Agriculture is the leading industry in Sampson 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% of all farms nationwide and 87% 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, pastured pork, and forestry production.
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 20 through March 26 as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T observes a milestone anniversary this year, with the 30th Annual Small Farms Week (SFW) celebration, scheduled for March 20-26, 2016.
A&T, a land-grant institution with a mission of agricultural education and outreach, was founded in 1891 and is celebrating the 125th anniversary of that origin this year. Theme: “Our Pride, Our Future.”
The highlight of the week is the Annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which is held March 23 on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Also, the 2016 North Carolina Small Farmer of the Year is announced. Other activities in Greensboro include: breakout sessions, farm tours, workshops on land retention, vegetable production, pastured poultry, season-extension practices and more.
Southeastern North Carolina has a rich history in producing North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. Since 2008, there have been six Small Farmers of the Year from Southeastern North Carolina including one from Pender County. Past winners from Pender County include: Nelson and Mary James (2008) of Dogwood Nursery Farm in Maple Hill, NC.
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. Throughout the week as well as the rest of 2016, there will events to mark the occasion.
James Hartsfield is an area extension agent with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center, specializing in Small Farms Management.