North Carolina Celebrates Small Farms Week, March 22-28

By Lydian Bernhardt / 02/24/2020 College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2020) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s annual tribute to small-scale agriculture begins March 22 with events and educational programs designed to inform the public and provide research-based information to support small farmers.

The 34th annual Small Farms Week is presented by Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T with the theme, “Inspiring Farmers, Sustaining Farms.” Events will be held across the state and target farmers with limited incomes and acreage by providing information to help them become more resilient and more profitable. The general public is also encouraged to attend educational events, farm tours and demonstrations.

“Small farmers are essential to North Carolina’s agricultural sector. In fact, they comprise about 80% of all farms in a $91.8 billion-dollar industry,” said Rosalind Dale, Extension administrator at N.C. A&T and associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES). “Small Farms Week recognizes their efforts to provide fresh, local food and also offers a lot of information that farmers can use to increase profit margins while acting as stewards of our natural resources.”

A kickoff event preceding Small Farms Week takes place March 20 in Murphy, the Cherokee County home of the 2019 Small Farmers of the Year, Harold and Nancy Long. As owners of Long Family Farms and Gallery, the Longs grow heirloom vegetables and tend heritage breeds of livestock on their diversified mountain farm. They also save seeds and assemble garden kits, which are sold to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and distributed to members of the tribe to help preserve traditional varieties and improve access to fresh produce. Events in Cherokee County will include a panel discussion among local farmers and a tour of the Long Family Farms and Gallery.

Events continue March 23-26 on the N.C. A&T campus with educational sessions on plant production – including growing alternative crops such as hemp and ginger – farm management, and marketing. A morning program called Tech on the Farm will include sessions aimed at youth and farmers and will feature demonstrations of innovative technologies such as aerial drones used for crop monitoring.

Campus events conclude on March 26 with a student cooking competition, at which students in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences will compete against teams from other A&T colleges and departments in a cook-off using local foods.

A highlight of the week will be the Small Farmers’ Appreciation Luncheon on March 25, where the 2020 Small Farmer of the Year will be named and a keynote address will be presented by Jimmy Gentry, president of the North Carolina Grange since 2003. Gentry is a former president of the National Grange Board of Directors and served as the board’s vice president for 12 years.

Gentry, who lives in Statesville, taught high school agriculture in Iredell and Montgomery counties and served as an elementary school principal before his work at the Grange. He grew up on a farm in Wilkes County and was involved in Grange youth programs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University, a master’s in agricultural education from A&T, and a certificate in educational administration from A&T.

 “Small Farms Week is a great program, and I am thrilled to be this year’s keynote speaker,” said Gentry. “The week provides a lot of beneficial training programs, and the fact that there is recognition of a small farmer of the year is wonderful. It helps tell the story of what small farmers do, and that is so important.”

Throughout the week, other events, demonstrations, and tours will be offered across North Carolina. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more information. The registration deadline for all Small Farms Week events is March 16, and small farmers are exempt from all fees.  To register for Small Farms Week 2020, please complete the registration form.

Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu