Small Farms Keep Agriculture Moving Forward

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Agriculture is the leading industry in Robeson County. Many county residents think of large-scale contract hog or poultry farms or large row-crop farms when farming is mentioned. But the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that small-scale farms make up 88 percent of all farms nationwide and 87 percent in North Carolina. Many of these farms consist of small-scale agriculture including fruit and vegetable production; small-scale livestock production including goats, pastured pork, and pastured poultry; forestry production; and aquaculture.

There are approximately 43,000 small-scale farmers statewide, and in honor of their accomplishments, pioneering work, and technological advancements, the state of North Carolina recognizes the week of March 20 – 26 as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 30th Annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is: “Our Pride – Our Future: North Carolina Small Farmers.”

Events will be held at various sites throughout the state. The highlight of the week is the Annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which is held March 23 on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Other activities in Greensboro include breakout sessions, educational forums, and a VIP reception honoring previous Small Farmers of the Year.

Southeastern North Carolina has a rich history in producing North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. Since 2001, there have been six Small Farmers of the Year from Southeastern North Carolina including two from Robeson County. Past winners from Robeson County include the late Burnice Blanks (2001) of the Moss Neck Community and Ellery and Amy Locklear (2003) of Locklear Farms in Pembroke.

Small farms play a vital role in supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of United States rural and farm economies and in protecting and enhancing its natural resource base and the environment. These numerous and diverse small-scale operations provide a nursery for the development of new enterprises and marketing systems and a replenishment of the farming population.

For the third year in a row, Small Farms Week will be a part of a major national commemoration of agriculture. The celebration two years ago was a few weeks before the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act that provided funding for the Cooperative Extension system. Last year, Small Farms Week helped inaugurate the campus-wide commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Second Morrill Act, the Congressional legislation enacted in 1890 that established land-grant institutions, such as N.C. A&T State University, in the southern and border states. This year’s celebration is held as the university holds two major events to crown the 2015-16 academic year-long celebration of it’s 125th Anniversary. These events include a birthday bash on March 24 and the 125th Anniversary Scholarship Gala in April.

For more information, please contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Farm Management Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at Nelson_Brownlee@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.