A Tough Year for Henderson County Agriculture
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Newcomers and city dwellers may not realize how big agriculture is in Henderson County. The industry is 20% of the total economy of the county. Henderson County is the largest agricultural county west of I-77 in North Carolina. The total farmgate (value right off the farm) value of crops and livestock in the county exceeds $100 million.
Unfortunately, this has been a difficult year for our farmers. Although every year offers challenges and our determined farmers work though these on an annual basis, this year has been particularly tough. The year started out with two major freeze events in April that severely impacted the yields of our apple and blackberry crops.
As if that wasn’t enough, the flooding in August took a particularly hard toll on many of our vegetable crops, turf, and some other commodities. Later in the month, there was a significant hail event, and the hurricane season isn’t over yet. Hurricanes and tropical storms often bring the heavy rains like the ones we saw in August.
Apples and the green industry (turf, nurseries, and floriculture) account for around $60 million together. Tomatoes add another $15 million, and several other crops exceed $1 million in revenue for the county’s farmers including pepper, sweet corn, blackberries, and grapes.
Losses of the magnitude suffered this year can have a significant impact on the industry. It brings perspective to how fragile our food supply can be. It engenders respect for those farmers that risk so much each year to produce that food supply. We have seen from recent events that we cannot always count on imports to supply our needs. Our farmers produce the safest and cheapest food in the world.
Never should we take for granted how important agriculture is to our community and to our individual households. We can never predict the weather very accurately and certainly not months in advance. Yet, our growers face the risk of catastrophic weather events every year. This year has proven to be no different and weather impacted our farmers even more than usual.
We have several roadside markets in the county and several wonderful farmer’s markets that are open at least once a week. Please take advantage of these suppliers of local, fresh fruits and vegetables. You can’t get it fresher, and you will be supporting your local farmer and strengthening our local economy.