Connecting the Farm Gate to the Consumer Plate

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This year has been a true test for all. When the pandemic started grocery store shelves were quickly depleted of many products. Food items were becoming scarce and selling like they have never sold before. During that time, we were beginning to worry about if we were going to have meat available in the coming weeks. During this time did we stop to think how fortunate we have been to have access to a safe and healthy food supply? This is something we most often take for granted on a daily basis. This national pandemic has increased our society’s understanding for the need for local agriculture to supply our food chain with a safe source of products.

Webster’s Dictionary defines agriculture as “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.” Therefore, agriculture is a science that our producers learn, put to work, manage and create a livelihood to sustain the land and our families. The old Chinese Proverb states “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Our goal going forward will be to inspire, encourage and teach those individuals and youth that are interested in agriculture how to produce a safe and plentiful food supply in the future to sustain our families.

Agriculture is an economic engine in North Carolina, which generates 772,000 jobs and contributes $92.7 billion annually to the economy. Franklin County, ranks 47th in gross cash receipts among all one hundred counties. Total cash receipts for Franklin County is over $73 million. Therefore, agriculture is also an economic engine for Franklin County. We are fortunate to have a diverse agricultural history and we continue to maintain diversity in agricultural crops. With a total of 314,701 acres in Franklin County, 107,967 acres are in farmland. Oftentimes, forestry is overlooked as well, but we have over 120,000 acres of timberland with many of those acres having forest management plans in place.

As you ride throughout the county during the year you can see many field crops planted such as tobacco, soybeans, corn, wheat, sorghum, Industrial Hemp, hay, and various other crops. Tobacco (3,200 acres) has been a thriving crop in Franklin County for decades, and it continues to be a vital agricultural crop even though there is no tobacco market or receiving station operating in Franklin County anymore. Wheat (7,300 acres) and soybeans (18,200 acres) play an important role in crop rotations and farm plans. Commodity prices is one of the major driving forces for which crops are planted. Unfortunately, commodity prices have been going down over the last couple of years, but input prices have increased. Therefore, not only is crop management important but financial management is a key part of a successful operation.

Livestock in Franklin County has increased over the last decade. The gross cash receipts in Franklin County for livestock, dairy, and poultry are $21 million. Beef cattle numbers have increased due to expanding operations or new operations. The horse industry has grown tremendously in the past decade. There are over 6,000 horses in Franklin County alone. There is also a tremendous amount of pastureland as well as hay crops (11,000 acres) produced in the county.

Over the last 15 years there has also been an increase in production on small farms in Franklin County. With our proximity to the triad and the markets available to us we have seen an interest in more small-scale vegetable production and livestock production. You have probably seen more roadside stands and agritourism opportunities in the last ten years than you ever have. People are becoming more aware of the local food movement. Got To Be NC trucks are traveling the roads daily. We spend about $35 billion a year on food. If we spent 10 percent – $1.05 per day – on foods produced locally, $3.5 billion could be available in our communities. You can visit the nc10percent website for further information on the 10 percent Buy Local campaign. We are fortunate in North Carolina to have a strong base of farmers markets as well. It is our responsibility to take advantage of these markets including our local Franklin County Farmers Market. Do not forget to visit your local market on Fridays.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center works daily to assist the agricultural community with production and management information. We provide our residents easy access to the resources and expertise of NC State University and N.C. A&T State University. Through educational programs, publications, and events, N.C. Cooperative Extension field faculty deliver unbiased, research-based information to Franklin County citizens. Feel free to contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center, 103 South Bickett Blvd., in Louisburg. You can reach us at 919-496-3344 or visit our website. To stay up-to-date on events and activities, don’t forget to visit us on Facebook.