June 2013
Final CEFS CC Banner
In This Issue
Board Member Spotlight: Cheryl Queen
NC Choices' Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat a Great Success!
HBO Documentary Features SWARM Alumna Kebreeya Lewis
New Transplants at CEFS: Small Farm Unit Apprentices!
Farmhand Foods Has a New Name
NC Growing Together: Across the State, Networking and Educational Efforts Connect Small and Mid-Sized Producers with Larger Markets
CEFS and Community Partners to Convene First Statewide Youth Food Advisory Council
CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit Home to Greenhouse Gas, Water Quality Research
CEFS Welcomes Marisa Benzle, New Small Farm Unit Manager

Dig us online! 

Find CEFS on Facebook 

YouTube logo

View our profile on LinkedIn

Follow us on Twitter

Board Member Spotlight: Cheryl Queen
CEFS Board Chair Cheryl Queen of Compass Group


Cheryl Queen, Chair of the CEFS Board of Advisors, leads communication and corporate affairs for Compass Group USA, the leading contract food and support services company with annual revenue of $12 billion. Within that role she has also shaped the company's corporate responsibility initiatives including support of family farms and local economies, fair food and human rights, and farm animal welfare.

Cheryl was recognized by the American Association for Affirmative Action with the 2010 Cesar Estrada Chavez Award for her effort in crafting a Code of Conduct for Suppliers and an agreement to pay tomato harvesters in Florida a penny more a pound, resulting in a 64% increase in pay for harvesters picking tomatoes for Compass. The partnership between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Compass Group has been heralded by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and noted food industry critic Eric Schlosser, among others, as history making for farm workers. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Fair Food Standards Council for the Coalition.

She has been a featured speaker at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights' Compass Conference, the COMMIT Forum, and the UL Conference on Responsible Supply Chains, and Leadership North Carolina. She is co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Farm Foundation's Dialogue on Food & Agriculture in the 21st Century.

Says Cheryl, "We are incredibly fortunate in North Carolina to be on the leading edge of the sustainable food movement.  It's not just happenstance but reflects the hard work, vision and dedication of NCSU, the staff and faculty from NC State and NCA&T and the remarkable leadership of Dr. Nancy Creamer and Dr. John O'Sullivan. It's a vision crafted almost twenty years ago that has come to fruition."

A native of Atlanta, Cheryl graduated from Oglethorpe University and did post-graduate work at the University of Georgia. She is married, resides in Charlotte, and is the mother of two grown children.



NC Choices' Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat a Great Success


Meat Retreat Logo
On May 20 - 22, NC Choices held their first hands-on, intensive workshop specifically geared toward women in the local, niche meat industry. The Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat was developed out of the enthusiastic feedback received from last year's  Carolina Meat Conference session recognizing the emerging role women play in the niche meat industry. NC Choices designed the Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat to offer focused, hands-on intensive training and networking opportunities for producers and professionals. 
NC Choices' Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat

Workshop participants learn from Master Butcher Kari Underly.

Credit: Briana Brough Photography

Sold out and capped at 27 participants, the retreat was geared toward female farmers, processors and butchers in the niche meat industry. The women spent two days and  nights learning from Chicago-based instructor and Master Butcher Kari Underly.  Workshop participants engaged in the butchery of 2 hogs and 3 quarters of beef, learning about whole muscle cuts, carcass breakdown from live animal to salable meat, and higher value cuts, as well as  pricing products, processor/producer communication, engaging in the marketplace, hands-on cooking techniques compliments of Lantern restaurant, animal breed and diet, and more.


By the end of the intensive workshop, respondents unanimously reported a higher level of confidence and knowledge in their ability to market meat to the end consumer as well as increased technical, communication, and business skills.  Likewise, all respondents reported they now have an expanded network of other female professionals that will aid in the growth of their business.  A Google group is being created for women to stay in contact and share resources.
For more information, please visit the NC Choices website.

    HBO Documentary Features SWARM Alumna Kebreeya Lewis


HBO Documentary Films: The Weight of the Nation - Kebreeya's Salad Days
HBO Documentary Films: The Weight of the Nation - Kebreeya's Salad Days

Kebreeya Lewis was a high school freshman when she first got involved with Students Working for an Agricultural Revolutionary Movement (SWARM), the youth food activism group supported by CEFS.  The Goldsboro teen says things "got serious" when she started connecting her family's health problems - obesity, diabetes, and asthma - with food and lifestyle choices. 


Kebreeya was determined to get healthier and help her family break the diet and disease cycle she saw spanning multiple generations.  She deepened her involvement with SWARM, working with other young people to plant community gardens and learn about healthy food choices.  She was trained in youth activism and how to advocate for what she believed in.  She looked around at her food choices, especially her school's lunch options (mostly pizza and french fries), and decided to take action. 


The new HBO special, Weight of the Nation for Kids: Kebreeya's Salad Days, chronicles Kebreeya's successful campaign to establish a salad bar in her high school cafeteria.  Despite initially being turned down by the county school nutritionist, Kebreeya persisted.  She created a petition that was eventually signed by over 200 people, and brought her case to the Goldsboro City Council, which enthusiastically backed the effort and wrote her a letter of support. 


She had guidance from Shorlette Ammons, NC A&T State University's Community Food Systems Outreach Coordinator, based at CEFS.  Says Shorlette, "Kebreeya's leadership and bravery in sharing her story was key to this campaign.  Her work continues to inspire our current crew of SWARMers who are dedicated to building on Kebreeya's work in Goldsboro to ensure that all people have access to good, affordable, healthy food. "


Eventually, the county nutritionist was convinced.  The salad bar was installed and students' eating choices expanded to include fresh lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.  Says Kebreeya, "Patience was key....to keep going, keep doing it even when people told me 'no'.  I didn't give up - I came back with more research, more evidence, more proof".


Kebreeya has since graduated from high school, and from SWARM, and is now a student at NC Central University in Durham.  She says that she is planning "lots of things" for her future, and is the founder and president of a new campus organization called BOOM (Building Our Own Movement).   The group will focus on healthy food and gardening and will offer workshops, community service opportunities, educational field trips, and more.  Congratulations to Kebreeya and SWARM for their great work!!!


Watch the inspiring HBO documentary about Kebreeya's successful salad bar campaign here.

New Transplants at CEFS: Small Farm Unit Apprentices!


The Small Farm Unit at CEFS' 2000-acre research facility in Goldsboro, NC is growing a new crop -- of apprentices!  Here, we welcome the new apprentices to CEFS and let them introduce themselves.

Mary Claire Curtis:
Mary-Claire I am a native Texan, but have lived mostly in central Pennsylvania. My affinity for nature began at an early age with lots of animals & exposure to fresh food.  In 2007 I completed a bachelor's in Communications from Franciscan University and went on to work at Penn State University before moving to the DC area. During my time with CEFS, I hope to deepen my understanding of sustainable agriculture and the local food movement, in order to share this mission with others in the future through an arts & agriculture center.
Kellyn Montgomery:
Kellyn Montgomery I am from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. Wytheville to be exact. I went to Virginia Tech where I got a bachelors and masters degree in geography. I moved to Texas after college and I worked as a planner for three years. All that time, I was just waiting for the right opportunity to pursue my real passion of sustainable agriculture. CEFS presented that opportunity through this apprenticeship, so I quit my job and moved from Austin to Goldsboro. Now I'm well on my way to being a bona-fide farmer!
Visit the CEFS website for more information on the Small Farm Unit Apprenticeship, or check out the Apprentice blog!




    Farmhand Foods Has a New Name


Firsthand Foods logo



From Firsthand Foods


Beginning May 1st, Durham-based Farmhand Foods officially changed its name to Firsthand Foods.  A CEFS-incubated business, Farmhand Foods launched in 2010 with a food truck, known around town as the Sausage Wagon.  Since then, the company has grown into a sizeable wholesale distributor of high-quality, local, pasture-raised meats.


In late 2011, Farmhand Foods received a "cease and desist" letter from S.F. Investments, Inc., owner of "Farmland Foods," a branded line of Smithfield Foods' pork products worth $3 billion in annual sales. While Farmhand Foods received federal trademark protection for the right to use its award-winning mark, SF Investments was not satisfied.


"After a year of trying to protect the rights to use our name, we decided to embrace Firsthand Foods as our new name and focus on growing our markets, supporting the farmers in our network, and continuing to help build a robust local food system here in North Carolina," says Tina Prevatte, Co-CEO of Firsthand Foods.


Firsthand Foods now has well over 60 customers, including fine dining establishments, specialty retailers, natural foods grocery stores, mobile markets, food trucks, and institutional food service providers such as Carolina Dining Services at UNC-Chapel Hill.  The company sources its meats from a network of  nearly 40 small-scale beef and pork producers from over 15 counties in North Carolina. These farmers, most of whom are in rural areas and do not otherwise have access to larger-scale markets, raise their animals humanely, on pasture, without using added hormones or growth-promoting antibiotics.


Notes Jennifer Curtis, Co-CEO, "We're excited to re-brand as Firsthand Foods, a name we believe speaks to our core mission to create a direct and transparent connection between our customers and the farmers in our network."  Firsthand Foods traces every piece of meat it sells back to the farm of origin so its customers know exactly where and how it was raised.


For more information, please visit the Firsthand Foods website


Looking for that Perfect Gift?
Cafe Press Tote
Visit our
online store

to find a beautiful gift and help support CEFS' work, too!

There are plenty of items to choose from, including: short & long-sleeved t-shirts (youth & adult sizes), baby onesies and bibs, messenger & tote bags, aprons, coffee mugs and much more!


Please visit our store and help support CEFS!

 Cafe Press logo

Join Our Mailing List

Message from the Directors



Welcome to the June 2013 e-news!  Below you'll meet some of our wonderful CEFS people: our Board Chair, Cheryl Queen; our new apprentices; and our new Small Farm Unit Manager. 


You'll also read about some of our ongoing work including our recent Women Working in the Meat Business Retreat, the cutting-edge research happening at our 2000-acre facility in Goldsboro, and the very exciting start of our NC Growing Together project, the result of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant we told you about in our last e-newsletter. 


You'll learn about our work to develop a statewide youth council, and the work of SWARM Alumna Kebreeya Lewis, whose successful campaign to get a salad bar into her high school cafeteria was recently featured on HBO's Weight of the Nation series.  Watch it!  It's a beautiful and motivating piece.  These young folks are our future.   


Speaking of the future, with the average age of farmers at 59, we need to focus efforts on supporting the next generation of farmers.  We were very pleased that the June 9th Farm to Fork picnic, a fundraiser for beginning farmer programs at CEFS and Breeze Farm, was such a success.  The picnic, featuring an amazing menu from 34 chef-farmer pairings, sold out as in previous years.  It was a wonderful afternoon with delicious food, great music, beautiful weather, wonderful kids' activities, and lots of fun and enthusiasm!   


Finally, we'd like to welcome CEFS' newest Board Member, Sue Perry Cole.   Sue is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations, and is leading a program in Rocky Mount focusing on improving health outcomes and economic development through local food systems.  We are so pleased to have Sue join our Board.  Welcome Sue! 


Best Wishes for all of you, and Happy Summer!


John O'Sullivan Signature

Dr. John M. O'Sullivan

CEFS Co-Director, NC A&T State University

Dr. Nancy Creamer

CEFS Co-Director, NC State University



NC Growing Together:
Across the State, Networking and Educational Efforts Connect Small and
Mid-sized Farmers with Larger Markets


This is the first in a series of articles about NC Growing Together, a statewide project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant #2012-68004-20363.
Joe Rowland has been farming for 3 years at the Alma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Cabarrus County.  There, he farms about acre, while juggling several other family projects that he and his wife manage.  A busy guy, Joe talks on his phone while harvesting potatoes for the local Lowes Foods store, just a few miles down the road in Harrisburg.  It is the second shipment of certified organic produce that Rowland will deliver to the store.
Organic Lettuce from Lomax
Ready for Retail!
He is happy about the new business relationship.  "I'd love to know that every row foot I plant will be sold," he says, "it makes it easier to grow more because you've got a home for it before it's even in the ground."  William Hathcock, Produce Manager of the Harrisburg Lowes, is happy about the new arrangement as well.  "The first shipment of organic lettuce was absolutely excellent quality," he says.  "It's exciting from my perspective to be able to buy from someone literally 10 minutes up the road, and customers have been excited about buying it." 
Hathcock, who has a horticulture background, notes that it is a unique selling point to have the variety labeled on the produce.  "It's one thing to have a butternut or an acorn squash, but to also have the variety on the label....not many people care about that kind of thing, but the people who do care, really get excited."  Rowland's organic lettuce was delivered, washed and individually bagged, with the different varieties noted on the label.
Lomax signage
Lowes Foods created consumer education materials for Lomax's produce.
The Harrisburg Lowes will continue carrying Lomax produce throughout the summer and fall.  "From my perspective, it's something that could really take off from our one store," says Hathcock.  And Rowland appreciates his openness to working with a small farmer.    "They want good, fresh, local produce," he says, "There has to be willingness on the side of the produce folks to do local, because it's not going to be as easy [to source from individual farmers]". 
The connection between Joe and William was first made at a meeting at the Rowan County Extension Center organized by Gary Bullen.  Bullen is an agricultural economist with NC State University, and an NC Growing Together partner.  He helps farmers evaluate new enterprises and develop crop budgets, business, and marketing plans.  For many years, he encouraged farmers to sell at their local farmers markets, where they realize price premiums by selling their products directly to consumers. 
Now, after witnessing the explosion in demand for local foods statewide, he is helping farmers access larger-scale retail and food service markets.  Explains Bullen, "the Retail Ready program was developed after two years of listening to farmers discuss the need to scale up to retail markets.  It was a natural progression of working with farmers to improve their marketing opportunities".
Bullen, along with colleagues in the Cooperative Extension Service, organized a series of workshops called "Retail Ready for Local Farm Products".  The goal was to connect small and medium-sized farmers looking to sell into larger markets, with large-scale buyers (grocery stores, restaurants, produce distributors, etc) wanting to increase their purchasing from local farmers.  The workshops featured panels of farmers and buyers and discussions about pricing for retail markets, quality assurance and packaging, insurance and risk management, and other vital issues.


USDA NIFA logo  

CEFS and Community Partners to Convene First Statewide Youth Food Advisory Council
Youth Food Policy Advisory Council
Youth Food Advisory Council members and adult allies at FYI's first training gathering, Storytelling as a Tool for Advocacy, March 2013
CEFS, in cooperation with various community partners, is piloting a statewide youth food advisory council to support the development of youth networks and train youth in capacity-building for food advocacy work.  The effort is part of the Food Youth Initiative (FYI), a project housed at CEFS whose mission is to envision and support the advancement of a just food system.  FYI is providing training and networking opportunities to young people aged 16-24 from youth groups across the state who are already working on agricultural and food justice issues and who are interested in affecting policy in their local communities.
The statewide council will amplify the youth perspective on food system needs and opportunities in North Carolina, while developing an experienced collective of young leaders in the local and sustainable food system movement.   The creation of the youth food council reflects a rise in the number of food policy councils nationally, which can be attributed to an increased awareness of food and food system issues in society in general. 
Council representatives will participate in both peer-to-peer and adult expert trainings around a variety of topics related to advocacy and leadership including "Storytelling as a Tool for Advocacy" and "Entrepreneurship and Community Wealth Building."  The youth representatives will also examine policy and civics during a Summer Policy Institute. 
FYI Storytelling as Advocacy training
Youth Council members at a hands-on "DIY Video 101" workshop, March 2013
The first cohort of 12 representatives was recruited earlier in the year from Edgecombe, Hoke, Lenoir, Robeson, Columbus, and Scotland counties, and a second cohort is being recruited now.  "I am trying to bring change to my county by educating not only youth but adults in how youth presence is needed in the solution," said Terrance Smith, youth council representative from Scotland County.
The local and regional experiences of council representatives will provide the basis for proposals that the Youth Food Advisory Council will advance to the North Carolina Sustainable Local Foods Advisory Council, a statewide legislated body tasked with facilitating the development of a sustainable local food economy in North Carolina.
Council representatives will also pursue seats on local advisory councils, host local educational youth forums, design mentorship programs, and share back capacity-building opportunities.
For more information please contact Tes Thraves or Jesalyn Keziah

CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit Home to Greenhouse Gas, Water Quality Research  


CEFS' Farming Systems Research Unit (FSRU) is one of seven research units at CEFS' 2000-acre research facility in Goldsboro, NC.  Situated on approximately 81 hectares (200+ acres) of pastures, woodlands, and permanent agricultural land, the unit houses a long-term, large-scale interdisciplinary study of five different systems: 1) Best Management Practices (BMP) in a Conventional Cash Cropping System; 2) an Integrated Crop-Animal System (ICA); 3) an Organic Cropping System; 4) a Plantation Forestry System; and 5) a Successional Ecosystem.  The unit was designed to allow the nesting of short-term experiments within the context of the overall, long-term study.  


Two such short-term experiments are currently being conducted at the FSRU.  One is entitled Assessing The Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential Of Organic Systems In The Southeast.  The long-term goal of the project is to understand the impact that organic systems in the Southeastern US can have on greenhouse gas emissions, and to educate stakeholders and students about how to maximize the mitigation potential of such systems.   


Research is being carried out in the FSRU to compare the long-term effects of different practices (ie organic clean-till, organic reduced-till, organic long rotation, conventional clean-till, conventional no-till, and conventional long rotation) across the unit's systems.  Greenhouse gases (including methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide) are produced in the soil and, depending on how that soil is managed, eventually released into the atmosphere.  In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that agriculture contributes 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 


gas collection chamber in FSRU
One of the FSRU's gas-collection chambers.

To measure the FSRU soil's greenhouse gas emissions, CEFS researchers partially buried 32 gas-collection chambers in 18 different plots across the unit.  After each rain event, four samples are taken from the chambers at 10-minute intervals to measure the greenhouse gas levels.  The gas samples are analyzed using GC (gas chromatography).  Results are then compared across the systems to see which land management practices lead to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and which practices lead to lower levels. 


water quality research equipment in FSRU
Pore water samplers and a piezometer, in the FSRU.

The other project, entitled Reduced Tillage in Organic Systems: A Soil and Water Quality Imperative, is monitoring water drainage and drainage nutrient content across the unit's systems to study the influence that soil conditions, cropping practices and crop characteristics have on water drainage and drainage nutrient content.   As part of the normal water cycle, rainwater filters through the soil, accumulates in the water table, and may reach groundwater sources.  Unfortunately, water polluted by human activities, including agriculture, follows the same cycle and can contaminate groundwater supplies.  The study aims to identify agricultural practices that result in safe concentrations of nutrients in drainage water.




CEFS Welcomes Marisa Benzle, New Small Farm Unit Manager

Marisa Benzle in The Gambia, West Africa
Marisa did her Peace Corps service in The Gambia, West Africa.


CEFS is excited to welcome Marisa Benzle, former Small Farm Unit Apprentice, back to CEFS as the Small Farm Unit Manager.  Here, Marisa tells us about what has inspired her sustainable agriculture journey, from Ohio to CEFS to The Gambia, West Africa, and back.

I grew up in a small rural town in central Ohio surrounded by thousands of acres of soy, corn, and wheat fields. My parents were ceramicists and always had a strong work ethic and a dedication to living a lifestyle in which the materials that sustained us, food, tools, clothes, came from a reliable source we had a connection to.


While we did keep an orchard, raise chickens, and tend to a large vegetable garden, we were never farmers and although I spent countless summer hours playing in the fields that surrounded our home, I understood little of their practicality.


It was not until I was in high school and the fields slowly started to disappear and be replaced by five story tacky condominiums, and many of the old farming families I grew up with were forced out of the country and into the suburbs, that I first became driven into sustainability work.


By the time I came to CEFS as an apprentice I was committed to not only making a career out of working in agriculture, but also extending the messages of sustainability to others.  I learned more in that season at CEFS than I have at any other time in my life, not just from the university researchers and NCDA technicians but from the inspiring community members, farmers, and growers of Eastern North Carolina.


I joined the US Peace Corps in The Gambia, West Africa after my time at CEFS in hopes of learning more about how the nature of our global food system was affecting the world abroad. I also was fascinated by the idea that there were still those in this world whose main goal in agriculture was simply to sustain themselves.  My hope was that some of the practices I had learned in my work in the States would be transferable.

Marisa milking a cow in The Gambia, West Africa.


I spent much of my time in The Gambia in a small rural community of seven hundred people.  I worked with gardeners fighting off red spider mites and pulling nut sedge, teaming with cattle men and goat herders to prevent disease and parasites in their herds and flocks. I studied traditional grass hive beekeeping and toiled in the rice fields with large groups of some of the strongest women I have ever met.  All the while learning the Mandinka language so my ideas could be shared and my knowledge of the world built upon.   As with much of my experience in North Carolina, I learned as much from the people I worked with there as I taught them.


As a young woman I watched the farms I had grown up around fail to sustain the families who worked them and eventually go under.  In The Gambia I saw boys forced to leave the dignity of their family farms in search of jobs making cement block for four dollars a day.  My dream for the small farm is for it to be a tool for the farmers of eastern North Carolina so they can be true to their agricultural heritage and develop a sustainable future.

Visit the CEFS website for more information about the Small Farm Unit. 

Mission & History of CEFS
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems develops and promotes food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.
North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University established the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at the Cherry Farm facility near Goldsboro, NC in 1994. These partners work closely with state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, and citizens to provide agricultural research, extension, and education for our state.
The development of CEFS is a national model for partnership, innovation, and interdisciplinary cooperation.
To learn more about CEFS, please visit: www.cefs.ncsu.edu

Center for Environmental Farming Systems
Box 7609 - NCSU
Raleigh, NC 27695