NC sets aside a week to celebrate the state’s small farmers

Nelson Brownlee Contributing columnist

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.

There are about 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 21-27 as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 35th annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is “Resilience, Strength and Diversity.”

“Our small farmers have to be strong and resilient, even in the best of times,” said Rosalind Dale, Extension administrator at North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “The last year has required extra resourcefulness because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small Farms Week gives our farmers a needed chance to take a breath, educate themselves, and take advantage of all the resources Cooperative Extension has to offer.”

To highlight Small Farms Week locally, there will be a Regional Virtual Plasticulture Workshop for farmers on Monday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Farmers will have the opportunity to learn about plasticulture and drip irrigation, how to set up and use the plastic layer equipment, and the plasticulture equipment rental program for small farmers. To register and receive the Zoom link for the workshop, contact Nelson Brownlee at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center.

A virtual kickoff for Small Farms Week was held on Friday in Avery County, the home of the 2020 Small Farmers of the Year, Amos and Kaci Nidiffer. On Monday and Tuesday, educational events will focus on the health benefits of community gardening, including boosting your community system during the pandemic, plant and livestock production, farm management and winter production, and high tunnels. The highlight of Small Farms Week will be on Wednesday — the Virtual Small Farmers Appreciation Program, with a keynote address by Jimmy Gentry, president of the NC Grange, and the announcement of the 2021 Small Farmer of the Year. Small Farms Week events will conclude Thursday, with a panel discussion among N.C. A&T students on career opportunities in agriculture.

For more information about Small Farms Week or to register for events, contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Small Farms Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at [email protected], or visit our website at

Nelson Brownlee is a Cooperative Extension Area Farm Management agent. He can be contacted by calling 910-671-3276 or via email at [email protected]