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North Carolina Department of Agriculture sees promising crops ahead

By
Keith Loria

North Carolina growers and consumers are in good hands thanks to the efforts of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, which works to ensure that farmers in the state have all they can to be successful.

“We work with our growers to get their products in front of customers through different supply chains,” said Kevin Hardison, marketing manager at the NCDA. “From grocery stores and restaurants to farmers markets and website sales, we work with growers to find what market would be best for their operation.”

Food safety and promotion are the two key elements that the department focuses on, and this year, those focuses are more important than ever, as the pandemic has caused consumers to be more concerned with where their food comes from, and getting the word out about the great product that North Carolina farmers have alleviate those fears.

“Continuously seeking new customers through the various marketing channels is the primary role of the marketing division,” Hardison said. “Furthermore, working with growers one-on-one to navigate the various obstacles of marketing and promotion for their crops is important.”

As of mid-May, the weather in North Carolina has played havoc with some crops delaying planting due to wet fields and colder than usual temperatures. However, the strawberry crop is looking excellent, according to Hardison, adding that it’s slightly too early to talk about other crops due to the season.

“So far, the crops are looking well and barring any major storms, we should see a very good year in production,” Hardison said. “As in the past few years, there are several increases in the demand for locally grown everything. The consensus has been that a diet in fruits and vegetables can help with increased immunity and overall good health. A general increase in demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables will occur.”

Not surprisingly, North Carolina farmers are experiencing the same pain-points as practically everyone in the produce industry — labor, inflation, and sourcing materials such as nitrogen and seeds.

“We are working with the growers to reduce cost as much as possible, such as the Water Analysis cost share that reduces the cost of irrigation and wash water for production and GAP certification cost shares that reduces the cost of GAP Certification on an annual basis,” Hardison said. “We’re also seeking broader market channels for growers.”

 The marketing arm of the NCDA would like to see retailers utilize more instore promotions and pay more attention to local products — primarily the growers who bring the food to the table.

 “North Carolina has a humid, sub-tropical climate, with short, mild winters and sultry summers,” Hardison said. “The land is rich in organic material and these conditions are perfect for many crops we grow in the state. Furthermore, North Carolina has a diverse topography and soil classifications which allows for a wide variety of crops from apples to zucchini and blueberries to sweet potatoes.”

This variety is the key to North Carolina’s agricultural success.

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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