North Carolina A&T State University Hosts Small Farms Week

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Farming is one of the top most important professions there is. I know I could not survive on my own without farms because as much as I enjoy planting seeds in the spring, I am over the maintenance by July. It is just not the profession I was cut out for. Thankfully there are people out there that do enjoy the day to day tasks required to run a successful farm.

Each year, at the end of March, North Carolina A&T State University hosts Small Farms Week. Small Farms Week was launched in 1987 by Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T as a way to connect with small-scale farmers—including minority farmers and those in limited-resource communities—and ensure they receive the latest research-based information on farming techniques, new tools, and technologies. It also gives the public a chance to meet their agricultural neighbors and learn about farm operations and food production. The theme for this
year’s celebration is “Changing Times, Growing Seasons.” This year A&T had virtual sessions where anyone interested in the presented topics could sign up for free and learn more about agriculture research going on in the state.

Also, in honor of our small farmers, counties with NC A&T Extension employees are encouraged to host a food drive. This year was different because we selected a specific recipe to collect donations for. In Jackson County we collected for Minestrone soup. People could bring in a few ingredients or enough to complete the whole soup recipe. Another benefit this year was that the Jackson County 4-H Youth Leadership Council (YLC) got involved. They were able to get permission from the high school to host a competition among the grade levels to see who
brought in the most items. So collectively between community donations, and the donations from the high school and YLC, we were able to make 46 recipe bundles, each recipe feeds a family of 6.

Another way to look at that is we were able to collect 334 pounds of donated food.
All the recipe bundles were bagged up and donated to United Christian Ministries on Skyland Drive. It was truly one of the most successful food drives we have done so far. Another way to honor our small farmers in the county was to spotlight a specific farm. I was able to reach out to Dr. Elizabeth Burrell Balcerek who co-runs the Sycamore Hill Farm in Tuckasegee with her siblings, Frank and Virginia. I posted interview questions she answered all week leading up to Small Farms Week on our Jackson County Extension Facebook page N.C. Cooperative Extension- Jackson County. I learned that on Sycamore Hill Farm they raise Wye Angus beef cattle which is from the genetic line of the original Scottish Angus. They have a herd
of 30 animals and are working to move their brood cow group to all Wye Angus. They have a farm store in the spring and summer on the farm and have also sold at local farmers’ markets in the area. They sell beef in quantity of ½ or whole beef, or in all specialty cuts by the pack. Since I am not the Livestock agent in the county all this was new and interesting information to me. Another reason why Small Farms Week is so important to share.

I hope this sparked your interest to learn more about the small farms we have here in Jackson county and thank them for all they do to provide fresh local foods. If farming were left up to me, we would all starve. If you are a small farmer and want to learn more about A&T Small Farms Week please reach out to the Extension office. Applications for Small Farmer of the Year are usually due in July.
For more information about Small Farms Week or what nutrition/health programs the Extension has to offer contact the Family and Consumer Science agent, Emily McClure, at ekmcclure@ncat.edu or by calling 828-586-4009. Don’t forget we have a Facebook page “N.C. Cooperative Extension- Jackson County” you can follow to learn about upcoming programs or visit our website at Jackson.ces.ncsu.edu

In photo: Shea Wargo (co-president), Tate Schwalm (secretary), Zane Miller (co-president). YLC volunteer not pictured, Tashi Hacsckaylo.