Down By The Riverside
High Country Farmers Gather for 2009 Farm Expo
High Country farmers gathered on Saturday, Aug. 29, for the 2009 Farm Expo, to hear from industry
representatives showing off shiny new equipment and tour the
facilities of Ashe County's Upper Mountain Research Station
(UMRS) in Laurel Springs where more than a dozen specialists
from three universities were standing by with valuable information
geared toward smarter ways of increasing production in crop
and livestock farming.
The day started off with a welcome from Ashe County Cooperative Extension Agent Charles Young, who briefed the crowd on the day's upcoming events, which would include tours, workshops and classes along with some delicious samples of the products grown at the station and offerings of roast beef from the Ashe and Alleghany Cattleman's Associations.
Les Miller, UMRS Superintendent, called the day a complete success because, "the weather is wonderful, the farmers are here, the vendors are here, what more could you want than an opportunity to network with peers and industry experts in a setting like this?"
Looking out across the fields and pastureland of the station, Miller's pride was evident to even the casual observer.
"Here we are at our 2009 Farm Expo, and this actually started quite a few years ago. We have had this on a two-year rotation with the Ashe and Alleghany Christmas Tree Associations and generally what this was, was a chance for the vendors to get with the growers so that they could have a one-on-one opportunity to meet. Generally, with the conferences that we have, they don't get that kind of time," Miller explained.
"As time and the seasons have progressed, the tree growers have begun to ask, 'what else can we diversify into,' especially with the choose-and-cut. The choose-and-cut growers are looking to diversify because they only have customers about three weeks a year. They would like to have them come out to their farms more than just those three weeks. So what can we suggest for them to grow to bring in those extra people?
"That is really from where the Expo has expanded: With the research we are doing here at Upper Mountain with crop diversification, small fruits, and live stock, we have an opportunity for everybody to take a tour of the station from N.C. State and get a chance to get out there and see what work is being done. Additionally, we have the chance for folks to get with a marketing consultant here to talk about that end of the business. It just gives everybody a chance to ask 'is this something I want to do?' and to find an answer."
Young called the day a "wonderful opportunity for farmers to get together and see what the research farm is doing and exchange information with one another. We play a lot off one another, the research station and extension; I can't believe how fortunate I have been to have the station in my county. The working relationship between us is just tremendous, and whatever we need they've got and if they need us they've got us, so we work together on a lot of different projects."
Those projects, according to Miller are "driven by what is grown and raised in the area."
Among the vendors on hand at the 2009 Farm Expo was one that at first might surprise the attendee, Lansing's New River Winery (NRW), the first and only commercial winery in Ashe County.
Amanda Gentry, general manager of NRW said, "We were asked to come today by the Extension office and we have set up a tasting table and are selling New River Wines by the bottle.
Of the offerings NRW had for the expo there were wines made from three local grape and two local berry varieties.
Some of the grapes used are produced by Sexton Tree Farm and are a perfect example of the diversification programs championed by Young, Miller and the agriculture industry of the state.
Sitting at an elevation above 3,200 feet, the 454 acre UMRS may hold answers that will make Ashe County more agriculturally competitive moving into the future.?The stated mission of the station is to manage crop and livestock facilities that serve a platform for agriculture research to make farming more efficient, productive and profitable, while maintaining a sound environment and providing consumers with safe and affordable products. Which is a very complicated way to say that they are discovering ways to do what farmers do better, faster, more economically and more environmentally friendly.
For more information call (336) 982-2501 or click to http://www.agr.state.nc.us/research/umrs.htm