Lee County Prepares for 2023 “Ag Week” Celebration

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Oftentimes when people are asked to name the largest industry in our state, common responses will include aerospace and defense. biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, or banking and financial services. When they learn that our state’s top industry is actually agriculture and agribusiness, they are surprised by what an important driver agriculture is to our local and state economy.

Many folks would be shocked to hear that North Carolina’s agricultural industry, including food, fiber and forestry, contributes nearly $96 billion annually to the state’s economy, accounts for 17% of the state’s income, and employs over 17% of the workforce. As one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the nation, North Carolina’s 46,400 farmers grow over 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.4 million of the state’s 31 million acres. The state is a leading producer of sweet potatoes, tobacco, Christmas trees, hogs, turkeys, trout, strawberries and pickling cucumbers. Other North Carolina commodities include broilers, eggs, blueberries, peaches, peanuts, apples, catfish, watermelons, tomatoes, corn, soybeans, cotton, cattle, grapes and squash. We export close to $4 billion worth of agricultural products and North Carolina agriculture not only provides us with a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber, it allows us to feed, clothe and house many across the globe.

Agriculture is also big business here at home as farming in Lee County generates roughly $40 million a year combining with other agriculture and agribusiness industries to provide a total income of well over $283 million to our county’s economy. Many local jobs are a direct byproduct of agriculture and agribusiness and include feed, chemical, and equipment sales, harvesting, storing, processing, transporting, as well as the marketing and selling of food, fiber, and other commodities. According to recent statistics, there are currently 250 farms covering 35,170 acres in Lee County, with the average farm size being approximately 141 acres. Like most businesses across Lee County, farms can come in small, medium, and large sizes with each one contributing to the overall strength of our local economy. It is important for us to recognize that agriculture is big business not only in North Carolina, but also right here in Lee County!

To acknowledge the critical role agriculture plays in our daily lives and the vitality of our community, N.C. Cooperative Extension – Lee County Center, is sponsoring the second annual Lee County “Ag Week” on April 22-29. The week will be filled with hands-on educational events, farm tours, demonstrations, workshops and much more! The 2023 Ag Week theme is “Thriving Legacy,” which celebrates our rich agricultural heritage while recognizing the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for the industry. We will be releasing more specific event info soon, but for now, please mark your calendars for the 2023 Lee County “Ag Week” to be held later this spring.

Bill Stone is the County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.