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 2007 Census of Agriculture shows that small-scale farms make up 87 percent of all farms nationwide and 85 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 poultry and pastured pork, forestry production, and aquaculture.
There are about 41,000 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 24 to March 30 as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 27th annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is “Small Farms: It’s a Growing Business — Tools for the Next Generation”. Events will be held at various sites throughout the state.
The highlight of the week is the annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which is held Wednesday on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. During the luncheon, the Gilmer L. and Clara Y. Dudley North Carolina Small Farmer of the Year will be presented to a deserving small farmer or small farm family. Other activities in Greensboro include an educational forum and a forum for young and beginning farmers. 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 in 2001, of the Moss Neck Community; and Ellery and Amy Locklear in 2003, of Locklear Farms in Pembroke.
The official kickoff for Small Farms Week will be held on Monday in Bladen County, the home of Albert, Ada and Sonya Beatty of AA&S Farms, the 2012 North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. The kickoff will begin with a panel discussion and luncheon at 10 a.m. at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church, located on N.C. 210 East in Harrells, followed by a tour of AA&S Farms beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Small farms play a vital role in supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of the 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.
For information, contact Nelson Brownlee, extension area farm management agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at Nelson_Brownlee@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.