A big year for agriculture in Randolph County

ASHEBORO — Whole COVID continued to impact indoor and outdoor activities in 2021, one outdoor activity maintained its normal pace — farming. As one of North Carolina’s most productive livestock counties, Randolph County’s agriculture industry plays an important role in feeding our state and nation. 

In 2013, North Carolina had its highest average corn yields on record, with 142 bushels per acre. While the numbers from 2021 are not finalized, surveys say this year will be the new record year. Corn yields in Randolph County were spectacular this year and — based on preliminary data — the country will exceed the state average. Soybeans yields will likely be at record levels, with prediction being near 40 bushels per acre across the state.  

The Randolph County Extension Office held demonstration field days, educational workshops and one-on-one farm visits to assist livestock producers to aid in production and solving unique challenges a the farm level. In 2021, extension agents held a field day demonstration on managing and controlling fire ants in pastures and hayfields with a new specialty spreader that is available for producers to rent out. In-person workshops on grazing management, forages and livestock health, and vaccines were also held. Extension agents had over 1,200 direct contacts with forages and livestock in Randolph County. Statewide, Randolph County ranks first in beef cattle, second in dairy cattle, second in all cattle combined, second in goats and seventh in hay production. 

With some activities and gatherings discouraged due to Covid-19, home landscaping projects and backyard gardening increased in popularity. The Randolph County Backyard Gardener classes, taught by extension agents, reached a total of 459 North Carolinians locally and across the state. The series consisted of six two-hour online classes where members and experts shared research-based resources focused on lawn care, fruit and vegetable production, culinary herbs, pollinator gardens and native plants. These classes also served as a prerequisite for students interested in training to become a certified North Carolina Master Gardener Volunteer in Randolph County. Randolph County now has 12 newly trained Master Gardener interns completing their volunteer hours for their initial certification. These individuals will assist with extension events and service projects focused on horticulture education in Randolph County. 

The 4-H slogan, “Learn by Doing” was on full display in in 2021 and 4-H members and staffers had overcome pandemic challenges and alternate schedules to deliver hands-on experiences. Allison Walker, a 4-H leader, and county horticulture agent Annie Mills, partnered to distribute 1,500 garden kits in May 2021. The pre-boxed kits were available at every Randolph County Public Library as well as the Cooperative Extension Office. Each garden box contained tomato seeds, cucumber seeds, lettuce seeds, zinnia seeds, peat pots, ziffy expandable pellets, soil, a 4-H Gardening brochure and a packet with resources and growing instructions. Every student at Balfour Elementary received a garden box. 

The Randolph County 4-H summer programs were curtailed by Covid limitations but the group still offered some unique hands-on learning experiences for youth and their families throughout the summer. Butterfly kits, where participants could experience the entire life cycle of the butterfly, were popular. Pinewood Derby kits were also distributed, allowing participants to use their creativity and imagination to build the best and fastest car. A program called “More Than Ag. In A Bag” included everything from bread making to growing your own jewelry.

Embryology is a program offered through 4-H that gives the youth involved a hands-on look at the life cycle of a chicken. The program saw over 1,200 participants this year in 56 classrooms in Randolph County.  

The Randolph County 4-H Youth Livestock show was held in person, after the previous year being virtual, the first weekend in August. The event featured 68 competitors showing cattle and goats from Randolph, Guilford, Chatham, Stanly, Cabarrus, Johnston, Rockingham, Richmond, Anson, Cumberland, Wake, Person, Moore, Montgomery, and Stokes counties.  Scarlett Farms in Snow Camp hosted the event. Brandon Hartman served as judge and the Trinity High School FFA served concessions. 

In November, Henry and Bambi Craven welcomed 4-H and FFA youth to their farm for the county’s annual livestock judging competition. This year 55 youth put their bovine knowledge to the test. Livestock judging is evaluating livestock based on their characteristics by comparing each animal in a class to the ideal standard of each species. 

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in Randolph County contributed to this report and works weekly with the North State Journal to deliver important information about Randolph County agriculture.

By Jeannie M. Leonard

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