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Wine, grapes increase economic impact in North Carolina

HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — A new study showed North Carolina wine and grapes keep getting more popular.

According to the state's Wine and Grape Growers Council, that industry had a $2 billion economic impact in 2016 — about a 15 percent increase from the last study in 2014.

"We really see that North Carolina is growing some great wines and some great fruit,” Alan Ward, owner of Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, said.

"Each year, we've averaged probably around 20 to 25 percent growth," Ward said.

It is a growing trend across the state, including in the mountains.

"We've been very fortunate in the growth here in Henderson County," Ward said.

There is also a multimillion-dollar impact on tourism.

"We see this as sustainable. We also see it as a multiplier effect of probably about 6 or 7, meaning, when people come here, the majority of them are from the Upstate, Charlotte and from the region, not just local folks. We have a lot of local folks,” Ward said. “But, probably 65 percent are from outside this area. So, those folks come up, spend the night, stay at restaurants, stay at hotels and spend money here in this area."

The state's Wine and Grape Growers Council said more wine is being produced and sold with many vineyard owners relying on tasting rooms.

"What we do here is we really take the client or the customers seriously. We want them to enjoy their experience. We want them to learn about wine — not be afraid of wine," Ward said.

Ward added that he is certainly not afraid for the future of this industry.

"Western North Carolina has more geological diversity than anywhere in the world and the second oldest mountain range in the world. So, we're able to really compete well with other people in the nation and around the world," Ward said.

Williams joins state committee; Could boost local farming

Agribusiness Henderson County Executive Director Mark Williams has been named to the state Food Processing Innovation Center Advisory Committee, focusing on employment, investment and value in food processing.

The appointment, he says, may be a great opportunity to assist Henderson County’s growing food production market.

Food processing and creating value-added products is a way to increase profit margins for farmers, including grading and repackaging vegetables, manufacturing wine and cider and more, a field where Henderson County continues to grow.

The Food Processing Innovation Center, planned for the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, will be a place for research and development in packaging methods, equipment and more.

Representing food manufacturers, and perhaps the only Western North Carolina resident on the 14-member council, Williams will serve through Dec. 31, 2020.

Also on the committee are state Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, state Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland and Dean of N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Science Rich Linton.

The committee is an initiative born from the N.C. Food Manufacturing Taskforce that sought to find strategies for economic development in food and agricultural products.

The committee hasn’t met yet, Williams said, but he will be providing advisement on where the focus needs to be and ways it can best benefit the state as a whole in terms of agricultural production, incorporating into that value-added products and food processing.

Through the efforts of AgHC, the county has already enjoyed many opportunities for growth, Williams wrote in an email Tuesday. In the last six years, the county has added two wineries and three cideries, seen significant expansion of two major produce companies, added storage facilities and markets for apples, berries and produce, welcomed the formation of an international greenhouse operation and a new dairy-creamery, and seen plenty of other farm and ag-related growth.

It’s estimated that with that recent growth, agribusiness now contributes about $650 million to the local economy and employs more than 7,000, he wrote, adding that “AgHC’s hope is the new Food Processing Innovation Center will provide beneficial research to our existing operations and assist in further growth and development for the industry.”

There’s a lot happening in the western part of the state, he added. Henderson County is a hub for food production in the region, a county that has grown the industry more and more through the years.

The legislature appropriated $700,000 in recurring funds through fiscal year 2018-19, and a non-recurring $4.4 million in this year’s budget, to equip the Food Processing Innovation Center. Williams said the facility provides an opportunity for local manufacturers like Bold Rock Hard Cider or Burntshirt and St. Paul wineries to utilize those facilities if they’re having difficulty in production, processing or safety.

Legislation establishing the committee also lays out goals for its members, which Williams said are particularly exciting for AgHC. One in particular the group finds important, and should benefit local farmers and agribusinesses, is the goal of “Increasing the use of North Carolina-produced ingredients, agricultural products, equipment and other products of food manufacturers located in this state.” This has been a key AgHC goal for Henderson County since the organization began operations in 2006.

“We will now have the opportunity to advance it with the support of a statewide initiative and benefit of new research facilities,” he wrote. “Having a voice on the Advisory Committee is definitely a blessing.”

Value-added products increase a farmer’s profit margins, like making cider with apples. A bushel of apples may only be worth so much, but converting that bushel to a graded and packaged product or cider are ways to increase the value of that product, Williams said.

One area where the county has seen value-added development is in the beverage industry, which is also one of the most rapidly growing in the state, Williams said. With wineries and cideries growing in Henderson County and breweries and distilleries growing across the state, there is a tremendous benefit to the agricultural community because of the products going in, he said — whether it’s apples, grapes, berries or even wheat and grain, even the by-products like spent grain or apple pomace are used.

AgHC's Mark Williams to Serve on the State’s New Food Processing Innovation Center Advisory Committee

I am pleased and honored to have received an appointment by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to serve on the state’s new Food Processing Innovation Center Advisory Committee, representing food manufacturers . This initiative came out of the NC Food Manufacturing Taskforce, which was formed to come up with strategies for economic development efforts for the industry of food and agricultural products. The new committee will be comprised of 14 members including the NC Commissioner of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Dean of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Science, President of the Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation, President of Economic Development Partnership of NC, President of the Community College System Office, an Agricultural Economist and other appointees by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

General information about the Food Processing Innovation Center can be found in a video from Dean Rich Linton, NCSU-CALS by clicking HERE. Additionally, a recent article on the initiative can be found HERE. 

To be selected as one of the few representatives from the mountain region of North Carolina gives a greater sense of responsibility. Through efforts of Henderson County’s own local initiative in economic development of agribusiness (Agribusiness Henderson County - AgHC), we have already enjoyed many growth opportunities. It is estimated that with recent growth, agribusiness now contributes approximately $650 Million to our local economy and employees over 7,000 people. In the past 6 years we have seen the addition of two wineries, three cideries, significant expansion of two major produce companies, added storage facilities and markets for apples, berries and produce, formation of an international greenhouse operation, a new dairy-creamery and growth of many other farm and ag-related operations. AgHC’s hope is the new Food Processing Innovation Center will provide beneficial research to our existing operations and assist in further growth and development for the industry.

Bill 257 Section 10.24.(b) lays out key goals for the Committee, which are particularly exciting for AgHC. One goal that we find especially important and that should benefit our farmers and agribusinesses states, “Increasing the use of North Carolina produced ingredients, agricultural products, equipment, and other products of food manufacturers located in this State.” AgHC has had this key goal for Henderson County since it began operating in 2006 and we will now have the opportunity to advance it with the support of a statewide initiative and benefit of new research facilities. Having a voice on the Advisory Committee is definitely a blessing.

- Mark Williams

Executive Director, AgHC

Inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam Brings Hundreds Downtown

The inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam kicked off in downtown Hendersonville Saturday afternoon, drawing large crowds eager to sample the offerings from local cideries that use Henderson County apples.

A long line of people was already waiting at the gates before the event got started, and by midafternoon Main Street was thick with visitors enjoying different ciders, food and music.

Eight area cideries were represented: Bold Rock Hard Cider, Noble Cider, Flat Rock Ciderworks, Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders, Bull City Ciderworks, Red Clay Ciderworks, GoodRoad CiderWorks and 1898 Hard Cider.

Read more here.

Take Soil Samples to Know Plants' Spring Fertilization Need

RALEIGH -- Spring is the best time to fertilize your shrubs as it promotes optimal growth with healthy foliage and abundant flowers. Well-fertilized shrubs not only improve the aesthetics of the landscape and provide wildlife habitat, but also enhance value and appearance of the property.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agronomic Services Division encourages home gardeners, community gardeners and landscapers to submit soil samples to optimize growing conditions. From April through mid-November, soil testing is free, and samples are typically turned around within two weeks.

“Fertilizers provide nutrients to help plants grow, but it is important to apply the correct amount and type of fertilizer to promote optimal plant growth,” said Jagathi Kamalakanthan, an NCDA&CS soil testing agronomist. “If the soil pH does not match the plant needs, then fertilizing alone may not be helpful.”

It is also important to follow the lime recommendation on the soil test report, Kamalakanthan said. For most shrubs, a pH of 6.0 is optimal; however, acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, rhododendron and mountain laurel prefer a pH of 5.0.

While a lack of proper soil nutrients can lead to poor growth, other environmental factors may be an underlying contributor. Those include inadequate sunlight, soil compaction, poor drainage, insects or diseases.

Before deciding fertilizer is the answer, determine why plants are growing poorly, then correct the factors contributing to poor growth, Kamalakanthan said. Fertilization may help, but only after other problems are corrected.

“Whether you are working with new or established plants, fertilization should be based on soil test results,” Kamalakanthan said. “Applying too much lime and fertilizer, or routinely applying unneeded fertilizer, can be a wasteful investment and pollute the environment.” Also, it can hinder the plant’s ability to take up nutrients or create toxicity, depending on the nutrient.

Many urban soils are low in phosphorus, which can present challenges with new plantings. Phosphorus helps promote growth and the establishment of plants. “Having the soil tested before putting in new plantings can help ensure a better start, if phosphorous and other nutrients are needed,” Kamalakanthan said. Phosphorous also works best if mixed or incorporated into the soil rooting zone.

For new plantings, wait until spring to fertilize fall-planted trees and shrubs. Wait six to eight weeks to fertilize plants installed in the spring. Fertilize established trees and shrubs in the spring as new growth begins. From an environmental perspective, spring is the best time to fertilize since plants are actively growing and taking up nutrients; fall and winter fertilization, especially nitrogen is subject to loss with water through the soil when plants are not as active.

Some general fertilization tips to consider:

Avoid fertilization in late summer (around mid-August) since it may stimulate late-season growth that fails to harden off before frost;Do not use slow-release fertilizers after July 15;Apply fertilizer evenly around the plant root zone, keeping it away from the bark and foliage;Plan to do a soil test every two to three years;Plants typically need fertilization every year but not lime. Follow the lime recommendation on the soil test report and apply lime only as recommended by soil testing.

A detailed pictorial guide to collecting and sampling for home gardens is available at More information on fertilizing trees and shrubs can be found at

Contact the Agronomic Services Division office at 919-733-2655 for questions regarding soil testing.

Cider Jam Preview Event and Pint Night at Mountain River Tap and Growler

Join us for a Cider Jam preview event!

The event takes place on Thursday, April 6 at the Airport location of Mountain River Tap and Growler from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This event will feature some selections from the local Cideries that will be featured at the Apple Cider Jam.

Mountain River Tap and Growler commits to having at least one offering from Saint Paul’s, Flat Rock Cider Works and Bold Rock on tap.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets to the Cider Jam, which takes place on April 22 12-6 p.m.

Apple-saluting cider jam also features bigtime bluegrass band

CiderJam logo

By Bill Moss, Published: November 17, 2016

Hendersonville is getting a second apple celebration — a one-day event in the spring to promote the growing hard cider business.

Agribusiness Henderson County is sponsoring the Apple Country Cider Jam, Henderson County’s first hard cider festival, on Saturday, April 22, on Main Street.

The festival, from 1 to 6 p.m., will be a ticketed event with hard cider tasting, a nationally known bluegrass band and food trucks, said Mark Williams, executive director of AgHC, the nonprofit that promotes farming in Henderson County. The jam will close the same two blocks that are used for Rhythm & Brews, in front of the Visitors Center and Wells Fargo bank.

“The first couple of hours there will be a tasting that’s included in the ticket price,” Williams said. “Then after that people would have opportunity to purchase it by the pint. The main band will be one that people will recognize the name of.”

Williams hopes the Cider Jam gives the industry more exposure and more visitors over time.

“We’re going to try to promote this event in a manner that’s not just about the Main Street event,” he said. “We want to push people out to these operations (the cideries) so they can have their own individual events and give the exposure to their own event. ... We want people to make a weekend out of it.”

The 16 local and regional cider producers in North Carolina all will be invited to set up tastings

booths at the event. “We anticipate that most will” accept, Williams said.

Henderson County has three hard cider makers — Bold Rock, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and Naked Apple, which operates Flat Rock Ciderworks on Main Street. Organizers may add apple wine, which Burntshirt makes, but there are no plans for beer.

“We’ve got a reason that we broadened it to include other hard cider makers, because 95 percent of them are getting their apples from Henderson County,” he said.

AgHC worked with the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, the city of Hendersonville and the North Carolina Apple Festival in planning the festival. Food trucks will be limited and because the festival ends at 6 p.m. organizers expect many visitors to stay and dine downtown.

“We hope this will be an event that will help tourism and put heads in beds,” Williams said. “It’s been a good collaborative effort.”

The Cider Jam also plans to promote a tie-in to apple blossom time. The April 22 date should coincide with the explosion of snowy white blooms in orchards throughout the apple country.

Tickets are $25 and will be on sale after Thanksgiving.