Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Summit spotlights local agriculture

Local residents came together Monday to promote one of Orange County’s major industries: agriculture.

At the 15th annual Orange County Agricultural Summit in Hillsborough, speakers educated county residents about aspects of agriculture such as locally grown food, farm financing and agritourism.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said the summit was important to show what is being done in local agriculture and what can still be done.

“It’s to shine a spotlight on the major industry in Orange County,” she said.

Orange County has more than 600 farms, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The county’s top crops include soybeans, corn and wheat, according to the census.

Kinnaird said agriculture education is important because many children no longer know how food is produced.

“It’s something that our society is losing touch with,” she said.

Orange County also promotes agriculture through programs like PLANT at Breeze Farm Enterprise Incubator.

PLANT is an apprenticeship program that offers eight workshops on farming tips annually throughout January and February.

Jillian Mickens, a 2012 PLANT participant, said at the event that the program led her and her husband to become farmers.

“We farmed a quarter acre out at Breeze farm last season,” she said. “We eventually decided that we wanted to grow our own food.”

Noah Ranells, agriculture economic development coordinator for Orange County, said Monday’s event helped promote local food.

He said there has been a recent rise in demand for locally grown food.

“(Consumers) have an increasing distrust for large-scale production systems,” he said.

Jennifer Curtis, co-founder of Farmhand Foods in Durham and a speaker at the summit, said many restaurants and farmer’s markets — including Weaver Street Market — are beginning to sell local meat.

“We live in a wonderful area with supportive customers who are purchasing local meat,” she said.

Curtis said Farmhand Foods buys food from local farmers and sells it to restaurants and retailers.

“We buy whole animals from a network of about 40 farmers,” Curtis said. “Right now, we are purchasing about five beef a week and about 13 to 15 hogs per week.”

Farmhand Foods recently began selling its products to places like Duke University and UNC. She said their products can even be found in Rams Head Dining Hall.

“We are the Wednesday morning sausage,” she said.
Original Article Here

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