Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Local Hmongs Learn About Sustainable Livestock Production

The United Hmong Association of Hickory, NC partnered with NC Cooperative Extension to educate and expose area Hmong farmers to sustainable, small-scale livestock production.

The first stop on our tour was Grateful Growers in Denver, NC, where owner/proprietor, Natalie Veres, shared that her farm raises a menagerie of farm animals on ten acres, but the cornerstone of their production is the 'Tamworth' hogs that they raise for meat on pasture.

Natalie talked in detail about her production practices, the importance of providing abundant forages, quality feeds, and providing ample shade, water, and shelter from the elements. Natalie also went on to say that they do not use added hormones or antibiotics in growing their animals, and the finished products are all free from fillers, preservatives, nitrates and MSG.

Our next stop was Gilcrest Natural farm of Iron Station, NC, where owner, Amy Foster, introduced us to her pasture-raised poultry and all-natural beef operation. Amy farms on approximately 30 acres and has the unique opportunity to raise her starter chicks in her version of the 'White House.'

Amy then gave us a tour to show us the progression of poultry production on the farm for both her layer and broiler flocks. She also shared with us the use of 'chicken tractors' and the important role they play in the everyday life of chickens on Gilcrest Natural Farm.

Next we checked out her small herd of all natural, grass-fed angus cattle that she raises to a weight of approximately 1100-1200 lbs before they are processed for meat and direct marketed to consumers through area farmers' markets. Amy shared with the Hmongs that it is important to her that she never use hebicides/pesticides on the farm and her poutry and cattle never recieve antibiotics and/or hormones. Just like Grateful Growers, she is striving for a "Healthy, All Natural Meat Product!"

Upcoming Food Preservation Classes

NC Cooperative Extension in Cleveland, Gaston, and Lincoln Counties are hosting three "Safe and Easy Ways to Preserve Food" classes.

These classes are for anyone who
  • is new to canning or has not canned in a long time.
  • uses old canning recipes - such as grandma's recipes, church cookbooks, etc.

  • uses recipes that are not Extension approved.

  • uses water bath canners for green beans, corn and other low-acid vegetables.

Choose from three classes:
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
6:00 – 8:30 pm
Cleveland County Extension Service
130 S. Post Rd., Suite 1
Shelby, NC 28152
Contact: Nancy Jones
Make checks payable to:
Cleveland County Extension Service
Registration Deadline: May 18, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010
6:00 – 8:30 pm
Lincoln County Citizens Center
115 West Main St.
Lincolnton, NC 28092
Contact: Melinda Houser
Make checks payable to:
Lincoln County LCFCS
Registration Deadline: June 3, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010
6:00 – 8:30 pm
Lucile Tatum Homemaker’s Center
959 Osceola St.
Gastonia, NC 28052
Contact: Sue Bugg
Make checks payable to:
Gaston County Cooperative Extension
Registration Deadline: June 7, 2010

Class registration fee is $5.00 and includes handout material. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register for a class, call the Extension Agent in the county where you plan to attend the workshop.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pond Management Training/Webinar

Gaston County Cooperative Extension will be a host site for a webinar from Haywood County about Pond Management. So if you have weed problems in your pond or if you simply want to learn more about how to better manage your pond for fishing, swimming, aesthetics, or other interests, please come join us!

Date: May 13th, 2010
Time: 9:00 a.m. - noon
Location: Gaston Citizens Resource Center, Dallas, NC

Experts from across the state will discuss: pond construction, stocking rates, fish species, managing water quality, balancing fish populations, recreational trout ponds, feeding fish, aquatic weed identification and control methods.

Pesticide credits have been approved for 1 hour in the categories of A N D X. The registration fee of $5 per person will be taken on-site and checks should be made payable to NC Cooperative Extension.

If you have any additional questions regarding this training, please contact us at 704-922-2112.

New Resource Pages

Today I am launching two new pages, a Farmers' Market resource page and a Direct Marketing Meats resource page, on the Foothills Sustainable Agriculture News blog. These pages will be maintains as an information portal for processing, meat handling, direct marketing, food safety, listing of area farmers' markets, and just a general resource guide to help producers and vendors.

The new Farmers' Market and Direct Marketing Meats pages can be found just under the "Additional Pages" icon on the left hand column of the home page of the blog.

If you have any suggestions of information that you think should be posted on these pages, please let me know!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Announcing Youth Farm to Fork Summer Camp

Gaston County 4-H is hosting a summer camp that will focus on local foods through engaging kids in field trips to produce and livestock farms, pick and taste produce and talk with farmers, planning and preparing an all local meal, a visit to the local farmers market, a hands-on chance to set-up and grow their own garden, complete with bee keeping demonstrations, gardening activities, and gardening arts and crafts.

Participants: Children ages 9 -12 who are interested in food and gardening.

Dates: July 7th - 9th, 2010
Times: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day

Registration & Rates: Space is limited to ensure a quality experience for all participants. The rate is $50 per child.

For further information on this summer camp or additional camp opportunities, contact the Gaston County Cooperative Extension office at 704-922-2110.

New Dairy Resource Book

I often get asked questions about where to find resources on cheese/butter processing, what rules and regulations are involved, marketing of dairy fresh products, etc. I often have to spend several hours gathering resources on these topics, but now there is an excellent resource guide put out by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) entitled The Small Dairy Resource book.

This book evaluates the pros and cons of more than 150 resources, from the most current information in print and online to obscure, out-of-print publications that are useful for their timeless knowledge. Resource formats include books, periodicals, videos, Web sites and others on a wide range of topics related to farmstead dairy processing.

Resources are broken into the following categories:
· Cheesemaking
· Ice cream
· Dairy processing
· Dairy animals
· Business and marketing
· Butter
· Other dairy foods
· Food safety
· Feeds and grazing

Download it for free at