Friday, April 23, 2010

Buttercup - A Pretty But Nasty Weed

In the last week, my phone has been ringing off the hook about a weed with yellow flowers in area pastures and hay fields. Without actually looking at a sample, my guess is that it is most likely a species of buttercup. Buttercup is a pretty weed (if only I could get my flowers in my garden to grow as fast as buttercup does); however, it can reek havoc on pasture and hay land.

Two of the common buttercups found in North Carolina are hairy buttercup and bulbous buttercup. Hairy buttercup appears to be predominant in the Piedmont and mountain regions, while bulbous buttercup is readily found in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions. Hairy buttercup is a hairy plant with erect, hairy stems (single or branching from the base) and a fibrous root system. Vegetative characteristics of hairy buttercup are similar to those of bulbous buttercup, except for the bulb-like swelling at the base of the stem on bulbous buttercup. Smallflower buttercup is also found in North Carolina, and can be distinguished from hairy buttercup by the lack of hairs on its leaves. In addition, hairy and bulbous buttercup have lobed leaves, whereas most of the lower leaves of smallflower buttercup are unlobed.

Buttercup is a winter annual or perrenial weed which germinate in the fall or winter and grow durings any warm weather, which may occur in the winter, but otherwise remains somewhat dormant during the winter. They resume growth and produce seed in the spring and die as temperatures increase in late spring and early summer. They quickly invade thin turf areas especially where there is good soil moisture. Shade may also encourage growth. Many have a prostrate growth habit and are not affected by mowing. A dense, vigorous turf is the best way to reduce the encroachment of winter annual weeds. First, select adapted grass cultivars for your area and then properly fertilize, mow, and water to encourage dense growth.

Fortunately, buttercup can be controlled with a number of broadleaf herbicides; however, keep in mind the most effective time to spray is going to be in early spring and fall.

So, if you think you have a problem with this particular weed and need to know what, when, and where to spray, please give me a call at 70-922-2112!

Honey Bees

A fellow colleague of mine, Linda Minges, posted a great article on the importance of honey bees, interesting honey facts, cooking with honey, who to contact if you have a bee swarm and information on a local learning opportunity entitled, "The Amazing Honey Bee" scheduled on Thursday, May 13th from 6:30-8:30pm at the Lucile Tatum Center, Gastonia. Guest speaker Cindy Austin, expert bee educator and bee keeper of the Gaston Co. Bee Keeper’s Association.

Check out the article at:

Poultry Production Workshop Opportunity

Buncombe County Cooperative Extension is hosting a Poultry Production Workshop on May 10th. This workshop is very similar to the workshop held at the Gaston Extension office in January 2009. So if you missed our workshop and are interested in incorporating poultry into your farm operation, check out the details below.

Also, I have had some discussions with a few people about holding a 'Hands-on Poultry Processing' workshop at a nearby operating poultry farm. I know this is a busy time of year for most people, but if you are interested, please let me know a time of year, and time of day (assuming it works with the poultry processing schedule) that would work best for you and if there is enough interest, we will definitely pursue this!

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Introduces Poultry Production Workshop

The Poultry Production Workshop will take place on May 10, 2010 at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC. The cost for the full-day workshop is $25 per person and includes lunch and resource materials. The workshop will be packed with experts from across the country, including Jim Adkins from the International Center for Poultry and Extension Research Specialists from NC State University.
Topics to be addressed include: Introduction to Raising Poultry on a Small Farm; Understanding Commercial, Standard Breed (heritage), and Dual Purpose Breeds of Poultry; Brooding your Baby Chicks; Biosecurity and Small Flock Health; Poultry Housing and Necessities; Marketing, Processing and Integrating with other On-farm Enterprises

The Poultry Production Workshop is FIRST COME FIRST SERVED. If you are thinking of incorporating poultry into your farm operation or looking to expand and improve your poultry business, then this workshop is for you. Come spend the day with us and learn all you need to know.

For more information contact Erin Bonito with the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at (828)255-5522. Learn more at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

N.C's Future - A Sustainable Local Food Economy

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 21, 2010) — Building the state’s sustainable local food economy will stimulate economic development and job creation, bolster the viability of local farms and fisheries and help address diet-related health problems, reports North Carolina’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), one of the nation’s most respected centers for the study of environmentally sustainable farming systems.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If individuals spent just 10 percent, or $1.05 per day, of their existing food dollars on local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy. And part of that $3.5 billion would flow back to farmers and food businesses. Greater spending locally can also increase the economic activity at the regional and community level, which can translate into jobs. From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy provides goals and strategies to put North Carolina on the fast track to achieving a sustainable local and regional food system. With its diverse agricultural economy, superior educational system and adaptable workforce, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the nation.

“Y’all are red hot,” declared Gov. Beverly Perdue while addressing more than 400 participants at the CEFS’ May 2009 Farm to Fork Summit. “You are beginning to change the tide, directing the links between local agriculture, jobs and the economy. Finally,” she added, “people across the state and the country are beginning to realize you are red hot.”

The Guide identifies nine challenges North Carolina must address to succeed, and recommends a variety of actions that can be implemented at the state and local level, starting with 11 “game changers” that are actionable within two years and statewide in scope. One major game changer—the establishment of a statewide food advisory council to engage decision makers in strategic food-systems planning and implementation—has already been accomplished. Other game changers moving forward include expanding local market opportunities by developing a model farm-to-institution program (Fort Braggs’ “Feed the Forces” program) and helping to network direct-marketing initiatives statewide; increasing consumer education and outreach (the 10% Campaign, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation); addressing public health and food access disparities by expanding and strengthening N.C.’s SNAP-Ed program; and promoting farm-to-school programming through the development of a model farm-to-school pre-service teacher instruction program.

The Guide is the result of a yearlong “Farm to Fork” initiative spearheaded by CEFS. The initiative involved the active participation of well over 1,000 North Carolinians, and included people and organizations working in the fields of agriculture, commercial fishing, community outreach, education, faith, finance, public policy, state and local government, and youth outreach.
“North Carolina has numerous assets that make it possible to scale up our state’s response to rising consumer demand and the need for greater access to fresh, local, organic and sustainably-produced foods,” said Nancy Creamer, director of CEFS. “But moving from intent to action requires us to tackle complex issues and numerous challenges, together. On behalf of CEFS and its many partners, and for the benefit of the state as a whole, I say, let’s get started!”

Financial support for the Farm to Fork initiative came from the Golden LEAF Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, North Carolina Rural Center–Agriculture Advancement Consortium and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

About CEFS: CEFS is a partnership between North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Its mission is to develop and promote food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond. As one of the nation’s largest centers for the study of environmentally sustainable farming systems, CEFS has focused on advancing the scientific research base necessary to enable farmers to successfully adapt to emerging ecological issues and market trends. CEFS has also developed a strong outreach and education program that reaches all North Carolina residents.

Tweeting for Ag: Area Farmers Start Using Social Media

Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have built their reputations on helping people keep in touch with family and long lost friends. However, a growing number of ag-related businesses and farmers across the nation are using these social media tools to communicate with customers and to educate a population, far removed from their food source, on the benefits of agriculture and buying local.

On April 13th, 2010, Gaston Cooperative Extension conducted a Social Media 101 training for area farmers. Participants set up Google accounts and their very own blog sites. Then participants were introduced to Twitter & Facebook and shown how they could harness these social media outlet to reach out to current and potential customers. There were a total of 10 participants and the entire workshop was hands-on.

If you were unable to attend this training, and you have interest in learning more about how to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to reach out to your community and share your agriculture story, please do not hesitate to contact me at 704-922-2112. We would be happy to reproduce this training at a later date if there is enough interest!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grants available through NCDA&CS for specialty crops

Deadline for applications is June 4

RALEIGH -- The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is offering grants to fund new projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the marketplace. The program, managed by NCDA&CS, is funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant established by the 2008 farm bill.

“We are happy to again be able to offer this program, making nearly $1.2 million available this year through a competitive grant process,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These grants will benefit the specialty crop industry, and will help small farmers and local food efforts.”

NCDA&CS will accept grant applications ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 from non-profit organizations and corporations, commodity associations, state and local government agencies, colleges and universities. Applicants must reside or their business or educational affiliation must be in North Carolina. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on June 4.

Projects involving the following specialty crops are eligible: Fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, Christmas trees, turfgrass/sod, and nursery and greenhouse crops. Funding opportunities are also available for projects aimed at developing local and regional food systems, and improving food access.

Grants will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual.

For grant guidelines and an application, contact the NCDA&CS Marketing Division at, by phone at (919) 733-7887, or by mail at Specialty Crop Grant, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1020. More information is online at file://

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual

I came across this resouce and found it to be very useful!

It is a Soil Health Assessment Training Manual from NY Cooperative Extension that you can download from the website or purchase a hard copy for $15.

It provides an overview of the concept of soil health. It provides a guideline on how to conduct in-field qualitative and quantitative soil health assessments, a how-to guide for proper soil sampling, and tips on how to incorporate best management strategies for improving soil health and fertility!