Last updated: March 10. 2014 1:48PM - 805 Views
James Hartfield Contributing columnist

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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 and pastured pork, forestry production and aquaculture.

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 23 – March 29, as North Carolina Small Farms Week. The theme for the 28th Annual North Carolina Small Farms Week is: Small Farms: “Innovations for the Next Generation” which pays homage to the young people born in the 1980s to 2000s. But despite this year’s theme, Small Farms Week still celebrates small-scale farmers of all ages, land holdings, and traditional as well as unconventional enterprises. Events will be held at various sites throughout the state.

This year’s celebration also comes as a key point in history. Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T and North Carolina State Universities and across the nation are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the founding legislation of Cooperative Extension.

Throughout the week as well as the rest of 2014, there will events planned locally and statewide to mark the occasion. On May 19th The Extension Centennial Celebration will take place in Raleigh at the NC State Fairgrounds and the following day all county extension staffs, advisory groups, stakeholders and supporters will be invited to Raleigh to make legislative visits on behalf of Extension. The Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service has planned a local celebration for May 5, 2014.

The highlight of the week is the Annual Small Farmers Recognition Luncheon, which is held March 26, on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Other activities in Greensboro include Agricultural Tours, a local foods tasting and an educational vendor fair.

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.

(Editor’s note: James Hartsfield is small farms management agent with the NC Cooperative Extension Service in Sampson County.)

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