Winter: A Time for Reflection, Planning, and New Resolutions
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Happy New Year from all of us at the N.C. Cooperative Extension center! We hope your holiday season was restful and full of fun, which we all need after another year of opportunities as well as challenges. No year is the same, and this holds true for agriculture. Between managing challenging weather, avian flu, and high prices for farm supplies and inflation, it has been an especially tough year for farmers. However, agriculture is resilient, and our farmers are now hard at work planning for their next growing season. Winter is a great time for reflection and planning, an opportunity to review and learn from the previous year and to prepare for the new year ahead. Between ordering seeds and farm supplies, testing soil and preparing fields, balancing finances, and attending trainings and workshops, winter is indeed another busy season in agriculture. In fact, everyone can take advantage of the winter to reflect, plan, and set new resolutions to cultivate success in 2023. Today, we hope to give you some ideas on how you can jumpstart your 2023 aspirations, whether that involves growing your own food, starting a farm, or establishing healthier eating habits while supporting local agriculture at the same time.
Prepare Your Gardens and Fields
For those of you with a green thumb out there, winter is a great time to prepare for the next growing season. Whether you are a farmer, homesteader, or home gardener wanting to grow food for yourself and your family, you can use this time to order and start seeds, clean debris from growing areas (which can harbor diseases and pests), map out your field or garden, test and amend your soil, and do some reading and skills building. NC State Extension has planting calendars to help you identify when to start germinating seeds and to plant different crops in the spring, depending on where you live (the central planting calendar is the best for our area). It’s also a great time to prune many of the trees and shrubs you have in your yard. We have been getting a lot of questions about caring for blueberry bushes this winter, especially concerning pruning. To help, we are offering pruning workshops this month to provide guidance on caring for and pruning your blueberries. You can visit our website for more information on these workshops and to sign up.
Learn How to Start or Expand Your Farm
What if you have been wanting to start farming, and 2023 is the year you want to take the plunge? This winter, we are offering our inaugural “Small Farm Bootcamp” program, a regional collaboration between Extension agents in and around the Sandhills to help both residents interested in starting a farm as well as new and beginning farmers wanting to expand and diversify their crops. This program will be held weekly on Saturdays from January 21st through March 11th and includes eight classes designed to provide participants with the technical knowledge and skills to start a farm, including assessing opportunities in their local food system, understanding soil fertility and management, vegetable and fruit production, season extension, post-harvest handling and food safety, business planning and more. We intend this course to be a great launching pad for new farmers to get started, learn essential skills and knowledge, and to build fellowship. You can learn more about Small Farm Bootcamp on our website.
Ideas to Eat Healthier while Supporting Local Agriculture
What if your goal for this new year is to adopt healthier eating habits, like eating more fruits and vegetables? How about trying to grow some of your own food this year? Growing a couple plants that you frequently eat (ex. tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and herbs) is a great way to supplement your cooking, can reduce your grocery spending, and is an opportunity to learn about growing plants! Start small and scale your plant commitment based on your available space and time. If you live in an apartment or on a rental property, creating a container garden can be a great option. Alternatively, how about supporting local agriculture this year by committing a percentage of your food spending toward purchasing locally? You could participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program to receive regular boxes of produce throughout the year, or you could start visiting farmers markets or roadside stands more often, there are many! It is estimated that North Carolinians spend over $35 billion on food each year. That means if 10% of those purchases were made from NC farms, $3.5 billion would be contributed to North Carolina’s statewide economy. That’s a great goal if I ever saw one!
For more information on upcoming training opportunities, planning your farm or garden for the next growing season, or information on how to find and purchase local foods in our community, please contact N.C. Cooperative Extension at the Lee County Center office and ask for Meredith Favre, our Local Foods Coordinator, for more information.
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