and are due by March 30. Recipients will be notified by June 1.

For the full article go to:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Funding for Farmers for High Tunnels and Organic Agriculture

Here is some information I just received from Stuart Lee with the USDA-NRCS. Looks like some great opportunities for our farmers!

On behalf of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) I would like to share with you exciting news about funding opportunities for seasonal high tunnels for crops and the Organic Initiative through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Below, I have included a Web link that will provide you with information about financial assistance offered for organic agricultural production and seasonal high tunnels.   As always, if you have any questions about the attached information, links or NRCS, please contact me at any time.   Stuart Ashby Lee,  USDA-NRCS North Carolina,  State Public Affairs Specialist, 4407 Bland RD, Ste 117, Raleigh, NC 27609.  Phone: 919-873-2107.  Email:
Funding Opportunities Through EQIP:


Additional Links:



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Truffle Growers Conference Today

A producing truffle orchard

The North American Truffle Growers Association is meeting today in Winston-Salem, NC.  Over sixty people are signed up for the conference.  I am scheduled to give a talk on the resources we have in North Carolina to help this developing agricultural industry.  Unfortunately, I am place bound with an injury, but the creative organizer, Jane Morgan Smith, has arranged for me to give my presentation via conference call.  I am really looking forward to working with this group in the future.  Truffles are not for everyone, and we have a lot to learn about how to grow them, where they will grow, and how profitable they can be.  But, they are an exciting new crop to work with and I have seen enough in production to know they do present an opportunity for certain people.

If you are interested, I suggest you visit the North American Truffle Growers Association website at and consider joining and attending their summer meeting.

On February 25-27, the second annual National Truffle Fest will be held in Asheville.  This is a classy affair appropriate for foodies and growers.  I attended last year and learned SO MUCH about truffle production and had one of the finest dinners in my entire life.  Learn more about it at

Truffle planting site at the research station
This spring we are establishing a truffle orchard at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC.  This will be for demonstration and research purposes.  It was to have been planted last fall, but since it would not quit raining, we could never get the soil in the right condition for planting.  Considering the extremely cold temperatures we have had this winter, I am pleased that our little filbert trees are tucked safely away in an overwintering structure.  The site is prepared and ready for a very early spring planting.

There will be another opportunity for you to learn about truffle growing this spring.  Gavan Garland, of Garland Truffles, will be speaking on both Saturday and Sunday, March 6 and 7, 2010 at the Organic Growers School, at the UNC-Asheville.  Visit the OGS website for more information

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NC Ginseng Dealer is Sentenced to Prison

People often ask me if anyone ever gets caught poaching ginseng or dealing it illegally.  I don't hear of it happening very often.  Poachers are hard to catch and resources to do so are quite limited.  But a North Carolina ginseng dealer has just been sentenced to a year in federal prison for illegally selling about $109,000 worth of wild ginseng.  I don't personally know any of the details (yet), but the article I've linked to below says it was the result of a three year anti-poaching investigation.  So, there you go. 

Here is a link to the article at, the online version of the Hendersonville Times-News:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Research Raising More Questions on Safety of Consuming GMO Maize (Corn)

I support and work for agriculture, organic and conventional, but strive to help make all of it more sustainable for the environment, while providing a good living for farmers, supplying adequate and affordable food for people, and ensuring that the food is safe for people and animals to consume.  I am active in organizations involved in organic agriculture and biotechnology and see no conflict there.  I try to keep an open mind, evaluate all evidence critically, and not "take sides".

The GMO issue has been a tough one that often gets me in "spirited" discussions.  We have been modifying plants and animals and "messing with their genetics" for thousands of years.  My issue with GMOs is that we have made some very radical and novel changes and released the products into the environment without fully understanding the long term consequences (my opinion). 

Here is a link to a recently published research paper that I hope will stimulate more discussion and further research.  I am not a medical scientist and I don't know the authors or the reputation of the institutions involved.  I hope that people with that knowledge will contribute to the discussions.  But this paper raises exactly the concerns that I have had.  Are they valid?

Here is the abstract:
Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5:706-726 ©Ivyspring International Publisher

A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

Joël Spiroux de Vendômois1, François Roullier1, Dominique Cellier1,2, Gilles-Eric Séralini1,3 ✉

1. CRIIGEN, 40 rue Monceau, 75008 Paris, France
2. University of Rouen LITIS EA 4108, 76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan, France
3. University of Caen, Institute of Biology, Risk Pole CNRS, EA 2608, 14032 Caen, France

We present for the first time a comparative analysis of blood and organ system data from trials with rats fed three main commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863), which are present in food and feed in the world. NK 603 has been modified to be tolerant to the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup and thus contains residues of this formulation. MON 810 and MON 863 are engineered to synthesize two different Bt toxins used as insecticides. Approximately 60 different biochemical parameters were classified per organ and measured in serum and urine after 5 and 14 weeks of feeding. GM maize-fed rats were compared first to their respective isogenic or parental non-GM equivalent control groups. This was followed by comparison to six reference groups, which had consumed various other non-GM maize varieties. We applied nonparametric methods, including multiple pairwise comparisons with a False Discovery Rate approach. Principal Component Analysis allowed the investigation of scattering of different factors (sex, weeks of feeding, diet, dose and group). Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fresh Produce Safety Training Being Offered in Western NC

Farmers have some pretty strong opinions about the new upcoming food safety regulations and GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) concerning fresh produce.  Whether you are for or against them, you need to know about them!  Here is an opportunity to learn about them, and receive a certificate, in a friendly, non-threatening environment.  Note: this is not official GAPS certification!

Madison Co. Cooperative Extension & Madison Family Farms

Hosts Fresh Produce Safety Training for Growers

Marshall, N.C. MarketReady Fresh Produce Safety – Field to Family is a new N.C. Cooperative Extension program developed to educate fruit and vegetable growers about measures to minimize food safety risks. The training focuses on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and what it takes to obtain GAPs certification.

Anyone involved in handling fresh produce, from farmers and field hands to packing house employees and truckers will benefit from the training by learning to identify and prevent contact between sources of contamination and fresh produce. Attending these training sessions will help growers understand the pending compliance regulations for fresh produce safety legislation.

Upon completion of seven-hours of this training, attendees will receive a Certificate of Attendance and their name will be posted on the N.C. MarketReady website, allowing end markets to find growers that have completed the training.

Please note that this Certificate of Attendance is NOT an official GAPs certification!

GAPs Certification requires establishing a food safety plan and passing a third-party audit that assesses the strength of the food safety plan and ensures that it is properly implemented. Currently, GAPs certification is voluntary for North Carolina farmers, though outbreaks of food-borne illness in other parts of the country have resulted in increased pressure for all farmers to become certified.

Attendance at all three sessions will be required to obtain the Certificate of Attendance.

Session Offerings

Session One (two choices-two locations)

1-A: Marshall, Thursday, Jan. 14 10:00 am till 12:00 noon, and 2:00pm till 4:00 pm. No Fee.

Madison County Cooperative Extension and Madison Family Farms will co-host a two-part program at the Madison County Cooperative Extension Ag. Center at 258 Carolina Lane, Marshall NC. Lunch will be provided at noon for those who register in advance by Madison Family Farms and prepared from locally grown products. Please call 828-649-2411 no later than Tuesday, Jan. 12 to make the lunch reservation. There will be a $5 charge to cover expenses. Sponsorship Funding for this educational program is provided by: The NC Tobacco Trust Fund.

The morning Session will cover On-Farm GAPs, and the afternoon Session will cover procedures and GAPs for packing and handling activities in the Ag. Center facility. Those who register and attend this session will be given credit for two hours and the equivalent of Session 1 of the total required for the Certificate of Attendance.

1-B: Mills River, Monday, Jan. 11 /9:00 am -11:30 am. Fee: $5

Location: Mountain Horticulture Research and Extension Center located at 455 Research Dr. in Mills River, NC. All sessions at this location are hosted by: Susan Colucci, Area Specialized Agriculture Agent, 828.697.4891,

Session 2: Monday, Jan. 25/9:00 am -11:30 am. Fee: $5

Location: Mountain Horticulture Research and Extension Center located at 455 Research Dr. in Mills River, NC. All sessions at this location are hosted by: Susan Colucci, Area Specialized Agriculture Agent, 828.697.4891,

Session 3: Monday, February 8 /9:00 am -11:30 am. Fee: $5

Location: Mountain Horticulture Research and Extension Center located at 455 Research Dr. in Mills River, NC. All sessions at this location are hosted by: Susan Colucci, Area Specialized Agriculture Agent, 828.697.4891,

This training will address GAPs that are directly related to field production and harvest. The training will include an introduction to common food-borne pathogens and diseases as well as recognizing points of potential contamination, proper use of biosolids as a nutrient source, effective hand-washing procedures, packing facility cleanliness and verifying water quality for field application and postharvest handling.

The development of the N.C. MarketReady Fresh Produce Safety – Field to Family curriculum was funded with grants from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and USDA Risk Management Agency. N.C. Cooperative Extension faculty developed the curriculum as part of the N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force. Learn more at

Some pre-class homework
To help you prepare for this training, please answer the following questions as a self-inquiry about your own operations. Keep this and bring it with you to the GAPs training sessions. Thank You!

1. A documented food safety program that incorporates GAP .

I have a food safety and security program which incorporates GAP and has been accepted and adopted by this farming operation. Yes_____ No_____15 Points

2. The operation has designated someone to implement and oversee an established food safety program. I have a designated coordinator for implementation and oversight of the food safety and security program. Yes_____ No______15 points

3. Drinkable water is available to all workers. I have well test documentation for all wells indicating the water is drinkable. Yes_____ No_____10 points

4. Training on proper sanitation and hygiene practices is provided to all workers. I have documentation indicating training on sanitation and hygiene practices

Yes_____ No_____15 points

5. Readily understandable signs are posted to instruct workers to wash their hands before beginning or returning to work. I have signs instructing workers to wash their hands before beginning or returning to work in all bathrooms.

Yes_____ No_____10 points

6. Workers are required to wash their hands before beginning or returning to work. I have adequate toilet and lavatory facilities. Yes_____ No_____10 points

7. All workers and all visitors to the location are required to follow proper sanitation and hygiene practices. I have signs posted stating that employees and all visitors are required to follow proper sanitation and hygiene practices. Yes_____ No_____10 points.

8. Workers and visitors are following good hygiene/sanitation practices. Are workers and visitors actually following good hygiene/sanitation practices? Yes_____ No_____15 points

9. All toilet/restroom facilities are clean and properly supplied with single use towels, toilet paper, and hand soap or anti-bacterial soap and potable water for hand washing.

The facility is in good repair, sanitary, proper signage and water. Yes_____ No_____15 points

10. All toilet/restroom field sanitation facilities are serviced and cleaned on a scheduled basis.

This is being done. Yes_____ No_____10 points

11. Smoking and eating are confined to designated areas separate from where product is handled. I have a written policy that states no eating or chewing food, no chewing gum, no using tobacco, and no drinking beverages can be done in the areas where produce is handled.

Yes_____ No_____10 points

12. Workers with diarrheal disease or symptoms of other infectious disease are prohibited from handling fresh produce. I have a written policy that excludes workers from operations if, by observation, have diarrhea, an illness or open lesion (boil, sore, infected wound) from coming in contact with produce. The policy also states that personnel will report such health conditions to their supervisors. Yes_____ No_____ 15 points

13. There is a policy describing procedures which specify handling/disposition of produce or food contact surfaces that have come into contact with blood or other body fluids. I have a written policy that describes procedures which specify handling/disposition of produce or food contact surfaces that have come into contact with blood or other body fluids.

Yes_____ No_____15 points

14. Workers are instructed to seek prompt treatment with clean first aid supplies for cuts, abrasions and other injuries. I have a written policy that describes procedures which specify if workers are injured on the job, they must seek first aid help. The policy also states that personnel will report such health conditions to their supervisors. Yes_____ No_____5 points

15. Workers demonstrate knowledge of proper use of pre-harvest and/or post harvest application materials. All applicable Local, State and Federal training and licensing requirements are met by persons applying regulated materials. Pesticides, growth regulators and fertilizers are applied by licensed operators and are compliant under WPS.

Yes_____ No_____10 points

Your totals for General Questions 1-15_______

Total possible 180

Minus N/A _____

Subtotal _____

Subtotal 80% _____ THIS IS A DESIRABLE SCORE

N.C. Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. It has programs in all 100 counties and the Cherokee Reservation. Learn more at