Agriculture is the leading industry in Robeson 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 percent of all farms nationwide and 87 percent 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. In honor of their accomplishments, pioneering work, and technological advancements, the state of North Carolina recognizes the week of March 23 through 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. 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. 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 include agricultural tours, a local foods tasting, and an educational vendor fair.
Southeastern North Carolina has a rich history of producing North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. Since 2001, there have been six Small Farmers of the Year from Southeastern North Carolina, including two from Robeson County. Past winners from Robeson County include Ellery and Amy Locklear (2003 ) of Locklear Farms in Pembroke and the late Burnice Blanks (2001) of the Moss Neck Community.
Small farms play a vital role in supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of rural and farm economies by protecting and enhancing natural resources 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.
This year’s celebration also comes at a key point in history. Cooperative Extension across the nation is 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 be events planned locally and statewide to mark the occasion.
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Centennial Celebration will take place on May 19 in Raleigh at the N.C. State Fairgrounds. On May 20, all county Extension staff, advisory groups, stakeholders, and supporters will be invited to Raleigh to make legislative visits on behalf of Extension. The Robeson County Center has planned a local celebration for September.