Agriculture makes a major contribution to the well-being of Orange County residents, both those living within and outside the county. In addition to direct contributions to the local economy in the form of product sale receipts and expenditures on farm services and inputs—along with employment on farms and farm support businesses—farmers also make significant contributions as stewards of the remaining amounts of undeveloped land (often called open space) in the county. Their stewardship protects the county's soil and water resources, recharges groundwater and abates storm water runoff, connects wildlife habitat, and safeguards the scenic and historic vistas that have defined Orange County's character.
"It is in the county's best interest to safeguard, promote and maintain the local agricultural industry and protect farmland," said Board of Orange County Commissioners chair, Bernadette Pelissier. "Enabling farmers who want to continue to farm is a cost-effective way of maintaining the quality of life of everyone in Orange County."
To better understand key issues affecting the local agricultural industry, Orange County sponsors an annual Agricultural Summit to address geography, economic trends and regulations governing farming.
"It is critical for all of us in Orange County to understand the values and concerns of the farmers themselves, and this annual Summit helps all of us accomplish this," Pelissier said.
The Annual Orange County Agricultural Summit will be held Monday, Feb. 13, at the Big Barn Convention Center in the Daniel Boone Village, 388 Ja-Max Drive off S. Churton Street. The day-long event is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including afternoon tours. Residents throughout the region are encouraged to attend.
Speakers include N.C. 4th District U.S. Rep. David Price discussing the Farm Bill and other agricultural issues, local farmers and experts in farm diversification, soil, water as well as apicultural experts. Also on hand will be Orange County planning and economic development staff who will address new rules for farm enterprises in Orange County.
Additionally, Jack Tapp of Busy Bee Apiaries will speak about his fruit-flavored creamed honey business, Vintage Bee Honey, and how it got to where it is today.
Afternoon tours include the new Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center in Hillsborough and Walters Unlimited at Carls-Beth Farm in Efland.
The summit fee is $10, which includes a catered lunch by Bob Compton. On-site registration at the Big Barn will take place from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Pelissier will welcome the group at 8:30 a.m., with the first session beginning at 8:40 a.m.
To register for the summit, contact the Orange County Cooperative Extension office at (919) 245-2050. For additional information, including the agenda and driving directions, visit http://orange.ces.ncsu.edu/ or http://www.orangecountyfarms.org/ .