4-H’ers learn more about agriculture; you should, too

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2018

By Laura Allen

Rowan County 4-H Agent

Did you know that agriculture is the No. 1 industry in North Carolina? According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, “agriculture and agribusiness, including food, forestry and fiber, contributes $84 billion to the state’s economy.”

North Carolina agriculture helps to fuel our economy and feed and clothe each and every one of us. It’s an industry that is often taken for granted, but is necessary in order for us to survive.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that youth and adults alike are educated about the agricultural industry. There is much misinformation about agriculture and it spreads like wildfire via social media. To help combat this problem, Rowan County 4-H planned a “Down on the Farm” trip as part of the 4-H Summer Fun program to help educate Rowan County youth about agriculture.

On July 10, 12 Rowan County youth traveled across the county to visit with farmers and agriculturalists in the community. These farmers, without a doubt, are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet. They work long hours in many different types of weather and must follow the rules and regulations set forth by our government to ensure that all agricultural products are kept safe. Their tireless work often goes unnoticed and unrecognized.

Our first stop was at John Weddington Greenhouses in China Grove. This family run business, which started in the 1980s, grows and sells bedding plants, vegetable transplants, hanging baskets, garden mums and poinsettias. Most of their production is for the wholesale market, but they do sell some for retail.

During our tour, youth were able to see several greenhouses and many types of plants. Youth were also able to learn about peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. These three items mixed together make up the plant media often used in a greenhouse setting. The highlight of the visit was the opportunity for each participant to prune a potted lantana which they were able to take home with them.

Next, we traveled to Moore Farm, a family owned farm that is very diverse. Johnny Moore and his son Brian milk around 150 dairy cattle, farm many acres around Rowan County, and operate a certified seed business.

They are one of the larger farming operations in Rowan County and they work tirelessly as they provide food for our growing population. Brian and his wife Jessica, along with their youngest son, Andrew, gave us a tour around their farm. The youth loved seeing and touching the Holstein and Jersey calves and enjoyed climbing up to sit in a real combine.

After a stop at Sloan Park for a lunch break, we traveled to our last stop, Wetmore Farms LLC. Now, don’t be misguided by the LLC. Many farms across our country are considered a Limited Liability Company, but are still family farming operations. Wetmore Farms has been involved in agriculture since the 1800s and was recently recognized by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture as a Century Farm.

Currently, this farm is involved in raising beef cattle, grain and produce. At Wetmore Farms, we toured one of their tomato fields and were able to see the sorting and packing process for tomatoes. We also visited their retail store, where they had lots of fruits and vegetables for sale. If you’re in the Woodleaf area, stop by to purchase some of their wonderful produce.

At the end of each tour, the youth all said thank you to our local farmers — the ones who labor day in and day out so we can all survive. Many times in life, a simple thank you goes a long way.

In today’s society, there is a need for a greater appreciation for the agricultural industry, and this trip made me realize that there’s room for improvement from all of us so that more people understand the value and necessity of agriculture.

My challenge to the non-farmer: The next time that you see a farmer, please thank them for all that they do. Please talk to them and learn about their farm, their family and their farming history. Please ask questions and truly be willing to listen to the answers they give. Please don’t assume that farmers are unintelligent or that they are trying to harm the environment, because typically, that is very far from the truth. Please realize that farmers are good people who are doing their best to make an honest living, despite uncertainty in many sectors of the agricultural industry.

My challenge to the farmer: Continue doing what you do, it is making a difference. Try to find more ways to educate the public — this is imperative as citizens become further and further removed from the farm (and as some who were raised on the farm seem to forget where they came from). “Ag”vocate so that others know the truth about your farm and the agricultural industry, not just the negative untruths often heard through the media. Keep pushing on, even when the times are tough.

Thank you to John Weddington Greenhouses, Moore Farm and Wetmore Farms for opening up your facilities for our 4-H Summer Fun event. And thank you to all farmers, in Rowan County and beyond.