Small Farms Keep Agriculture Moving Forward

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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.

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 latest “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 24–30, 2019, as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 33rd Annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is “Deep Roots, Bright Futures.”

Southeastern North Carolina has a rich history in producing North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. There have been seven Small Farmers of the Year from Southeastern North Carolina. Past winners from Robeson County include the late Burnice Blanks (2001) of the Moss Neck Community, Ellery and Amy Locklear (2003) of Locklear Farms in Pembroke, and Lucius Epps (2017) of Maxton.

In order to highlight Small Farms Week, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, will host a Spring Alternative Tour on March 29. The tour will depart from the O. P. Owens Agriculture Center, 455 Caton Road, Lumberton, at 8:30 a.m. and is scheduled to return around 12:15 p.m. This informative and educational tour will visit two farms that use alternative systems. Growers will have the opportunity to visit an organic produce operation and small-scale livestock operation. Space is limited, so please register by March 27 by calling the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Robeson County at (910) 671-3276. Refreshments will be provided.

Other events will be held at various sites throughout the state. The highlight of the week is the Annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which will be held March 27 on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. At the luncheon, the 2019 North Carolina Small Farmer of the Year will be named. Other activities in Greensboro include breakout sessions, educational forums, and a high-tunnel demonstration at the N.C. A&T State University Farm.

For more information, or to register, please contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Farm Management Agent, at (910) 671-3276, by email at Nelson_Brownlee@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University are collectively committed to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.