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Thursday, November 5, 2009

UNCP hosts the first Farm Bureau BioAg Symposium

The 2009 North Carolina Farm Bureau BioAg Symposium was attended by more than 100 farmers and agribusinesses who heard about new trends in biofuels, viticulture, micro-propagation, global positioning systems and more.

Sam Brake of the N.C. Biofuels Center discusses biodiesel production

Sam Brake of the N.C. Biofuels Center discusses biodiesel production

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The event, organized by Robeson Community College’s (RCC) BioAg Center and UNC Pembroke’s Biotechnology Research and Training Center, was held at the Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development at COMtech.

“We are very pleased with the turnout,” said Leslie Lowry, associate director for RCC’s BioAg Center. “There was a lot of information out there for farmers, and the networking provided them with important contacts.”

Some area farmers like Chris Yaklin of Richmond County took advantage of the opportunity. With a diverse operation of hogs, chickens, cattle and goats on 400 acres, he was looking for information of several types.

“With four daughters, I will be attending the ‘Passing on the Farm’ session,” Yaklin said. That seminar was offered by the North Carolina Farm Transition Program.

“I am not too interested in biodiesel because I don’t have row crops, but I am interested in waste-to-fuel ideas,” he said. “I have a lot of waste.”

Other farmers are looking to transition from old cash crops. Jenny and Chandler Worley of Fair Bluff, N.C., are interested in micro-propagation.

UNCP’s Farm Bureau Scholar Brittany Locklear

UNCP’s Farm Bureau Scholar Brittany Locklear

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“We have a greenhouse that I used to start tobacco in,” said Chandler Worley, who works about 700 acres. “This is all about the future.”

Others, like Tito Massol were looking to improve his land and gain knowledge.

“I started some grapes recently, and I have two acres that I’d like to do something with other than cut grass,” said Massol, who is the Pembroke manager for the Farm Bureau.

Massol attended the viticulture and enology (grape growing and wine making) seminar with Dennis Sutton of James Sprunt Community College.

“It was a good session, and I learned a lot,” he said. “He has a Web site that I can get more information from.”

Several community colleges were represented and offered sessions, including Robeson, Southeastern, Fayetteville Technical, Central Carolina, Sampson and James Sprunt Community Colleges.

Others topics included organic food certification, forestry, bees and micro-propagation. Brittany Locklear, an RCC graduate and the first Farm Bureau Scholar at UNCP, discussed her work in micro-propagation.

“I have been doing this for two-and-a-half years after a field trip to Southeastern Community College,” Locklear said. “They were working with Venus flytraps, and I thought it was neat that they were helping to preserve an endangered plant.

Adam Huffman, left, of the N.C. Forestry Service

Adam Huffman, left, of the N.C. Forestry Service

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“I believe farmers can do a lot with micro-propagation,” she said. “It reduces disease and reproduces exactly the plants you want.”

UNCP Chancellor Charles Jenkins and Provost Charles Harrington welcomed the gathering. Robeson County Farm Bureau President Lycurous Lowry also extended greetings and looked to the future of farming.

“I am supposed to be on a tractor this morning,” Lowry said. “At a national conference, I attended a session on biofuel, so learning that UNCP has a biodiesel program is good timing.”

A contribution from the Robeson County Farm Bureau made the BioAg Symposium possible, said Alisia Oxendine, director of UNCP’s Office of Major Gifts.

“I was so excited to see this turnout,” she said. “This is a landmark event between UNCP and the agriculture community.”

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