Cold won't freeze local agriculture

Oct. 29, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Persistent chilly weather is closing in, but that won't mean an end to farming activity in Lee County.

Recent frosts haven't been great for plants, and this week marks the end of the produce boxes distributed to members of the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative. But on the other hand, the Sanford Farmers' Market is extending its schedule by a month or more — through at least the end of November — and the coming weeks will also see a number of banquets and contests as part of the annual Farm City Week.

Sue Buie, manager of the Sanford Farmers' Market, said she doesn't grow fall crops herself but that she has heard good reports from those who do sell their wares during the season.

"I think it's been pretty good," Buie said. "It was good when I had produce to sell. ... It'll go through at least November, and it might go longer; I don't know."

The market is held Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the Enrichment Center, located at 1615 S. Third St., as well as Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at Depot Park in downtown Sanford. Several sellers accept SNAP/EBT benefits, and lists of what all will be available is often published on the "Sanford Farmers' Market" Facebook page. Buie said lately there have been baked goods, turnips, greens, cabbages, meat and other items for sale.

Kim Tungate, the local extension agent specializing in crops, said farmers will now be planting wheat and other grains for the winter — but that people who have small gardens at their houses should probably be wrapping things up until the weather gets warm again.

"For the cold-sensitive crops like tomatoes, people probably should've already gotten them picked or at least [brought] inside," Tungate said. And for those plants that can't come inside, she suggested covering them with something breathable, like a sheet, whenever there's a frost. Plastic and other such materials aren't as good for the plants' health, she said.

As for the Farm City Week celebrations, a banquet is planned on Nov. 25, and a ladies' luncheon on Dec. 4, as well as art and photography contests for children and adults. Rhonda Gaster, an administrative assistant at the Cooperative Extension, said this year's banquet will feature the same "breakfast for dinner" theme that has made so many past banquets popular, plus the addition of live music.

"We have our traditional breakfast dinner of country ham, eggs, grits, biscuits with molasses and tea or coffee, and we're going to have a bluegrass band [local group Jus' Right] this year, too," Gaster said.

Socializing at the banquet starts at 5:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6 p.m., Gaster said. Tickets are $7 and available at the Cooperative Extension office, which can be reached by phone at (919) 775-5624 and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She said that tickets for the ladies' luncheon Dec. 4 aren't available yet but should go on sale soon — possibly this week.

To raise awareness of the festivities, local 4-H children will be putting on programs during meetings of elected officials. They will be presented to the Broadway Town Commissioners at their monthly meeting Monday, and to the Lee County Commissioners at their meeting on Nov. 18 — followed by the Sanford City Council meeting on Nov. 19, Gaster said.