Cooperative Extension News

Carl Mitchell - Extension Agent
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Stokes County has a rich agricultural history that is centered around tobacco. Our area is known for producing high quality flue-cured tobacco that is essential to making tobacco products with good flavors. My father taught me from early on that our land could not compete with production amounts compared to the eastern part of the state, but we could produce tobacco with superior quality and flavor. This quality centered production was a source of pride for farmers and much care was taken in preserving and promoting it. I remember dressing sacks of tobacco to display what we worked so hard for to buyers at the market and getting scolded several times for not using the utmost care in handling our tobacco. With tobacco taking an ever smaller role on our farmlands, we are tasked with a tough question: What can we grow better than anyone else?

There are many options out there with high potential for us. We had a surge of wine grapes, and there are several wineries doing well in our area, but it hasn’t caught on a large scale. We are now in the process of trying hemp and are in the research phase of growing it in our area, only time will tell about its success. I would love to see a resurgence of crop farming in our area. But that may not happen in my lifetime. Could there be a different answer for our farms?

Looking at our geography and climate, we may be the best place in the world to grow livestock- particularly cattle. The Piedmont and continuing up through the Appalachian Mountains can sustain more cattle on less acres than any other part of the country. Properly managed, cattle and other livestock can be utilized to dramatically improve soil health and turn inedible plants into quality food. Of course, there are a few challenges for our farmers. Establishing healthy and diverse forages, developing a pasture management plan specifically for their farms, and finding nontraditional ways to market their animals are among the top issues.

For agriculture to remain a key component of our area, we must find profitable and sustainable crops to produce. We may see a new crop in the future, but there may be a solution to this need already. Livestock! If you are interested in learning more, please contact our office at 336-593-8179 or email ctmitch4@ncsu.edu

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Carl Mitchell

Extension Agent