Strategic Planning Council and State Advisory Council Tour 5 North Central Farms

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Spotlight on Five North Central District Farms

by V. Mac Baldwin,
State Advisory Council Chair
from Caswell County

On June 2nd, state-wide volunteers serving on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension State Advisory Council (SAC) and the Strategic Planning Council (SPC) for North Carolina Agricultural &Technical State University met jointly in Burlington. These two Councils meet jointly each year to provide cross planning and grass-root inputs to North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

There are Cooperative Extension Centers in all 100 North Carolina Counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokees. The mission of North Carolina Cooperative Extension is to partner with communities to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians. North Carolina Department of Agriculture has reported that North Carolina Agriculture is worth over 70 billion dollars to the state’s economy. Our current population is approximately 9.5 million people and is expected to increase another 5-6 million over the next 30-40 years. The bad news is that we are currently losing about 400 acres of farm land each day. The SAC Chairman, Mr. V. Mac Baldwin of Caswell County stated, “The best way to save NC farm land is to keep North Carolina Cooperative Extension funded to stimulate Farm Preservation and to continue assisting farms to be profitable. A profitable farm is a sustainable farm.”

The spotlight was placed on five North Central District Farms. Each farm reported the technical support received from North Carolina Cooperative Extension in establishing and maintaining their operations.

Iron Gate Vineyards & Winery was founded 10 years ago by Debbie and Gene Stikeleather on the old Lynch farm property north of Mebane. Roger Cobb, Alamance County Cooperative Extension Director, praised the tenacious work and grit the Stikeleathers have demonstrated in creating their operation. They are currently producing about 2000 cases of 12 different wines each year. Debbie, who is a native of Caswell County, stated, “That without Extension’s help, especially from the former County Extension Director, Rhett Davis, their vineyard would have been very difficult to establish.” Their website is www.irongatevineyards.com

Approximately 3 years ago, Joe and Geraldine Thompson added the production of fresh water Prawn to their tobacco farm in northern Orange County. The success of the operation earned Joe the 2010 Small Farmer of the Year award sponsored by the Cooperative Extension program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Dr. Jimo Ibrahim of North Carolina Agricultural &Technical State University has been their technical advisor. Technical assistance for the start-up and first two to three years of the operation was provided by Mike Frinsko, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Area Aquaculture Agent located in Jones County. Mike Lanier, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Area Agent, Agribusiness also helps Joe market his product in the local market to high-end restaurants, grocery stores, and pond-side sales on harvest day. Joe also received help from North Carolina Cooperative Extension retired livestock agent, Karen McAdams and from Dennis DeLong, North Carolina State University (Biological and Agricultural Engineering). The farm currently consists of three grow-out ponds producing a total of about 11,000 pounds of fresh prawn yearly.

The Taylor Fish Farm has recently started their first harvests of Tilapia fish from six 25,000 gallon concrete tanks in an environmentally controlled building. The facility is housed in a new 200 ft by 50 ft fish barn located in northern Orange County, near Cedar Grove. The Taylor family daily operates the fish barn with round-the-clock monitoring of fish and water quality. Dr. Tom Losordo and Mr. Dennis DeLong of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) of North Carolina State University have been their technical advisors. The operation is expected to sell approximately 35-40,000 pounds of live fish every two months. The engineering and design of the facility was provided as a service of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the BAE Department at North Carolina State University.

Jack Pleasant returned to his roots and established a buffalo operation on Person County land that had been in his family since the 1700’s. Jack and Sandy returned to the land after a successful business career. Jack dreamed of seeing buffalo once again roam the land of his fore fathers. Kim Woods, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Livestock agent, Person County, reported on the good rotational grazing and conversation practices that Jack has followed in developing their farm. The Pleasants have an on-farm outlet for direct-sales of their bison meat. It can also be purchased at the Durham and Carrboro Farmers Markets. Their website is www.sunsetridgebuffalo.com.

V. Mac and Peggy Baldwin established their farm in 1969 with the purchase of two purebred Charolais heifers. In 1981 they move 35 Registered Charolais cows onto their current 331 acre home farm in Caswell County. Joey Knight, the Caswell County North Carolina Cooperative Extension Director, stated that the Baldwin’s have built a thriving grazing operation of approximately 800 acres producing beef and fertile hatching eggs. The farm has 6 Breeder Houses with 75,000 hens, producing approximately 12 million hatching eggs per year for Allen Hatcheries and direct-markets about 500 grass-fed Charolais steers annually. Their largest beef customer is Whole Foods Markets in their NC and SC stores. V. Mac stated he is very grateful for all the support received from North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Carolina Farm Credit. V. Mac was quick to say: “Their success is really God’s Providence and Blessings. We are just temporary stewards—passing through”. Their website is www.baldwinbeef.com.