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Day three on the dean’s tour: Goldsboro, Clinton

WHEN: October 25, 2012
WHERE: Center for Environmental Farming Systems; Prestage Farms

The third day of Dean Richard Linton’s cross-state trek took him to eastern North Carolina for a tour of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, bookended by stops in Clinton and Wallace.

The dean met in Clinton with the Prestage family, recent donors of a $10 million gift to name and endow the Poultry Science Department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and visited the Prestage Farms poultry and pork production company. Founded by Bill and Marsha Prestage in 1983, Prestage Farms is an industry leader in pork and turkey production. At the Clinton facilities, the dean had the opportunity to see Prestage’s corporate headquarters, along with a warehouse, two feed mills, maintenance department, vehicle garage, a turkey hatchery, a shavings and sawdust storage facility and two laboratories.

Scott Prestage (center) prepares to show the dean and Dr. Sam Pardue (right) around a Prestage hatchery.

Linton headed next to the CEFS, where he was met by CEFS directors Dr. Nancy Creamer, CALS horticulture professor and distinguished professor of community-based food systems, and Dr. John O’Sullivan of N.C. A&T State University, as well as Andrew Meier, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Cherry Research Farm superintendent.

The CEFS is a partnership of N.C. State, N.C. A&T and the NCDA&CS. The 2,000-acre research farm in Goldsboro is one of the nation’s largest centers for the study of sustainable food and farming systems. Its mission is to develop and promote food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities and provide economic opportunities in this state and beyond.

The dean and a Prestage product.

The CEFS staff had prepared an information-packed tour for the dean. It included a bus tour with stops at the 200-acre Farming Systems Research Unit, where the soil, among other production factors, is studied under various agronomic production practices. Faculty working at the farning systems research unit have recently been awarded new funding to study impacts of various systems on greenhouse gas emissions, important in climate change research.

Also visited were the pasture-based livestock units, including beef, dairy, swine and meat-goat units, where researchers study forage varieties and how to maintain quality forgages, and much more.

CEFS dairy apprentice Rachel Ramsey Kearns shares her livestock unit research with Dean Linton.

Dr. Steve Washburn, CALS animal science professor and Extension specialist, talked about the pasture-based livestock units. Dr. Matt Poore, ruminant nutrition Extension specialist, and dairy apprentice Rachel Ramsey Kearns were also on hand to tell Linton about the livestock units.

The dean also stopped at and learned about the Small Farm Unit, 30 acres that include a 15-acre certified organic area, integrated small-scale livestock enterprises, and a model GAP (Good Agricultural Practices)-certified post-harvest handling area. The function of the unit is to model a systems-based approach within a whole farm context. Embedded within the farm design are ongoing research projects in systems rotation and other crop and animal topics relevant to small farm stakeholders.

Dean Linton looks across the fields at the CEFS. Behind him are Dr. Steve Washburn (left), Andy Meier of NCDA&CS and Dr. Nancy Creamer.

Suzi O’Connell, a CALS Ph.D. student in horticulture working at CEFS with Creamer, told the dean about her high-tunnel research at the Small Farm Unit. In a typical season, the unit produces up to 100 varieties of 20 different kinds of small fruits and vegetables. Farm produce is donated to local community organizations, food kitchens and shelters.

Finally on the itinerary was the Organic Research Unit, where Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton, unit coordinator, talked about the basic and applied research being conducted there.

Increasing interest in organic research has led to a demand for certified organic land on North Carolina’s research stations. Previously, many organic projects were conducted on conventional land. To provide a better experimental context for researchers, CEFS has dedicated 60+ acres to  experiments on organic systems. When fields in the unit are not being used for research, they are maintained in a rotation of organic soybeans, corn and hay. This reflects standard production practices on organic farms in eastern North Carolina. Land in the Organic Research Unit is available to all researchers at N.C. State and N.C. A&T to conduct research projects.

Said Poore, “We are a bridge between traditional and alternative agriculture. We try to unite the groups together.”

(From left) Dean Rich Linton, Rachel Ramsey Kearns, Dr. John O’Sullivan and Dr. Sam Pardue hear from Dr. Matt Poore.

“What we want to convey is what is unique about CEFS. We do all of the land-grant university’s missions of teaching, research and extension in real-world situations,” said Creamer.

Added O’Sullivan, “One of the advantages is the collaboration of our two land-grant universities.”

Creamer also noted the CEFS’ statewide programs, such as the development of a statewide action plan for developing the local food economy, including Farm-to-Fork and the 10% campaign, with nearly 700 business and organizational partners on board. The 10% Campaign, a CEFS initiative, encourages all North Carolinians to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on locally grown and produced foods. The campaign has now recorded more than $25 million in local food purchases since its launch in July 2010.

Wendell Murphy and Dean Rich Linton

Linton was particularly interested in the local food programs, noting that “the local food movement in Indiana and Ohio is small, but here it is everywhere.”

With the conclusion of the tour, Linton departed with Dr. Sam Pardue, CALS interim director of Academic Programs, for dinner with N.C. State benefactor and alumnus Wendell Murphy and a CALS alumni reception in Wallace.

But before leaving the bus, he told the CEFS group, “One of the things I’ve learned is we’ve got great value in the research centers in the state. The partnerships are amazing, especially in local foods and sustainability. I value the things you are doing here – and I’ll be back!”

Terri Leith

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