Last updated: January 04. 2014 4:02PM - 1154 Views
Lauren Williams Staff Writer



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The North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc. will once again be bringing its annual open house and trade show to Sampson County Tuesday, Jan. 14 and Wednesday, Jan. 15 at the Agri-Exposition Center in Clinton.


This year’s 48th event, presented in cooperation with North Carolina State University and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, will kick off Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. with registration for those not pre-registered. From 8:30 a.m. to noon, there will be a variety of educational sessions, each lasting approximately 30 minutes, offered to attendees.


“The education sessions are very important,” noted Julie Woodcock with the N.C. Blueberry Council. “Most are about addressing concerns that the growers have.”


For example, there’s going to be one on how to control and eradicate this hungry little moth called a Spotted Wing Drosophila. They’re in most every state now and can be very damaging,” she continued, noting that researchers and scientists at North Carolina State University have been “very diligent about working in this problem,” including partnering other universities in the effort.


Other educational sessions will focus on blueberry diseases, blueberry breeding, weed control, research in green spot fungus, and the Food Safety Modernization Act.


There will also be a legislative update as “there’s a lot in the legislature that affects agriculture,” said Woodcock, mentioning immigration issues for one. Additionally, during Tuesday’s catered lunch, an informational speaker will provide a political outlook for 2014.


“This industry is changing and we need to stay ahead of the curve,” she stressed, encouraging growers to attend this year’s event. “It’s competitive not only with other states but also with other countries. We need to have a healthy, delicious product and that takes education and the sharing of knowledge.”


Information provided by Woodcock from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows just how fast the blueberry industry is growing and how it’s become big business for North Carolina, particularly for Bladen, Pender, Sampson, Duplin, and Columbus counties, the state’s top ranking counties in terms of blueberry production.


“Statewide the value of blueberries exceeds $70 million annually,” she shared, adding that approximately 6,000 acres in in the state are under blueberry cultivation. On those 6,000 acres, there are approximately 1,700 blueberry plants per acre, each yielding approximately 6,000 berries.


Following the educational sessions, a trade show will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m. featuring as sponsors and exhibitors Athens Plow, Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Keyplex, Acadian Seaplants, Gourmet Trading Company, A&B Packing Equipment, American Blueberries, LLC., Atlantic Coast Toyotalift, BBC Technologies, BEI International, Carolina Blueberry Co-op, Clinton Truck and Tractor, Crumpler Plastic Pipe, First Citizens Bank, Pro Ag, Coastal AgroBusiness, Nash Equipment, Pender County Farm Bureau, Meherrin Ag Chem, Cape Fear Farm Credit, Pratt Industries, Tri-State Distributors, Wyatt Quarles Seed Company, and many more.


On Wednesday, the trade show will continue from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., a few more educational sessions — “Blueberry Cultivar Evaluations: What Will You Be Planting?” and “Progress at the NCSU Horticultural Crops Research Station” — will be held, and the results of the door prizes and silent auction will be shared around 11 a.m. Last on the agenda, pesticide safety training will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m.


To attend the two-day event and to take advantage of its wide-range of offerings, there is a fee of $55 which includes admission for both days plus lunch on Tuesday.


“For someone in the business, it’s a good investment,” noted Woodcock, mentioning that last year’s event drew over 250 people from all over the state. “They respond well. It’s a great time for these individuals to network.”


For more information about the event, please contact Julie Woodcock at 910-471-3193 or via email at ncblueberry@bellsouth.net. Also visit http://ncblueberrycouncil.org.


Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.


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