Samuel Johnson said, “Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.”
Fortunately, Surry County farmers added an increase of more than $20 million from 2012 to 2013.
“Livestock and small grains are very strong in Surry County,” said Wythe Morris, agent with the Surry County office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. “As tobacco decreases, those in agriculture are looking to see what type of crop can take its place. Traditional tobacco farmers are starting to diversify with sweet corn, pumpkins and broccoli. If we capture one-seventh of the California broccoli crop for the East Coast, that would be a $100 million crop for area farmers.”
According to a financial report from Surry County, overall income from agricultural commodities in 2013 was estimated at $276,044,509. Poultry and egg production remained the largest income-producing agricultural commodity with an estimated $138,455,625. Income from all field crops totaled $32,598,100, a decrease of just more than $1,300,000 due to higher production costs and yield decreases. Tobacco is still the largest field crop income; flue-cured and burley income was $15,117,250.Income from other field crops (soybeans, corn, wheat, rye, barley and hay) was $12,497,970.
Livestock (beef cattle, dairy cattle, hogs, sheep, lambs and other livestock) increased by $13,624,900, almost 20 percent more than the previous year, due to higher prices received with an estimated 2013 income of $84,660,950. Horticultural and forestry income accounted for $20,329,834 of farm income, an increase of $1,496,514, mostly in the vegetable areas.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are 1,256 farms in Surry County on 126,897 acres of farmland, which was up 11 percent from the previous census in 2007. The majority of the farms are 10 to 49 acres and 50 to 179 acres. Only a very small percentage of the farms are larger than 1,000 acres.
North Carolina is 14th in the nation in the total value of agricultural products sold; 34th in the value of crops, including nurseries and greenhouses; and 17th in the nation in the value of livestock, poultry and their products.
The top crop items (acres) include forage-land used for hay, grass silage and green-chop, corn for grain, soybeans for beans, wheat for grain and winter wheat for grain.
The top livestock items include broilers and other meat-type chickens, layers (hens that give eggs), pullets for laying flock replacement, roosters and cattle and calves.
The majority of farmers are male (1,147), but 109 of the farmers in Surry County are females.
“We are beginning to look at a lot more vegetables on the East Coast — all the way from Maine to Florida. The savings in cost to transport the vegetables, as well as the drought in California, means that it is more cost effective to grow the vegetables on the East Coast,” Morris said.
“The problem in North Carolina is high temperatures and humidity in the summer. We believe we can grow a year-round crop of strawberries by beginning at the coast, and, as the weather gets hotter, grow more and more inland, clear into the mountains, and then, as the weather gets colder, back out onto the coast. This is an exciting time for agriculture.”
Sherry Beason-Schmitt may be reached at 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @SBeasonSchmitt.