What does value-added mean? It means enhancing a product before selling it.
Value-added is apples packaged in gift-ready baskets or snap beans in resealable plastic bags. It’s soy protein added to ice cream. It’s a snack “ready to eat,” a meal “ready to cook.”
In agriculture, it can mean boosting both the economic value and the market appeal of a product. Value-added agriculture is producing a crop for a special market, renovating commodity marketing techniques or diversifying to an alternative enterprise.
It’s seedless watermelons,
sungold tomatoes, cold-hardy peaches. It’s biobased sweetpotatoes.
It’s hybrid striped bass. It’s
agritourism in a Transylvania County corn maze or on a Pamlico
Sound paddle excursion.
the direct-marketing of cantaloupes at a food stand, cooperative or
It’s a pest-resistant and regionally adaptable Carolina sweet shrub. It’s ornamentals like butterfly bushes and asters. It’s Christmas trees.
It’s a cheesemaking operation to supplement income at a dairy operation. It’s food soybeans for an overseas market.
It’s flounder bred to grow larger, cotton enhanced to resist insects.
It’s cotton stalks processed to yield ethanol. It’s new medicines from a tobacco plant.
It’s biobased animal feeds, non-fossil fuels, chemicals, fabrics, biodegradable plastics.
It’s sea oats grown in a greenhouse to replenish storm-torn beaches. It’s strawberries produced year-round, crop varieties grown in formerly hostile environments. It’s wine grapes and organic crops.
And it’s a way to go, as declining demand for some commodities, fluctuating prices and increased competition are pushing producers toward the exploration of alternative production and marketing strategies.
With value-added, product-based agriculture, marketing strategies are driven by what consumers want and have demonstrated they will buy. Beyond his or her role of producer, the farmer operates from a sound and well-managed business plan and actively participates in processing and distribution. Producers can set their prices, rather than just taking whatever price the market will bear. And just as consumers can get more for their money when value is added, the producer can get more return and a greater share of net profits.
Value-added agriculture also means new opportunities for growers and for the rural areas of the state to prosper, as it contributes to the environmental sustainability of the farm and the economic sustainability of the community.
In October the College hosted the meeting “Value-Added Agriculture for North Carolina Agricultural Leaders” at JC Raulston Arboretum’s McSwain Educational Center. There research and extension faculty members offered presentations about College programs in support of opportunities in value-added agriculture, including clear measure of the value of those endeavors to the producer and to the state economy.
Among the topics were the meat goat industry, farmstead dairy industry, specialty crops and niche markets, aquaculture, viticulture, the ornamentals industry, organic products, new crops, value-added products from animal waste and products from bioprocessing. The audience learned about the types of research the College is exploring to ensure that North Carolina’s producers can generate new sources of income. And they heard about N.C. Cooperative Extension’s efforts to connect this value-added agriculture research directly to the needs of communities throughout the state.
the articles to follow throughout this issue of Perspectives,
the College’s specific activities
in value-added, product-based agriculture
programs and show how those efforts are
being shared with
and successfully put to use by producers
The shrub — an unusual cross between three plants — is the latest landscape plant to be developed by Dr. Tom Ranney, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Horticultural Science, and his staff, research specialist Tom Eaker and technician Joel Mowrey.
The team, based at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, is working on a range of new landscape plants — from evergreen dogwoods and flowering dogwoods resistant to anthracnose and powdery mildew to sterile versions of attractive, but invasive, exotic plants like mimosas.
Such breeding projects are designed to provide North Carolina’s greenhouse and nursery industry — worth more than $800 million annually — the types of new and improved landscape plants that will allow the industry to continue to grow.
Ranney’s work on ‘Venus’ — aptly named for the Greek goddess of love, beauty, springtime and flowers — began six years ago. The shrub is the unexpected offspring of three other plants: Carolina allspice, California sweetshrub and Chinese waxshrub.
Ranney’s cross between the white-flowering waxshrub and the yellow-flowering allspice resulted, to his surprise, in a plant with red flowers. Red flowers also resulted when he paired the waxshrub with the red-flowering sweetshrub. From there, he combined the two second-generation plants and — surprise again — came up with a shrub with yellow flowers that transform over time into big, waxy white flowers.
“ We wanted to develop a plant with unique ornamental traits,” he said, “and while this wasn’t what we were expecting, it was quite nice.”
Leaders in North Carolina’s fast-growing nursery industry seem to agree. Several dozen are propagating the plant in hopes of getting it into garden centers within the year. Brian Upchurch, owner of Highland Creek Nursery in Fletcher and board member with the North Carolina Association of Nurserymen, is among them.
Because his nursery specializes in rare and unusual ornamental plants, Upchurch is particularly interested in ‘Venus’ sweetshrub and the other landscape plants that Ranney is working on.
“ Having a breeder as out-front as Tom is really beneficial to me and to the entire industry here in North Carolina. He recognizes things that have commercial promise and works with the industry to find things that will work in the landscape, are hardy and have ‘wow’ appeal,” Upchurch says.
“ From a selfish standpoint, it keeps me on the front edge — I’m able to get in on the front end and get new plants into production quickly,” he adds. “And from a North Carolina perspective, this research keeps us on the leading edge. We get the first shot, and it’s up to us to take advantage of the research to get a foothold in the industry.”
for the ‘Venus’ sweetshrub breeding research
came from Golden LEAF, the foundation set up to manage half of North
Carolina’s portion of the national tobacco settlement funds;
the J. Frank Schmidt Family Foundation; the North Carolina Specialty
Crops Program; and the North Carolina Association of Nurserymen.
he market potential for meat goats is impressive,” says Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Crop Science and Animal Science departments and head of the College’s meat goat program.
The market is growing, and apparently will continue to do so, according to data collected by Luginbuhl and presented at the October state agricultural leaders’ meeting on value-added agriculture at N.C. State University.
“ But,” Luginbuhl says, “to meet the future challenges, we need to develop an infrastructure to establish a strong and viable market.”
Luginbuhl and Dr. Paul Mueller have been involved with the successful meat goat program since 1995, when the College established a faculty position to support the meat goat industry.
support this emerging industry, College research has focused
on evaluating the potential
of cool- and warm-season perennial
forages to meet nutritional requirements of productive does
throughout the different stages of their production cycle, and
kids and replacement does. Researchers also are evaluating
of woody trees and shrub species suitable for meat goats as
summer protein and energy banks, as well as evaluating
research explores non-pharmaceutical ways to protect goats from
gastrointestinal parasites. And N.C. State leads
meat goat educational materials.
• In 2002, according to estimates by Luginbuhl and by Bruce Shankel of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, more than 215,000 live goats were sold for meat through all marketing channels, with receipts of more than $9 million.
• The annual return on land, labor and capital for an average operation is from $120 to $240 per acre; for top operations, more than $360 per acre.
• More than 146,000 head of breeding stock are now on more than 3,200 North Carolina farms, which equates to a capital investment of more than $14.4 million.
• Meat goat sales at the Powell Livestock’s auction in Smithfield rose from 1989’s 15 to 50 goats per week to anywhere from 200 to 400 goats per week since 1999, with a weekly auction now set exclusively for goats.
• Research shows that goats have significant economic value when used to control weeds (including kudzu) and brush in land reclamation projects.
• Markets include local stores, Latino restaurants and upscale Triangle-area restaurants, statewide farmer’s markets and live goat shipments to East Coast urban centers.
“ We need to address this market,” says Luginbuhl, “given the state’s burgeoning ethnic population, with 300,000 to 500,000 Latinos, Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Caribbean islanders and Europeans in North Carolina alone, most of whom include goat meat in their diets.”
And 85 percent of the world’s population eats goat meat, he says.
Goat-raising is adaptable to farm sizes, so producers with only a few acres can raise enough goats to provide an income supplement, Luginbuhl says. Or goats can be integrated into larger operations for diversification.
Meat goats can even be raised with cattle, and studies show that goats and cows have complementary grazing behavior, meaning that goats will eat many plants and weeds rejected by cattle.
“ With the North Carolina beef herd at 500,000 head,” Luginbuhl notes, “and the fact that you can add one to two goats per head of cattle without affecting beef production adversely, that means existing beef cattle pastures could support from 500,000 to 1 million goats.”
Luginbuhl collaborated with Martha Mobley, N.C. Cooperative Extension agricultural agent for Franklin County, in 2001 to create the Franklin County Meat Goat Producers Cooperative. Using Golden LEAF grants, the co-op continues to grow. Members are certified and trained through a quality assurance program. The co-op markets live goats, as well as marketing goat meat directly to consumers, area retail stores and restaurants, with 25 certified Cooperative Extension agents assisting in the grading, weighing and loading.
Two N.C. State research herds provide a sound genetic base for meat goat genetics improvement. Crossbred animals with Boer genetics are sold for meat at auction markets or under private sales.
The future of North Carolina’s meat goat industry is bright,” says
Luginbuhl. “The market doesn’t meet the goat meat demand
and that demand will increase because of demographics. Goats will continue
to play an important role as an integral part of North Carolina’s
Soy-fortified ice cream marketing opportunities:
Dr. MaryAnne Drake, associate professor in the Food Science Department, reports that while studies show consumers would buy low-fat frozen dairy desserts that incorporate a nutritious amount of soy protein, they prefer their soy in chocolate-flavored ice cream.
finding was enough to encourage corporate giant Cargill Inc., a bland-flavored
soy protein isolate (SPI) producer, to do further
market testing then approach Drake to discuss more opportunities
with SPI-fortified ice cream.
To determine the best use for soy in frozen dairy products, Drake ran several tests to determine the descriptive sensory flavor and texture properties of soy-enhanced, low-fat ice cream, and to find out how consumers would accept the product. Those included tests at N.C. State’s Sensory Service Center (SSC) in the Food Science Department and consumer-intercept testing at a local grocery store.
After various scientific measurements, including instrumental and sensory analyses, Drake noted that added soy protein increased the low-fat ice cream’s viscosity and darkened its color. Soy-fortified mixes also were doughier, with “grassy” flavors and decreased sweet taste compared to control mixes.
Attributing the sensory differences to increased concentrations of volatile aldehydes, or odors, from the SPI, she prepared both vanilla and chocolate-flavored batches at N.C. State’s Creamery, adding 4 percent SPI, enough to qualify as a “good source” of soy protein for FDA-approved labeling purposes.
She conducted acceptance tests last summer with ice cream consumers at the SSC. She evaluated tempered ice creams for appearance, flavor, texture and overall acceptability. Control low-fat ice creams with no SPI were evaluated along with SPI-fortified ice creams.
While the appearance and texture scores for SPI-fortified ice creams weren’t different from control ice creams without SPI, the SPI-fortified desserts scored lower on flavor and overall acceptance than control ice creams.
“ But,” Drake says, “scores for chocolate SPI-fortified ice creams were higher, indicating a market potential for chocolate SPI-fortified ice creams.”
Drake notified Cargill of the results and sent them several 5-gallon containers of SPI–fortified ice creams manufactured at the creamery, one of the Food Science Deparment’s pilot plant labs.
The company used them for marketing presentations to three ice cream companies and visited the College last May to evaluate SPI-fortified ice creams and to discuss soy fortified ice cream marketing opportunities.
Future work will focus on consumer testing at a grocery store in Cary, she says, along with continued interaction with Cargill Inc.
Cheesemaking — a viable and profitable option:
In another project, Drake notes that many of the state’s more than 100 dairy goat farms and more than 400 small cow dairies are located in tobacco-growing counties such as Alleghany, Caswell, Person, Wake, Johnston, Craven and Onslow.
While farmers in those counties struggle to add value to their products, they may not be aware that farmstead cheesemaking is a viable and profitable option, she says.
Small-scale farmstead or artisanal cheese production, usually of unique, premium-priced cheese, is one way to add product value and income. A farmstead cheese must be made on the producers’ own farm from milk produced exclusively on that farm. An artisanal cheese is similar except that some or all of the milk may be from other sources.
Although 12 farmstead cheese producers now operate in North Carolina and about 50 more are very interested, there’s nowhere nearby to obtain cheese-production information or training, says Drake.
“ There’s an information vacuum here in the Southeast,” she says. “We saw this as an opportunity to move in to fill it. People can come here to learn basic skills and how to navigate the regulatory maze.”
She cites supporting statistics from the Agribusiness Innovation Alliance (AGIA): People spend more than $3.4 billion annually on food in the Research Triangle Park area, and farmstead and specialty cheeses are a fast-growing, value-added local and national market.
Also, the AGIA estimates the North Carolina Latino specialty cheese market at $50 million a year, and the farmstead cheese market at $80 million to $100 million a year.
“ This market is now captured by cheeses manufactured outside of the state,” Drake says. “If we could direct as little as 10 to 15 percent of this to North Carolina producers, it would represent $15 million to 20 million per year.”
Drake and Gary Cartwright, the Food Science pilot plant manager, want to expand market opportunities for small-scale farmstead and artisanal cheese production to improve economic and social conditions of North Carolinians who could produce such commodities on tobacco-growing farms.
“ Our economic analysis of currently existing farmstead operations indicates that one farmstead cheese operation with fewer than 50 goats can gross more than $200,000 per year,” she says. “Similar income potential is available for cow dairy farmers.”
Drake says a farmstead shortcourse focusing on milk handling and sanitation is confirmed for next April.
Next, she envisions a shortcourse in making both cow and goat milk cheeses and associated issues, such as sanitation; building, legal and regulatory issues; marketing; business development and hands-on cheese-making, in which she is an expert.
In fact, both Drake and Cartwright are uniquely qualified to teach dairy shortcourses.
Drake worked as a licensed cheesemaker and pasteurizer for five years and conducts national research and outreach on cheese flavor and quality. She has worked with cheese and cultured dairy products for more than 10 years. Cartwright has more than 20 years of experience with fluid milk and ice cream production and packaging.
The Food Science Department will offer more shortcourses depending on demand and availability of second-year funding, Drake says.
To help meet those goals, the N.C Dairy Foundation will contribute $25,000 towards pilot-scale equipment; a $25,000 request is pending to the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center. And a requested $112,000 in Golden LEAF funds will complete equipment and staff needs for shortcourses and outreach programs.
The department will also disseminate information through technical seminars, brochures and local and national publications to educate local farmers and promote North Carolina farmstead cheese, all with the assistance of the N.C. Dairy Foundation, N.C. Dairy Goat Association and the AGIA.
We plan,” says Drake, “to ultimately establish a self-sustaining
outreach, support and feedback program for milk processing and farmstead
Though organic production can be labor intensive, organic foods are high-value products because consumers are willing to pay a premium for them. Producers who grow crops organically often can reap profits on smaller tracts of land than conventional producers.
In North Carolina, there are several bright spots for organically produced foods, according to Dr. Noah Ranells, Extension specialist in the Crop Science Department and Organic Unit coordinator at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) in Goldsboro.
There is a strong market for organically grown grains, both for human consumption and as feed for organically produced livestock, he said. North Carolina’s acreage of organically grown corn and soybeans has grown in recent years, and national production is expected to grow 300 percent in the next three years. Growers say production costs can be similar for organic and conventional grain production, while profits are greater for organically raised grains.
Nationally, growers planted 94,000 acres of organic corn in 2001, compared with only 30,000 acres the previous year. The U.S. soybean acreage also saw a tremendous increase from 23,000 acres in 2000 to 133,000 acres in 2001, Ranells said.
CEFS is working to train farmers on growing more organic grains, he said. In December 2002, the center sponsored an organic grain production and marketing workshop where local grain buyers addressed the need for organic grains, both for humans and livestock.
In November, several College faculty members participated in an Organic Grain Production Workshop, part of the 18th annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Rock Hill, S.C., sponsored by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. The workshop’s goal was to present growers with good models of rotations for successful organic grain production. It also sought to to foster organic grain production in the Carolinas by bringing farmers and agricultural professionals together to collect information, share experiences, and discuss needs for production and marketing support.
Currently, there are two mills in North Carolina that process organic grains for human consumption and two others that process livestock feed grains, but most of their grain is imported from other states, Ranells said. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the certification of organic livestock, which will increase the demand for organic feeds.
Another bright spot for organic food production in North Carolina is organic poultry, which must be raised on organically grown feed and without the use of feed additives or growth regulators. In 2001, North Carolina raised 578,000 organic layers, 500,000 organic broilers and 18,000 organic turkeys. The U.S. market for organic poultry grew sixfold from 1997 to 2001, Ranells said.
is much opportunity for North Carolina growers to help meet the
desire for organic products. The state currently imports
more than 90 percent of the organic products sold here, even though
of those products could be
Muscadines and native American grapes made up most of the grapes grown for wine production in North Carolina because they are generally resistant to PD and phylloxera, respectively. But new cultural practices, such as grafting vinifera vines onto pest-resistant rootstock varieties, made it possible for growers in North Carolina and other Southeastern states to grow Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varieties of vinifera grapes.
Today, wine-grape production and winemaking are growing businesses in the state. For 2002, North Carolina growers produced 2,300 tons of grapes, at an average price of $1,280 per ton, for a farm gate value of $2.9 million. The estimated value of wine produced from the grape crop was $30 million, and 600,000 gallons of wine were produced in the state. North Carolina is now ranked 12th nationally in wine production and 14th for grape production and acreage.
A large portion of the state’s Foothills and Piedmont regions recently received the federal designation of “Yadkin Valley Appellation,” identifying wines from the area as having a consistent character and quality. In Surry, Yadkin, Polk and Stokes counties, as well as others in the Piedmont and Foothills, vineyard development has exploded.
After years of decline, in 1997-98 the state’s vineyards covered only 400 acres. Last year, that number had reached 1,120 acres, and additional acreage planted this year brings the total to more than 1,200 acres, a three-fold increase in five years. In 1999, the state claimed about a dozen wineries. Today, the number is 25, and 12 more are slated to open within the year.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has long supported the state’s wine industry. And with industry growth, the College’s role has expanded. In the Food Science Department, Dr. Dan Carroll has been involved in enology research and extension for bunch grapes and muscadines since the early 1970s. He also teaches a course in wine appreciation.
N.C. Cooperative Extension has shown its commitment to the wine industry by hiring Extension associate Andy Allen to work with the industry in its own backyard. Allen is based in Morganton, the heart of the Yadkin Valley Appellation. In only a few hours drive, he can reach all the grape-growing areas of the state.
In addition to providing his expertise to growers one-on-one, Allen is also involved in training agents to work with wine-grape growers. And he conducts training for growers, many of whom are fairly new to grape production.
Other faculty in the College are involved in research and extension activities to support viticulture. Faculty are listed by department, along with their area of support for the grape and wine industries:
Horticultural Science: Andy Allen; Roger Batts, field research director, pesticide residue trials; Mike Mainland, professor emeritus, cultural studies of muscadines; Wayne Mitchem, Extension associate, weed management extension and research with muscadine grapes; Dr. David Monks, professor and department Extension leader, weed management extension and research with muscadine grapes; Dr. Barclay Poling, professor, extension and research with muscadine grapes.
Plant Pathology: Bill Cline, Extension associate, disease management research and extension with muscadine grapes; Dr. Turner Sutton, professor, disease management extension and research with wine grapes. (The Plant Disease and Insect Clinic accepts plant and soil samples for identification of disease problems.)
Food Science: Dr. Leon Boyd, associate professor, research with value-added grape products, primarily from muscadines; Dr. Dan Carroll.
Entomology: Dr. Ken Sorensen, professor, insect management extension and research on bunch and muscadine grapes.
and Resource Economics: Dr. Charles Safley, professor, enterprise
and bunch grapes,
and consumer surveys with muscadines.
Food soybeans can be grown for domestic specialty markets and for export. Sicklepod can yield gum or resin with both food and industrial potential; and the kenaf plant’s uses include products for bedding, as an absorbent and in automobile manufacturing, said Jordan.
Sharing news from Dr. Tommy Carter, professor of crop science, about food soybeans, Jordan reported that College research and Extension faculty are developing small-seeded (natto) and large-seeded (tofu) varieties for export to Japan and working with the state’s small businesses and local farmers on production of edamame, a fresh vegetable soybean.
The sicklepod, an annual with broad green leaves, is a legume, like the soybean, and is usually considered a weed, but it is now being studied as a potential source of products and profits for growers. Jordan reported that College scientists are conducting several sicklepod studies, including a genetic diversity study and a gum quality study. Researchers are likewise evaluating weed management programs, nitrogen and fertility issues, and harvest aides and growth regulators to enhance yield and improve the efficiency of harvest.
Jordan is involved with research on the kenaf plant, a member of the hibiscus family related to cotton and okra. The plant holds potential for making paper products.
reported on studies testing the viability of growing kenaf in rotation
with cotton, corn
soybean and tobacco, as
row-pattern, nitrogen-rate and harvest-date studies. Annual
funding from a grower
check-off program or other support is needed to enable continued
sustained research on kenaf, Jordan said. However, he announced,
a processing facility for kenaf has been established in the
• “Planting North Carolina’s Medicinal Herb Economy,” at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, was focused on growing woodland and sun-loving botanicals; medicinal mushroom production; commercial organic methods; post-harvest handling of raw materials; opportunities in retail and wholesale nursery production; value-added products including herbal soaps, essential oils and salves; information on herbal regulations, trade associations, conservation practices and more.
• “Medicinal Herb Training for County Extension Agents and Commercial Growers” workshop in Roper included information on medicinal herb production methods, harvest and post-harvest handling, marketing, economics, enterprise budgets, organic certification, networking and resources.
• “Opportunities for Value-Added Livestock Products” in Salisbury featured value-added products from dairy and meat animals and shared information about identifying and exploiting opportunities successfully.
• “Putting Small Acreage to Work” was held at Forsyth County’s center of N.C. Cooperative Extension in Winston-Salem. The conference covered evaluating and marketing new enterprises; raising strawberries, goats, heirloom vegetables, cut flowers, medicinal herbs, grapes, specialty melons, sweet corn and blueberries; and agritourism, organic production and value-added processing.
• “Serious Answers for Food Entrepreneurs in North Carolina: A
Resource-Focused Approach” was presented at Fletcher,
Pittsboro and Morehead City. Major topics were business
planning, marketing promotion,
operations, and regulatory and packaging considerations.