Agriculture is the leading industry in Robeson County. Many county residents think of large-scale contract hog or poultry farms or large row-crop farms when farming is mentioned.
But the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that small-scale farms make up 88 percent of all farms nationwide and 87 percent in North Carolina. Many of these farms consist of small-scale agriculture, including fruit and vegetable production; small-scale livestock production, including goats, pastured pork, and pastured poultry; forestry production; and aquaculture.
There are approximately 43,000 small-scale farmers statewide, and in honor of their accomplishments, pioneering work, and technological advancements, the state of North Carolina recognizes the week of March 19 to March 25 as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 31st annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is: “Growing A Safe and Sustainable Food System.”
Events will be held at various sites throughout the state. The highlight of the week is the annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which will be held March 22 on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Other activities in Greensboro include breakout sessions, educational forums, and a VIP reception honoring previous Small Farmers of the Year.
Southeastern North Carolina has a rich history in producing North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. Since 2001, there have been six Small Farmers of the Year from Southeastern North Carolina, including two from Robeson County. Past winners from Robeson County include the late Burnice Blanks, 2001, of the Moss Neck Community, and Ellery and Amy Locklear, 2003, of Locklear Farms in Pembroke.
Small farms play a vital role in supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of United States rural and farm economies and in protecting and enhancing its natural resource base and the environment. These numerous and diverse small-scale operations provide a nursery for the development of new enterprises and marketing systems and a replenishment of the farming population.
In order to highlight Small Farms Week, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, will host a Spring Alternative Tour on Thursday. The tour will depart from the O.P. Owens Agriculture Center at 455 Caton Road in Lumberton at 1:30 p.m., and is scheduled to return around 5 p.m. This informative and educational tour will visit two farms that use alternative systems. Growers will have the opportunity to visit a high-tunnel greenhouse and a hydroponic greenhouse operation. Space is limited, so please register by Tuesday. Refreshments will be provided.
Nelson Brownlee is the Extension Area Farm Management agent for Robeson County. Reach him by phone at 910-671-3276, or by email at: Nelson_Brownlee@ncsu.edu.